CBD vs THC | What is the difference?


The Cannabis Sativa plant is highly enriched. It contains over fifty compounds known as cannabinoids. The most famous ones include Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). These compounds can react with human cannabinoid receptors, which are part of the endocannabinoid system, present all over in the human body. This article looks at the difference between CBD vs THC.

Despite being part of the same family, both compounds have different extraction sources. To extract CBD, you need the hemp plant. It contains less than 0.3 percent THC, whereas, for THC, the marijuana plants will work better as they contain higher concentrations of THC.

While THC is used for recreational purposes, CBD has more medicinal properties. It is available in the form of supplements, gummies, topical roll-ons, gels, oil extracts, and more. On the other hand, THC, the key psychoactive compound in the marijuana plant, is responsible for the recreational ‘high.’ It is either consumed by smoking marijuana or in the form of various capsules, oils, tinctures, etc.

Looking for more CBD and THC related articles? Read how to make THC distillate at home or find out what the health benefits of cannabis are.

CBD and THC are quite similar yet so different. Their effects on the human body contrast drastically. While one can make you feel better, the other can make things worse. Let’s go into details and find out how the two are different.

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How Are the Two Cannabinoids Useful?

As you probably already know, CBD brings many medicinal benefits. However, did you know that THC can also be useful in some treatments? That’s right. Both compounds help provide relief from quite a few conditions.

  • CBD is useful with numerous health conditions, such as pain, depression, seizures, inflammation, mental disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, nausea, migraines, anxiety, and many others.
  • THC also effectively relieves in conditions such as pain, insomnia, muscle spasticity, glaucoma, appetite issues, anxiety, and nausea. 
CBD vs THC use

If you’ve been a victim of a sleeping disorder, Cannabis can change your life. Research has shown that Cannabis may help restore your natural sleep cycle. According to Dr. Matthew A. Roman, “Marijuana is an effective sleep aid because it restores a person’s natural sleep cycle, which so often falls out of sync with our schedules in today’s modern lifestyle,”

The Difference between CBD vs THC

The molecular structure of CBD and THC is similar; it includes 30 hydrogen atoms, 21 carbon atoms, and two oxygen atoms. The slight variation in the formation of these atoms causes the difference.

CBD and THC share somewhat similar chemical properties with the endocannabinoids of the human body. So, they react with the cannabinoid receptors in your body and affect the release of neurotransmitters in your brain.

Neurotransmitters are chemicals that transmit signals between the cells. Consequently, they affect immunity, thereby improving body resistance against anxiety, pain, sleep, etc.

What Are Cannabinoids?

We already know that cannabinoids are naturally existing compounds in the Cannabis Sativa plant. Among 480 ingredients, almost 66 are characterized as cannabinoids – more than 10% of all the ingredients in the plant.

Following are some of the subclasses of cannabinoids:

  • Cannabidiol (CBD)
  • Cannabichromene (CBC)
  • Cannabigerol (CBG)
  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
  • Cannabidiol (CBDL)
  • Cannabinol (CBN)

Cannabinoids are segregated mainly based on their psycho-activity. This property highly depends on a compound known as Δ9- THC, aka Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. It is the basic psychoactive ingredient that changes the complete behavior of a compound.

For instance, CBD, CBG, and CBC are not known to be psychoactive agents as they lack Δ9- THC. On the other hand, THC, CBDL, and CBN, and some other cannabinoids come with variable amounts of Δ9- THC hence has different levels of psycho-activity.

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What Are the Effects of CBD vs THC?

Researchers discovered the first two cannabinoid receptors in the late eighties and early nineties. These two receptors were then categorized as the CB1 and CB2 receptors.

CB1 receptors are present in the brain region abundantly. These receptors affect and impact the psychological and biological processes, which may include memory, logical reasoning, emotion, and motor coordination. In contrast, CB2 receptors are present throughout the central nervous and the immune systems.

Interaction with CB1 and CB2

When CB1 and CB2 react with THC and CBD; they act as a catalyst, by speeding up the process of relieving anxiety or pain, managing the mood, appetite stimulus, and many others.

As the molecular structures of THC and CBD are different, they interact with the CB1 and CB2 receptors differently. As a result, their effects on the body vary widely.

When working together with the CB2 receptor, CBD and THC both bind to this particular receptor.

However, their interaction with the CB1 receptors is quite different.

THC can bind directly with CB1 receptors due to its molecular structure. This bond leads to a reaction that generates signals and sends them to the brain. It results in the psychoactive effects causing a “high” feeling.

On the contrary, CBD doesn’t bind with the CB1 receptor directly. Instead, it neutralizes the psychoactive effects caused by THC presence, by countering the bond between THC and the CB1 receptors, effectively.

Although THC brings excellent health benefits, not everyone prefers its intoxicating effects.


On the other hand, CBD provides many of the same benefits minus the psychoactive effects.

Here is an interesting fact about THC; when left exposed to the air, it oxidizes and creates CBN. This compound interacts with THC and decreases its effect. That explains why Cannabis loses its mind-altering potency when left open or unused.

Legalities of CBD vs THC

Of course, with the psychoactive effects, we cannot expect THC to be completely legal. In fact, THC is the very reason why it took us too long to accept CBD. Since both compounds have a similar background, CBD was automatically considered unhealthy and mentally destructive.

However, continuous research and study proved CBD to be health-friendly and non-psychoactive. As of today, CBD is entirely legal in most states. However, in some states, you might need a prescription to buy CBD products.

Our recommendation is always to be cautious and check the rules before you go out and try to buy CBD products. It is still better to be safe than sorry. Also, make sure that the CBD products you consume should not contain THC more than 0.3%. It is essential as if you are ever tested for THC, it will not come positive.

CBD vs THC in the United States

In the United States, laws related to Cannabis are continually developing. Marijuana and THC made into the list of controlled materials, so they’re banned under federal law.

Nevertheless, many other states in the US have passed laws related to Cannabis. It is to legalize medical marijuana with elevated levels of THC. However, you might not be able to buy it over the counter. You would need a prescription from a certified doctor.

Interestingly, numerous states have legally allowed the use of marijuana and THC for recreational purposes. Of course, In such states, you can purchase CBD without any restriction as well.

However, before you take any action to buy goods with CBD or THC, always check your state’s laws. You don’t want to face any legal penalty in case of possession of illegal cannabis products.

Conclusion: CBD vs THC

Although THC and CBD seem comparable in many ways, their chemical structure differs, which in turn affects the way they work together with the human body’s cannabinoid receptors.

The cannabinoid is present abundantly in the cannabis plant, and it doesn’t have any psychoactive effect on the user’s mind. It makes CBD ideal for many people who are looking forward to consuming it medically.

On the one hand, the psychoactive effect by THC makes it a less favorable choice for some people, while the same effect is the reason some others prefer it. CBD and THC both bring medicinal benefits. Both of these are safe to use as well.

However, it would be best if you considered the likelihood of side effects or reactions with other pills you might be taking. Talking with your physician is always advisable if you have any queries.

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