The Difference Between THC and CBD

The Difference Between THC and CBD

Cannabis has been cultivated, consumed, and studied for centuries. The plant can be traced as far back as prehistoric societies in Eurasia and Africa, according to archaeological findings. Ancient cannabis usage varied. Some ancient societies used cannabis during ritual ceremonies, while others for medical purposes. It wasn’t until the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries that researchers dissected the plant and identified the chemical compounds within - called cannabinoids. Researchers discovered that cannabis contains more than 80 different cannabinoids, however, most of the medical benefits of the plant are attributed to the two most prevalent cannabinoids: THC and CBD.

Despite their similarities, THC and CBD have distinct differences that influence how they interact with the human endocannabinoid system and subsequently the natural effects they elicit. THC is often used for its psychoactive, relaxing, and pain-relieving effects, while CBD is effective in treating anxiety, epilepsy, and other debilitating conditions. The two cannabinoids have a wide-range of applications, which can be explained by understanding their differences.

What is THC?

Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol, shortened to THC, is the most common cannabinoid in cannabis. THC gives cannabis its psychoactive effects, and is one of the most powerful parts of the plant when it comes to its medicinal benefits. The most common use for cannabis is for pain relief, in which THC plays a significant role. Studies show that THC offers the greatest pain reduction out of all the cannabinoids. THC is also shown to alleviate depression and anxiety, nausea, spasms, and sleep disorders, along with other conditions. THC binds with receptors in the brain that control pain, mood, and other feelings by mimicking cannabinoid chemicals that occur naturally in the body. CBD, like THC, also has a direct impact on brain function but in a different way.


What is CBD?

Cannabidiol, shortened to CBD, is the second most abundant cannabinoid found in cannabis. Although the CBD molecule is almost identical to the THC molecule, CBD is non-psychoactive. While THC binds with receptors in the brain, CBD doesn’t quite fit in these receptors. Instead, CBD blocks the receptors, preventing other cannabinoids, such as THC, from triggering them. CBD is said to assist with anxiety, cognition, movement disorders, pain, and inflammation.


Medicinal Benefits

THC and CBD both have an extensive list of health benefits. Although more research needs to be conducted, initial studies have shown that the two chemical compounds have similar effects for treating medical conditions. For example, people can use either THC or CBD to treat pain, anxiety, and nausea. There are, however, a number of conditions that require specific usage of THC or CBD. Some of the medical conditions that benefit from THC use include glaucoma, side effects of chemotherapy, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, muscle spasticity, low appetite, and insomnia. Research indicates that CBD may be useful in treating medical conditions including seizures, inflammation, psychosis, and migraines.

Side Effects

Because CBD is non-psychoactive, it does not have any known side effects. Side effects might occur if combined with other medications. It’s also worth noting that not all CBD is created equal. Different plants can produce a variety of side effects. It’s important to confirm the CBD you consume is lab tested and extracted from a reliable source. A person consuming THC may experience some temporary side effects including dry mouth, red eyes, memory loss, coordination issues, increased heart rate, and a general feeling of being high. Neither CBD or THC can be fatal when taken correctly. Neither chemical compound is addictive.

Legality in the United States

The legality of cannabinoid products in the United States is dependent on their concentration and source. CBD products have gained immense popularity over the past few years. These sorts of products sold online or in grocery stores are almost always derived from high-CBD, low-THC (below 0.3%) hemp. CBD itself is not listed under the Controlled Substances Act, making it legal in all 50 states provided it is extracted from low-THC hemp. If the CBD is derived from a high-THC cannabis plant, it is illegal unless obtained through a state-regulated cannabis program. On the contrary, THC is listed in the Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule 1 narcotic, but many states have passed cannabis regulations permitting medical or adult-use cannabis.


The main difference between THC and CBD is the effects they have on you. THC provides a euphoric feeling when consumed due to the process through which the compound binds with the human endocannabinoid system’s receptors. CBD does not bind effectively, which is why it is non-psychoactive. CBD can also lessen the psychoactive effects of THC by suppressing the bound receptors. Another key difference between the two chemical compounds is their legal standing. CBD isn’t a controlled substance, while THC is. Hemp-derived CBD (cannabis plants with below 0.3% THC levels) is legal in most countries, while THC isn’t. Cannabis is a complex plant with relatively little available research due to its legal standing. We are only just beginning to learn the differences between THC and CBD and the many ways cannabinoids work together and interact with the human body.

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