Cannabidiol, better known as CBD, is often lumped in with its mind-altering cousin tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). While these two powerful plant compounds do come from the same family, they are quite different. The effects, chemical makeup, and absorption are distinct from one another.
CBD and THC work in the body differently. While the ingestion methods for these two compounds might be the same, once the active compound reaches the bloodstream, they behave distinctly within the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This is why they elicit unique effects within the body.
So how do THC and CBD absorb into the body? Let’s take a look.
What is the Endocannabinoid System?
The ECS is a network of cell receptors that work to regulate different functions and processes in all mammalian bodies. It is tasked with maintaining homeostasis. Mood, appetite, stress regulation, metabolism, fertility, pain management, and immune system response are all tied to the ECS.
There are two types of receptors found within the system called CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are found primarily in the brain and central nervous system while CB2 receptors are concentrated on the surface of white blood cells and the gastrointestinal system.
Everyone is born with a unique ECS. The balance between CB1 and CB2 receptors express themselves differently from person to person. That’s why hemp-based products tend to affect people differently.
How Does the Body Absorb THC?
THC affects the body by attaching itself to the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the ECS. Since these receptors are found throughout the body and brain, THC can have both a mental and a physiological effect on the user.
Some common effects THC can stimulate are euphoria, relaxation, amusement, increased appetite, and a heightened sensitivity to external stimuli.
When inhaled, the effects can be felt almost immediately since the chemical compounds can move directly from the lungs into the bloodstream. Ingestible THC takes roughly an hour to kick in.
How Does the Body Absorb CBD?
Unlike THC, CBD does not actually bond to the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the ECS. It is not a receptor’s first choice to bond with. Instead, CBD affects the body through pleiotropy, a process that involves a compound or gene indirectly affecting the body.
CBD works to increase the amount of naturally occurring endocannabinoids in the body. Without CBD, this process is cut short by enzymes that break down the beneficial fatty lipids produced by the ECS. CBD steps in to disarm these enzymes temporarily. That means your body will be able to produce and benefit from more endocannabinoids.
The Entourage Effect
When cannabinoids, terpenes, and other chemical compounds converge, a hemp user may experience the entourage effect. This is a phenomenon in which these different elements work in harmony to enhance the effects of hemp products on our endocannabinoid system.
CBD helps to tamp down the psychoactive effects of THC. It also works to slow down the enzymes that break down endocannabinoids and cannabinoids introduced into the body. CBD has been found to help quell the sedative and appetite-inducing effects of THC as well.
THC has a greater capacity to be used as a muscle relaxant and sedative. The entourage effect theorizes that the best benefits of CBD and THC converge when taken together. Each has its own absorption process that can work together for a better user experience.