Breaking It Down: How THC and CBD Affect the Brain

Kindling Cannabis
Breaking It Down: How THC and CBD Affect the Brain

Now that we’ve learned the basics of THC and CBD, it’s time to dig a little deeper. We know what they mean, we know their fancy full names, and we know the important differences between them. But what do these compounds actually do to the brain? Remember your brain? That really important thing in your head that you need in order to do pretty much anything. Worth exploring, don’t you agree?


The THC Decision

It’s quite a complicated process when the brain makes any decision. However, what is interesting is that there is a unique and distinctive pattern fixed to the decision to consume cannabis, in any form. The decision to consume cannabis is supported by a consistent activation level in a wide range of brain regions. Some notable functions that may ring a bell are the parts of your brain that signal messages of rewards and decision making, actions based on physical state, motivation and goal-oriented behaviours, as well as calculating risk and mortality. The combination of all the areas of the brain that spark up - when you decide to spark up - basically performs an analysis of value, and if that value is worth the pursuit. If the decision is deemed to be a good one, the brain decides in the positive. If the decision is deemed to be a bad one, the brain decides on the negative.

What It All Comes Down To: The Endocannabinoid System (ECS)

While studying the effects cannabis has on the mind and body, in the 1990s scientists discovered the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). The ECS is the internal system responsible for the effects of cannabis and how it is distributed in the body. The cannabinoids (THC and CBD) found in the cannabis plant interact with the ECS through CB1 and CB2 receptors. These receptors are located all over the body and are essentially designed to receive the cannabinoids and distribute them throughout the body.

Consider these receptors “master conductors.” Just like the cannabis plant, humans have naturally occurring cannabinoid compounds called endocannabinoids. These guys are not exactly similar to the cannabinoids found in cannabis; however, their chemical structures are similar. The two primary cannabinoids found in humans are anandamide and (2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG)). Every one of us has these compounds, which are naturally produced by the human body, regardless of whether or not we have used cannabis. When cannabis is consumed, it is the ECS that is responsible for the body’s interaction with cannabinoids and the resulting effects. Think of the ECS as a very unique communications system that is responsible for how we all individually experience cannabis.

Cool, So What Does THC Do To the Brain?

Understanding the basic biochemistry of cannabis definitely requires a bit of a learning curve while picking up on some new vocabulary. Tetrahydrocannabinol, endocannabinoid system; it’s quite a mouthful. But these subjects are important in understanding how THC affects us, and how it affects the brain. When cannabis is consumed, cannabinoids are introduced into your body. From there, they are metabolized and enter the bloodstream. Once in your bloodstream, they are able to bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors.

THC mainly targets CB1 receptors that are linked to the brain and nervous system. THC, in layman's terms, affects the brain because it is psychoactive. And as we have all come to learn, the body and mind are deeply connected. Therefore, the psychoactive effects of cannabis are both physiological and psychological. For some people, psychoactivity is as amazing as it sounds. It refers to the way THC stimulates psychological responses. Mostly, but not always, it is associated with feelings of euphoria. To others, this is a less than desirable outcome. It all comes down to personal preference. The ways in which THC interacts with the mind are exceedingly intricate.

One might even describe the effects of THC as directionless. The truth of the matter is that there is no way to determine how, where, and how much THC will interact with various parts of the ECS. The research remains in its infancy. Scientists still don’t know as much as they would like to about these interactions. Not yet, at least.

Enough of THC - What Does CBD Do To the Brain?

A common misconception surrounding CBD is that it is non-psychoactive. Let’s clear this up now: the reality is that this cannabidiol is non-intoxicating, and that is where the crucial difference is found. CBD interacts with CB2 receptors, which are exclusive to your immune system. CBD binds little, if at all, to the receptors of its sister THC. It has a much milder effect on the receptors.

It only binds to CB1 receptors loosely, which results in blocking the receptors and mitigating the psychoactive effects of THC. CBD also has the ability to enhance and discourage the binding action of certain coupled receptors. This can result in diluting the effects of THC. CBD has its own distinctive way of interacting with the ECS. It actually stimulates it to produce more of its own cannabinoids that attach to CB2 receptors. While scientists remain uncertain, they do believe that CBD can affect these receptors and respond to certain signals we receive from our brain which may help reduce pain and inflammation.

So Where Does This Leave You?

The bottom line with this is that the human brain is an amazing organ. Its complexities are like no other. THC vs. CBD — shake it or bake it, both have an effect on your brain. Some of the effects can be good (can be great, in fact) while others, well, time will tell.

Our intention is that, for new or experienced cannabis users, the simply inquisitive, and everyone in between, the information we provide will help you seek out and find the best cannabis products that will craft the best experience. Kindling’s menu offers a product line for every desired cannabis experience. Proceed with caution and awareness, and most importantly, keep yourself informed! As always, The Kindling Concierge is available to you with any questions or concerns.

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