CBD Vs THC: Whats The Difference between THC and CBD? Skip to content
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THC vs CBD: Differences Between the 2 Main Cannabinoids


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With the hemp & marijuana "Green Rush" of the last 5 years, cannabis products seem to be everywhere you look and it can be hard to differentiate between the products available to you. 

We're here to help set the record straight on the two main compounds found in cannabis that produce effects in our bodies — CBD and THC. This article will break down the main differences between CBD and THC and how they affect our bodies.

You'll often hear the terms phytocannabinoid and endocannabinoid when referring to the messenger compounds that interact with the ECS. The ECS is made up of a network of receptors that interact with cannabinoids to relay messages throughout the body.

Phytocannabinoids include THC, CBD, CBG, and all other cannabinoids present in hemp and marijuana. The term "phyto" means plant. Cannabis is the only known plant to produce cannabinoids in large quantities [1]. Endocannabinoids refer to the cannabinoids made naturally in the body. The body's main endocannabinoids include anandamide and 2-archidonyl glycerol (2-AG).

What are CBD and THC?

CBD and THC are two of the many cannabis-produced chemicals called cannabinoids.

You can actually see where these cannabinoids accumulate in mature hemp and marijuana plants under a microscope on the surface of the leaves, buds, and flowers. The amount of CBD and THC contained within the plant is determined by genetics and growing conditions.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the major cannabinoids found in cannabis. Unlike THC, CBD does not induce a high and is best known for its relaxation benefits and for helping to support a healthy inflammatory response [3].

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the most notorious cannabinoid because it's the culprit behind feeling high

Understanding how these compounds interact with the body requires taking a closer look at their chemical composition. Both CBD and THC share the same molecular formula, C21H30O2.

CBD differs in one subtle way — The CBD molecular structure contains a hydroxyl group. This key difference is what gives the two compounds, two different pharmacological pathways. Most notably, this structure leads to the difference in the whether or not the chemical induces an intoxicated state.

As we've mentioned earlier, THC looks very similar to its counterpart, CBD. Both compounds are even synthesized from the same parent molecule, CBGa. Where CBD contains a hydroxyl group, THC has a cyclic ring that facilitates this compound's ability to bind to one of the major endocannabinoid receptors in the body, CB1.

The CB1 receptor has a pathway that triggers serotonin release in the central nervous system [4]. This short-term rush of serotonin induces feelings of euphoria and can alter one's perception.

cbd vs thc chemical structure

What is the Difference Between THC and CBD?

The most notable distinction between cannabis's two predominant chemical compounds is whether or not they induce a mind-altered state.

THC is most abundant in marijuana strains and because of its potential for abuse for intoxication, marijuana strains of cannabis are illegal in most parts of the world.

While there are different ratios of CBD found throughout different marijuana strains, hemp crops are bred specifically to yield higher concentrations of CBD with a deficient THC concentration. The legal threshold for THC in hemp crops in the United States is 0.3%.

Most legal CBD oil products on the market are derived from hemp crops. Before purchasing any cannabis product, you should always research where the extract comes from and look for third-party lab tests to indicate the cannabinoid profile to avoid any legal troubles with your local laws.

What are the Similarities Between THC and CBD?

1. CBD and THC Support Healthy Inflammatory Function

A regular inflammatory response is an important factor in a healthy individual. While inflammation is a natural immune response, there are times that this system goes haywire, which is often an indicator of illness or infection.

2. CBD is more widely studied for its benefits to help support a healthy immune response. However, some studies indicate that THC may also help to effectively reduce the production of inflammatory markers that quell inflammation [5].

Many individuals with chronic pain and inflammation are exploring the potential benefits of CBD vs THC for pain and inflammation management, seeking to determine which cannabinoid may offer them the most effective relief.

3. CBD and THC May Support Natural Recovery

THC and CBD may help to improve relaxation by easing cramping and tension.

Releasing tension in exercised muscle groups after a strenuous training session can help you fully relax and recover faster, so you can get back to your next workout feeling rejuvenated [ 6].

