Cannabinoids are the active chemicals in cannabis that produce both the recreational and medicinal effects, and they interact with each other in our brains in interesting ways. Scientists are currently studying how chemicals like CBD and THC interact using rat studies because rat brains work similarly to human brains, and rats can also be tested for stress and other issues as well. Through this testing, neuroscientists have been able to discover the unique effects of many cannabinoids. In turn, these studies have led to the development of pure CBD hemp oil, which can be used to get those medicinal effects without the “high.”
Cannabidiol Vs. Tetrahydrocannabinol
Both the cannabis plant and the hemp plant have two main chemicals: cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabinol. For the most part, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is found in the cannabis plant, while cannabidiol, or CBD, is found in the hemp plant. These two chemicals have the same formula, but the pieces are arranged differently. The main difference is that one causes psychoactive effects while the other doesn’t.
What is tetrahydrocannabinol?
THC is the “fun” part of the marijuana plant; it’s the part that creates that “high” feeling that a lot of cannabis smokers are after. This chemical compound mimics the effects of anandamide, a neurotransmitter that we produce naturally that helps regulate sleeping and eating habits and pain. When you ingest THC, the initial effect will be relaxation. THC will cause eyes to dilate and other senses to be enhanced. The reported effects of THC range from unease and anxiety to happiness, elation, and pain relief. THC can also cause hallucinations and delusions and alter the perception of time. It’s impossible to have a fatal overdose of THC, although some studies have found that strains high in THC can cause long-term negative effects when used by young people, such as increasing the risk of schizophrenia.
While THC is currently an illegal drug, we have still done medicinal studies on it. Research has shown that THC can potentially be used to:
- Reduce nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy
- Improve bladder function and reduce pain in multiple sclerosis
- Reduce inner eye pressure in glaucoma
- Stimulate appetite and eating in AIDs patients
What is cannabidiol?
The variations in the THC and CBD molecules cause CBD to lack psychoactive influences. Because cannabidiol is so plentiful and it doesn’t produce THC’s negative effects, it wins out for medicinal applications. CBD is very similar to THC in that it also helps nausea, inflammation, and pain, but it can also help relieve anxiety and depression, and CBD has positive effects on other mental illnesses. At the end of the day, if you’re trying to pick between the two, CBD just has more benefits without the potential side effects. On top of that, CBD can reduce the effects of THC.
CBD has many of the same effects as THC. It can reduce nausea and vomiting. It can also act as an anti-inflammatory and reduce pain. However, CBD can do a lot of things THC can’t, such as:
- Help anxiety and depression
- Suppress seizures
- Prevent the growth of tumor and cancer cells
- Combat psychosis
CBD Vs. THC Tests
To make a valid argument for either THC or CBD, scientists have done extensive studies on both chemicals. One particular study focused on the anxiogenic (increasing anxiety) and anxiolytic (decreasing anxiety) responses. This test was administered in two parts. The first part of the test measured the effects of the two chemicals under regular conditions, or conditions without a stressor. The second portion measured the effects with an added stressor.
The first part of this study measured the effects of THC and CBD without a stressor. When the test rats were given THC, it produced anxiogenic responses, or basically made the rats more anxious. It was administered both acutely (as in an intense dose) and chronically (an ongoing dosage) to the same effect. The study found that CBD produced nothing — it didn’t seem to have any effect on the rats.
The second part of the test included a stressor. The rats were exposed to a foot shock stressor 24 hours before the test. This particular stressor is used in clinical trials because it is one of the few stressors that rodents don’t acclimate to. Animals can easily acclimate to loud noises and different climate variations, but they never seem to acclimate to the stress of having their feet stimulated. The anxiogenic response in the rats pretreated with 1 mg of THC was enhanced. However, giving the rats 5 mg of CBD prevented the anxiety response prompted by the foot stressor. When experimenters combined a dose of CBD and THC, they found that CBD didn’t modify THC’s effects.
So what does this mean for CBD and THC? This test shows the proof in the pudding when it comes to THC, while suggesting that the body only utilizes extra CBD when it needs to. Testing the rats under regular conditions concluded that THC increases anxiety either way you take it — in one large dose, or in smaller doses over time. The results also demonstrated that CBD has no effect one way or the other under normal conditions. This means that if there is no need for the effects of CBD, the body doesn’t use the extra chemicals. Taking CBD without an anxiety-stressor will not make the user extra-calm. The second test shows that THC will enhance anxiety when given before a stressful situation, while CBD will reduce anxiety. The results suggest that the anti-anxiety properties in CBD require the presence of a stressful situation to activate.
What does this mean for anxiety sufferers?
These results confirm some of what we already know: that THC can cause anxiety in some people. This doesn’t mean that anxiety sufferers can’t get the anxiolytic properties of CBD. There are CBD hemp oil products on the market that can be taken internally. Most CBD oil on the market is made from hemp, and contains little or no THC. This means that if anxiety sufferers know they are going into a stressful situation, they can take a little CBD oil beforehand. Like any OTC medications, always speak with your doctor first.