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THC vs. CBD for Pain Relief: What’s Better?


  • THC and CBD are cannabinoids for pain relief.
  • THC is psychoactive, while CBD is not.
  • THC is best for acute pain, while CBD is best for chronic pain.
  • The choice between THC and CBD depends on individual preferences and tolerance for psychoactive effects.

THC and CBD for pain are some of the most common medical uses for cannabis extracts. Some of the earliest medical marijuana treatments involved chronic pain, and now it’s become much more popular, but this leaves some pretty big questions about which one works better. 

There’s a lot of early research discussing the potential benefits of THC and CBD when it comes to pain relief. This research suggests that both THC and CBD can be effective for pain relief, but they might act on different types of pain. These two substances also have different primary effects and side effects that we need to consider before we use them for pain relief. 

We need to look at what the science says about THC and CBD gummies for pain relief

Which is Better for Pain: THC or CBD?

Let’s get right down to the most important question: is THC or CBD better for pain relief?

The broad consensus says that CBD has shown early potential for pain relief, but there needs to be more research done to get a clear understanding of how it works. 

There is more robust research that shows THC being effective for the treatment of chronic pain. The broad consensus about THC is that it does work for pain relief, but the cannabis high and side effects might make it a difficult decision for some. 

This means that it’s less of a case of one being better than the other for pain relief. It’s more about the type of pain you’re looking to treat, what THC or CBD products you want to use, and the potential side effects that you’re going to be more okay with.

The biggest trade-off is that CBD might offer a less potent pain relief, but it also will not get you high and has much more mild side effects. CBD is also not linked to an increase in anxiety which is a common side effect of THC.

On the other hand, THC has a more documented and well understood impact on chronic pain. THC is regularly used to treat joint pain and other types of persistent pain. However, THC will get you high even in small doses and has much more pronounced side effects than CBD.

We’re going to have to look at how each of these substances affects the nervous system, unpack the latest studies, and take a closer look in order to find out which one is really better for pain relief. 

CBD for Pain—How it Works

When you take CBD gummies for pain relief, you’re changing how your body’s natural endocannabinoid system works. 

Adults are starting to use CBD for chronic pain and this is something that’s beginning to intrigue researchers

CBD has been shown to act on the body’s endocannabinoid system. Specifically, it’s an antagonist for the CB1 and CB2 receptors.

Both of these receptors play a role in inflammation as well as the pain response. It’s not exactly known how CBD is altering these two receptors, but it seems to be able to block other chemicals from bonding to these receptors.

This is how CBD is able to achieve its pain-relieving benefit. By blocking these receptors, it lowers our experience of both pain and inflammation. 

THC Pain Relief—The Science Behind the Relief 

THC also has a potential pain-relieving benefit, but it works on the endocannabinoid system in a completely different way.

THC is a receptor agonist. This means that it actively binds to the receptor rather than blocking other chemicals from binding. Just like CBD, THC is also focused on the endocannabinoid system and the CB1 and CB2 receptors.

The biological mode of action for how THC provides pain relief is still a little bit mysterious. THC has been demonstrated as an effective treatment for neuropathic pain as well as for other types of chronic pain.

Research even suggests that THC is a good choice for treating joint pain. However, it’s important to point out that this research also explored mixtures of THC and CBD as a treatment.  

Even though researchers aren’t quite sure how CBD or THC are exactly working in the body, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that they are both effective and useful treatments for pain. 

Combining THC and CBD for Pain Relief 

Here’s an interesting point to consider when using THC or CBD for pain relief.

There’s actually a growing body of evidence that suggests that combining THC and CBD will give you the best results when it comes to pain relief. 

THC and CBD are both naturally occurring in the cannabis plant. A large body of the research that’s been done on THC in pain relief has been looking at smoking the cannabis plant rather than focus on specific extracts. It might actually be a combination of different cannabinoids that provide beneficial pain relief rather than each substance on its own.

Many studies look at THC and CBD together even in extracted forms like nasal sprays. We even have anecdotal evidence of CBD helping to balance out some of the more pronounced side effects of a THC high. 

