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Is CBD or Marijuana Healthier?

Emily Fisher
Emily Fisher - CEO

Aug 19 2020 - 4 min read

What is healthier – CBD or Marijuana? This is a question our physicians hear often when they speak with people who understand the value of cannabis as medicine but are unsure which form is best for them.

It’s a difficult question to answer, because we have to then ask the follow-up question, “For what?” Different conditions require different treatments, and in some instances cannabidiol (CBD) alone may be better and in others marijuana may be better. Here’s some of the essential questions answered which will help you to make an informed decision.

CBD vs. Marijuana – What’s the Difference?

When people differentiate the two, they usually mean CBD on its own without any other cannabinoids or terpenes (CBD isolate), whereas marijuana can contain up to 150 cannabinoids, 220 terpenes and 20 flavonoids all interacting with each other. This can give CBD very different effects from marijuana.

In many ways, CBD is predictable because it is ‘pure’ whereas the complex compounds in marijuana can make it more unpredictable and less reliable. With CBD, you’re likely to enjoy the same effects time after time. Marijuana experiences can differ day to day because of the variable cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids.

CBD has become increasingly popular in recent years because of its predictability but it is also limited as a result of its reliable nature. Some users may find that CBD doesn’t provide them the medical and health benefits which other forms of marijuana can offer, as the other cannabinoids and terpenes add to the therapeutic effects.

Cannabidiol (CBD) chemical formula. C21 H30 O2.
CBD chemical structure. Chemical formula C21H30O2. Author: Harbin. From https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cannabidiol.svg. Public Domain picture.

What Are the Differences in Effects Between CBD and Marijuana?

Let’s start with the effects which medical marijauna can produce. Firstly, as mentioned, marijuana has so many variables that we cannot say that the effects will be X, Y and Z. The plant’s complex nature just doesn’t allow for such a simplistic overview. But it’s this complexity which gives it its power.

Marijuana contains a huge number of different compounds, which makes it a very versatile medicine. Not just THC and CBD (cannabinoids most people have heard of), but cannabichromene (CBC), cannabigerol (CBG), cannabidivarin (CBDV), tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), beta-caryophyllene, linalool, limonene, pinene and much more besides. Depending on the combination of all of these compounds, cannabis can have effects ranging from energetic to relaxed.

The versatility of cannabis is what makes medical marijuana powerful as a medicine and one which has untold medical benefits across a range of conditions. A variety of cannabis which is high in THC and with relaxing terpenes like linalool, myrcene and humulene has relaxing effects. Alternatively, a variety of cannabis that includes THC, THCV, limonene, pinene and beta-caryophyllene is more likely to have more “up”, energetic effects.

CBD on its own, meanwhile, is much more predictable and can have the following effects:

However, CBD isolates are criticized for their lack of other cannabinoids and terpenes, with many claiming that the true medical benefits of cannabinoids come out when they are mixed with other cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids. Without these, the entourage effect cannot take place, and CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties are diminished.

Do CBD Isolates Have Any Use?

They certainly can have some benefits. Some users may be sensitive to other cannabinoids, so CBD isolates may be useful for them. For example, someone suffering from schizophrenia or bipolar disorder may want to avoid THC entirely, to reduce the chances of any psychosis and/or any other negative effects.

Those in federal jobs or jobs requiring the operation of heavy machinery may need to avoid any source of THC, lest they run the risk of failing any potential drug tests. Another potential use is for scientific study, so CBD’s effects can be seen without the influence of other cannabinoids.

However, the critics may be right, and that most people may find far more health benefits from a mixture of cannabinoids rather than CBD alone. On the other hand, some people may find relief from CBD alone, so it certainly has its place.

What’s the Difference Between Hemp CBD Oil and Cannabis CBD Oil?

Essentially, hemp-derived CBD oil comes from cannabis plants with less than 0.3% THC, allowing such products to fall into the “hemp” category”. Cannabis CBD oil, on the other hand, usually comes in a range of CBD:THC ratios, and is more likely to contain higher amounts of THC, even if it’s in non-psychoactive dosages.

Is Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil a Better Alternative to CBD Isolates?

In general, yes, as they contain a number of other cannabinoids and terpenes that contribute to CBD’s therapeutic effects. However, as stated above, some people need to avoid the possibility of testing positive for THC, and even the small amounts found in hemp can occasionally build up over time and trigger a positive on a drug test.

Tincture Made at Home
Homemade Tincture

So Which is Healthier – CBD or Marijuana?

To answer simply: they’re both as healthy as each other. CBD has the advantage of having antipsychotic effects, whereas a mixture of THC and CBD may be more useful for those who are suffering from chronic pain. Most people are likely to find more therapeutic effect by mixing cannabinoids and terpenes in the right dosage, but CBD alone may be useful for those who are sensitive to other cannabinoids.

In general, both are well tolerated by the human body, and you cannot overdose on the use of naturally-derived cannabinoids alone. This gives cannabis one of the least dangerous safety profiles when compared to other drugs, even ones as innocuous as ibuprofen or acetaminophen (paracetamol, Tylenol).

Written by Emily Fisher; edited by Dipak Hemraj

Written by
Emily Fisher
Emily Fisher - CEO

Emily is an entrepreneur and medical cannabis patient. In 2016 she began working with medical clinics in California and met with hundreds of patients who used cannabis to help them in their daily lives. Fascinated by its effectiveness and versatility as a medicine, she realized more research and education was needed to help patients. In 2019, Emily founded Leafwell, which aims to improve patient access to medical cannabis.

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