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CBD vs THC: How Do These Cannabinoids Differ?

Medical cannabis has been the subject of discussions amongst various people and government agencies for many years. More specifically, the interest has been focused on getting to the bottom of the differences between different types of cannabinoids.

CBD and THC have been at the forefront of these discussions concerning the various benefits versus the potentially harmful effects they can cause. Keep reading to learn more about what these two types of cannabis are and how they can benefit your health.

CBD droplet dosing a biological and ecological hemp plant herbal pharmaceutical cbd oil from a jar.

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD), is an active compound found in the cannabis plant, otherwise known to most people as marijuana. While CBD typically contains traces of THC, the compound found in marijuana, it has been widely used for the treatment of various ailments. Taken from the hemp plant, CBD is known to be a safer component since it does not cause the “high” that you get from other compounds. Additionally, studies have shown that CBD does not have properties that would normally cause dependency. 

Although more research is needed about the various effects of CBD, there have been more and more products that are showing up in the market that have the compound in them. From foods and supplements to various topical products such as CBD oil, lotions, and creams, many companies have come out with lines of products that have CBD in them.

What is THC?

THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is the primary psychoactive compound that is found in cannabis. This particular compound is found in the resin from the glands of the cannabis, or marijuana plant. THC, when ingested through various methods, causes the “high” feeling often referred to as euphoria due to its ability to activate the areas of the brain that produce dopamine.

This activation produces a higher level of dopamine to be released, which causes the entourage effect. THC is typically consumed by humans through smoking marijuana but is also found in edibles, oils, tinctures, capsules, and other forms.

What Are the Main Differences Between CBD and THC?

Although CBD and THC can have different effects on the body, they both affect the endocannabinoid system, which controls homeostasis in the body. The main differences between the two compounds have to do with where they come from and the key effect. CBD comes directly from the hemp plant and is commonly referred to as non-psychoactive.

The research on the compound states that while it has altering effects on the brain, it does not cause the “high” feeling and is not found to be addictive. THC, on the other hand, is found to be sourced directly from the marijuana plant and is referred to as psychoactive properties. This is because it has a direct effect on the brain that can cause intoxicating effects. THC is also found to be an addictive substance.

Chemical Structure of CBD and THC

When it comes to the chemical makeup of CBD and THC, it is found that while their molecular structures are similar, there is some difference in the arrangement of the specific atoms. Both CBD and THC have the same number of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms.

Since they have a similar structure to the body’s endocannabinoids, they interact with cannabinoid receptors in the body to produce various effects. This interaction allows neurotransmitters to be released into the body, which can account for the many benefits that often are reported.

Psychoactive Contents

While the chemical makeup of both THC and CBD are similar, the psychoactive effects are very different. This is why people tend to have different side effects of each of the different compounds, even though they come from the same source. Since THC content attaches itself to the cannabinoid (CB1) receptors in the brain, it produces a psychoactive effect that gives you an intoxicating feeling.

Large doses of the substance can result in either the intense feeling of euphoria or in some cases can bring on the need for sleep. CBD, however, while it tethers slightly to the CB1 receptors, does not do so in the same way or as strongly as THC. This results in less intense psychoactive effects that do not typically result in intoxication.

Legal Implications of CBD vs. THC

It is important to keep in mind that if you are planning to try CBD or THC products, you should be aware of any legality that may exist where you live. Since laws regarding their use can vary from country to country and state to state, doing some research is probably your best way to stay on the right side of the law. In the United States, THC, found in marijuana, falls under the Controlled Substances Act and is considered illegal at the federal level. Although hemp has been officially removed from this statute, the Food and Drug Administration or the FDA, still consider CBD to be a Schedule I substance.

Recently Washington D.C. and 33 other states in the United States have passed laws related to cannabis use. These laws are directly related to the use of medical marijuana, some with higher levels of THC, as long as they are prescribed by a medical professional. In addition, some state laws within the country have made the use of cannabis, even those that contain THC, legal for recreational use as well. In fact, in these states, it is not uncommon to run across shops and dispensaries that sell the products legally.

The Farm Bill of 2018 included several stipulations regarding the market of hemp-related products. One part of this bill was concerning being able to transport these products across state lines. Additionally, the bill created the law that CBD products can only contain 0.3% of THC to be considered legal. Any more than that would classify it as marijuana which is considered illegal under the law in many places.

You will need to remember that since the laws vary depending on where you live, you should always check the state and country laws to ensure that you are following the guidelines. In most states that have declared it illegal to use marijuana and THC, if found in your possession could result in hefty legal ramifications.

Health Benefits of CBD vs. THC

While studies are still being conducted to find out the full medical benefits of cannabis products on the health of humans, there have been many reports that show that the substance can be helpful. Many people and studies have shown that cannabis in many forms can help the effects of many ailments.

There are many similarities in the health benefits of both THC and CBD, but it is important to know which type of product you are looking for. This is because of the intoxicating effect that can be caused by THC. If you are looking for relief of various symptoms, but do not want the “high” then CBD products may be best for you.

