The cannabis family is host to a diverse group of plants. Each of these plants contains a range of rich compounds known as cannabinoids. One of these compounds, CBD, has been growing in popularity among the public and scientific community for the multitude of health benefits it provides. Another compound, THC, is a psychoactive drug that is illegal in most of the USA. CBD and THC have similarities and differences, and they can be found together and separately. This has led to a lot of confusion about their effects and legal status. What is the difference between THC and CBD? Let’s set the record straight.
The Biological Difference Between THC and CBD
To get to the root of the difference between THC and CBD, we have to start with the science.
(For the non-science buffs out there, skip down to the next sections for more on how THC and CBD will affect your everyday life).
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD)
These two very long words represent two very different cannabinoids. But surprisingly, they are only different because of the way they react to our bodies.
THC and CBD are chemically very similar. Both contain 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms. The only difference is in the arrangement of the atoms in their chemical structure.
When THC or CBD enters the body, it binds with receptors in our endocannabinoid system. This vital body system (much like the nervous system or circulatory system) processes cannabinoids that we produce on our own as well as those that we get from cannabis. That’s right, our bodies have a whole system dedicated to synthesizing cannabis compounds!
Until now, THC and CBD have looked pretty similar, but here’s where things take a turn. Because THC and CBD have a different chemical blueprint, they bind with different receptors in our bodies. THC binds very well with the CB1 (cannabinoid 1) receptors in our brain, and this gives us a euphoric “high.” CBD does not bind with this receptor and therefore does not alter the mind psychoactively.
But, this doesn’t mean that CBD doesn’t do anything. In fact, CBD binds with a number of non-cannabinoid receptors in our body to deliver a wide range of benefits. Some of the receptors it binds with include:
Plenty of studies have been done on how these compounds affect our bodies, but many think that we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the benefits of CBD and other cannabinoids.
The Legal Difference Between THC and CBD
Many don’t give CBD the time of day because of its association with its illegal cousin, THC. But the fact is, the US legal system considers these two compounds to have separate legal identities (depending on their source).
Cannabis plants are broken down into two categories based on their THC content:
Marijuana is an illegal drug in The United States. While many states have legalized marijuana for medical and/or recreational purposes, it is still considered completely illegal at the federal level.
The opposite is true of hemp. Hemp is completely legal at federal and state levels. Because of this, any compounds extracted from hemp are also legal. Therefore, cannabinoids such as CBD are legal if they come from the hemp plant.
Almost all CBD producers extract their CBD from industrial hemp, meaning it’s 100% legal to buy and consume. Though, if you live in a state where marijuana is legal, you should check the THC levels of any CBD products you purchase to make sure they are safe to take across borders.
How THC and CBD Make You Feel
Above, we looked at how THC and CBD affect your body chemistry. Now, we’re going to talk about the differences in how these cannabinoids make you feel.
How You Feel on THC
THC is the psychoactive compound in cannabis that makes you feel high or stoned. Unlike other drugs, THC is known to elicit a wide range of possible sensations, and it can affect different users in very different ways. Here’s what you might to feel when this cannabinoid enters your body:
How You Feel on CBD:
CBD is a non-psychoactive component of cannabis, so you won’t feel high or stoned when taking it. Nevertheless, CBD can have a noticeable effect upon consumption, especially if a high dose is consumed. Here’s what you might feel when taking CBD:
The Benefits of THC and CBD
Many of the effects of THC and CBD happen behind the scenes. This means that they impact your body in a number of ways that you can’t even feel. Both of these compounds have a wide range of benefits for your physical and mental health, which is why they are so highly regarded in the medical community. But, both provide relief in different ways.
The Benefits of THC
Many enjoy the euphoric sensation that THC provides, but it interacts with the body in numerous other ways. THC has been shown to be an effective treatment for:
*Note: THC effectively relieves anxiety for many users, though for others, it can act as a trigger for anxiety. Always ask your doctor before using THC or CBD for medical purposes or otherwise.
THC also has the following benefits:
THC is non-lethal at any dosage, but some negative side effects can be experienced if too much is consumed.
The Benefits of CBD
CBD is taken primarily for its medical benefits as it has no psychoactive effects. It has a wide range of positive effects and more are being discovered as more studies are conducted. Here are some of the conditions that CBD is said to help treat:
CBD has the following benefits:
Studies have shown that CBD can be taken safely at any dosage. Even high doses have not affected users negatively. Despite these findings, you should always consult your doctor before self-medicating with CBD.
The Side Effects of THC and CBD
As is true of most of the things we consume, some undesirable effects can result under certain circumstances. This is true of CBD and THC.
CBD has shown to have virtually no negative side effects on its users. Though, it’s important to speak to your doctor before taking it, as CBD may cause some side effects when it interacts with certain medication.
THC has a number of possible side-effects. Most of the negative side-effects of THC are caused by consuming too much. The side effects include:
The reason that THC has a number of side effects and CBD doesn’t is because the side effects of THC stem from its psychoactive properties. Taking too much THC is considered harmless by most, though children and adolescents who consume high quantities may be at higher risk of developing mental disorders. This is not the case with CBD.
What Is the Difference Between THC and CBD: A Summary
We’ve covered a lot of information in this piece, so here’s a helpful chart to help you understand the differences between THC and CBD.
CBD (Hemp extract)
Understanding the differences between THC and CBD are important if you want to stay healthy and within the law. If you’re interested in trying THC or CBD recreationally for a medical condition, make sure to check with your doctor and consult your state’s legal code to make sure you’re in compliance.