CBD and THC are medical cannabis compounds with tremendous therapeutic potential. THC gets a bad reputation due to its intoxicating effect which leads people to seek out CBD oil products like isolates or very low THC hemp oil. It’s important to address this misconception now to ensure sick patients are buying the most effective marijuana medicine possible. Nature has put these cannabinoids together because they work better collectively via the “entourage effect”. CBD can even limit or prevent the “high” altogether.

Anyone who knows a thing or two about cannabinol (CBD) will tell you that it’s pretty much natures marvel a healing compound with widespread therapeutic application across many challenging health conditions.

Its cousin tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), however has a slightly more infamous reputation. The majority of people tolerate it well and even find great medicinal benefit. But due to its psychoactive & intoxicating effect some experience heightened anxiety and even paranoia. This creates a negative hype around THC which can actually be detrimental to medical cannabis users seeking to benefit from non-psychoactive CBD oil.

In this article, we explain the important beneficial relationship between these two marijuana compounds (and others found within the plant).

The Entourage Effect

The Cambridge Dictionary defines entourage as: “the group of people who travel with and work for an important or famous person”.

In the realm of plant medicine the “entourage effect” was first described by Dr Ralph Mechoulam (the father of cannabis research) and colleagues in 1998 after which it was popularised by Dr Ethan Russo in his 2011 paper entitled “Taming THC: Potential Cannabis Synergy and Phytocannabinoid-Terpenoid Entourage Effects”.

The concept highlights the essential fact that medicinal plant compounds work better together than they do in isolation. There is a synergy created by nature that science is only now beginning to unravel and understand. Marijuana contains hundreds of individual compounds that hold significant therapeutic potential. The majority can be grouped into cannabinoids, terpenoids (“terpenes”) and flavonoids.

When it comes to most famous compounds they don’t come bigger than the cannabinoids CBD and THC. THC is renowned for its recreational “high” and CBD is the undisputed medicinal champion. However both are in fact having a therapeutic effect on mind and body regardless of the context of their use.

Due to the intoxicating nature of THC and unwanted side-effects in susceptible individuals many people who try CBD oil fall into a misinformation trap. The truth is that not all CBD oil is created equal. CBD “isolates” like the pharmaceutical drug Epidiolex miss a hugely important trick as they lose the synergistic interaction of all cannabis plant compounds. “Hemp oils” with very low amounts of THC are not in the same league as full-spectrum CBD oils that contain enough THC to enact the entourage effect.

The point is this: CBD’s medicinal value is improved by the presence of THC and vice versa. In fact the entourage effect seems to apply to all marijuana plant compounds. This plant medicine principle was recently backed by a study on the potential of medical cannabis to combat acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), the COVID-19 symptom that often leads to death.

This study showed that CBD’s ability to reduce the inflammatory cytokine storm was enhanced by the presence of terpenes (more effective than dexamethasone a corticosteroid commonly prescribed in this regard). The authors of another study, showing the ability of THC rich Cannabis Sativa strains to combat ARDS also stated that they fully believe in the entourage effect.

The Psychoactive Effect

While the “entourage effect” tells us that marijuana compounds in general are necessary to achieve the plant’s full medicinal potential it is certainly also possible that certain compounds can inhibit the effects of others. After all we are dealing with hundreds of compounds which makes for an extraordinarily high number of potential combinations.

We’ve already mentioned THC’s intoxicating psychoactive ability and that CBD is non-intoxicating. At this point it’s necessary to clarify some important semantics. You’ll often read that CBD is non-psychoactive while THC is psychoactive. However this is a misinterpretation. CBD does act on receptors that influence the psyche. The correct interpretation would be to say that CBD is non-intoxicating while THC is intoxicating. But here’s where the synergy of compounds gets interesting. CBD actually has the potential to limit or even entirely inhibit this intoxicating “high” caused by THC.

The reason? It comes down to the interaction of these two cannabinoids with our bodies cannabinoid receptors. CBD is better known to influence CB2 receptors with THC binding strongly to and activating CB1 receptors to create an intoxicating experience. These receptors are usually activated by anandamide the body’s naturally produced endocannabinoid (also known as the “bliss molecule”) which is rapidly broken down by fatty acid amide hydrolase. This FAAH enzyme however isn’t able to break THC down in the same manner, resulting in a prolonged effect.

CBD has a weak affinity to CB1 receptors (which are predominant in the brain and central nervous system). It binds loosely to them and is unable to activate them in the same manner as THC. But this loose bond is still enough to prevent THC from attaching to and activating the receptor thus preventing the intoxicating effect. Please feel free to indulge your scientific curiosity further by reading Cannabis Science.

Full-Extract Cannabis Oil (FECO)

The synergistic interaction of marijuana plant compounds and their ability to affect one another in profound ways make the cannabinoid ratio of your cannabis product an essential factor to consider. It’s also important to source full-extract cannabis oil (FECO) to ensure you’re getting all of the beneficial plant compounds. Here’s what you might want to look out for in a cannabis oil tincture:

  • Non-intoxicating: High in CBD but with enough THC and other compounds to fully enact the entourage effect.
  • Intoxicating: Rich in THC and including lower amounts of other beneficial compounds like CBD.
  • Mildly intoxicating: A 1:1 ratio of THC to CBD for the “best of both worlds” whereby CBD loosely binds to many CB1 receptors and limits the “high”.
  • Also non-intoxicating: CBG (the “new kid on the block” with outstanding therapeutic value) and THCA (the raw form of THC with its own unique medicinal abilities).

Essentially you want to say “NO” to CBD oil that contains NO THC. You may also want to say “YES” to CBD when taking THC to limit intoxicating effects.