THC vs CBD: the Showdown

When people talk of recreational cannabis and the marijuana high, they are usually referring to the effects of THC. We know there are hundreds of other compounds within a cannabis dose. What is CBD, and how is it different from THC?


Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the primary psychotropic compound. It provides most of the mental and emotional benefits of cannabis. It is an anti-nauseant and causes the “munchies”, so cancer patients use it to counteract the side-effects of chemotherapy. As it turns out, THC can do a lot more for them: according to the American Medical Association, THC can prevent and inhibit the growth of tumours, both benign and malignant. For these reasons, I tend to think of THC as the “cancer drug” in cannabis, but it can play an important role in treating chronic pain as well. THC is a relatively short-term effect, kicking in quickly and wearing off in a few hours, so most patients need it continuously through a day.


Cannabidiol, or CBD, is the primary analgesic. This means it relieves pain in the same way as Tylenol and topical treatments like Tiger Balm. In some ways, it is the antidote to THC, because it suppresses both euphoria and hunger. Contrary to common expectations, I actually lost weight when I switched from opioids. Though typically characterized as a pain drug, the AMA study also recognises its ability to actually kill cancer cells. CBD builds up in your system over time, so you can take more at one time and receive benefits throughout the day.

Combining the Benefits

Researchers are now learning more about how these two compounds work together for ailments other than cancer, too. The simplest example is a chronic pain patient who uses CBD to fight the actual pain and THC to cope better with breakthrough pain and having a chronic condition in the first place. Since CBD counteracts THC, if you want that emotional benefit you need to have a little more THC than CBD. Some people are starting to believe that the ratio of THC/CBD actually matters more than the concentrations of either, or their combined concentrations.

As I’ve written before, I like a THC/CBD ratio of at least 1.25 in the morning and increase that through the day. I think this is because morning is when I like to get most of my CBD; too much THC isn’t always conducive to a productive day. Later in the day, my THC needs stay pretty constant but my CBD drops off. If I don’t have CBD for a couple of days, I need to double my CBD dose on the first day back. THC is much quicker to build back up.

What about you? How do you balance these benefits?

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