Cannabinoids are chemical compounds that are found in abundance within the Cannabis Sativ L. family of plants. Many people hear the word cannabis and their mind directly heads to thoughts of THC and its psychoactive properties. However, Cannabis Sativa L. also encompasses hemp, which for the past few years has been harvested for CBD and other non-psychoactive “minor cannabinoids.” In this brief essay we will explore the difference between THC and CBD, (two cannabinoids out of the approximately 115 discovered cannabinoids).
One of the most important discoveries in the cannabis world was the bliss molecule: anandamide. It’s named after the Sanskrit word Ananda, which means bliss. Anandamide was discovered in the early 90’s by chemists in Israel, who were studying THC. This was a pretty big deal because:
A) It was proof that the body creates cannabinoids of its own, endocannabinoids. (Anandamide is an endocannabinoid). This led to the discovery of the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
B) They figured out why THC gets you ‘stoned,’ contrary to popular belief it was not a flood of dopamine.
C) (capital C here folks) They discovered the bliss molecule, anandamide that is responsible for mood regulation. It is also shown to modulate fear, anxiety, and even pain. Since this discovery, studies have shown that low levels of anandamide have been linked to depression and even schizophrenia!
THC mimics anandamide and fits perfectly into CB1 receptors in the brain. This is what creates the euphoric feeling that makes you feel “high” or “stoned.”
Here’s one theory that you may not have heard before, and let me begin by saying that I’m not a doctor. So, here it goes - If I take hormones, my body lowers the production of hormones and relies more heavily on supplementation of exogenous hormones. The same thing will happen with several different substances. Therefore, why would I supplement my brain exogenously with the happy molecule, THC?
Scientifically we know that THC desensitizes the receptor that interacts with anandamide. THC users will all tell you they have to take a tolerance break from THC every now and then. This is referred to a T-break in the THC world. A lot of THC users will also admit that without supplementing THC they feel moody, fearful and anxious. Could this be the same as exogenous supplementation of a hormone? Is your natural level of the happy molecule lessened because the body is inundated with exogenous synthetic anandamide? That’s one theory, but we do know that the at the very least, receptors that interact with the anandamide become desensitized by THC.
Back to the question at hand, what is the difference between THC and CBD?
Anandamide is the bliss molecule, it’s metabolized by the fatty acid amide hydrolase, FAAH. The amount of FAAH our bodies produce is genetic. Here’s where we let THC users off the hook. If your body genetically produces excess FAAH, you’ll have trouble maintaining healthy levels of anandamide.
While THC mimics anandamide, CBD protects it. CBD blocks the FAAH from metabolizing the anandamide. Additionally, CBD does bind to sensory receptors (pain receptors); mainly the TRPV family of receptors. Binding to these receptors eventually desensitizes them and we don’t need to give our pain receptors a tolerance break to make them more sensitive again!
Here’s another tidbit before you sign off. Anandamide is one of the primary chemicals that is produced while exercising; known as runner’s high. That’s what makes a little CBD pre-workout awesome!
Until next time,
Stay healthy my friends!