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Cannabidiol, or CBD, is another active compound found in marijuana. It is usually referred to along with THC as a sort of dynamic duo. CBD is known to have more sedative effects, and has been the main source of medical research. Because it’s been discovered to have benefits on treating epilepsy and other neurological disorders, more and more research has been done to examine its effects on the brain in detail. CBD is unique in its potential for medicinal uses because it can affect a large number of brain and body receptors, including more than just cannabinoid receptors.
To know why CBD’s versatility is important, the purpose of receptors must be understood. In the brain, neurons are connected by structures known as synapses. In these structures, neurons communicate with each other by sending neurotransmitters, or chemical messengers. To properly receive a message through a neurotransmitter, a neuron needs to have a receptor that fits it. When neurotransmitters can fit, or match, one of these receptors, then the neuron is capable of interacting directly with the messenger.
Neurons contain various different receptors for neurotransmitters. Because CBD can affect so many different receptors, it has the ability to interact with all sorts of messages that the brain sends.
CBD and its medical benefits come from its effect on other receptors in the brain. It provides a therapeutic effect when it interacts with the TRPV-1 receptor. This is also known as the “vanilloid receptor”, named after the vanilla bean which contains an essential oil with analgesic and antiseptic properties (pain-relieving and the ability to reduce likelihood of infection). When CBD binds with this receptor, it works as a stimulant to activate its abilities to regulate pain, inflammation, and body temperature. This is why cannabis with high levels of CBD works to treat neuropathic pain.
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In higher concentrations, CBD can also activate the 5-HT1A serotonin receptor. This receptor is directly involved with biological processes relating to anxiety, sleep, pain, appetite, and more. When CBD interacts with 5-HT1A, it slows down its signaling and in turn ends up providing an antidepressant effect. In addition, CBD’s anti-anxiety properties are due to its role on the adenosine receptor in the brain. These receptors regulate cardiovascular functions and have anti-inflammatory effects.
CBD and THC: How They Coexist
Clearly CBD and THC are very different cannabinoids. To sum it up, the biggest difference between the two is that THC is psychoactive and CBD is not. They both work within the body’s endocannabinoid system, but CBD primarily interacts with the immune system and THC mainly causes reactions within the nervous system. Because the two compounds activate different receptors in the brain and nervous system, they initiate different symptoms in the body. According to an article from the British Journal of Pharmacology, THC is an agonist of CB1 and CB2 receptors, while CBD remains an antagonist of the same receptors, therefore causing a different physiological response. Because it doesn’t interact directly with cannabinoid receptors, it does not have the psychoactive effects of THC.
CBD is known to combat some of the effects of THC. Instead of reacting directly with cannabinoid receptors in the way that THC does, CBD works to stop the enzyme that metabolizes anandamide, a natural cannabinoid found within the body. In turn, the release of dopamine and the effects that go along with it are stalled. CBD also promotes the release of another cannabinoid in the body that activates the same CB1 and CB2 receptors. What all of this means is that CBD and THC have similar pharmacological properties, but one works without causing a “high.”
Researchers have noted this detail and many believe that CBD may actually help to counteract the intoxicating effects of THC and other psychotic symptoms. A recent study from the World Journal of Biological Psychiatry notes that more larger-scale studies need to be done before coming to hard conclusions, but there is evidence out there that CBD does possess several health properties, including acting as an antioxidant and anti-psychotic. Though CBD is not known for its euphoric effects, cannabis with both THC and CBD present is still psychoactive.
Breeding cannabis is not a new idea, as early on, humans started changing the plant based on ever-evolving needs. But the popularity of breeding “customized” cannabis has increased exponentially in the modern era for a number of reasons. Ever since the prohibition of marijuana, breeding cannabis for shorter flowering times, higher potencies, and greater yields became a central focus. This was a central goal in order to successfully sell marijuana on the black market. As time went on, the recreational cannabis industry flourished and growers have been taking advantage of new technologies and customer requests to get creative with their strains.
This pro-marijuana community has come together despite laws and stigma largely in part to online forums. High Times and Leafly are examples of popular websites where users can go to meet other people with similar opinions, gain knowledge, and keep up to date on the latest cannabis news. The Cannabis Cup is another opportunity for the recreational industry to grow; Cannabis Cup is a trade show nearly thirty years in practice that showcases the latest developments in all things marijuana. Because of this ever-growing community, growers are seeing opportunity to meet people’s various needs and desires in their weed strains.
Different strains are bred for various purposes; they vary in aroma, flavor, potency, medical purpose, side effects, etc. They are generally named based on the growers and/or by the smell, color, or flavor of the strain. Though there are countless varieties of cannabis, there are several ways to group them together. The easiest way to differentiate between groups of strains is with these three classifications: indica, sativa, and hybrid. As stated before, indica strains generally have a similar sedative effect while sativas are generally better for higher energy and alertness. Hybrids can show a balanced effect or lean way or the other. As marijuana has become increasingly less taboo, growers have begun to turn their focus away from breeding strains for potency and higher yields and toward cultivating new flavors and terpenoid content. It has become an art.