4. CBD and THC May Help With Mood And Regulate Healthy Stress Levels

Cannabinoids may improve our mood through their interaction with GABA, a neurotransmitter that acts as a brake pedal to the body's stress response [7]. It slows down the hyperactivity in the brain. 

Higher concentrations of GABA in the brain may help to support one's sense of wellbeing and a healthy stress response.

benefits of thc vs cbd infographic

How are THC and CBD Different?

Let's get into the nitty gritty on what makes these two cannabinoids unique, and why you might want to choose one over the other. 

1. THC Is Psychoactive

THC's interaction with the CB1 receptor triggers a release of serotonin and other feel-good hormones that induce a high and can alter our perception of time, sensitivity to stimulation, and even memory [8].

While it's not for everyone — THC's psychoactive effects may be therapeutic for some as it can help to support relaxation and mood. Our THC Capsules provide a convenient, controlled method to explore these benefits with precision.

2. THC Can Make You Hungry

Researchers suggest that THC interacts with certain hormone releases that stimulate hunger [9].

THC's effects on hunger may be beneficial for people who suffer from a reduced appetite. THC may improve nutrient intake by increasing their appetite. THC capsules offer a precise and easy-to-manage way to harness these benefits as part of a balanced approach to wellness.

3. CBD Can Decrease Appetite

On the other hand, CBD is considered an appetite suppressant, making CBD-infused products, such as gummies for weight loss, an excellent addition to your healthy weight management journey

CBD may help control hunger by improving the hypothalamus's sensitivity — the master switchboard for controlling hormones [9].

similarities and differences thc vs cbd

What are the Side Effects off THC and CBD?

Both THC and CBD are considered well-tolerated, even in large amounts in most individuals. The side-effects are mild and last only for the duration of the active compounds in your system.

Unfortunately, cannabis abuse for its mind-altering properties doesn't come without its misfortunes. Experimentation with altered states of consciousness via external compounds can result in adverse effects.THC has demonstrated undesirable outcomes for some users, including psychosis and aggression [ 8].

The short-term side effects of THC may include:

  • Poor coordination
  • Lack of concentration and poor short-term memory loss
  • Anxiety
  • Feelings of paranoia
  • Slow reaction times
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased heart rate

Because CBD doesn't offer a drastic change in your perception, its effects aren't as noticeable, which can cause some people to take too large of a dose, resulting in an increased chance of experiencing undesirable side-effects.

Some of the temporary side-effects of CBD may include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Headache

What are the Effects of CBD vs THC?

Many people turn towards cannabis-based products because of the gentle and natural effects they have on improving one's overall sense of wellbeing.

THC and CBD have many overlapping benefits because they are so similar structurally. But due to THC's psychoactive high, many people find the compound undesirable for regular use. 

While CBD doesn't have an affinity to bind to the CB1 or CB2 receptors, it does help keep the levels of internal cannabinoids high by delaying enzymes from breaking down cannabinoids and improving the cannabinoids' ability to bind to specific receptors.

What is better between THC Oil vs. CBD Oil?

Most CBD oil on the market is derived from hemp, known for its low THC content—typically up to 0.3%. This trace amount is insufficient to produce a high, making CBD oil a non-intoxicating option with various therapeutic applications.

On the other hand, pure THC oil, usually extracted from cannabis with higher THC levels, is designed to leverage the psychoactive properties of the compound, often sought after for both its euphoric effects and potent relief.

Full-spectrum CBD oil contains all of hemp's natural compounds, including cannabinoids, terpenes, and essential phytonutrients, offering a complete plant profile for those seeking the entourage effect as the best THC or weed alternative. Contrastingly, THC oil provides a different spectrum of benefits, prioritizing the strong effects associated with THC.

Before purchasing any CBD products online, look for third-party lab testing that shows the cannabinoid profile. Also, be sure to check the results for exposure to potential contaminants such as heavy metals, pesticides, or solvents.