How to Take CBD for Pain Relief 

CBD gummies for pain relief are a great way to get great pain under control, but you need to know how to dose them. 

There’s been a lot of talk lately about CBD doses as high as 600 mg, but this is actually based off of a misunderstanding with the research. Those incredibly high CBD doses are used to treat individuals with epilepsy, not individuals with chronic pain.

While more research needs to be done in order to understand dosing, we do know one thing about CBD that’s pretty interesting.

CBD has a dose-dependent response in the body. This means the effect that CBD will have on your body changes based on how much you’re taking.

This is because CBD has a broad effect on the endocannabinoid system. The early research seems to point towards doses of somewhere between 20 and 50 mg for treating pain.

However, this mainly focuses on looking at nasal spray or oral treatments rather than topicals or creams. The doses for a topical cream might be higher.

Always remember to start off slow and slowly work your way up until you reach even your desired effect. CBD does have more mild side effects in THC, but in larger doses you can experience dry mouth, nausea, and even unexpected mood changes.

Potential THC Side Effects

THC has much more well-known potential side effects. We’ve all heard of the munchies and dry mouth as well as red eyes as common side effects of enjoying a little too much cannabis.

However, THC is also known to cause anxiety. This can be due to a dose that’s beyond an individual’s comfort level or just a response to THC in the moment.

It’s even more important to take your dosing slowly with THC even more so than it is with CBD. Even though anxiety is the most extreme side effect of THC, it’s worth avoiding these potential negative experiences.

Even mild THC doses less than 5 mg can have a positive benefit on pain. Just like with CBD, the research is still ongoing, but starting off slow is never a bad idea when it comes to THC. 

Other Benefits of CBD and THC

There are also other benefits of CBD and THC that can potentially play into our overall health and pain relief.

One of the biggest scientifically studied benefits of CBD and THC is that they act as an anti-inflammatory agent in the body. A lot of chronic pain, especially joint pain and neuropathic pain, is the result of chronic inflation.

CBD and THC can both lower than inflation in help improve outcomes for individuals trying to manage these types of pain.

CBD has also been shown to lower anxiety. This can help individuals manage emotional pain as well as physical pain.

THC has also been shown to have a positive benefit when it comes to mood. It’s always important to keep in mind the intersection between mental and physical health when looking at the potential benefits, as well as the side effects, of medical marijuana. 

THC vs. CBD for Pain Relief: What’s Better?

Why Medical Cannabis Research is Still Catching Up

Right now you might be wondering why medical cannabis research seems so early in its development. Other medications are able to complete studies much more quickly. So, what’s holding back medical CBD and THC?

The answer has to do with the legal status of CBD and THC. CBD only became legal at the federal level a few years ago. This means that researchers only recently started completing early research about using CBD for pain treatment.

THC is still illegal at a federal level. This makes it incredibly difficult for most universities, research hospitals, and other laboratories to get their hands on THC study.

This means that more comprehensive research into the medical benefits of cannabis and cannabinoids is only going to start to fully develop once these substances have achieved a much broader legal status. 

Wrapping Up CBD and THC for Pain Relief

What are the big takeaways for using THC or CBD gummies for pain relief?

The biggest takeaway is that the formal research is still developing and it comes to using CBD and THC for pain relief.

We can say that CBD appears to be promising for pain relief and does offer fewer side effects when compared with THC. THC has a much more established research history when it comes to pain relief, but it also has much more pronounced psychoactive effects and a higher likelihood of side effects.

One interesting thing to keep in mind is that the research seems to show that CBD and THC work well together. This could be the fabled Entourage Effect which is the combined interaction of a variety of cannabinoids and terpenes found naturally in cannabis plants.

Whether you’re looking to try CBD or THC for pain relief, they could potentially be safer treatments than a lot of the opioid-based pain medication on the market today.

Make sure to start off with a low dose and slowly work your way up until you achieve your desired effect. This is one of the best ways to make sure that you have a good experience with these cannabinoids.

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Danny Blanton
Danny Blanton
Danny Blanton, a seasoned writer with a decade of industry experience, offers expert reviews on vaping products and cannabis topics, ensuring our readers receive accurate, up-to-date, and valuable insights.
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