Why CBD works better with a little THC (even if you don’t want to get high)
Way back in 2014, I wrote an article called “Desperately Seeking CBD” that profiled several families who either broke the law or moved clear across the country to access cannabidiol (CBD)—a non-intoxicating compound found in the cannabis plant that’s proven effective in treating pediatric seizure disorders that don’t respond to more conventional therapies. At the time, the father of a two-year old epilepsy patient explained that they’d uprooted their entire existence and moved to Colorado just to try the treatment.
The best available science makes clear that whole-plant cannabis preparations are quantifiably superior to single compounds.
Five years later, you can buy CBD ice cream in Texas. Cannabidiol is officially “trendy.” Capsules, tinctures, ointments, and oils containing the compound can be readily purchased online (as well as at gas stations and hair salons nationwide), and the legalization of hemp farming this December via the most recent US Farm Bill means that this rapidly growing market segment will likely expand exponentially over the next five years.
All good news, even if the recent media focus on shiny objects like CBD-infused cocktails has threatened to crowd out significant research showing cannabidiol has tremendous promise in treating cancer , diabetes , head trauma , chronic pain , neurodegenerative disease , depression, anxiety , and addiction .
But unfortunately, along the way, there’s been a lot of shady operators selling CBD in a largely unregulated grey market, and as a result, a ton of misinformation has attached itself to this potentially life-saving cannabinoid.
In fact, Project CBD—a non-profit dedicated to boosting science-based understanding of cannabidiol—has compiled an extensive list of pervasive misconceptions, one of which is “CBD is medical, THC is recreational.”
On the contrary, even small doses of THC combined with CBD can improve the efficacy of your cannabis medicine.
THC is TLC for your CBD
Originally, cannabis contained far less THC than it typically does now, and a lot more CBD. But over time, breeders have created ever more potent strains, as that’s what fetches the best price in the underground market. These breeders certainly understood that selecting for greater potency meant maximizing THC output, but just ten years ago few had even heard of CBD, never mind realized it was steadily getting bred out of existence.
Project CBD was founded in 2009, a time when CBD had almost entirely vanished from the cannabis gene pool. The organization’s founders recognized that while there’s long been evidence of CBD’s medical efficacy, unlike THC, it wasn’t reaching actual medical cannabis patients in appreciable amounts. So they worked directly with cannabis labs in California (then a new phenomenon) to identify the few remaining CBD-rich strains in circulation and make them available to growers, researchers and patients.
Which means you can put them down as big fans of CBD. Just don’t put down THC while you’re doing it.
Project CBD receives many inquiries from around the world and oftentimes people say they are seeking “CBD, the medical part” of the plant, “not THC, the recreational part” that gets you high. Actually, THC, “The High Causer,” has awesome therapeutic properties… [but] diehard marijuana prohibitionists are exploiting the good news about CBD to further stigmatize high-THC cannabis, casting tetrahydrocannabinol as the bad cannabinoid, whereas CBD is framed as the good cannabinoid. Why? Because CBD doesn’t make you feel high like THC does.
Project CBD categorically rejects this moralistic, reefer madness dichotomy in favor of whole plant cannabis therapeutics.
The best available science makes clear that whole-plant cannabis preparations are quantifiably superior to single compounds because the plant’s complex mix of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids interact synergistically to create an “entourage effect” that enhances each other’s therapeutic effects.
- A study conducted at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco found that combining THC and CBD produces more potent anti-tumor effects when tested on brain cancer and breast cancer cell lines than either compound alone.
- A 2010 study found that patients with intractable cancer-related pain tolerated medicines that combined THC and CBD notably better than a pure THC extract.
- A 2012 study in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found that CBD “inhibits THC-elicited paranoid symptoms and hippocampal-dependent memory impairment”
Finding the sweet spot
Products with a balance of THC and CBD are becoming more commonplace in cannabis shops as consumers realize the value of cannabinoid synergy. (Elise McDonough for Leafly)
Lots of people (like yours truly) enjoy the psychoactivity of cannabis and find it mood elevating and healing in and of itself, but rest assured that you don’t need to get high AF to reap the benefits of THC.
