If you’ve never personally felt the terror of being “too high”, you’ve likely heard someone tell their tale about it. Many cannabis consumers, regardless of age or experience, are afraid of the panic that an out of control high can cause. It's here where education is key to keeping you safe, allowing you to access the therapeutic uses of cannabis. As usual, a little bit of understanding of how cannabinoids work in your body can go a long way in controlling your high, and getting the most of out this plant.
Consuming cannabis in any form will allow various cannabinoids to interact with receptors in your body. Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the cannabinoid responsible for psychoactivity - among other actions. Our endocannabinoid system contains two receptors: CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are primarily found in the brain, more specifically in places like the basal ganglia, hippocampus, and cerebellum. CB2 receptors are scattered all over our body, primarily found in cells and tissues of the immune system. (If you need a quick review, head on over to the Education page on the site for an overview of the Endocannabinoid System) THC has an affinity for CB1 receptors, making it a CB1 agonist. An agonist is a substance that causes a physiological response when combined with a receptor. In THC’s case, it binds to CB1 and causes psychoactivity.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is another cannabinoid many of us are familiar with. CBD is incredible, and we'll talk so much more about it, because its therapeutic uses seem endless. CBD does not cause psychoactivity like THC. Also unlike THC, it has a low affinity for CB1 and CB2 receptors. CBD does not enter the body and seek out certain receptors. What CBD does respond to is THC interacting with CB1 receptors. This makes CBD allosteric: it responds to what’s happening at the CB1 receptor site. When THC binds to CB1 receptors, CBD will change the shape of the receptors, therefore weakening the ability for it to bind with THC. By doing this, CBD will lower THC’s ceiling for psychoactivity. More simply stated, it can prevent you from getting “too high”!
So what does this mean for the consumer? CBD is so important, yet often so misunderstood. When looking at ratios, a strain with a higher CBD-to-THC ratio will lower psychoactive effects, allowing CBD to convey its therapeutic effects. CBD is a powerful anti-inflammatory, but conversely, it needs THC to do its best work. CBD also needs a fatty acid-binding protein to hitch a ride on, in order to get in to the cell. CBD is quite dependent, and knowing how to set it up correctly can allow the consumer access to all its possibilities. What we know about this cannabinoid is just beginning to blossom. In recent studies, CBD is showing to be neuroprotective, stimulatory of neurogenesis, and enhancing of THC’s anti-cancer effects. Neuroprotection and neurogenesis make CBD a powerful resource in stroke recovery. Famed talk show host Montel Williams speaks openly about how his use of CBD expedited his stroke recovery. Not only was it a major factor in his stroke recovery, but Montel has been using CBD successfully for years to manage symptoms from Multiple Sclerosis, and he even created his own line of CBD products.
In the cannabis industry, there seems to be a disconnect between CBD and THC. The consumer will note that most dispensaries do not carry strains that have a significant amount of CBD. CBD is not federally illegal, so it can be sold outside of a dispensary, and even in a state that does not allow recreational cannabis purchase. We recommend that you always research the manufacturer, as federal regulations are developing over time, which allows sub-par products to be labeled incorrectly. Simply put - when you buy CBD, do your research to make sure that it is from a good source!
Tip from the Weed RN: If you can't find a strain with a 1:1 or desired CBD:THC ratio, you can make your own! Most dispensaries have at least one strain in their catalogue that is mostly CBD. What I do is purchase a high CBD strain and add it to my higher THC strains - no need to search for the right ratio. Another idea would be to purchase CBD in another form: think tincture, salve, lotion, or even vape. Consider the route you're using to get THC into your body and match a similar absorption rate with the CBD, or adjust accordingly.
I'll give you an example: there is a strain that's high THC that gives you pain relief, but it also makes you way too high to function. In your drawer is a CBD salve and a CBD vape pen - which do you choose? The answer is either!
The easiest answer is the vape pen: simply smoke it with, or after, the THC strain. A vape CBD cartridge is easy to find, easy to have with you, and can be found at most dispensaries. Like adding CBD flower to your THC flower, vaping will go the inhalation route of absorption as well and they will both "arrive together",
If you use the salve, make sure you get it on the area around the time you smoke - transdermal (through the skin) absorption takes longer than inhaled. A better idea would be to get the salve on before you smoke, to allow for absorption. Like most things cannabis, note taking and simple attention to your needs can tell you a lot about what you need to do the next time.
Stay tuned as we learn more!
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Reggio, P.H. (2010). Endocannabinoid binding to the cannabinoid receptors: what is known and what remains unknown. Curr Med Chem. 2010;17(14):1468-86. doi: 10.2174/092986710790980005. PMID: 20166921; PMCID: PMC4120766.
Sim-Selley, L.J. (2003). Regulation of cannabinoid CB1 receptors in the central nervous system by chronic cannabinoids. Crit Rev Neurobiol. 2003;15(2):91-119. doi: 10.1615/critrevneurobiol.v15.i2.10. PMID: 14977366