CBD Vs. THC: What’s the Difference?

Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are trending topics in recent times. You’ve most probably come across articles with titles like CBD vs. THC: What’s the Difference? Or How to Use CBD. Since the legalization of hemp-derived products, these two compounds – CBD and THC- are getting the most attention.

CBD and THC are present in hemp and marijuana, which are both Cannabis sativa plants. So, what’s the difference between these two compounds? There are over a hundred cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant. However, CBD and THC are the most researched.

You’ll learn about CBD and THC, how they affect the body, medical benefits, side effects, and more. This article will answer any questions you might have and give you more understanding of these compounds.

CBD vs. THC: Key Differences

Although CBD and THC are present in the cannabis plant and interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, there are key differences between them.

The primary difference between these compounds is in how they affect the body. CBD will not get you high, but THC most likely will. This is a result of the differences in how these compounds interact with the body’s cannabinoid receptors.

Cannabinoid receptors 1 (CB1) make up part of the body’s endocannabinoid system. These receptors regulate the immune system and bodily functions such as sleep and appetite.

According to one of the best CBD oil companies in the market, cannabidiol (CBD) doesn’t connect well with CB1 receptors. On the other hand, THC effectively attaches to CB1 receptors. Because these CB1 receptors are part of the central nervous system, the binding of THC leads to psychological effects. Thus, when THC interacts with CB1 receptors, there is a psychological reaction.

Since CBD doesn’t activate these CB1 receptors, it does not affect perception or sensory functions. Researches, in fact, suggest that when an individual takes CBD and THC together, CBD can reduce the psychoactive effect of THC, like euphoria. It does this by suppressing CB1 and THC binding activities, thus, preventing the individual from getting too ‘high.’

Also, another difference between these compounds is how they dominate cannabis sativa plants. The cannabis plant includes hemp and marijuana. CBD is most abundant in the hemp plant, while THC is most abundant in marijuana and other forms of cannabis plants. For a plant to be classified as a hemp plant, its THC content must not be higher than 0.3%.

What is CBD?

CBD, an acronym for cannabidiol, is one of the two most prominent compounds in the cannabis plant. This compound was first discovered in the 1940s. Recently, it became more popular as a natural treatment for many health conditions. CBD, as we said earlier, is found in hemp and marijuana plants. However, it is present in high quantities in the hemp plant.

What is THC?

THC is short for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. It’s the prominent psychoactive compound in the cannabis plant. When a person consumes THC, either by smoking cannabis or eating THC-infused products, cannabinoid receptors become activated.

The activation of these receptors has a wide range of effects including, euphoria and hunger. THC causes a feeling of euphoria by signaling the brain to release higher levels of dopamine. And dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter that influences a person’s mood and feeling.

CBD vs. THC: Chemical Structure

This article describes the chemical structures of CBD and THC similar to that of the body’s endocannabinoid. This similarity allows them to interact with the cannabinoid receptors. There is a release of neurotransmitters in the brain as a result.

CBD and THC have an exact chemical formula: 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms. However, there is a slight difference in the arrangement of these atoms. And this accounts for the difference in how they affect the body.

How CBD and THC Affect the Body

CBD and THC work with the receptors present in our brain that release neurotransmitters. These affect bodily processes like memory, pain, sleep, and mood.

There are two types of cannabinoid receptors in the body. THC binds with the CB1 receptor and changes the body’s perception of pain, cognition, motor control, mood, and other feelings. Because of that, THC can cause effects such as euphoria, making you feel “high.”

CBD doesn’t bind with this CB1 receptor and so doesn’t cause any high. It interacts with other elements in the body, including those that control pain, inflammation, and anxiety.

CBD Vs. THC: What Can Get You High?

Regardless of the similarity in their chemical structures, CBD and THC do not produce the same psychoactive effects. CBD changes nervous system functions. However, it’s not in a manner that would get an individual high. CBD helps ease anxiety, depression, and seizures.

Conversely, THC binds with the CB1 receptor in the brain. This interaction produces euphoria and what is described as “high.” CBD doesn’t bind with this receptor. For it to be able to bind with the CB1 receptor, there must be THC present. When CBD and THC are present, CBD can help reduce the unwanted psychoactive effects of THC.CBD vs THC

CBD vs. THC: Medical Benefits

CBD and THC have many health benefits per WebMD. Although there are similarities in their medical uses, there is some variation as well.

The only FDA-approved cannabinoid drug is Epidiolex, a prescription medication that contains CBD. This drug is used for treating two rare forms of epilepsy, according to Insider.

People use CBD for many health conditions, such as:

  • Pain
  • Inflammation
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Seizures
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases
  • Nausea
  • Psychosis
  • Migraines

THC also helps with the following conditions:

  • Pain
  • Insomnia
  • Lack of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Glaucoma
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors

CBD vs. THC: Safety and Side Effects

According to the World Health Organization, CBD is a well-tolerated substance and has no toxic effects. If any side effects are detected, it is usually as a result of CBD interacting with the medication you are taking.

Side effects from CBD intake can include:

  • Changes in appetite
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea

THC is also a generally safe substance. However, temporary side effects can occur, including:

  • Dry mouth
  • Increased heart rate
  • Slower reaction time
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of coordination

The high use of THC can have long-term psychiatric effects. There is no conclusive evidence to show that long-term use of cannabis leads to psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia.

CBD vs. THC: Legal Status

Laws relating to the use of cannabis are continually evolving. Before choosing products containing CBD and THC, it’s important to get familiar with your state laws.

In the United States, THC is included in the Controlled Substances Act. That means it’s not legal under Federal law. However, in 33 states and Washington, D.C., products containing THC and medical marijuana are allowed. You can use them only with a doctor’s prescription.

Furthermore, there are states where the recreational use of cannabis and THC is legal. In such states, you should be able to buy products with CBD.

Laws guiding the use of CBD and THC can vary from one state to another. Be sure to check your state laws to know the legal status of these cannabinoids.

CBD vs. THC: Drug Testing

When you consume cannabinoids like CBD and THC, they get stored in your body’s fat. So, if you are going to get drug-tested, it’s important to stay away from products containing CBD or THC. Even after a week of using them, these substances can show up on drug tests.

Most drug tests look out for chemicals relating to THC. Not all drug tests will detect CBD, except the test is specifically for CBD.

Keep in mind that some CBD products contain trace amounts of THC – less than 0.3%. Although this amount is negligible, it’s likely to show up on a drug test.

Benefits of Taking CBD and THC Together

Raphael Mechoulam and Shimon Ben-Shabat were the first scientists to discover the entourage effect in the late 1900s. They found there was an increase in cannabinoid activity when different cannabinoids are in the body. The entourage effect implies that you get more benefits from taking many cannabinoids together than taking one singly.

Also, taking CBD along with THC may help reduce the unwanted psychoactive effects of THC. For instance, this study suggests that CBD may protect users from the psychotic-like effects of THC.


CBD and THC are the most prominent cannabinoids with many medical benefits. The primary difference between these compounds is: THC will cause an individual to experience high feelings, but CBD will not.

Hemp-derived CBD products are legal on a federal level but illegal in some states. THC is illegal federally but legal under some state laws for medical or recreational use.

It’s important to look into your state laws before using CBD or THC. Also, be sure to consult your doctor before trying products containing these cannabinoids. This is particularly important if you have any medical condition or are on medications.

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