However, finding your optimal dose will involve some trial and error.
According to Project CBD:
The successful use of cannabis as a medicine depends to a great extent on managing its psychoactive properties. The goal is to administer consistent, measurable doses of a CBD-rich cannabis remedy with as much THC as a person is comfortable with… Preclinical science lends credence to the notion that a small amount of THC can confer health benefits. Oral administration of a low dose of THC (1 mg/day) resulted in “significant inhibition of disease progression” in an animal model of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), according to a 2005 report in Nature , which noted: “This effective dose is lower than the dose usually associated with psychotropic effects of THC.”
In a feature called We Asked a Scientist: What’s the Right Dose of CBD? , Nick Jikomes, Leafly’s in-house neuroscientist, explored the complicated process involved in optimizing the benefits of cannabis without going one toke over the line, including managing the complex interplay between THC and CBD.
CBD is essentially getting in the way of THC’s ability to bind the CB1 receptor, which is why the presence of CBD has a significant impact on the psychoactivity of THC-containing products, [and] why the ratio of the two compounds is important for anticipating the effects of cannabis products… While THC and CBD have different pharmacological properties, they can both have similar physiological effects, probably acting through different mechanisms. For instance, both compounds can have analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects; they may act through different mechanisms, so having THC and CBD could potentially enhance an outcome surrounding pain relief.
If you’re fortunate enough to have access to a legally operating cannabis dispensary, you should have no problem finding flowers, concentrates, topicals, and edibles with a wide range of THC-to-CBD ratios. But patients and consumers still sourcing their cannabis from the underground market will encounter more difficulty.
Browse menus near you for CBD/THC products
One suggestion is to try combining whatever form of CBD you can access locally with the best whole-plant cannabis you can lay your hands on. Perhaps this means swallowing a CBD capsule and then taking a few puffs off a joint an hour later.
As always with cannabis, start with small doses and work you way up until you find the sweet spot.
CBD vs THC: Comparing Two Potent Cannabinoids
Maybe you’re just curious about the differences between the two. It’s easy to assume that these two compounds are similar since they both come from the same plant. But while they can both play an important role in managing chronic pain, CBD and THC are very different substances, and each one works differently in the body.
In this article, we’ll explore how these two popular cannabis compounds work to relieve chronic pain — both separately and together.
The Basics of THC and CBD
CBD (short for cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) belong to a group known as cannabinoids, and they are derived from the cannabis plant – either hemp or psychoactive cannabis (“marijuana”). There are over 100 different cannabinoids, but CBD and THC are the most dominant substances in cannabis, making them responsible for most of the effects that marijuana is famous for.
When it comes to chronic pain, there’s no clear winner in the CBD vs. THC debate: both have their uses. (Photo: Every Day Optimal)
Both CBD and THC work by interacting with the endocannabinoid system, which refers to a group of receptors in the body that regulate various physiological processes, including pain, digestion, mood, and sleep. Cannabis is well-known for its versatility, helping people worldwide with problems like insomnia, PTSD, and pain – and it’s all because these endocannabinoid receptors are involved in so many different bodily functions.
By far, the most notable difference between CBD and THC is that THC causes a high, while CBD does not. CBD’s lack of psychoactive effects is one of the reasons it has become so popular as of late. In fact, CBD can counteract some of THC’s psychoactive effects (like euphoria and anxiety). This is why high-CBD strains of cannabis are often popular for pain relief since they allow one to keep a clear head.
THC is also associated with more side effects than CBD, although these tend to be mild and are temporary. Some well-documented side effects of THC are dry mouth, red eyes, and hunger. Most people who use CBD report little to no side effects, with sleepiness being the most common, especially at high doses.
Research has established that CBD is an effective anti-inflammatory, with strong evidence that it can relieve pain from inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. For example, a 2017 study concluded that CBD can reduce osteoarthritis-related pain and inflammation, and prevent nerve damage.
