Cannabis has been in the headlines relentlessly, but not just because of its increasing legalization in states across the country and the federal legalization of marijuana in Canada.
This plant contains hundreds of compounds that have healing abilities for all sorts of different ailments, including those that cause debilitating pain.
More specifically, THC and CBD – the two most abundant cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant – are known to be able to alleviate pain, whether it’s from acute injuries, chronic overuse syndrome, arthritis, or any other medical issue.
But how exactly do THC and CBD differ from one another? Or are they the same when it comes to pain management?
What’s the Difference Between CBD and THC?
Different strains of cannabis have their own specific combinations and concentrations of cannabinoids that work in the body. When it comes to THC and CBD, their effects on the body’s endocannabinoid system is what marks the biggest difference between the two.
More specifically, THC is what gets users high because of its psychoactive properties. On the other hand, CBD has been shown to have similar health effects in the body without inducing any mind-altering effects1.
Both THC and CBD have therapeutic effects in the body thanks to how they interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Receptors associated with the ECS are located all over the body, and when either THC or CBD is introduced, they interact with the receptors in different ways.
The ECS is responsible for maintaining homeostasis in the body and plays a key role in various functions, including regulating pain. Both THC and CBD can influence the receptors of the ECS that, in turn, influence levels of pain felt at various sites in the body.
Cannabinoid receptors modulate pain thresholds and minimize inflammation in the body. When CBD and THC interact with these receptors, pain can be effectively minimized and even eliminated altogether, similar to the analgesic effects that traditional pain medications provide, but in a much different way.
However, while THC is able to alleviate pain, it also comes with a significant side effect that many users might not want: psychoactive effects.
Users who prefer not to experience any mind-altering effects when using cannabis-based cannabinoids to reduce pain may prefer to use CBD instead. That said, it’s a completely individual decision that ultimately comes down to what each particular user seeks for their pain.
CBD Vs. THC For Pain Management
There are plenty of studies out there that show that both CBD and THC are able to effectively alleviate pain and inflammation. And as more clinical studies continue to be conducted in this realm, an increasing number of people are turning to cannabis for a safer and more natural way to combat their pain as opposed to reaching for OTC or prescription pain medication.
Clinical trials indicate that both THC and CBD are promising treatments for pain, particularly in patients who may have adverse reactions to traditional pharmaceutical medications or are prone to becoming addicted to opioids and other potent painkillers2.
Ongoing research shows that both THC and CBD work to alleviate pain, but which one works better for this purpose? According to studies that have already been conducted on these cannabinoids, both appear to work well for managing pain in the body.
But until more in-depth research is conducted that looks into CBD versus THC for pain, either combined or in isolation, it’s up to the individual user to determine which works best for them.
- Fine, Perry G., et al, “The Endocannabinoid System, Cannabinoids, and Pain“, Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal, 2013, Volume 4.
- Manzanares, J., et al, “Role of the Cannabinoid System in Pain Control and Therapeutic Implications for the Management of Acute and Chronic Pain Episodes“, Current Neuropharmacology, 2006, Volume