Marijuana, or cannabis, has long been used as medicine. As far back as two thousand years ago, the Chinese were already using it as a traditional cure for pain, digestive problems, cough, insomnia, mania, anxiety, and many other ailments. More recently, doctors and medical practitioners in the western world have also come to recognize the medicinal value of marijuana. But a concern that comes up very often is, “Won’t using marijuana as medicine makes the patient high?” Understandably, a lot of people want the health and therapeutic benefits of the plant, but they’d rather not get stoned or experience its psychotropic effects.
Let’s then get to the bottom of this issue. Will marijuana get you high when you use it as medicine? The quick answer is: It depends. Some strains or variants of marijuana will get you high, while others won’t. If you use THC-rich marijuana, you will get high. But if you use CBD-rich cannabis, you will experience its medicinal effects without getting stoned. Read on to know what THC and CBD are, and the roles they play in making marijuana medicinal.
The major cannabinoids and what they do to your body
The chemical compounds found in marijuana that give the plant its unique identity and properties are called cannabinoids. There are actually more than a hundred different cannabinoids that make up the cannabis plant, but of these, the two which are most abundant are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). These major compounds of cannabis have been studied a lot, and research findings reveal that they both have medicinal properties. But they are unlike in that THC is psychoactive (which means that has mind-altering effects), while CBD is not. Because of this, THC has earned the nickname “The High-Causer,” and CBD is generally regarded as the “good” or “beneficial” cannabis. People who want to use marijuana as a recreational drug want the THC-rich variants, while people who want to use marijuana as medicine want the CBD-rich variants, which do not cause a high.
How do THC and CBD affect the human body? And why do they produce different effects? The answer has to do with a system in our body called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system is not very well known among people without a medical background, but it is an important system that performs a wide range of functions. It helps to regulate, for example, our sleep, digestion, hunger, pain, memory, motor control, and mood. It also helps to maintain homeostasis or the equilibrium of the whole body. Moreover, it influences the functioning of our immune system. In other words, the ECS plays a significant role in our health and wellbeing.
The endocannabinoid system is composed of receptor cells found all over the body, including the skin, internal organs, immune cells, and the nervous system. These receptor cells “receive” instructions from special molecules called agonists. Only specific agonists can “open” or communicate with the receptor cells because only they have the “keys” that can unlock the receptor cells. THC and CBD are examples of such agonists. THC mainly interacts with receptor cells in the central nervous system, which explains the powerful effect of THC on a person’s mind and emotions. It is why THC causes a high or the euphoric feelings associated with smoking marijuana. Meanwhile, CBD doesn’t affect the brain or the central nervous system as much. Instead, its influence is more on the immune system, the gastrointestinal tract, and the peripheral nervous system. Thus, CBD doesn’t cause a high or any psychoactive effect, but it can strengthen the immune and digestive systems, as well as the parts of our physiology governed by the peripheral nervous system (PNS). Without getting too deeply into the details, the PNS controls our autonomic functioning (the part that doesn’t require “thinking” or voluntary control), our muscles and joints, and the communication between the brain and the rest of the body.
The medicinal benefits of cannabidiol
Not surprisingly, there is now great interest in cannabidiol (CBD) as a medicinal substance. It appeals to many people because, one, it is non-psychoactive, and, two, it has many proven therapeutic applications. Years of research has shown that it has the following health and medicinal properties:
- CBD is a natural analgesic. It relieves pain and inflammation.
- It has antipsychotic effects, making it useful as the supplementary treatment for schizophrenia and other mental disorders.
- It eases anxiety. It is therefore useful in treating anxiety disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and social anxiety disorder.
- It helps to fight cancer by inducing cellular death (of cancerous cells).
- It relieves nausea and vomiting.
- It helps treat seizures and other neurological disorders. It is particularly useful in treating pediatric or juvenile forms of epilepsy that are resistant to conventional therapeutic methods.
Apart from these, other medicinal applications for CBD are currently being studied. There are strong indications that CBD can also help treat other medical conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.
How to use cannabidiol safely
The most widely used, as well as the safest, form of CBD is cannabidiol oil or CBD oil. This comes from extracts of cannabis that consists mostly of CBD (about 99%) and zero or very negligible amounts of THC (less than 0.3%). It is impossible to get high on CBD oil, even if you use huge amounts of it.
CBD oil may be used topically, that is, by rubbing on the skin as you would use lotion or cream. As mentioned, there are cell receptors on our skin that form part of our endocannabinoid system. As such, CBD oil is effective when applied topically, contrary to what some people might think.
CBD oil may also be taken orally, in gel or capsule form. In fact, many people who aren’t really sick take CBD oil as a nutritional supplement. When used this way, it mostly strengthens the immune and digestive systems. It also produces a calming or relaxing effect, which is great for stress relief.
If you wish to use CBD oil or any CBD product for medicinal purposes, it is best that you consult a medical professional who is knowledgeable about cannabis use. He can recommend that proper dose for you, as well as advise you on the correct timing of intake and the best forms or variants to take.