If you love cannabis, you probably smoke flower that’s rich in THC, or you enjoy the potency of a dab. Those who self-identify as stoners aren’t known to chase CBD-rich strains. You’ll usually find them drooling over frosty nugs that pack a THC punch of 25% or more. But the wise smoker knows that cannabidiol (CBD), has an important place among cannabinoids.
CBD has rapidly gained widespread popularity over the past few years, praised as a cure-all and found in skin lotions, drinks, beer and more. You can order CBD coffee, or soak in a CBD-infused bath. CBD has been shown to aid sleep and digestion, as well as treat anxiety, pain, and inflammation. It’s also been shown to reduce — or even stop — seizures in severe cases of childhood epilepsy. Small wonder it’s widely touted by CBD brands, bloggers, and marketing agencies.
When you shop at your local dispensary, however, CBD takes a back seat on the menu to THC, the intoxicating component of cannabis. Frequent cannabis consumers, especially those with a high tolerance, often look for strains and products that contain the highest level of THC without taking CBD into account. But can CBD actually improve your smoke sesh?
CBD, THC, and the Entourage Effect
So much of the modern human experience is feeling overwhelmed. Many of us live in a chronic state of fatigue and stress. We’re sleep-deprived. Finding relief with cannabis is becoming more common. There’s increasing interest in how CBD can help alleviate stress and pain, and how it works in conjunction with THC. Can CBD help balance a THC high? Or will CBD get you even higher?
Mathew Gerson, founder and CEO of Foria Wellness, thinks we’re in the very early stages of discovering how CBD works.
“We don’t really know. Research on CBD, and how it can effectuate a grounding or a more balanced experience of psychoactivity, is just beginning,” he said.
To better understand how CBD may be able to regulate or even enhance your stoner lifestyle, here’s a quick overview of what’s known as the “entourage effect,” or “ensemble effect”:
- The cannabis plant produces a variety of compounds called cannabinoids, including THC and CBD. It also produces an array of terpenes, the essential plant oils that give cannabis its aroma and flavor.
- Cannabinoids such as THC and CBD bind to receptors in the human brain and body. These receptors are collectively known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS).
- The synergy between hundreds of cannabinoids and terpenes working together with the ECS to produce specific effects is known as the entourage effect.
How does it all work? THC creates the state of euphoria we call the “high” by binding to brain receptors that regulate pleasure, pain, and perceptions of time. The intoxicating effect of THC can sometimes include anxiety or paranoia. CBD is thought to balance an uncomfortably soaring high by blocking THC from activating one of the main ECS receptors in the brain. If you ingest CBD along with THC, there may be fewer receptors available for the THC to activate.
CBD is thought to balance an uncomfortably soaring high by blocking THC from activating one of the main ECS brain receptors. If you ingest CBD along with THC, there may be fewer receptors available for the THC to activate.
Interestingly, CBD may also help THC have more of an effect.
“Our understanding is that if you onboard CBD before THC, you’re actually priming your cannabinoid receptors so that you might get even higher,” Gerson said. “If you onboard it after you consume THC, it can help round out your high.”
One thing is certain: There’s a lot more to learn about CBD and how it works in the human body.
Including CBD in Your Cannabis Lifestyle
If you’re an experienced consumer who enjoys high-THC marijuana, CBD-rich flower can make for an excellent daytime smoke, offering relaxation without the heavy intoxication. Ask your budtenders if they carry strains with high CBD-to-THC ratios, such as ACDC or Cannatonic.
Chef Holden Jagger of Altered Plates, a California-based culinary and hospitality-focused cannabis company, recommends smoking hemp.
And if you’re a dabber? Why, yes, there are high-CBD dabs. Look for CBD-rich terp sauces, sugar waxes, and pull-and-snap extracts that are whole-plant-derived, rather than CBD isolate. Isolate removes all other compounds to leave an extract that is at least 99% pure CBD, while whole-plant concentrates contain all of the cannabinoids and terpenes naturally found in cannabis, and offer that synergistic entourage effect.
One of the major benefits of adult-use or medical legalization is that consumers have access to safe, lab-tested cannabis. Check the label when you buy your next eighth, preroll, dab, edible, or topical: CBD is present in most products.
If you’re a regular cannabis user, you’re already ingesting CBD. If you’d like to up your CBD intake, try adding a tincture or CBD edible to your smoking routine. Tinctures are easy to microdose — add a few drops to your bowl of pasta or mug of tea. CBD edibles come in many forms, including gummies, chocolate, teas, coffees, and even CBD honey.
How Much CBD Do I Need?
“There are no dosing protocols for CBD products,” Gerson said. “The research hasn’t been done on them yet, period. There are general guidelines, but no one has the definitive data on how much CBD you should take. It doesn’t exist.”
The best way to determine the effect CBD has on you is just like with any other substance: Go low and slow. Take a low dose of CBD without anything other intoxicants in your system. Note your stress levels. Check in with yourself every few minutes. How do you feel? Have things shifted at all?
“We know there’s a bell-shaped curve for finding your sweet dosage spot with cannabinoids,” Gerson said. “The only way to find the perfect dosage is to slowly introduce CBD into your life, and note what’s happening.’”
Gerson encourages you to have a sense of your baseline, so you know exactly what works for your body.
Can CBD Lower My THC Tolerance?
If you’ve developed a high tolerance to THC, you can easily lower it by taking a tolerance break, or “T-break.” A short-term break of one or two weeks can reset the receptors in your ECS, so you can go back to consuming less THC to get the mighty buzz you’re looking for. While CBD hasn’t been shown to lower THC tolerance, incorporating CBD into your T-break could potentially help with the anxiety or poor sleep you may feel when taking a break from THC, according to a 2019 study published in the Permanente Journal.
The benefits of CBD are still being studied, and, as Gerson said, the research is just beginning. While scientists race to catch up with the CBD craze, you can find the comfort zone in your stoner lifestyle by knowing your baseline, upping your CBD intake, and paying attention to your buzz.
Featured Image: The benefits of including cannabidiol (CBD) when consuming high-potency marijuana include the “entourage effect” of all cannabinoids and terpenes working together, or even to aid stoners during a tolerance break. (Gina Coleman/Weedmaps News)
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