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Taking CBD and THC Together Lowers The High

Jessica McKeil
scientist holding cannabis bud

CBD and THC together create a balance that lowers intoxication and raises the healing benefits of cannabis.

Taking CBD and THC together creates a mellow and generally much less intoxicating experience. Consuming THC concentrate, on the other hand, will give the consumer a strong hit of the medicinal effects of this most popular cannabinoid. This is an experience that is suitable for some, but unpleasant for others, especially those with anxiety.

What happens when you are taking CBD and THC together? New research, published in the Journal of Neuroscience (2019), has detailed a fascinating discovery about the relationship between these two famous cannabinoids.

But, before getting to the new research, an explanation might be needed for the two cannabinoids in question. Each of these cannabinoids has a different impact on the endocannabinoid system.

cbd and thc together in cananbis buds

How does THC affect the Brain?

The most famous cannabinoid, THC, is also the only intoxicating one. It interacts with the CB1 receptor, which is one of two known receptors in the endocannabinoid system. CB1 is largely found in the brain and central nervous system. Once consumed, THC binds directly with the CB1 receptor, like a key fitting into a lock.

THC also activates the CB2 receptors, which are spread throughout the body in vital organs and within the immune system. THC has a stronger affinity to CB1 receptors than it does with CB2.

Its ability to activate the neuronal CB1 receptors means that THC creates a high with various effects, like cognitive impairment and sometimes anxiety. It also has a much greater affinity to the CB1 receptor than other cannabinoids (CBD, CBG, etc.). This strong affinity is one of the main reasons that it creates a sensation of a high when other cannabinoids do not.

The Effects of CBD on the Brain

Cannabidiol is unlike THC in that it doesn’t bind directly to any receptors, but it still influences the receptor activity. It manages to impact receptor activity by seemingly controlling the operation of receptor agonists. What does that mean in layman terms? CBD impacts the endocannabinoid system by regulating how other cannabinoids (endo or phyto) interact with the receptors.

As an example, the compound’s anti-inflammatory effects are related to its capacity to “inhibit immune cell migration and reduce clinical signs of inflammation” through an inverse agonist of the CB2 receptor. A study, published in Frontiers of Immunology (2017), investigated this relationship of cannabinoids to the immune system.

Another example of this ability to affect the actions of other cannabinoids is looking at CBD and THC together. Among cannabis patients, CBD has long been known as a great modulator of the sensations and effects of THC. But how does it reduce the length and strength of the high associated with THC? Thanks to this new study, described below, we have a much better idea.

What Happens When you Have CBD and THC Together

In 2019, a team of scientists out of Western University wanted to examine the effects of THC, CBD, plus CBD and THC together. They asked themselves, “Why is one cannabinoid, and not all cannabinoids, linked to elevated adverse effects, including increased psychiatric risk?”

The study worked with Sprague Dawley rats, exposing them to individual cannabinoids, as well as CBD and THC together. When dosed with THC alone, the researchers found elevated levels of the extracellular-signal-regulated kinase (ERK). ERK is a cellular communicator that triggers anxiety, paranoia, and addictive behaviors. THC increases the signaling rates of ERK to also then increase anxiety, neuropsychiatric risk, and perhaps addiction rates.

When the rats were given CBD by itself, the researchers reported no elevated ERK levels. They found entirely normal levels, which one can assume would translate to normal anxiety levels.

But what happened with CBD and THC together? If THC elevated the ERK levels, and CBD alone seemed to have no impact — you might predict that used in combination with the effects of THC would overshadow the minimal impact of CBD.

However, when the researchers co-administered CBD with THC, CBD mitigated these neuropsychiatric side effects. Instead of getting overpowered by the THC, CBD reversed the effects by downregulating ERK signaling.

cbd and thc together under analysis from scientist with cannabis plant

What this Relationship Means for Medical Cannabis Patients

This beneficial relationship between CBD and THC isn’t news to those familiar with using the plant medicinally. Patients, physicians, and budtenders have long looked for the perfect combination of the two cannabinoids. A combination that delivers favorable medicinal value without occasional and difficult side effects.

But, it was only with the breakthrough presented by this recent publication that we now understand why CBD is so useful in combination with THC. It improves the side effect profile of THC and doesn’t seem to impact the medicinal value. Depending on the medical condition, CBD may also boost the therapeutic value — thanks to the entourage effect.

In an interview for Global News, the research team suggested where they hope to take this information. According to the report, “The research team is hoping to examine ways to formulate THC with fewer side effects and improve the effectiveness of CBD in therapeutic settings.”

Thankfully, as patients, one doesn’t need to wait for a pharmaceutical formulation to take advantage of the benefits provided by CBD and THC together. As the patient, why not self-experiment with different cannabinoid profiles and new strains to find out which ones work for you?

cbd and thc together in cannabis plants

Finding the Right CBD and THC Ratios

If you have a high tolerance for THC, you may not need much CBD to lessen the paranoia and neuropsychiatric side effects. Try starting with one to two percent.

However, if you are sensitive to the experience of THC, more CBD may be required. Strains with moderate levels of CBD are relatively easy to find these days (here are ten examples), and even five percent CBD can improve the side effect profile.

Unsure of how you’ll feel? Start with strains with more CBD than THC. Slowly increase the level of THC until you find effective relief from your symptoms.

It’s useful to know the mechanisms behind why CBD and THC work so well together, but not absolutely necessary. For most patients, it’s enough to know that CBD limits the strength and length of the high, and can be used to increase THC potency without increasing the experience.

Jessica McKeil
Jessica McKeil

Jessica McKeil is a freelance writer focused on the medical marijuana industry, from production methods to medicinal applications. She is lucky enough to live in beautiful British Columbia, Canada where the cannabis industry is exploding. When not writing, she spends much of her time exploring in the coastal forests.

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