There is a huge demand for all-natural medicines as people become dissatisfied with traditional pharmaceuticals and their harmful side effects. Cannabinoids like CBD and THC have a wide range of health benefits, a high safety profile, and are becoming more popular worldwide.
Because these two compounds are both derived from the same plant species, it is often assumed that they are both a form of medical marijuana and have the same effects on the human body. However, as we will reveal, there are some distinct differences in both their molecular structure and in how CBD and THC each interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system.
What is the Difference Between CBD and THC?
Chemically, these two cannabinoids are the same. They each are made of 30 hydrogen atoms, 21 Carbon Atoms, and 2 Oxygen atoms. The main difference between the two substances is how these atoms are arranged.
To put it simply, it is a bit like having a set of blocks. You may have 15 Red rectangles, ten yellow squares, and three green diamonds. Each set is the same, yet two people can arrange them to create entirely different structures.
The difference between CBD and THC is in how they are structured, and this is significant because of how they each react with our physiology. So, let’s take a look at how this works.
The Endocannabinoid System
Cannabinoids are chemicals found in the cannabis plant. There are over 85 known cannabinoids, some more prominent than others and some that researchers are only beginning to understand. Of these cannabinoids, there are two which are the most plentiful: Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Cannabinoids are natural chemicals that interact with a vast network of receptors in the body known as the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). The ECS maintains homeostasis across all the other systems of the body and regulates such functions as pain, inflammation, temperature, appetite, mood, and much more. The ECS is vitally important to life.
Yet, for something so important, this system was only discovered in 1988, when scientists identified a receptor that worked with THC in the brain. They named it cannabinoid receptor one or CB1. A few years later, a second receptor was found, CB2.
The CB1 receptors are found primarily in certain parts of the brain which are responsible for specific processes like cognition, motor skills, memory, and mood. The CB2 receptors are more plentiful in the central nervous system and the immune system. These receptors interact with CBD and THC to produce different effects.
CBD and THC—Key Differences
Both cannabinoids bind to the CB2 receptors but how they interact with the CB1 receptors is where they differ the most. THC binds directly with the CB1 receptors, sending a signal to the brain. The interaction results in a mind-altering or psychoactive effect that we know as merely being “stone” or “high.”
By contrast, CBD doesn’t bond with the CB1 receptor directly. In fact, when CBD and THC are used together, the bond between the CB1 receptor and THC is effectively neutralized, and the psychoactive effects are dulled. The benefits of CBD are caused instead by indirect actions.
CBD activates certain receptors called TRPV1 receptors that control inflammation, pain, temperature, and more. It also works by inhibiting Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase (FAAH). This creates endocannabinoids like anandamide to play a stronger role in the body.
Anandamide is also called the bliss molecule, and it is associated with pleasure, motivation, and many other things. It can lose its effectiveness when there is too much FAAH in the body. CBD counteracts this to bring everything back into balance.
Medical Marijuana contains high amounts of THC and provides many incredible health benefits that help millions of people. However, not everyone enjoys its psychoactive effects. For some people, they are uncomfortable and product anxiety rather than euphoria. For others, the stigma of using “pot” is something they simply can’t overcome. Other people would benefit tremendously from the compound but can’t use it either because their occupation prohibits it, or it is not legal where they live.
CBD, however, has no psychoactive effects, so it won’t make a person feel intoxicated at all. Additionally, it delivers many of the same healthful benefits that THC does, making it an ideal option for people who would prefer not to use THC.
The Legalities of THC and CBD
THC has been illegal in the United States for some time, and although the public, politicians, and the medical community are all beginning to see how valuable it can be in the treatment of many conditions, it may be a while before it is entirely legal. In certain situations, and in individual states, it is legal for medicinal or recreational use, and the federal government allows states the authority to choose how they want to approach the substance.
The primary reason it is classified as a prohibited substance lies in the fact that it is mind altering and used recreationally.
However, CBD sourced from hemp is not federally illegal. In fact, as of December 2018 with the passing of the farm bill, it is legal in all 50 states. Well, mostly. CBD derived from industrial hemp containing less than 0.3% CBD is permissible and considered an agricultural commodity. CBD derived from marijuana is still prohibited
Here is where it gets a little tricky though.
States are allowed to override the feds when it comes to cannabis legislation, so in some places, hemp remains illegal. However, this is changing rapidly, and fewer and fewer areas are enforcing these laws. In either case, it is good to know the legal status of hemp in your state before you decide to use it.
Accessibility of THC and CBD
THC and CBD can both be found in a wide range of cannabis products including oils, capsules, vape products, edibles, beverages, salves, lotions, and skin care products. They have even been spotted in everything ranging from coffee and burgers to shampoo
In states where marijuana is legal, access is relatively easy, and there is generally little issue unless you attempt to cross state lines with weed. For the medical market, a bevy of dispensaries have opened up, and many varieties and strains of both THC and CBD can be found in various forms. In recreational markets, stores often carry both as well.
Obtaining them online is a different story. The post office does not permit THC products to be mailed so most people wanting a product with THC will have to visit someone local to get it.
Comparatively, CBD is simple to obtain online. While there are some minor postal regulations related to mailing CBD products, there is nothing too complicated about it, and it may even be easier than obtaining it at a dispensary. Many dispensaries only carry CBD that comes from marijuana. Remember that to be legal at the federal level; it must be sourced from only the hemp subspecies of cannabis.
The Entourage Effect
The entourage effect is a proposed theory that combining cannabinoids produces a more potent therapeutic effect than if one cannabinoid is used on its own. When researchers talk about the entourage effect, they are usually referring to the synergy that happens when combining both CBD and THC. Some experts believe that the two work better together than they do separately.
If that is the case, then full-spectrum CBD with the inclusion of all its complementary compounds (including the minor cannabinoids and even the trace levels of THC that are allowed under federal law) may have a more potent therapeutic effect. On the other hand, some people swear by single molecule CBD as being the most effective for them.
In the end, it likely boils down to personal choice. What works for one person may not work for another. Every person’s physiology is different.
It is interesting to note that when people become paranoid or anxious after using THC, a dose of CBD can quickly minimize these uncomfortable symptoms.
Key Takeaways of This Article
• CBD and THC both come from the cannabis sativa plant
• CBD is more prevalent in the hemp species, whereas THC is predominant in
• THC is psychoactive while CBD is not
• Both THC and CBD may have profound medical benefits
• THC is used recreationally as well as therapeutically, but CBD is only used therapeutically
• Industrial hemp is legal, yet marijuana is still illegal at the federal level.
While CBD and THC each share many of the same benefits, they also have a lot of differences that set them apart. Both compounds have tremendous benefits to health and well-being, and they show great potential for healing. But for some, the mind-altering effects of THC are uncomfortable.
Because CBD is easy to obtain and not punishable at the federal level, it is an ideal compound to use for both everyday health and chronic conditions. Millions of people have found relief with this powerful all-natural supplement and you could be next.
Thanks for reading our article. We hope we have cleared up any confusion between the two cannabinoids. If you have questions or comments, please feel free to hop in and engage in the comments section below.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.