The Difference Between CBD vs THC


To understand CBD and THC, you need to understand cannabinoids. These are compounds that act on the endocannabinoid system, or ECS, in the human body. This system of receptors uses cannabinoids for critical life functions. CBD and THC are both cannabinoids. CB1 and CB2 receptors interact with CBD and THC in different ways. While both bind to the CB2 receptor, only THC binds directly to CB1. The reaction that occurs creates the "high" feeling that consumers enjoy especially for the ones that does it regularly. CBD does not bind to the CB1 receptors, which explains why CBD doesn't give the same feeling as THC.


CBD is short for cannabidiol, and THC is short for tetrahydrocannabinol. CBD and THC share some common characteristics.

  • Both of these substances occur naturally in a plant called Cannabis sativa, more commonly referred to as cannabis.
  • Both CBD and THC interact with the CB2 receptors in the brain and the body.
  • CBD and THC have the same chemical formula of 30 hydrogen atoms, 21 carbon, and two oxygen. However, the atoms are arranged differently in each one.

For all the similarities between the two, there are also some important differences.

  • CBD and THC each impact the brain differently because of the very small differences in the atom arrangement in each one.
  • CBD does not make a consumer "high" because it is not a psychoactive substance.
  • You're more likely to find CBD rather than THC in dietary supplements.
  • THC is illegal in most jurisdictions in the United States.
  • THC has more side effects than CBD including impaired thinking, poor decision-making, a lack of reasoning, and weak impulse control. Chronic use may cause brain and heart irregularities over the long term.
  • CBD has none of the cognitive side effects of THC and may even counteract them.

CBD vs. THC for Pain

In the debate that rages over CBD versus THC, research indicates that CBD and THC are both helpful in dealing with pain. However, each one may be more effective on a specific kind of discomfort. For example, some studies have found that CBD works better to treat inflammation and neuropathy, while THC is more effective on spastic pain and cramps.

Consumers should be aware that high doses of THC can make certain types of pain worse and should be used with caution. THC also brings about unpleasant side effects for some people, and those issues may outweigh the benefits. Some practitioners now recommend a combined dose of THC and CBD in the treatment of pain to give patients the benefits of both without the downsides.

Effects of CBD vs. THC

Consumers of THC report a greater sense of relaxation and reduced levels of anger and aggression. However, users also often report fatigue, hunger, and an altered state of hearing, seeing, and tasting. Auditory and visual hallucinations and an impaired ability to taste are common complaints. Because of the slight differences in the atomic configuration, THC has a psychoactive effect, but CBD does not. Therefore CBD is a good choice for many medical purposes since it gets you symptom relief without impairing your cognition.

Cannabis plants with small amounts of CBD and higher amounts of THC give a stronger high, while plants with higher levels of CBD and less THC bring about a more relaxed feeling. Armed with this knowledge, breeders of the cannabis plant are developing strains with adjusted ratios of CBD to THC in order to minimize unpleasant side effects. Generally speaking, CBD's lower level of risk and high efficacy make it a better choice in most recreational and over-the-counter uses, even if you set aside the legal issues.

You should still proceed with caution, though, as some individuals have an adverse reaction to CBD products. Also, understand that the FDA does not regulate CBD products, so you want to be sure you're buying from a reputable source. Look for a label that indicates third-party testing for quality and purity.

What Is CBD?

CBD is a cannabinoid that appears in both agricultural hemp and medical-grade cannabis plants. Cannabinoids appear in various plants in nature. In fact, the cannabis plant contains at least 85 different cannabinoids. However, cannabis is the only such plant known to contain the specific CBD cannabinoid.

The Benefits of CBD Without THC

Most of the CBD without THC comes from hemp, as it is the least processed form of the cannabis plant. It's increasingly popular in agriculture, clothing, and pop culture. In addition to the health and pain-fighting benefits, CBD is showing promise in other types of research.

  • Multiple studies have found that using CBD may help people quit smoking and recover from other addictions. For example, one study published in the Journal of Addictive Behaviors and Therapy found that patients trying to quit smoking were more successful when using an inhaler of CBD oil. Another review in Neurotherapeutics found that CBD has potential for treating those dealing with opioid addiction.
  • In 2018, the Food & Drug Administration approved the use of CBD for the treatment of certain kinds of epileptic seizures that are known to be resistant to other therapies.
  • A study in Current Pharmaceutical Design found potential benefits in the treatment of mental health conditions such as schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • CBD can be consumed in various forms. CBD oil is one of the most popular. Mixing the oil into food or drink is one option or you can take it orally with a medicine dropper. This is especially helpful for those who might be suffering from nausea or difficulty swallowing. When purchasing CBD oil, read the label carefully, looking for the ratio of CBD to THC. Avoid added ingredients like corn syrup or other additives. Edibles are another popular way to consume CBD.

What Is THC?

THC is the part of the cannabis plant responsible for producing the high that recreational users of cannabis enjoy. It is secreted from the glands of the cannabis plant. In the body, THC interacts with certain receptors in the brain to release dopamine and other chemicals to produce the familiar feelings of euphoria or "high."

The Benefits of THC

One of the most common non-recreational uses of THC is to control the unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy, such as nausea and body pain. Research has also found it beneficial in the treatment of multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, inflammation, and digestion. HIV/AIDS and tremors associated with spinal injuries also may respond well to THC. Scientists continue to research an extensive list of other disorders that could benefit from THC treatment, including Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson's, and even acne. Type 1 Diabetes may react well to CBD treatments by reducing inflammation in the pancreas.

Pets can benefit from the medicinal properties of THC as much as people. Dogs that were given small doses of THC while going through cancer treatments were able to maintain more regular appetites and levels of activity. While you may see symptoms in your pet that are similar to those of humans when using THC, such as sleepiness or confusion, animals don't process THC in the same way as people. Therefore, dosing a pet with THC should only be done by a qualified veterinarian. Pet deaths can and have resulted from large doses.

THC Chemical Structure

THC produces the high by imitating the effects of anandamide and 2-AG, two neurotransmitters that are produced by the body naturally. They help to regulate sleep, appetite, pain perception, and many other functions within the body. THC has a low solubility in water but does dissolve well in organic solvents like lipids and alcohols. It also binds to glass and plastic, which is why THC is usually stored in amber silicate glassware.

Which One Is For Me?

If you are looking to use CBD or THC to treat a medical condition, the place to start is with your physician.

Remember that THC is not legal everywhere, even for medical usage. In those jurisdictions where it can be prescribed, dosing should be done carefully based on accurate body weight measurements and a complete physical examination and history.

As the body of research continues to grow, more options will become available, and the legal landscape will continue to evolve. The future of THC and CBD in the medical field is exciting. 

For recreational use in the United States, THC is still illegal in most jurisdictions. However, CBD is legal for adults in most places, so this may be the right option for you. However, you'll still find many choices for CBD consumption, like CBD oil, gummy snacks, teas, and more. 

Keep in mind that most states restrict CBD use to those over 18 years of age for over-the-counter use. THC is not legal for minors to use recreationally anywhere in the United States. 

Vaporizers are becoming increasingly popular among those who want to enjoy their CBD and THC via inhalation but don't want to smoke the old-fashioned way. A plethora of options await you when you choose to go shopping for your first vaping kit.

#Medical Cannabis
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