Cannabis Facts: THC, CBD and the Cannabinoids

By Lex Pelger, Bluebird Botanicals

Here at Bluebird Botanicals, we loved getting the opportunity to engage with the Abilities community. Two of our bluebirds, Allie and Katie, recently attended the expo in Chicago and fell in love. With everybody being so warm and open, they said it didn't feel like a work trip but more like coming home. As they walked around with their CBD-rich hemp oil, there were lots of questions to answer.

Bluebird Botanicals

As the cannabis plant becomes more normalized, there's still much confusion out there and we wanted to help explain some of the nuances.

The Cannabis Plant: Down to Basics

We'll start with the legal definition because that's the easiest. The plant is often referred to by many names including marijuana, cannabis and hemp. According to the United States federal government, "marijuana" is defined as a cannabis plant with greater than 0.3% THC by dry weight while "hemp" is defined as a cannabis plant with less than 0.3% THC by dry weight. This means that for all the various words people use to describe, they're all talking about the cannabis plant. The difference between hemp and marijuana is strictly legal, not botanical.

To grow hemp, it's not easy to find a cannabis plant that produces such low levels of THC. That's because the last centuries—and especially the last decades—of cannabis breeding has pushed the plant towards producing high levels of THC at the expense of CBD. More recently, there's a renewed interest in all of the components of the plants including the cannabinoids and terpenes it contains.

The Marijuana Plant

The Cannabinoids

The most well-known cannabinoid is THC—tetrahydrocannabinol. That's the psychoactive molecule that causes the high of cannabis. THC causes these effects via the CB1 receptor on the surface of our cells. The discovery of the CB1 receptor in the early '90s revolutionized the science of cannabis. With the CB1 receptor found all across the higher areas of the human brain, we finally understood how this simple weed could produce such a wide array of effects.

This explains why, in response to cannabis, people can get sleepy, hyper, despondent, joyful and violent (it happens). On the safety side, there are no CB1 receptors in the lower parts of the brain that control many vital functions including breathing and that is why cannabis cannot cause a dangerous overdose. For people struggling with mental health issues, THC can be helpful but it can also make things worse. When it comes to cannabis, only the individual and their support network can figure out what works for them.

CBD versus THC

The second most famous cannabinoid is easier to work with because it doesn't get people high. Known as CBD, cannabidiol also ranks as the second most prevalent cannabinoid in the plant. CBD is often known as the yin to the yang of THC. It can calm the effects of THC as well as contribute to balance around the rest of the body (as a manufacturer of CBD-rich hemp oil, we make no medical claims for these products but we do encourage people to research more on their own). CBD has been found to have dozens of different targets at the biochemical level and this helps explain why it's been found to be helpful for such a wide range of people.

Besides these two cannabinoids, there's over 80 others that have been found in the plant. In addition, the cannabis plant is especially rich in terpenes—the molecules that give smell to many of the foods and fruits that we consume. When all of these cannabinoids and terpenes are working together, they seem to be more powerful and the combination is known as the entourage effect. That's why we believe in full plant extracts for harnessing all the powers of cannabis.

If anyone has any questions, feel free to reach out to me, Lex Pelger, science director at lex@bluebirdbotanicals.com.

Also, we have an assistance programs for anyone who is on disability, served in the armed forces or qualifies as low income. More information is available here.

About the Author:

Stephanie Alves is the Founder and Designer of ABL Denim, a premium denim adaptive jean line made in U.S.A. for men, women and children. 

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