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CBD & THC: The Difference Between Them

A lot of people out there are against CBD Oil simply because they don't understand that there is a difference between CBD and THC, the cannabidiol compound that is known for creating the well-known "high".

The two most prominent cannabinoids found in Cannabis, the plant genus that includes both hemp and marijuana, are CBD and THC. And while cannabis is usually thought of for the “high” that it creates, that generalization isn’t an accurate one across the board.

Let's take a closer look at what makes CBD Oil different from THC.

CBD & THC: The Difference Between Them


How They Both Interact with the Endocannabinoid System (ECS)

    The endocannabinoid system is a vital signaling system responsible for regulating a wide array of bodily functions, some of which include:

    • Pain
    • Appetite
    • Mood
    • Memory
    • Immune response
    • Sleep
    • Cycles of cellular life and death

    CBD and THC both interact with that system, although in very different ways.

    The ECS naturally creates its own endocannabinoids to help the body function. The chemical makeups of CBD and THC are similar to the body’s own endocannabinoids, which allows them to interact with the body’s cannabinoid receptors to alter the release of neurotransmitters in the brain.

    Despite their similarities, CBD and THC have distinct differences in how they interact with the cannabinoid receptors of the ECS, and consequently the natural effect that they produce.

    THC is Psychoactive, CBD is Not

      One of the key differences between THC and CBD is the attribute that induces a euphoric “high” when consumed. explains the difference between how THC and CBD interact with the endocannabinoid system and the psychoactive properties that can be elicited,

      “When we’re talking about cannabis and euphoria, we’re dealing exclusively with CB1 receptors, which are concentrated in the brain and the central nervous system. The difference between CBD vs. THC comes down to a basic difference in how each one interacts with the cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptor. THC binds well with CB1 cannabinoid receptors. CBD has a low binding affinity for CB1 receptors. That’s where the two diverge.

      “THC partially mimics a naturally produced neurotransmitter known as anandamide, aka “the bliss molecule.” Anandamide is an endocannabinoid which activates CB1 receptors…THC is a “key” that so closely resembles anandamide that it activates CB1 receptors, allowing it to produce some of those same blissful feelings…

      “CBD, by contrast, is not a good fit with CB1 receptors. It’s categorized as an antagonist of CB1 agonists. This means that it doesn’t act directly to activate or suppress CB1 receptors—rather, it acts to suppress the CB1-activating qualities of a cannabinoid-like THC. In other words, when you ingest THC and CBD, the THC directly stimulates those CB1 receptors, while the CBD acts as a kind of modulating influence on the THC. As Project CBD co-founder Martin Lee once wrote: ‘CBD opposes the action of THC at the CB1 receptor, thereby muting the psychoactive effects of THC.’”


      THC Dominates Marijuana, while CBD Dominates Hemp

        CBD and THC are both found in the seeds, stalks, and flowers of both hemp and marijuana. The two compounds exist in cannabis plants in a wide range of proportions, which leads us to our next point:

        Another difference between CBD and THC is that THC is primarily found in marijuana and CBD is primarily found in hemp.

        Medical Marijuana, Inc. says, “In marijuana, THC dominates the plant’s chemical makeup. Marijuana is generally cultivated specifically to maximize its THC content. Over many decades, marijuana has been manipulated and cloned with particular emphasis on increasing its THC concentration and producing more powerful intoxicating effects. While THC content can be as low as 3 percent in marijuana, on average, marijuana strains today contain approximately 12 percent THC.

        “Hemp’s chemical makeup, on the other hand, is dominated by CBD. By definition, hemp’s THC content is no more than 0.3 percent, nearly 10 times less than the least potent strain of marijuana. Instead, hemp naturally has more CBD vs. THC, making it an ideal source of CBD from cannabis.”

        Safety and Side Effects

          The psychoactive properties of THC can cause temporary side effects like:

          • Memory impairments
          • Lowered reaction time
          • Increased heart rate
          • Coordination problems
          • Dry mouth
          • Red eyes

          While there is a risk of negative side effects accompanying THC, according to the National Cancer Institute it isn’t possible to have a fatal overdose, although some studies have found evidence that cannabis strains high in THC can cause long-term negative psychiatric effects when consumed by adolescents.

          In the same piece, Medical Marijuana, Inc. says, “Research indicates even large doses of CBD are well tolerated and safe. There have been some reports of dry mouth, light-headedness, and drowsiness. A recent research review examining the safety and side effects of CBD concluded that CBD appeared to be safe in humans and animals. Even chronic use of CBD by humans showed to cause no adverse neurological, psychiatric, or clinical effects.”


          The fears that people may have regarding CBD typically come from the idea that it's derived from marijuana and from a lack of knowledge of the difference between CBD and THC. But as we’ve seen, there are significant differences between CBD and THC that do make CBD a very viable natural health option!