By Winston Peki.
With the widespread legalization of medical marijuana, many people turn to the drug for a more natural pain relief method.
As a natural pain-relief drug, some experts consider cannabis more suitable for your body than the synthetic pharmaceuticals available.
The reasoning behind this is that the body can metabolize natural chemicals better than synthetic ones the same way it can digest natural foods better than processed ones.
Synthetic drugs, as with processed food, can create by-products, which remain as harmful toxins in the body, causing strain on the liver and kidneys. Some (medical) strains of cannabis also provide many health benefits, such as anti-oxidant, anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, pain-suppression, and anti-inflammatory effects.
Not only studies, but many users strongly support the pain-relieving properties of medical marijuana in anecdotal reports. Different types of strains, however, suit different pain conditions, so before diving into medical marijuana use, it’s important to understand the differences.
Let’s look at the difference between the strains of marijuana available, and what their effects are. With the information below, you can hopefully make an informed choice about whether it’s better to use a high-THC or high-CBD strain for your pain relief.
A Brief Overview of THC and CBD
Cannabinoids are the active ingredients specific to the cannabis plant, and they are the compounds primarily responsible for the healing effects. The two most effective and studied cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
There have been 70 cannabinoids identified to date, and there are several others currently being studied, such as cannabigerol (CBG) and tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV).
They are not the only active ingredients, however, and some estimates predict a figure of over 120 active components in the plant. This richness in active compounds is one of the reasons experts consider it useful for treating several ailments.
It is worth noting that THC and CBD also only convert to an effective pain-relieving agent under heat, which is why smoking, vaporizing, or baking it is important.
Most cannabis oils and extracts, designed for direct consumption, haven’t undergone heat treatment. Without heat before ingestion, their effects may not manifest.
The Difference Between THC and CBD
Both THC and CBD contribute to the positive effects associated with marijuana. However, experts only link THC to the strong psychoactive effect known as getting high. This is one of the primary differences between the two components.
The Predominant Effects of High-THC Strains
THC is the primary psychotropic component in marijuana, that is the component responsible for an altered state of mood and perception. This effect makes THC attractive to recreational users.
THC relaxes the nervous system, which helps in spasm-related pain, such as multiple sclerosis. The altered mental state caused by THC can contribute to relieving severe pain in some cases in the same way medicine uses opiates to treat pain.
The Predominant Effects of High-CBD Strains
CBD has received recognition for its anti-carcinogenic qualities. Alongside the lack of feeling “high,” CBD has shown positive anti-inflammatory and pain relief effects. Clinical trials have proven links to suppressing pain receptors from some of the chemical reactions caused by CBD.
CBD has powerful anti-oxidant properties, which also help to support the immune system. Although not considered psychoactive, it can help with the depression, and anxiety sometimes a side-effect of chronic pain.
Cannabidiol Oil and Medical Supplements
Natural cannabis oil supplements are available in capsule and spray forms, as well as oils, which patients can smoke or consume orally. Patients should not confuse medical supplements with the synthetic pharmaceutical varieties, which mimic the effect of cannabis but are not natural. Medical supplements can be pure THC, pure CBD or, so called ‘full-spectrum products’ like CBD oil, which contain ALL the beneficial compounds found in the hemp plant.
The Effects of THC versus CBD in Pain Relief
More clinical trials have linked CBD to positive results for pain relief than THC.
Chronic Pain. A 2017 report concluded that there was substantial evidence that hih-CBD cannabis-based products are effective for treating chronic pain. Another, separate study published in 2012 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, suggests that CBD use can lessen both pain and inflammation.
Digestive Pain. CBD has proven it also can help immensely as a digestive aid and digestive pain as well. Researchers have found evidence, as suggested in Cannabinoids for treating inflammatory bowel diseases: where are we and where do we go? that the endocannabinoid system, digestion and CBD have all sorts of interactions. While research involving CBD to treat digestive issues is still in its early beginnings, the experts believe it has the potential to help with all sorts of digestive issues which often come with pain.
Arthritis Pain. Arthritis, which literally means inflammation of the joints, is another condition that CBD oil may be very effective for. Research published in 2016 in the European Journal of Pain found a dramatic reduction in inflammation and signs of pain, without adverse side effects in rats with arthritis after the animals were given a topical gel that contained CBD for four days.
While some studies have shown positive effects of THC on pain relief, particularly for cancer-related pain, the side effects, like altered mental states, make it a less preferred cannabinoid to CBD. Although THC is more effective in muscle-spasm-related pain.
Interactions Between THC and CBD
When looking to reduce your pain, you don’t have to make a choice between THC and CBD. In fact, it could be wise to combine the two. Researchers have found that cannabis really is a synergistic shotgun in the sense that all the compounds in the cannabis plant interact with each other.
Although the exact mechanisms for these interactions remain unclear, the most effective cannabis-based pain treatments have been found to contain a combination of both THC and CBD. So, if your laws and regulations allow, go for a cannabis-based product which contains both compounds in good amounts. Just realize that THC can produce altered mental states, which can be dangerous while doing things that require proper hand-eye coordination like driving.
Choosing a Strain
There are a large range of chemical compositions within the high-THC and high-CBD varieties of cannabis. These can produce different medical effects.
To complicate the matter, the same product can have vastly different results in different people.
When looking for a natural herbal form of cannabis, the sativa strain (cannabis sativa) generally has a higher amount of CBD, whereas the indica strain (cannabis indica) contains more THC. However, due to crossbreeding this is not always reliable. Anecdotal evidence suggests that sativa is more energizing whereas indica is more of a relaxant. This observation may explain some differences that are not specific to the THC or CBD content and why many people prefer indica for pain relief. If you want therapeutic amounts of CBD, always go for a high-CBD strain, this can either be Sativa or Indica.
In medical use for pain relief, doctors prefer the CBD varieties of cannabis extract over THC, primarily due to their lack of side effects. Supplements combining CBD and THC, such as Sativix, have shown the best results in adults in clinical trials. Although experts prefer CBD because it has no side-effects, combining both CBD and THC might be the most effective way to treat pain.
Medical marijuana has fewer risks than other pain-relief medications such as codeine. It also offers more benefit while providing similar pain-relief effects. Since the reactions are incredibly variable and risks of any adverse effect are very low, it is best to discuss options for your pain management with a medical professional and begin with a small dose as a trial. Select the most suitable option for your needs, and let the results quickly manifest themselves.
Winston Peki is a marijuana enthusiast and vaporizer expert. Born and raised in Amsterdam He is the Founder of Herbonaut, an informative vaporizer and cannabis-based products site where you can find vaporizer reviews, CBD oil reviews and more.