Final Thoughts: CBD Vs. THC

The two main chemical components in cannabis, THC and CBD, behave similarly to messenger compounds in our endocannabinoid system, fittingly named after the plant.

While THC and CBD are nearly identical in chemical composition, they differ in one element, how they interact with with our endocannabinoid receptors.

However, the two compounds being so similar, they produce very similar effects. The key differentiating factor between the two compounds lies in their interaction with the CB1 receptor. THC's shape fits CB1 receptors to result in a high, while CBD's effects are much more subtle.

Always speak with your healthcare professional before considering adding CBD products or THC into your health regimen. 


FAQ

What's the high difference between CBD & THC?

CBD doesn’t cause a high, making it preferred for users seeking relief without psychoactive effects. THC triggers a high, influencing mood & mental state.

What is CBD vs THC?

CBD is typically utilized for its potential to offer relief without altering consciousness. THC is sought for its euphoric effect alongside relief.

What is the difference between CBD and THC edibles?

CBD edibles provide relief & wellness benefits without the high. THC edibles combine these benefits with the psychoactive properties of THC.

What is the difference between CBD gummies and THC gummies?

CBD gummies are chosen for consistent relief throughout the day without intoxication. THC gummies offer similar relief but with the added psychoactive experience of THC.

What is the difference between CBD vs THC Oil?

CBD oil is crafted for those seeking relief without the effects of a high. THC oil is for those looking for more potent effects, including the psychoactive experience.

THC vs CBD vs CBN?

THC is known for its strong psychoactive effects & relief; CBD for promoting calm & relief without intoxication; CBN is less researched but associated with sedative properties.

Marijuana THC vs CBD?

Marijuana typically has high THC for a potent high & relief. CBD derived from hemp or marijuana provides relief without the high.

Is CBD or THC addictive?

CBD has no reported addictive properties & is safe for regular use. THC may lead to dependency if used in high amounts or frequently.

References:

  1. Gertsch, J., Pertwee, R. G., & Di Marzo, V. (2010). Phytocannabinoids beyond the Cannabis plant–do they exist?. British journal of pharmacology160(3), 523-529.
  2. Sallaberry, C. A., & Astern, L. (2018). The endocannabinoid system, our universal regulator. Journal of Young Investigators34(6).
  3. Sallaberry, C. A., & Astern, L. (2018). The endocannabinoid system, our universal regulator. Journal of Young Investigators34(6).
  4. Haj-Dahmane, S., & Shen, R. Y. (2011). Modulation of the serotonin system by endocannabinoid signaling. Neuropharmacology61(3), 414-420.
  5. Nagarkatti, P., Pandey, R., Rieder, S. A., Hegde, V. L., & Nagarkatti, M. (2009). Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs. Future medicinal chemistry1(7), 1333-1349.
  6. Pacher, P., Bátkai, S., & Kunos, G. (2006). The endocannabinoid system as an emerging target of pharmacotherapy. Pharmacological reviews58(3), 389-462.
  7. Rey, A. A., Purrio, M., Viveros, M. P., & Lutz, B. (2012). Biphasic effects of cannabinoids in anxiety responses: CB1 and GABAB receptors in the balance of GABAergic and glutamatergic neurotransmission. Neuropsychopharmacology37(12), 2624-2634.
  8. Grotenhermen, F. (2003). Pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of cannabinoids. Clinical pharmacokinetics42(4), 327-360.
  9. Morgan, C. J., Freeman, T. P., Schafer, G. L., & Curran, H. V. (2010). Cannabidiol attenuates the appetitive effects of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol in humans smoking their chosen cannabis. Neuropsychopharmacology35(9), 1879-1885.

    Disclaimer

    The statements made regarding these products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. All information presented here is not meant as a substitute for or alternative to information from health care practitioners. Please consult your health care professional about potential interactions or other possible complications before using any product.

    BY
    Katrina Lubiano

    BA in English Katrina has always had a passion for health sciences and literature. She works as a content writer, editor, and strategist in the health and wellness space, primarily focusing on cannabis education. She’s written well over 400,000 words on the subject—including demystifying laws a...


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