Other studies support CBD for the relief of neuropathic pain and incision-related pain. CBD’s effectiveness at relieving different types of pain has led to its popularity among people with conditions such as fibromyalgia, IBS, multiple sclerosis, and cancer.
Although there is plenty of research supporting the use of cannabis for pain relief in conditions like Crohn’s disease, chronic migraine, and fibromyalgia, less attention has been paid to the specific benefits of THC. The few studies that are available tend to be small and show conflicting results.
A recent study in Neurology found THC is effective for alleviating chronic nerve pain. A larger study, involving 177 cancer patients, found that while THC was not effective at reducing pain, the patients who took a CBD/THC combination had their pain reduced by over 30 percent when compared to placebo. Another double-blind study supported this conclusion when using THC for post-surgery pain. Meanwhile, a 2017 study found both THC and CBD, when taken alone, were effective for reducing chemotherapy-related pain in mice.
The same study also discovered that when combined, previously ineffective doses of CBD and THC could relieve pain. This relates to an important benefit of THC – it can enhance the pain-relieving properties of CBD through what’s known as the entourage effect.
There are new THC products available in the market that are available to buy, we have done Delta-8 gummies and Delta-8 carts reviews on the website. Which is a version of THC which is currently legal to buy in the US.
How CBD and THC Work Together: The Entourage Effect
Although CBD and THC are the most dominant compounds in the cannabis plant, they aren’t alone. There are dozens of other cannabinoids and terpenes that work together to provide different synergic effects. For example, the third most dominant compound in cannabis, cannabichromene (CBC) has shown anti-inflammatory benefits similar to those of CBD.
Both CBD and THC can relieve symptoms of chronic pain and inflammation in unique ways, both alone and working in concert with other cannabinoids.
The entourage effect refers to the benefits that one can experience by ingesting multiple cannabinoids together, including CBD and THC. In short, while CBD and THC have their own powerful benefits, they tend to be more potent when combined – especially when it comes to pain relief. An analysis of 18 studies on cannabinoids for multiple sclerosis pain found that the combination of THC and CBD was slightly more effective for pain reduction than CBD on its own.
The entourage effect is why CBD products fall into 3 categories: full-spectrum, isolate, and broad-spectrum. Full-spectrum CBD products contain all the cannabinoids and terpenes that were extracted along with CBD. On the other hand, isolate CBD products remove all traces of these other substances, resulting in a product that is pure CBD.
Some people have better success using full-spectrum CBD products for pain relief because of the entourage effect. However, due to the variety of cannabinoids and terpenes, full-spectrum products can be somewhat unpredictable in their effects. Isolate CBD products are often favored by those who can’t tolerate any traces of THC, or need to avoid it due to drug testing.
Legalities and Limits of THC In CBD Products
The majority of CBD products you’ll find on the market today are made from hemp, which by law can contain up to a maximum of 0.3 percent THC. This means hemp-derived, full-spectrum CBD products are likely to contain low amounts of THC. There are CBD oils available that are made from marijuana instead of hemp, and therefore contain a higher percentage of THC. For legal reasons, these products tend to be restricted to dispensaries.
Closing Thoughts on CBD vs. THC
As you can see, there isn’t a simple answer for whether CBD or THC is better for chronic pain. Both compounds bring their own benefits to the table, and in regard to chronic pain, there is evidence that they’re more effective when taken together due to the entourage effect.
Either way, it’s clear that cannabis has plenty to offer for chronic pain patients, and cannabis products can vary widely in effectiveness. So if you don’t have success with one product, don’t give up; try something new, whether it’s a different blend of cannabinoids or a different potency.
What’s The Best CBD:THC Ratio To Use For Pain? (1:1)
Here’s everything you need to know about the best CBD:THC ratio for pain.
The combination of CBD and THC together can offer pain relief for episodic and chronic pain sufferers, including those with migraines, menstrual cramps, cancer, and more. The CBD:THC ratios that work best for pain are low in CBD and high in THC, harnessing the entourage effect to get the most out of both compounds.
