By far, the natural health product garnering the most attention today is cannabis in all its many forms. That includes the plant itself, CBD oil, CBD products and THC, the psychoactive component in cannabis. For years, federal law has restricted not only the use of cannabis, but also research on the plant’s effects.

Currently, cannabis is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug. This classification indicates that cannabis has no accepted medical value, but many people disagree! Cannabis is now fully legal and decriminalized in 10 states plus the District of Columbia. On the other end of the spectrum, 9 states fully criminalize it. The remaining 31 states offer some level of legalization, usually for medicinal purposes or the sale of CBD derivatives.

The difference between CBD and THC

If you’re not familiar with the health and medicinal properties of cannabis, a good place to start is with the differences between CBD and THC. CBD is an abbreviation for cannabidiol, a phytocannabinoid found in cannabis. The cannabis plant has more than 100 different cannabinoids. Phytocannabinoids are chemical compounds that interact with cannabinoid receptors in the brain.

THC is an abbreviation for tetrahydrocannabinol. THC is the primary psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. Researchers believe that THC is part of the plant’s natural self-defense mechanism. Heat in excess of 270°F activates THC’s psychoactive properties. Without heat activation, consuming the raw plant (which you can do) will not produce any psychoactive effects.

The effect of CBD on health

You can ingest CBD in a number of forms. Among the most common are oils and tinctures, topicals, RSO, vape cartridges, aerosol sprays, capsules and dried cannabis. The bioavailability of the CBD will depend upon how you ingest it. Eating CBD provides the lowest bioavailability (<20%). Inhalation or sub-lingual (under the tongue) administration can double CBD's bioavailability. By itself, CBD has no psychoactive properties. Used in the proper concentrations, CBD can provide relief from some seizure disorders, pain and inflammatory responses ( neck pain lower back pain, sciatica ), anxiety disorders, Crohn's Disease, multiple sclerosis symptoms and opioid withdrawal symptoms. CBD is a serotonin 5-HT receptor partial agonist, which means that it offers beneficial effects on mood, decreases anxiety, and supports and heals the central nervous system. It also shows the ability to kill or inhibit the growth of cancer cells, relieve headaches, improve sleep and protect the brain and nerves. It's important to note that you can get CBD preparations that are 100% THC-free. If you are required to take routine drug tests (as part of your employment, for example), use only THC-free CBD formulations. If you do not, you can test positive for THC, which can cause you to fail a drug test. Keep in mind that full spectrum CBD products contain small amounts of THC and you will need to avoid taking any full spectrum CBD product. CDB oil derived from hemp (a plant related to cannabis) is legal for use in all 50 states, as a result of the passage of the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, provided that the extracts contain less than 0.3% THC (a negligible amount). CBD extracted from cannabis may or may not be legal, depending upon the state you're in. Washington State has fully decriminalized cannabis use for both medical and recreational purposes.

The effect of THC on health

Like CBD, you can administer THC in a number of different forms. Most people choose to smoke cannabis, since it offers improved THC bioavailability over other methods. In humans, THC can alleviate pain, spasticity, anxiety and other responses generated by the sympathetic nervous system. It also increases the appetite. THC is the active ingredient in two mainstream prescription medications: Drobinol and Sativex. Doctors prescribe these drugs to curb nausea and improve appetite in patients with certain conditions.

Not all varieties of cannabis are equal, especially when it comes to their THC levels. Over time, growers have bred and hybridized cannabis plants to deliver more THC than nature intended. High concentrations of THC can cause adverse side effects in some users. Side effects can include paranoia or anxiety; dehydration, dry eyes and dry mouth; hunger; sleepiness or lethargy; and temporary memory or cognitive impairments.

An interesting note is that CBD naturally counteracts many of these side effects. Since some cannabis strains have been manipulated to produce an outsized concentration of THC, the amount of naturally occurring CBD in these varieties may no longer be enough to offset unpleasant side effects.

Using Cannabis

Many people focus on the treatment aspect of cannabis use. In other words, they don’t seek it out until they have a problem. Cannabis can provide a range of supportive and preventive health benefits that many people overlook.

CBD is generally recognized as safe an effective by the World Health Organization. Toxicity testing – mostly on animal subjects – is limited, but preliminary results indicate that it would be difficult (if not impossible) for a human to overdose on CBD. Massive doses of CBD have been shown to cause respiratory and cardiac failure in some primates, but the test doses were not in any way comparable to those of human users. CBD does not produce psychoactive side effects, so finding a therapeutic dose is trial-and-error dependent. Start conservatively and increase your dosage until you find the amount that meets your needs.

Since the potential for negative side effects is greater with THC than with CBD, the best advice here is to start small and see what happens to you. “Starting small” may mean taking only a few puffs of a pipe or pre-roll ( cannabis rolled cigarette ), rather than consuming the entire thing. If you don’t want to smoke, edibles offer a controlled way to consume THC. 5 mg of THC is considered a modest dose, and edible products should indicate their THC content.

Cannabis can both support good overall health and disease prevention and treat a range of disorders. If you would like more information about how to incorporate CBD, THC or a combination of the two, please contact us at NewEdge Wellness at 509-737-9355.

- NewEdge Wellness Center
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