If you’re wondering what the difference between THC and CBD is, you’re not alone. We’ve got everything you need to know about these overlapping terms.
Learn about the process that happens inside your body that explains your cannabis sensitivity.
WHAT IS METABOLISM?
In the most simple way of explaining, your liver produces enzymes that break down and eliminate proteins, toxins, and drugs from your body, a process known as metabolism.
Acting like a puzzle piece, the enzymes are attracted to certain molecules that are the right shape, and binds to them, effectively changing their shape. These molecules in their new shape are called metabolites, and the larger a metabolite is, the easier it is for the body (kidneys primarily) to eliminate it as waste. 1
Your Lobo genetic test looks at two genes that tell the liver to produce the enzymes needed to convert the two most prominent cannabinoids in cannabis (THC and CBD) from active to inactive metabolites.
WHY DOES CANNABIS METABOLISM RATE MATTER?
At least 15% of the population (varies greatly based on ethnicity)has genetic variations of these genes that change the shape of the enzyme slightly. 2 This changes the overall shape of the metabolites they are able to create, which affects how fast the body can eliminate them, known as metabolism rate.
These people are referred to as slow (THC or CBD) metabolizers, and they can expect a higher concentration of the active compound in their blood, which is known to intensify their effect, and last for a longer duration of time.
Compared to normal cannabis metabolizers, people with slower metabolism rates may prefer lower potency cannabis products, consumed less often, to achieve their desired effects. Slower metabolizers are also at a higher risk of experiencing unwanted, adverse effects that can last 3x as long, when compared to normal metabolizers. 4
Based on your CBD & THC metabolism rates, you may experience different onset time and duration of effects for each product format.
Knowing your cannabis metabolism rates can help you make informed choices when choosing a method and format of consumption, and minimizes the guesswork involved in managing the likelihood of experiencing adverse effects of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol).
THC VS CBD METABOLISM
Even though the genes responsible for producing the enzymes needed to metabolize CBD and THC belong to the same family, it is possible to have different metabolism rates for CBD and THC because each is metabolized by a separate enzyme, encoded by their own gene.
The enzymes needed to bind to THC (CYP2C9) and CBD (CYP2C19) that start the metabolism process both belong to the same family of genes (Cytochrome P450 AKA CYP family), active mainly in the human liver and intestine. Together they metabolize approximately 20% of therapeutically-used drugs as well as many natural plants, herbs, and supplements. 2
IF THC AND CBD METABOLISM ARE UNIQUE, WHY DO PEOPLE TALK ABOUT THEM TOGETHER?
The ability of CBD to change the way other compounds, including THC, interact with the body is known as the entourage effect. The concept is based on the idea that the benefits provided by the sum of multiple compounds in cannabis (hundreds of cannabinoids and terpenes that vary by cultivar/strain) have a different (arguably more desirable) effect than the benefits provided by taking the isolated compounds (THC on its own). 10
CBD has been shown in several clinical studies to produce a different effect on the body when taken with THC than when THC is taken alone. In some cases when CBD was taken with THC there was a significant improvement in the desired therapeutic effects (or type of high) when compared to THC alone. In several other studies, taking CBD significantly reduced the undesired effects of cannabis including THC-induced anxiety, paranoia, and psychosis. 11, 12
Now that you know a bit more about how metabolism works, you may have some ideas about your own cannabis metabolism rates. But the only way to be certain, is to have your CYP2C9 and CYP2C19 genes tested!
- Enzymes – Medical News Today. 11 Jan. 2018, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319704.php
- Hirota et al. (2013). Impact of genetic polymorphisms in CYP2C9 and CYP2C19 on the pharmacokinetics of clinically used drugs. Drug Metab. Pharmacokinet. 28(1): 28-37. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23165865/
- “Activation and Metabolism of Cannabinoids – Prof of Pot.” 2 Aug. 2016, https://profofpot.com/activation-metabolism-cannabinoids/
- Sachse-Seeboth et al. (2009).Interindividual variation in the pharmacokinetics of Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol as related to genetic polymorphisms in CYP2C9. Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics. 85(3): 273-276. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19005461/
- Vizeli, P et al. (2017, March). Pharmacogenetics of ecstasy: CYP1A2, CYP2C19, and CYP2B6 polymorphisms moderate pharmacokinetics of MDMA in healthy subjects. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28117133.
- Wanwimolruk, S., & Prachayasittikul, V. (2014, April 2). Cytochrome P450 enzyme mediated herbal drug interactions (Part 1). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4463967/
- Kiani, J., & Imam, S. (2007, October 30). Medicinal importance of grapefruit juice and its interaction with various drugs. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2147024/
- Peter Grinspoon, M. (2020, April 22). Cannabidiol (CBD) – what we know and what we don’t. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/cannabidiol-cbd-what-we-know-and-what-we-dont-2018082414476
- Asher, G., Corbett, A., & Hawke, R. (2017, July 15). Common Herbal Dietary Supplement-Drug Interactions. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2017/0715/p101.html
- Russo, E. (2019, January 9). The Case for the Entourage Effect and Conventional Breeding of Clinical Cannabis: No “Strain,” No Gain. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6334252/
- Zuardi AW; et al. (2013). A critical review of the antipsychotic effects of cannabidiol: 30 years of a translational investigation https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22716160/
- Ujvaŕy et al. (2016). Human metabolites of cannabidiol: a review on their formation, biological activity and relevance in therapy. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research. 1.1: 90-100. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5576600/
Written by Samantha Gordashko for Lobo Genetics