The nausea-, pain-, and inflammation-relieving properties of CBD and the pain-relieving properties of THC make it a powerful treatment for pain.
Here’s all you need to know about the best CBD:THC ratios for pain.
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Benefits of CBD & THC For Pain Management
Both CBD and THC are incredible and innovative pain treatments backed by science. When this powerful duo is taken in conjunction, you get the benefits of both compounds — plus, they help each other be more effective.
The entourage effect is the phenomenon where the effects of some cannabinoids are enhanced when they’re accompanied by other cannabinoids that occur naturally in the cannabis plant.
Marijuana plants contain a lot of THC, whereas hemp plants contain a lot of CBD. Although there may be trace amounts of THC in some CBD products, it’s not enough to get you high — or to harness the pain-relieving effects of THC.
That’s where CBD:THC ratios come in.
By combining CBD and THC, whether in a pre-measured product or on your own at home, you can enjoy a pain-relieving THC high while the CBD reduces inflammation in your body, relaxes tense muscles, and lowers anxiety.
The THC binds to your CB1 receptor while the CBD binds to your CB2 receptor, allowing you to get the benefits of both compounds. The CBD also blocks some THC from binding with CB1, reducing the strong psychoactive effects of THC .
CBD also helps reduce the anxiety and paranoia some people experience after having THC. CBD is anxiety-reducing in its own right, so it helps calm the psychological side effects you get from THC while still letting you enjoy the pain-relief, muscle relaxation, and reduction of spasms .
Benefits of CBD & THC For Chronic Pain Sufferers
Most clinical studies examining CBD as a treatment for chronic pain use at least 1:1 CBD:THC ratios.
The science shows that patients’ mean pain scores were reduced in chronic pain sufferers with various afflictions, including multiple sclerosis, advanced cancer, and neuropathic pain .
This is huge for chronic pain sufferers because most pain relief medicine strong enough to get the job done is addictive — not to mention the host of side effects like poor sleep, depression, weight gain, and more .
If you live in a state with medical marijuana and you’re a diagnosed chronic pain sufferer, odds are your doctor has already recommended CBD and THC as a treatment. Make sure to check for any interactions with other medications you take.
Best CBD:THC Ratio & How To Dose
The best CBD:THC ratio for pain exceeds 1:9, meaning a lot more THC than CBD. However, if you’re anxious about getting high, it’ll still help your pain to take both compounds in any amount.
If you’re making your own CBD-THC blend at home, it can be tough to get a precise dose of either.
First, use our dosage calculator to determine how much CBD you should take. Then, determine which ratio you’d like to use — probably over 1:9 for pain management.
You can use CBD and THC gummies or tinctures for precise measurements. You don’t have to combine the CBD and THC first — just take them in conjunction or one after the other.
You can also purchase products that are already mixed at the right ratio for you. This is especially common at medical marijuana dispensaries.
Other CBD:THC Ratios
CBD and THC have a lot of synergy when used in combination with each other. There’s been a growing interest in recent years to identify the perfect ratio of each cannabinoid for managing various health conditions.
Even large pharmaceutical companies have entered the ring with their own CBD:THC ratios for combatting specific health disorders.
Here are some of the other ratios to consider based on the current evidence available:
— 1:1 — 1:1
- Best CBD:THC Ratio for Fibromyalgia — 1:1, 2:1, or 3:1
- Best CBD:THC Ratio for Anxiety — 1:1
- Best CBD:THC Ratio for Neuropathy — 1:1
Final Thoughts: Best CBD:THC Ratio For Pain
The best CBD:THC ratio for pain is 1:9, with more THC than CBD.
You can enjoy the benefits of CBD, including inflammation and anxiety relief, while also easing the potential psychological side effects of THC, like paranoia and anxiety.
Whether you’re a chronic pain sufferer or just have pain occasionally, the combination of CBD and THC is a powerful pain management treatment that won’t leave you with nasty side effects or addiction.