Reports from dispensaries say people are mostly looking for a high THC content when they are buying their medical marijuana. But THC is not the only helpful ingredient in cannabis. CBD and terpenes also offer their share of benefits. When choosing between THC vs. CBD, what will be best for you?
Medium.com examined this issue from a recreational perspective, but many of the points it raises are true for medical cannabis users too.
The “entourage effect” of cannabis is well known. Prof. Raphael Mechoulam coined the term in 1998, and it means that all cannabis ingredients work together. Psychoactive THC is just one ingredient in cannabis.
Now that states and medical cannabis patients expect to see analytical lab reports on the potency of different strains, the effects of cannabinoids and terpenes are being explored and mapped.
Terpenes enhance cannabinoids
The different terpenes in combination with cannabinoids have different effects. Back in the day, recreational weed smokers would judge their cannabis by its smell. Terpenes in cannabis give it its distinctive aroma, and they work together with cannabinoids in creating the final effect.
For medical use, the cannabinoid content is not the only issue to consider. Cannabinoid effects are amplified by terpenes to create subsets of benefits.
THC vs. CBD for medical use
The main difference between THC vs. CBD is that one will make you high while the other won’t. Research is still in its infancy, but many scientists believe that CBD could destigmatize medical marijuana. It appears to have many of the same benefits of THC without having the “high” side-effect.
So far, there are indications that CBD works very well as a neural protectant. A medicine for children suffering from hitherto untreatable seizures will soon be approved, and early research indicates that it can help nerves to regenerate after they have been damaged.
People also find CBD to be very calming, while THC can cause paranoia and may cause psychotic episodes in those predisposed to psychosis. In this regard, CBD has the opposite effect to THC. It is also believed to counteract the THC high, which is why recreational users choose a high THC content. Researchers are currently investigating CBD as a possible psychiatric medicine.
CBD, THC, and Terpenes
Returning to the concept of the entourage effect, we can see that using CBD on its own will likely be less effective than using CBD combined with a little THC and terpenes. This is its natural state, and Professor Mechoulam points out that there are many other molecules at work.
He argues that a whole plant extract with all the ingredients in cannabis will be more effective than either THC or CBD or even a combination of the two. We still don’t know how every ingredient in cannabis works, but we do know that terpenes may help to make cannabinoids more effective.
What works for you?
No medicine, not even a registered pharmaceutical, will work for every single person who uses it. For some people, high THC cannabis could be a better solution than high CBD cannabis. However, many studies have found that patients don’t really like the THC high and prefer CBD because it leaves them able to function normally.
If this sounds like you, you should certainly try CBD-based medical cannabis extracts with low THC levels to create synergy.
If you’re chasing a high, then THC is the way to go, but do be careful: the very strongest strains could cause unwanted effects. In this case, the THC vs. CBD balance is there to keep you relaxed and feeling good. If we were to draw an analogy, CBD is wine while THC is tequila!