3 Misconceptions About CBD, Cleared Up

Cannabidiol (CBD) is perhaps one of the most misunderstood chemicals around. This is probably because phytocannabinoids and how they interact with the body aren’t properly understood yet, which makes space for all sorts of misconceptions to be formed, and lots of misinformation gets passed on. Many people also believe that they can bypass getting a medical marijuana card and just go for hemp-based CBD, but this could be a waste of money and potentially even harmful. Here are three misconceptions that we ought to clear up about CBD, so that you can make more informed decisions.

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1. “CBD is the Medicine, THC the Drug”

This is one of the biggest misconceptions, and there are people who come through to the clinic saying, “I just want the CBD – I don’t want to get ‘high’.” We don’t mean to bang this drum over-and-over again, but we must reiterate: THC helps CBD do a better job, and vice-versa. Plus, if you have more CBD than THC, the CBD will act as a sort of “buffer” for THC’s psychoactive effects. Also, strains or products with high amounts of both CBD and THC in them (say a THC:CBD ratio of 1:3 or 2:5) may not produce the same extreme euphoric (some would say uncomfortable) effects as a high THC-only or high THC-low CBD strain or products. However, CBD can actually increase the duration of cannabis’s effects, so a THC:CBD ratio of 3:1 may last longer than a THC:CBD ratio of 1:0, even if the 1:0 profile has stronger physiological effects in the short-term.

Sadly, the thought process of “I only want CBD” also means that there are many less-than-reputable companies wanting to take advantage of such misconceptions, who will gladly sell untested, perhaps even dangerous, inferior goods made from industrial hemp, some of which are lacking in the amount of CBD stated on the label. The lack of regulation means that many companies are all-too-willing to take advantage of this “Wild West” situation and make whatever money they can.

In some ways, this is further compounded by the fact that CBD is a schedule I drug (which the U.S. government has a patent on), meaning that high-quality, cannabinoid-based medications made in the United States is more difficult to sell than industrially-produced products that potentially have heavy metals and dangerous pathogens in them! This means we highly recommend getting yourself a medical marijuana recommendation and card, visiting a dispensary, and getting yourself a product made from cannabis plants that is grown with care in the U.S.!

There is perhaps a simple thought experiment you can do in order to get over the hump of seeing THC as the “drug” part of cannabis. Think of whatever prescription or even over-the-counter medications you take and ask yourself, “Does this medicine have unwanted side-effects that I don’t like?” Drowsiness, dizziness, loss of balance, headaches, loss of appetite … These are all common problems with many prescription medications, yet many still see them as “good” or “necessary” for them. So why not treat cannabis similarly and as a medicine and think, “This may have side-effects, too, and they may actually be more tolerable than the side-effects of other medications.” Plus, you can’t overdose on cannabis alone, which is always a big plus.

CBD Cannabidiol Numbering

CBD’s chemical formula.

2. “CBD Isn’t Psychoactive”

No, CBD is not psychoactive in the same way that THC is. CBD does not have an affinity for CB1 or CB2 receptors. This means that CBD doesn’t produce the euphoric effects THC does. However, we must ask ourselves, “What is psychoactivity?” CBD does, after all, have anxiety-beating effects, and often can make feel people relaxed when taken in large doses, especially when there’s some THC in the mix as well.

CBD also acts as a 5-HT1A receptor partial agonist. 5-HT1A is a subtype of 5-HT receptor that binds the neurotransmitter serotonin, which helps explain why CBD works as an antidepressant, anxiolytic and neuroprotective. CBD also indirectly influences μ-opioid and δ-opioid receptors, which is one possible reason why CBD can work as a painkiller, as well as producing a general feeling of ease and relaxation.

Some people liken using large amounts of CBD to “being stoned without being stoned”. In small amounts, CBD’s effects are said to be more “energetic” and “clear-headed”. So, if CBD is having some sort of physiological effect, can it not be said to be “psychoactive” to some degree? This is perhaps a philosophical and well as scientific question, and one that could be asked of many medications. Mara Gordon of Aunt Zelda has said that CBD does produce a psychoactive effect of sorts for at least some people, and Dr. Ethan Russo states:

“Cannabinol is the nonenzymatic oxidative breakdown product of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), seen in aged Cannabis, and is about 25% of the potency of THC. Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) is a neutral antagonist at CB1 at low doses, but an agonist at high doses, and is certainly psychoactive, but rarely seen in high titer in commonly available Cannabis strains. Finally, although cannabidiol (CBD) is non-intoxicating, it certainly has antianxiety, antipsychotic, and even antidepressant effects, so properly they must be considered psychoactive with these qualifications.”

Also, it must be remembered that, if we’re using a CBD-rich, unprocessed cannabis bud/flower, there will be terpenes in it. These terpenes will also have a physiological effect, and will interact with CBD and other cannabinoids in different ways to produce a variety of effects.

Another thing to remember in all of this is that CBD is having an effect on the body. This means it is affecting various receptors throughout your body, as well as the liver enzyme Cytochrome P450. This means that CBD may have some cross-reactivity with other drugs and medications. Benzodiazepines and barbiturates, for example, may interact very negatively with CBD. Due to the effects of CBD on the immune system, it must also be taken carefully if it’s being taken in conjunction with immunosuppressants or certain types of antibiotics. Sadly, we do not have the research to know how cross-reactive CBD is with other drugs and medications.

Lavender Plant
Lavender, which contains the terpene linalool – also found in many types of cannabis strains.

3. “Indicas Have More CBD in Them”

There is a lot of debate surrounding the “sativa vs. indica” debate. Though there are differences in growth patterns (sativas grow taller and have narrow leaves, whereas indicas tend to grow short and stout and have broader leaves), there is no agreement in terms of how to put cannabis into a proper taxonomy. Many botanists will also add Cannabis ruderalis and Cannabis afghanica to the list of cannabis species as well, which is usually split between Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica.

The main problem with such broad categorizations is that they don’t necessarily pick up on any differences in chemotype. On top of this, different strains of cannabis will grow very differently in different environments, which will allow different cannabinoid and terpenoid concentrations to express themselves. This means that, when one looks at the specific chemotype, an indica can look very similar to a sativa, thereby possibly producing similar effects.

Much of the reason behind this is because cannabis has been hybridized, meaning that many strains will contain several different chemical compounds. This means that CBD will be found in several types of sativa as well – sometimes in higher concentrations than in many indicas. Furthermore, there are strains with high THC-low CBD profiles that will produce high CBD-low THC phenotypes on occasion, e.g. Warlock, Critical Mass. Therefore, when you look at many CBD-rich strains, you will often notice that there will often be almost as many sativa- or hybrid- leaning strains (e.g. Island Sweet Skunk, Charlotte’s Web, ACDC, Purple Cheese) as there are indicas (e.g. Dark Star, Violator Kush).

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Cannabis Plant
Cannabis plant in bloom.

We hope the above has helped you understand more about CBD. There still needs to be lots of research, and there may be new information that comes out that could prove everything we’ve written wrong, but we hope that some of the confusion is cleared up.

Written by
Dipak Hemraj
Dipak Hemraj

Dipak Hemraj is a published author, grower, product maker, and Leafwell’s resident cannabis expert. From botany & horticulture to culture & economics, he wishes to help educate the public on why cannabis is medicine (or a “pharmacy in a plant”) and how it can be used to treat a plethora of health problems. Dipak wants to unlock the power of the plant, and see if there are specific cannabinoid-terpene-flavonoid profiles suitable for different conditions.

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