Differences between CBD and THC

A year ago, something remarkable happened. Under the 2018 Agricultural Bill, hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) became legal in all 50 states.

CBD derived from the hemp plant is legal to use as a dietary supplement, and people everywhere are honing its amazing potential benefits. Since the legalization of CBD, we’ve started seeing major stores such as CVS and Walgreen stocking their shelves with CBD products.

You can read all about that story here: “CVS and Walgreens Are Stocking Their Shelves with Controversy

But because THC comes from the cannabis plant and because the word cannabis is often connoted for its psychoactive reactions, there exists many misconceptions about CBD.

cbd vs thc

What’s the difference between CBD and THC? Let’s separate truth from fiction and put things back in the right perspective.

A Little Background First: What are Cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids (kuh·na·buh·noydz) are naturally occurring compounds that when engaged with receptors present throughout our body, produce certain physiological effects.

While there are some 100 different cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, the ones that are most discussed (and therefore better understood) are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD)

thc vs cbd

What is CBD? How is it Different From THC?

CBD is a chemical compound from the cannabis plant. It’s a naturally occurring substance that is often consumed in products such as oils and edibles to experience a feeling of calm.

Unlike its cousin THC, CBD is not psychoactive.

You may be asking, “Is CBD a drug?” CBD is generally not considered to be a drug, it is now classified as a dietary supplement such as fish oil, vitamins, and green tea. 

THC, on the other hand, is the primary psychoactive compound in marijuana. Available in oils, edibles, tinctures, capsules, it’s responsible for the euphoric and psychoactive “high” feeling.

Unlike CBD, THC is intoxicating and delivers a sense of high. You may be asking, “Is THC a drug?” Yes, THC is generally considered a drug in most countries.

cbd vs thc

How Does THC Get You High, When CBD Can’t?

THC and CBD share a similar chemical structure; however, the way the atoms are arranged is different. This difference in biochemistry changes the nature of the compound and how it influences and impacts our bodies.

CB1 receptors are most noticeable in our central nervous system and are affected by a neurotransmitter called anandamide, which controls our mood, pain sensation, and appetite. This implies that CB1 receptors are more likely to have psychoactive consequences as they affect the brain and spinal cord. In fact, our bodies release anandamide during exercise, which is why you are likely to feel euphoric after a good workout.

What Other Differences Can I Expect from THC & CBD?

THC can actually contribute to psychotic symptoms while CBD can alleviate symptoms of psychosis.

THC’s structural arrangement is very similar to anandamide; this allows it to fit in perfectly to the CB1 receptors in the brain, causing you to experience a sense of high or euphoria in the process. In short, the higher the percentage of THC, the more euphoric and “high” you are likely to get.

CBD’s structural arrangement is different from THC.

It takes a different shape and therefore, does not fit into the CB1 receptor. It, therefore, doesn’t make you high. But CBD has an affinity to bind with other receptors in our endocannabinoid system, namely the CB2 receptors.

CB2 receptors are found more in the peripheral nervous system. This means that whatever interacts with CB2 receptors will likely affect the rest of our bodies.

Recent studies suggest that interaction with CB2 receptors is more likely to have some therapeutic effects such as reducing inflammation and pain without any psychoactive aftereffects.

endocannabinoid system

The Entourage Effect – How Do THC and CBD Work Together?

In essence, the entourage effect is the collective results that have been noticed when cannabinoids are combined with other minor cannabinoids. Jeremy Riggle, the chief expert at Mary’s Medicinals, a medical cannabis corporation recognized for its Transdermal Cannabis Patch, says…

“The combined effect is more pronounced in combination than in isolation, helping to prolong or enhance the overall effects.”Jeremy Riggle

In fact, recent studies indicate that CBD products, whether extracted from hemp or marijuana plants when combined with a measured amount of THC act synergistically to offer heightened healing assistances.

So What Happens When You Use The Two Together?

A 2015 study indicated that CBD functions as an anecdote of sorts to THC. Studies revealed that CBD takes on the role of a negative allosteric modular, meaning it attaches to a site on the CB1 receptor distinct from the THC binding site. This bond forces the receptor site where THC attaches to change the shape of the receptor itself, thereby creating a weaker binding of THC resulting in lesser activation of the CB1 receptor.

In a study, Cannabis consumers reported feeling less anxious and phobic when they consumed products that had a combination of THC and CBD as opposed to products that contained only THC.

In another study from the Journal of Psychopharmacology, participants who took CBD before they were given a dose of pure THC said they felt less cognitively impaired and less paranoid than participants who only received pure THC. Wired has gone on record to call CBD as an “antidote” to ‘weed freak-outs.’

Understanding Ratios

The general rule of thumb is: the higher the levels of CBD, the less euphoric you’re likely to feel from THC, not only because there’s less THC in the product, but also because the higher levels of CBD are more likely to combat any psychoactive effects of THC.

Fortunately, all CBD and THC products, when sold, has to indicate the levels of THC and CBD in the product. This will help you to understand the effects it will likely have on your body.

thc vs cbd

Note: People react differently to different ratios. The safest way to know what’s right for you is to consult a certified CBD practitioner. Depending on your medical condition and needs, they will be able to suggest a combination that can work best for you.

Conclusion & Takeaways

CBD and THC are both cannabinoids, but they work very differently in the human body.

CBD comes from the hemp plant, which contains less than 0.3% THC, whereas THC comes from the cannabis plant, which usually contains little CBD and a high concentration of THC. Although THC has been known to have psychoactive effects and be associated with marijuana, CBD derived from hemp has zero psychoactive effects.

Recent studies have shown CBD’s potential health benefits with anxiety, inflammation, sleep/insomnia, pain, and even menstrual cramps. The cannabis plant has been used for thousands of years for its fibers, seeds, and cannabinoids. But, with the recent legalization of CBD derived from hemp and many states legalizing THC for medical and recreational use, people are starting to see discover the differences between THC and CBD. 

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