For years, Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) was the most studied and detailed molecule in cannabis cannabinoid science. However, nowadays it seems that Cannabidiol (CBD) is in the foreground for its ability to provide therapeutic relief for children suffering from various disorders (such as epilepsy) and for the absence of psychotropic effects.
Given all this, it becomes clear the reason why many people believe that CBD and THC are "competing" with each other. But the truth is that both compounds, along with 66 other cannabinoids, play an important role in the therapeutic treatment of cannabis. These act together with 420 additional compounds (terpenes, flavonoids, etc.) present in cannabis; its use is therefore useful in the treatment of many diseases.
Medical marijuana: much more than THC and CBD
Cannabis contains primary elements that can be briefly described as "The Big Six":
THC, CBD, CBG, CBN, CBC, and THCV.
Each cannabis plant contains these and other cannabinoids, in different proportions, constituting the common chemical profile of the plant.
In addition to cannabinoids, the chemical profile of the cannabis plant contains other compounds, such as terpenoids, amino acids, proteins, sugars, enzymes, fatty acids, and flavonoids.
Generally all these compounds are used during cannabis treatment. The question is: how do they work together to provide therapeutic relief? The answer lies in a concept called "entourage effect.”
The entourage effect: chemical level and teamwork
Originally described in 1998 by Israeli scientists Shimon Ben-Shabbat and Meshullam Raphael (born in Sofia), the idea of the entourage effect was used to describe the mechanism by which cannabinoids in cannabis work together synergistically, and influence the body in a similar to the action of its endocannabinoid system.
This theory is the basis for a relatively controversial idea among pharmacists who claim that extracts from whole plants act better as therapeutic agents, rather than individual cannabinoid extracts. The entourage effect theory has been extended by Wagner and Ulrich-Mertsenih who define four basic mechanisms of plant synergy as follows:
Ability to influence different sites of the body.
Ability to improve the absorption of active ingredients.
Ability to overcome bacteria defence mechanisms.
Ability to minimize unwanted side effects.
Effects on multiple areas within the body
Many studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of cannabis as a therapeutic agent for muscle spasms associated with multiple sclerosis. A study by Wilkinson and colleagues found that the whole plant extracts are more effective than THC alone.
The scientists compared 1mg THC with 5mg / kg of cannabis extract with an equivalent amount of THC, and found that a plant extract from the whole plant is significantly more powerful for its antiseptic properties.
They attribute this to the presence of cannabidiol (CBD) in the cannabis extract, which helps facilitate the activities of the endocannabinoid system.
Improve the absorption of active ingredients.
The entourage effect can also be useful for improving the use of cannabis extracts. Cannabinoids are chemically polar compounds, which makes it sometimes more difficult for the body to absorb it.
The skin is made up of two layers, which hinder the passage of very polar molecules such as water and cannabinoids.
With terpenoids such as caryophyllene, cannabinoid uptake can be improved to achieve therapeutic benefits.
Overcome the mechanisms of protection of bacteria.
The entourage effect means that a cannabis extract is effective in the treatment of various bacterial infections. There are numerous studies showing the antibacterial properties of cannabinoids.
"Cannabis plant extracts generally contain molecules containing cannabinoids, which also have antimicrobial properties."
However over time, bacteria develop defence mechanisms to fight antibiotics and eventually become resistant to treatment that was previously effective.
Therefore, it is important that the whole extract of the cannabis plant has free cannabinoid compounds that possess antibacterial properties. These molecules attack the bacteria in ways that differ from the basic cannabinoid. Given the attack on several fronts, the development of bacterial resistance is limited.
Minimize unwanted side effects
Finally, the effect of specific cannabinoids makes it possible to modify the negative side effects of other cannabinoids. The most relevant example of this is the ability to modify some negative over-effects of THC with CBD.
Many patients have heard of (or experience) an increase in anxiety and paranoia that are sometimes associated with cannabis. Thanks to the entourage effect this can be avoided: the study shows that CBD can help to minimize the anxiety associated with THC and remove paranoia.
So as we have explained, THC, CBD and other cannabinoids do not have to compete - but they have to work in tandem with the other constituents of the extracts in order to provide therapeutic relieves for a wide range of diseases.