THC & CBD - A Formidable Tag Team in the Fight Against Disease

By: Saif Khan

THC and CBD are easily cannabis’s most well known compounds - by now most people who have considered using cannabis as a medicine are aware of the effects of both. Whether its managing pain and inflammation, regulating appetite/digestion issues, controlling seizures or a range of other applications: CBD works more effectively in tandem with THC and vice-versa.

In the gut

When cannabinoids are ingested, they pass through our digestive system and are processed by our liver. In the case of THC, this liver processing results in a molecule that is 4-7 times stronger than inhaled THC, passes through the blood brain barrier more easily and breaks down in the bloodstream more slowly; resulting in an extended effect.

The main upside of this ingestion method is the increased duration of therapeutic effect, but the main downside is the increased psychoactivity, which is an inconvenience for many patients.

When CBD is ingested alongside THC, it actually slows the metabolic rate of the liver, which means that THC gets processed more slowly and is therefore released into the bloodstream more slowly. This results in a more evenly distributed dose, which in turn allows patients to titrate their doses more accurately.

In addition to this extension effect, CBD’s ability to mitigate a notable amount of THC’s psychoactivity is also desirable for patients who find the additional euphoria disruptive to their routine.

Against Cancer

THC and CBD’s combined effect on cancer cells is one of their most effective and well-understood partnerships. Studies show that THC works as a catalyst for programmed cell death - a cell’s ability to naturally decay - or apoptosis, while CBD combats the tumor angiogenesis of cancer cells - a tumor’s ability to create new networks of blood vessels for the cancer cells to continue to replicate.

This dual-pronged attack on cancer cells has demonstrated success against the spread or metastasis and reproduction of cancer cells. THC’s ability to trigger programmed cell death is fundamentally important as that is one of the main reasons cancer cells are problematic - they are cells produced by the body that don’t possess the normal internal mechanism to decay automatically. Cancer cells also produce hormones that encourage blood vessel growth, which CBD inhibits.

So while THC prevents mutated, immature cells continuing to replicate by extinguishing them through apoptosis; CBD prevents existing tumor matter from gaining fresh blood supplies, thereby also preventing metastasis. Cancer cells pose the greatest danger when all three of these counteractions are absent, so the CBD/THC tag team is directly eliminating cancer’s main threat to the body’s immune system.

This cumulative effect of the two most well known cannabinoids is the reason they are increasingly credited with having the potential to cure various cancers.

For Pain and Inflammation

THC and CBD both have regulating effects on pain and inflammation throughout the body. The reason is the endocannabinoid system - the body’s largest neurotransmitter system, which is responsible for the regulation of pain, inflammation, appetite, sleep, mood, memory (and more) as well as being linked to the hormonal production in response to stress.

The endocannabinoid system has two confirmed receptor types - others are being studied to determine what role, if any, they play in the ECS - CB1 and CB2 receptors.

THC binds directly to CB1 receptors and interacts with CB2 receptors while CBD does not bind but interacts with both CB1 and CB2 receptors.

While the main concentration of CB1 receptors is in the brain and central nervous system, the majority of CB2 receptors are found throughout the immune system and on peripheral organs, including skin and bone marrow.

While THC proliferates primarily by connecting to receptors in the brain and CNS, CBD is triggering responses from receptors in the immune system.

That both cannabinoids interact with different receptors in different ways is fundamental to how they complement each other’s anti-pain and anti-inflammatory action.

The brain and central nervous system are responsible for the degree of pain sensation, by THC binding with CB1 receptors, this pain response is down regulated, meaning the brain produces less signals for pain, so less pain is felt.

The Immune system is responsible for inflammatory response, and when CBD interacts with CB2 receptors (found throughout the immune system) this response is also down regulated. This is a key piece of information as pain and inflammation are not only listed as a symptom of many illnesses, but often happen side by side, as one prompts the other.

This also provides the medical community with yet another compelling argument to further cannabis’s standing as a serious medicine, for a wide range of ailments.

For these reasons alone, THC and CBD deserve to be seen as a potent healing duo, but there are many more applications that they may also be useful for when used together. We have not even touched on their success as anti-psychotic and anti-spastic compounds, yet they are well documented. With each passing month, the scientific evidence is mounting to  encourage the use of cannabinoids in unison with each other, so that they may combine to have an effect that is greater than the sum of its parts.