3 Misconceptions About CBD, Cleared Up

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Shanti Ryle - Content Writer

Jul 04 2021 - 5 min read

Cannabidiol (CBD) is perhaps one of the most misunderstood chemicals around. The research behind CBD, other cannabinoids, and how they interact with the body has barely scratched the surface, making space for all sorts of misconceptions and misinformation. Many people also believe that they can skip getting a medical marijuana card and  use hemp-based CBD, but this could be a waste of money and potentially even harmful. Here are three misconceptions that we want to clear up about CBD to help you make more informed decisions.

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1. “CBD is the Medicine, THC the Drug”

This is one of the biggest misconceptions, and there are people who come through to the clinic saying, “I just want the CBD – I don’t want to get ‘high’.” We don’t mean to bang this drum over-and-over again, but we must reiterate: THC helps CBD do a better job, and vice-versa. Plus, if you have more CBD than THC, the CBD will act as a sort of “buffer” for THC’s psychoactive effects. Also, strains or products with high amounts of both CBD and THC in them (say a THC:CBD ratio of 1:3 or 2:5) may not produce the same extreme euphoric (some would say uncomfortable) effects as a high THC-only or high THC-low CBD strain or products. However, CBD can actually increase the duration of cannabis’s effects, so a THC:CBD ratio of 3:1 may last longer than a THC:CBD ratio of 1:0, even if the 1:0 profile has stronger physiological effects in the short-term.

Sadly, the thought process of “I only want CBD” also means that there are many less-than-reputable companies wanting to take advantage of such misconceptions, who will gladly sell untested, perhaps even dangerous, inferior goods made from industrial hemp, some of which are lacking in the amount of CBD stated on the label. The lack of regulation means that many companies are all-too-willing to take advantage of this “Wild West” situation and make whatever money they can.

In some ways, this is further compounded by the fact that CBD is a schedule I drug (which the U.S. government has a patent on), meaning that high-quality, cannabinoid-based medications made in the United States is more difficult to sell than industrially-produced products that potentially have heavy metals and dangerous pathogens in them! This means we highly recommend getting yourself a medical marijuana recommendation and card, visiting a dispensary, and getting yourself a product made from cannabis plants that is grown with care in the U.S.!

There is perhaps a simple thought experiment you can do in order to get over the hump of seeing THC as the “drug” part of cannabis. Think of whatever prescription or even over-the-counter medications you take and ask yourself, “Does this medicine have unwanted side-effects that I don’t like?” Drowsiness, dizziness, loss of balance, headaches, loss of appetite … These are all common problems with many prescription medications, yet many still see them as “good” or “necessary” for them. So why not treat cannabis similarly and as a medicine and think, “This may have side-effects, too, and they may actually be more tolerable than the side-effects of other medications.” Plus, you can’t overdose on cannabis alone, which is always a big plus.

2. “CBD Isn’t Psychoactive”

CBD is psychoactive, but is not intoxicating in the same way that THC is. CBD does not bind to the same cells in our bodies as THC does, and does not produce the same intoxicating effects. However, CBD does interact with our brains – the definition of “psychoactive.” It does, after all, have anxiety-beating effects, and often can make people feel relaxed when taken in large doses, especially when there’s some THC in the mix. Learn more about how CBD interacts with our bodies here.

Some people describe using large amounts of CBD to “being stoned without being stoned.” In small amounts, CBD’s effects are reported to be more “energetic” and “clear-headed.” So, if CBD is having some sort of physiological effect, can it not be said to be “psychoactive” to some degree? This is perhaps a philosophical and well as scientific question, but it’s one that could be asked of many medications.

Also, it must be remembered that, if you’re using a CBD-rich, unprocessed cannabis bud/flower, there will be terpenes in it. These terpenes will also have a physiological effect and will interact with CBD and other cannabinoids in different ways to produce a variety of effects.

Another thing to remember in all of this is that CBD is having an effect on the body, including  various receptors throughout your body and in different organs. This means that CBD may have some cross-reactivity with other drugs and medications. Benzodiazepines and barbiturates, for example, may interact very negatively with CBD. Due to the effects of CBD on the immune system, it must also be taken carefully if it’s being used in conjunction with immunosuppressants or certain types of antibiotics. Sadly, we do not have the research to know how cross-reactive CBD is with other drugs and medications.

Lavender Plant
Lavender contains the terpene linalool which is found in many types of cannabis strains.

3. “Indicas Have More CBD in Them”

While indicas and sativas have become common colloquial descriptors of the effects from different strains, the terms are inherently misleading. Indica and sativa refers simply to the growth patterns of a particular plant (sativas grow taller and have narrow leaves, whereas indicas tend to grow short and stout and have broader leaves).

Currently, there is no agreement in terms of how to put cannabis into a proper taxonomy. Many botanists will also add Cannabis ruderalis and Cannabis afghanica to the list of cannabis species as well to describe additional growth behaviors.

The main problem with such broad categorizations is that they don’t necessarily refer to any differences in chemotype. The chemotype is the actual chemical make-up of a cannabis strain, including its amount of cannabinoids and terpenes on a molecular level. Too, different strains of cannabis will grow very differently in different environments, and allow different cannabinoid and terpenoid ratios to develop. As such, when looking at a specific chemotype, an indica can look identical to a sativa and potentially produce similar effects.

Over the years, most cannabis strains have become a hybrid of different types, with thousands of strains containing different chemical compounds. CBD can be found in all kinds of strains, both sativa and indica.Furthermore, there are strains with high THC and low CBD profiles that will produce high CBD-low THC phenotypes on occasion, such as Warlock and Critical Mass. Many CBD-rich strains can hail from sativa and hybrid strains (e.g. Island Sweet Skunk, Charlotte’s Web, ACDC, Purple Cheese) as well as indica strains (e.g. Dark Star, Violator Kush).

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Cannabis Plant
Cannabis plant in bloom.

We hope the above has helped you understand more about CBD. There still needs to be lots of research, and there may be new information that comes out that could prove everything we’ve written wrong, but we hope that some of the confusion is cleared up.

Written by
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Shanti Ryle

Shanti Ryle is a content marketer with more than half a decades’ experience writing about cannabis science and culture. Her work has been featured in Forbes, Weedmaps News/Marijuana.com, Wall Street Journal, and other publications.

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