BY MARTIN A. LEE ON FEBRUARY 18, 2015 (UPDATED ON FEBRUARY 2, 2019)Updated: February 2, 2019
MISCONCEPTIONS With the growing awareness of CBD as a potential health aid there's also been a proliferation of misconceptions. Find questions and responses to common misinformation.
It doesn’t get you high, but it’s causing quite a buzz among medical scientists and patients. The past year has seen a surge of interest in cannabidiol (CBD), a non-intoxicating cannabis compound with significant therapeutic properties. Numerous commercial start-ups and internet retailers have jumped on the CBDbandwagon, touting CBD derived from hemp as the next big thing, a miracle oil that can shrink tumors, quell seizures, and ease chronic pain—without making people feel “stoned.” But along with a growing awareness of cannabidiol as a potential health aid there has been a proliferation of misconceptions about CBD.
#1 “CBD IS MEDICAL. THC IS RECREATIONAL.”Project CBD receives many inquiries from around the world and oftentimes people say they are seeking “CBD, the medical part” of the plant, “not THC, the recreational part” that gets you high. Actually, THC, “The High Causer,” has awesome therapeutic properties. Scientists at the Scripps Research Center in San Diego reported that THC inhibits an enzyme implicated in the formation of amyloid beta plaque, the hallmark of Alzheimer’s-related dementia. The federal government recognizes single-molecule THC(Marinol) as an anti-nausea compound and appetite booster, deeming it a Schedule III pharmaceutical, a category reserved for drugs with little abuse potential. But whole plant cannabis, which is the only natural source of THC, continues to be classified as a dangerous Schedule I drug with no medical value.
#2 “THC IS THE BAD CANNABINOID. CBD IS THE GOOD CANNABINOID.” The drug warrior’s strategic retreat: Give ground on CBD while continuing to demonize THC. Diehard marijuana prohibitionists are exploiting the good news about CBD to further stigmatize high-THCcannabis, casting tetrahydrocannabinol as the bad cannabinoid, whereas CBD is framed as the good cannabinoid. Why? Because CBD doesn’t make you feel high like THC does. Project CBD categorically rejects this moralistic, reefer madness dichotomy in favor of whole plant cannabis therapeutics. (Read the foundational science paper: A Tale of Two Cannabinoids.)
#3 “CBD IS MOST EFFECTIVE WITHOUT THC.”THC and CBD are the power couple of cannabis compounds—they work best together. Scientific studies have established that CBD and THC interact synergistically to enhance each other’s therapeutic effects. British researchers have shown that CBD potentiates THC’s anti-inflammatory properties in an animal model of colitis. Scientists at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco determined that a combination of CBD and THC has a more potent anti-tumoral effect than either compound alone when tested on brain cancer and breast cancer cell lines. And extensive clinical research has demonstrated that CBD combined with THC is more beneficial for neuropathic pain than either compound as a single molecule.
#4 “SINGLE-MOLECULE PHARMACEUTICALS ARE SUPERIOR TO ‘CRUDE’ WHOLE PLANT MEDICINALS.” According to the federal government, specific components of the marijuana plant (THC, CBD) have medical value, but the plant itself does not have medical value. Uncle Sam’s single-molecule blinders reflect a cultural and political bias that privileges Big Pharma products. Single-molecule medicine is the predominant corporate way, the FDA-approved way, but it’s not the only way, and it’s not necessarily the optimal way to benefit from cannabis therapeutics. Cannabis contains several hundred compounds, including various flavonoids, aromatic terpenes, and many minor cannabinoids in addition to THC and CBD. Each of these compounds has specific healing attributes, but when combined they create what scientists refer to as a holistic “entourage effect” or “ensemble effect,” so that the therapeutic impact of the whole plant is greater than the sum of its single-molecule parts. The Food and Drug Administration, however, isn’t in the business of approving plants as medicine. (See the scientific evidence.)