While many cannabis consumers are familiar with CBD as the predominant non-psychoactive cannabinoid, does this mean it doesn’t influence the brain at all?
If you’re an avid cannabis user, you are likely familiar with the two most popular cannabinoids, tetrahydrocannabinol, simply known as THC, and cannabidiol (CBD). You also probably know that the former cannabinoid is psychoactive, which means it’s primarily responsible for inducing the “high” that many cannabis users know and love. CBD, on the other hand, is the non-psychoactive cannabinoid that is experiencing major demand due to its wide range of medicinal applications.
For decades, breeders and cultivators produced strains with the goal of higher and higher THC content. Indeed, there are now varieties that feature 30%+ THC levels, which is far from the 5% THC of most strains from days gone by. Today, however, breeders are champing at the bit to create CBD-rich strains for recreational and medicinal users alike.
But the question remains; does CBD have zero effects on the human brain and psyche? Not necessarily. We aim to delve into this topic further and explore what it means for a cannabinoid to be psychoactive.
CANNABINOIDS AND PSYCHOACTIVITY
You may wonder why THC can get you “high” while CBD cannot. The answer lies in how these two cannabinoids interact with CB1 receptors, which are mainly concentrated in the brain and central nervous system. CB1, along with CB2, are endogenous receptors in the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Simply put, THC binds with CB1 receptors like a key in a lock, while CBD does not exhibit the same trait.
THC molecules are correctly shaped to bind to CB1 receptors, and once connected, they immediately stimulate these receptors. Specifically, THC partially mimics anandamide, which is more commonly known as “the bliss molecule”. Anandamide is a neurotransmitter and endocannabinoid that is naturally produced in the brain. Anandamide is known to influence everything from appetite and memory to inhibiting breast cancer cell proliferation.
CBD, on the other hand, is considered an “antagonist” to CB1 receptors. It acts more to suppress the qualities of THC that activate these receptors, which ultimately minimises its psychoactive effects. While more research is needed to determine exactly how this mechanism works, CBD is proposed to be a negative allosteric modulator of CB1. Essentially, CBD limits THC’s psychoactivity “ceiling”, which is why strains with both CBD and THC are frequently said to offer the best of both worlds for the average consumer.
THE CBD “HIGH”?
CBD may not have psychoactive traits per se, but it does have an effect on the brain that is as beneficial as the “high” that THC gives provides. Research shows that while THC mostly binds with CB1 receptors, CBD is more connected to CB2 receptors, which are found in the peripheral organs and skin, particularly in cells that are linked to the immune system. This in turn can emit a calming and sedative effect on human beings that has been said to reduce physical and mental conditions such as inflammation and anxiety.
CBD boasts anxiolytic effects by activating adenosine receptors, which are essentially responsible for regulating cardiovascular functions, coronary blood flow, and myocardial oxygen consumption. The adenosine receptors also regulate both the dopamine and glutamate levels in the brain. Therefore, while CBD can’t get you high, it has psychological benefits as a consequence of its mechanism of action.
Specifically, CBD has the potential to help those suffering from PTSD, schizophrenia, epilepsy, rheumatoid arthritis, and nausea, just to name a few. The future also suggests that CBD-rich strains and products could replace modern pharmaceuticals for treating muscle spasms and neuropathic pain.R
THE ENTOURAGE EFFECT
Studies show that both THC and CBD (as well as other plant constituents) work symbiotically to encourage healing effects on both the immune system and psyche. This is backed up by the “entourage effect”. When working in concert, especially in equal ratios, THC and CBD have the potential to enhance each other’s beneficial qualities, while negating some of the adverse ones like paranoia and anxiety.
Pure THC, for instance, can cause some anxiety and stress because of its potent psychoactive effects; but the calming and relaxing qualities that CBD brings to the table balances out the overall experience. CBD can also help improve THC’s painkilling properties.
WHICH STRAIN IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
This is why different strains are called upon for certain situations depending on their CBD:THC ratio. Strains like Royal Cookies that contain 23%+ THC and a has low CBD content are the ones usually selected by those seeking the most intense “high” possible. However, these THC-rich strains may be overwhelming for other users. Strains like Fast Eddy, however, which only features 9% THC and 12% CBD are the ones that medicinal users (and more and more recreational users) are flocking to. The well-balanced effects induced by strains like this are highly desirable for the modern consumer.