by Jimmy Vickers
More and more people are turning to cannabis for relief from pain. It can be strong enough to replace addictive opioid medications for people in severe pain but is gentle enough to often be a safer alternative to aspirin or ibuprofen for more ordinary situations from headaches to sprained ankles to menstrual cramps.
Some people look to medical marijuana with its high levels of THC to manage their pain. Others prefer CBD oils that won’t get you high.
Is THC or CBD more effective in treating pain? Both have strong pain-relieving actions and work in different ways.
The Endocannabinoid System
Human bodies evolved to respond to cannabis. In recent decades, biologists have discovered the endocannabinoid system – a system of receptors in our bodies that respond both to compounds from the cannabis plant and to special hormones produced by our own bodies called endocannabinoids.
The endocannabinoid system balances and regulates all three of our body’s major systems of communication – the nervous system which processes sensation and information and directs our muscles, the endocrine system that creates hormones that regulate the ways the rest of our organs function, and our immune system that identifies what does and does not belong in our bodies and deals with unwelcome intruders as well as helping to repair damaged tissues.
One of the processes the endocannabinoid system regulates is the way we experience pain. Pain is really just information about something that seems wrong in the body.
Some researchers have speculated that chronic pain may be the result of an endocannabinoid deficiency. One solution to this problem may be to supplement your endocannabinoids with CBD or THC.
CBD and THC both have their specialties and advantages. And both can also help with shorter-term pain.
THC and Pain
THC acts directly on the endocannabinoid system to change the way the body manages pain signals. It can be especially effective for nerve pain and for the severe pain caused by cancer.
THC has a euphoric effect. The plus side of it is that you feel really good, which can help distract you from your symptoms. The downside is that you might have a harder time functioning in normal ways. You definitely will not be able to drive safely.
CBD and Pain
CBD works on the endocannabinoid system in subtler ways. It works together with the endocannabinoid anandamide to keep the whole system in balance.
Working together with anandamide, CBD can help bring down the out of control inflammation that is the source of most pain. It also helps to manage that inflammation over the long term, making it a great help for people dealing with chronic pain and chronic inflammation.
CBD also acts directly to reduce pain and to change the way we process pain to make it less overwhelming.
CBD is a great choice for people who want pain relief but don’t want to get high.
THC and CBD are even more effective together in managing pain than either compound is alone – and they are most effective when combined with the terpenes that give cannabis its scent. Nature designs far more complex and subtle medicines than human minds ever can. With restrictive laws, slowing down the development of medicines containing both CBD and THC its hard to say what the right balance is for the right condition.
With recreational users pushing for higher and higher thc levels in the past decade, lots have strains have reached the dizzying heights of 25-35% THC! While the CBD in these same high-level THC strains can reach as low and 1-3% I can now see the pendulum starting to swing back in the opposite direction and more and more strains are becoming CBD dominant. Time will tell what’s most beneficial for patients.