Health conditions that can benefit from the use of CBD products include:

  • Seizure disorders (including epilepsy)
  • Inflammation
  • Chronic Pain
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Sleep Disorders
  • Migraines
  • Nausea
  • Mental disorders or Psychosis
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
  • PTSD
  • And more

Health conditions that can benefit from the use of THC products include:

  • Pain
  • Glaucoma
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Insomnia
  • Tremors (often brought on by Parkinson’s Disease)
  • Nausea (oftentimes related to cancer treatment)
  • Low appetite

Although these are just some of the most common health conditions that can benefit from the use of CBD and/or THC-related products, there is still additional research being done to find more effective benefits.

Food and Drug Administration Approved Uses of CBD or THC Products

Even though it is not widely accepted or legalized to be of use regularly many other products exist for certain ailments, the FDA has approved the use in certain instances. Some drugs have been approved in recent years that have CBD and/or THC substances in them. Some of these drugs and their uses are:

  • Epidiolex, which is a medication that contains CBD, has been approved to treat seizures brought on by certain severe types of epilepsy. The two types of epilepsy treated with this medication are Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gasaut syndrome.
  • Cesamet is a medication that is used to treat weight loss and appetite disorders related to chemotherapy and/or HIV/AIDS treatments. This drug uses a substance that is similar to THC but is a synthetic version called nabilone.
  • Marinol and Syndros are also used to treat symptoms caused by various cancer treatments to stave off nausea and vomiting that can occur. Again, this drug uses a synthetic version of THC called dronabinol.

Side Effects of CBD vs. THC

Like most things that are taken to help with various ailments, CBD and THC can have certain side effects that can be more severe for some people. Side effects can be found to be very mild in some and more intense in others depending on tolerance and medication interactions. Research shows that many of the side effects that are produced from the use of CBD are most commonly associated with medication interactions with many people. Studies have shown some of the following side effects most commonly seen by those taking CBD products:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Irritability
  • Dizziness
  • Appetite changes

For those taking products containing THC, you may experience many side effects that are often temporary but can be extremely unpleasant. Some of these side effects of THC are:

  • Dry mouth
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Memory loss
  • Anxiety
  • Balance issues
  • Slower reaction times

In some cases, research has shown that long-term use of THC or marijuana can have lasting side effects such as cognitive development issues as well as lasting short-term memory problems. Because of this, the use of THC or marijuana is strongly cautioned and it is recommended that you understand all risks associated with the use.

How Do You Take CBD vs. THC

For both CBD and THC, there are a variety of forms that you can purchase and consume these compounds in. While some forms are more common than others, many people enjoy experimenting with a wide variety of high-quality products and supplements.

While most people consume THC in the form of smoking marijuana, there are many other products that exist. It is also important to note that some products are considered isolates, which only contain CBD, while others are broad-spectrum, which contain other substances except THC. Full-spectrum products contain THC, CBD, and other substances as well. Some products that contain the compounds are:

While these are the most commonly found products that contain these substances, mostly CBD, there will most likely be many more products that will be produced in the future. This is because of the changes in laws and regulations that are happening and will most likely continue to evolve as more information is learned.

Drug test blank form with blue pen

Drug Testing: CBD vs. THC

Many people wonder about whether or not CBD or THC consumption will show up on routine drug testing. While most people know that smoking marijuana will typically result in a positive reading on a drug test, does CBD  or other forms of THC also show up? Since cannabinoids are stored in the body’s fat content, they often can be detected in a drug test for weeks after consumption. Additionally, most tests are designed to specifically look for THC or related substances, which is why the compound will show up even after minor use.

CBD, on the other hand, while still containing trace amounts of THC, may or may not be detected in routine drug tests. This is dependant on the amount of CBD that has been consumed by the individual. It is also important to keep in mind that while there are specific regulations in place regarding the amount of THC that can be contained in CBD products, labels have been known to be mislabeled and can result in a positive drug test. This is why consuming these products should be done with knowing all the risks involved.

Precautions You Should Be Aware Of

Studies by various sources have shown that in addition to the side effects that may occur from taking CBD or THC products, there are other precautions that you should keep in mind. Some of these precautions are related to the side effects, however, others are designed to make you aware of other long-term effects. For example, the FDA mentions that consuming CBD for a long period of time could result in damage to certain organs such as the liver.

Consumption of CBD in conjunction with certain medications or alcohol has also been noted as a concern. In addition, since there are many unknowns about the consumption of CBD or THC, caution is advised for anyone who decides to try them out. While there are many known benefits, there are many other things that need to be considered before researchers can say whether or not these products are safe for everyone.

Now You Know All About CBD and THC!

As interest in CBD and THC-related products grows, there will be more production of methods of consumption. For those with certain medical conditions, the use of these products has been a lifesaver. Other people have noted that CBD products are have been helpful with health and wellness routines such as meditation. Since the benefits will continue to be unfolded, it is safe to say that more and more states will pass laws and regulations that will allow for the use of both CBD products as well as THC products such as marijuana.

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