Do you need THC to make CBD work in your body?
If we hear this one more time, we're going to lose it. "You need some THC to activate the CBD". It's almost dogma in the cannabis community.
It's one of those things that just keeps recycling among people with no real basis. SO frustrating, so let's set the record straight based on research. We'll try to put a dent in this misconception and also discuss the opposite…CBD offsets and counters the effects of THC. And vice versa. We're not anti-cannabis although there are some considerations with THC that people need to understand. Let's get into it before one more person offers that same, tired advice. And yes...we'll take a look at the "entourage effect" which might be the best marketing slogan since "Just Do It".
We'll cover these basic topics:
- Do you need THC to activate CBD?
- How do THC and CBD work in the body
- Does CBD offset THC's effects in the body
- Can THC cause anxiety?
- Does CBD help with too much THC
- The effects of CBD in the body
- The effects of THC in the body
Let's get started. There's a guy across the way at the coffee shop who's about to tell me that a little THC helps to activate the CBD. Quick!! Do You Need THC To Activate CBD? This whole thought comes from the original old-school growers on the illegal side of things.
This belief that the whole plant is better than its components. The so-call "Entourage Effect". There's no real research for this. It's just a gut sense that growers and users had before things went legal.
There's a great synopsis here from Scientific American:
Our belief is that this stems more from a political motivation to make cannabis legal. If you can say that benefits come from one component (CBD for example), then that argues against legalizing the plant itself. Legalization is on its way anyway! Research is showing very different things.
We have read 100's of NIH studies on CBD and even CBD with THC.
One thing stands clear...almost all the research is on CBD by itself. And it's incredibly positive across a range of different issues.
In many situations, CBD and THC have countering and very different effects on a given issue! We'll touch base on this nuanced interaction below in different sections. In fact, the two tend to neutralize each other (more CBD neutralizes THC) in the body. CBD is even showing remarkable effects for people addicted to cannabis! To really get to the heart of this THC to activate CBD question, let's look at how they work in the body.
How Do THC And CBD Work In The Body
First, THC and CBD are both cannabinoids, a family of different chemicals that can work within our own endocannabinoid system. We have naturally occurring cannabinoids like Anandamide and 2-AG which are very important to our bodies and brains working correctly. It just so happens that the cannabis plant also makes canannabinoids. The two most prevalent are THC and CBD. They are very different in terms of effects in the body.
We have to get into a little biology to get to the bottom of their interaction.
There are two types of cannabinoid receptors in the body.
- CB1 primarily in the brain and central nervous system
- CB2 primarily in the immune and endocrine system but throughout the body
We have CB receptors on almost every type of cell in the body except for red blood cells.
Here's the big difference.
- THC tends to influence CB1 receptors in the brain
- CBD tends to influence CB2 receptors in the body
This difference speaks to why THC and CBD have very unique effects in the body.
It also speaks to why there are some negatives with THC:
- Psychoactive - the "high" feeling
- Can be addictive due to interaction with dopamine system
- Can cause psychosis or overdose
- Can cause anxiety, paranoia, hunger, and other effects
CBD does not have these effects since it doesn't interact with the CB1 receptors in the brain.
Aside from many other effects, CBD has many opposite effects:
- Calm effect - no high
- Actually is showing results to counter addiction to many different substances
- Has shown in MRI's an ability to normalize brain activity during psychosis
- Has shown powerful anti-anxiety effects and helps to balance hunger hormone levels
It's the polar opposite! So how could THC possible by needed to "Activate" CBD?
If we drill down lower, it gets even more interesting. To the LIVER!!
Does CBD Offset THC's Effects In The Body
Our poor liver has to do so much heavy lifting in the body. This is equally true for CBD and THC. The liver has to process both substances along with 60% of the medications on the market via a specific pathway. In order for THC to become psychoactive, it has to be metabolized by the liver first.
Guess what blocks this process? CBD! That's why the ratio of CBD to THC in a given cannabis strain can have such a different effect in terms of the psychoactive effects of THC.
CBD will actually block the metabolism of THC! It won't reach those CB1 receptors in the brain in an activated form.
Just a head's up...the THC levels in today's pot is so much higher than even a decade ago.
It used to be that there was enough CBD to offset the THC or "mellow" it a bit. That's not the case with a lot of cannabis available on the illegal or legal markets.
THC doesn't activate CBD.They operate on very separate sets of CB receptors in the body and even counter each other's effects.
There's an estimate that 80% of the health (not the getting high part) benefits people get from cannabis comes from the CBD!
The high, or course, comes from the THC.
You can learn all about this interplay here:
Let's take one quick example that research supports.
Can CBD Cause Anxiety?
CBD's powerful effects on anxiety are well established now (See CBD and Anxiety here).
First, a little Klingon:
The anxiolytic effects of CBD in humans were first demonstrated in the context of reversing the anxiogenic effects of THC.
Anxiolytic just means anti-anxiety. That's attributed to CBD. Anxiogenic means increasing anxiety. That's attributed to THC!
Again...polar opposite. Interestingly, it's estimated that 60% of people with allergy and histamine issues are also allergic to THC. Roughly 40-60% of the population on whole have allergy and histamine issues! It's higher for women (tied in with estrogen levels) and higher still for women over 40! Does that sound like someone you know?? A little simple math and at the high range, roughly 24-36% of the population may be allergic to THC! There's a direct tie to histamine release and inflammation in the brain and anxiety.
Read The Inflamed Mind by Edward Bullmore (totally fascinating!)
The "side effects" of THC and other plant materials may just be acute allergic responses.
The same effect holds true for Full Spectrum CBD as it does for THC. Check out Why CBD Isolate Only for Histamine and Allergy Issues Back to THC, CBD, and anxiety. There are numerous examples of opposing and contrarian effects between THC and CBD in the body. Forget activating CBD...how about cancelling out! Which may be a useful tool in certain situations!
CBD For Greening Out - Help With Too Much THC
Aside from the bigger question of THC addiction, CBD is showing promise when a person has too much THC.
THC overdose is a very real thing.
Being "Greened Out" is the term for the THC equivalent of drinking too much alcohol. Does CBD help with this?
The answer is YES!
As we mentioned above, CBD blocks further metabolism of THC by the liver into its active form. At this point, it's excreted from the body unactivated (by the liver again).
Maybe more importantly to the poor person greening out, CBD offsets the psychoactive and physiological effects of the excess THC.
Most of the greening out effect of THC are psychoactive:
- Temporary psychosis and or fear, anxiety, paranoia
- Acute anxiety (and all its physical manifestations - rapid pulse, shortness of breath, etc)
Both of these effects are directly and positively affected by CBD itself in research.
Still think THC has to activate CBD in the body?