With the rising popularity of natural medicines, the demand for cannabis compounds (CBD and THC) is also increasing due to their wide range of therapeutic benefits. Because of the similar looks of the two cannabinoids, people usually end up taking CBD the same way as THC. However, these products have different impacts on their body. The distinct chemical structures of CBD and THC reveals the actual differences.
What are CBD and THC?
A Cannabidiol or CBD is a naturally occurring chemical compound found in the Cannabis or Hemp plant which contains less than 0.3 percent THC. CBD doesn’t create a “high”.
THC is the main psychoactive compound in the marijuana plant that produces a “high” effect. THC can be extracted from both the plants- Hemp and marijuana, where Hemp has a trace amount of THC level while Marijuana possesses a high level of THC component.
What is Cannabis?
Cannabis is commonly known as Marijuana. It is a tall plant with a stiff upright stem and divided serrated leaves. Cannabis can be divided into two main categories – Hemp and Marijuana that come from Cannabis Sativa.
Hemp Plants are cannabis plants that contain less than 0.3 percent THC and more of CBD. While Marijuana plant, known for its psychoactive properties, contains a high level of THC compound and low levels of CBD.
CBD vs THC: Chemical Composition
In the Cannabis plant, 113 known cannabinoids are found and the most popular of them are Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Despite having the same molecular structure: 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms, what differentiates these two cannabinoids is a slight difference in the arrangement of a single atom makes them indifferent which you can observe in the below illustration:
For those who were less attentive in their chemistry class- an atom is the smallest component of an element, a million times smaller than a human hair…This shows the microscopic difference between the CBD and THC.
Now the question is – with such a microscopic difference, how CBD and THC can make a huge difference? Let’s reveal the actual difference.
Before jumping in, it’s very necessary to understand the cannabinoids and how they affect the body.
A Cannabinoid interacts directly with our body’s Endocannabinoid System (ECS), which is a network of receptors that binds to cannabinoids for maintaining vital bodily functions like sleep, appetite, memory, responses, pain, and more.
Research of various scientists – Raphael Mechoulam, William Devane, and Lumir Hanus made possible efforts to discover the first cannabinoid receptors in 1988, and later in 1995 classified it as the CB1 Receptor. These receptors are generally present in regions of the brain that controls physiological and mental processes such as high cognition, stimulation, memory, emotions, and motor coordination.
While the second receptor- CB2 was identified in 1993, found throughout the immune and Central Nervous System (CNS). These receptors mainly deal with therapeutic treatments of neurodegenerative disorders, cardiovascular, autoimmune, skin, pain, symptoms of cancer and more.
Now, here comes the different roles of tiny atoms in the cannabinoids.
Because of the difference in the chemical composition of CBD and THC, they do not interact the same way with both receptors. Due to this, both the compounds leave different effects on the body, which is likely the major factor for distinguishing CBD from THC.
CBD vs THC: Psychoactive Properties
Despite being derived from the same plant, CBD and THC have a similar chemical structure but still don’t share the same psychoactive properties. Hemp-driven CBD contains a low trace level of THC, meaning it doesn’t create a mind-altering or a High effect. On the other hand, THC is known for its psychoactive effects.
How CBD vs THC Affect the Body?
Except for CBD, all cannabinoids including THC binds to both receptors (CB1 & CB2) found in the bodily system. These receptors are mainly present in the Central Nervous & Immune System, which are responsible for controlling psychological & mental processes such as cognition, feelings, appetite, emotions, perception, sensory, and more. The interaction process results in producing a high effect & binds the mind with a sense of euphoria.
Studies suggest CBD doesn’t bind either of the receptors, rather it helps to stimulate both the receptors which control and regulate the balance of various functions of the body. While in stark contrast, THC binds to CB1 receptors directly.
CBD vs THC: Medical Benefits
Although CBD and THC share the same health benefits. They offer a variety of treatments for various health conditions. However, unlike THC, CBD doesn’t cause any sense of euphoric effect, thus it doesn’t create a high or mind-altering effect. Because of the less risk of side-effects, many people prefer CBD over THC.
CBD offers treatment for multiple health benefits such as:
- Psychosis or Mental Disorders
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
The Food and Drug Administration or FDA has approved Epidiolex which is the first prescribed CBD medicine for treating difficult-to-control forms of epilepsy.
THC provides medicines for several severe health conditions such as:
- Insomnia (Sleep Disorders)
- Low appetite
- Muscle Spasticity
- Chronic Pain
CBD vs THC: Legality
In the United States, laws on cannabis are evolving regularly. Marijuana and THC are listed under the red list, meaning they have controlled compounds that are prohibited under federal laws.
Federal legality of CBD- since the inception of the 2018 Farm Bill, has opened the doors for native farmers to cultivate industrial hemp and also declared the use of CBD infused products legal, throughout the nation. Before the declaration of Farm Bill, only 47 states had legal recognition of CBD. Providentially, now in almost 50 states of the US, hemp-derived CBD and its products have become entirely legal for use.
Despite several states have made some forms of marijuana and recreational use of THC legal, but yet, THC has been classified into Schedule I drug, therefore known defamed drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
CBD vs THC: Side-Effects
According to researchers, CBD is well tolerated, even in higher doses. Even if any side-effects occur with consumption of CBD are likely the result of interactions of drugs between CBD and other medications a person takes.
THC causes short-term side-effects, such as:
- Dry mouth
- Coordination problems
- Slower reaction times
- Red eyes
- Increased heart rate
- Memory loss
Neither compound is fatal. These above-mentioned side-effects are a part of the compound’s mind-altering properties.
However, continuous use of high doses of THC may promote long-term negative psychiatric effects on the user. This condition occurs majorly in adolescents who these days unconsciously consuming large amounts of THC. Such conditions eventually lead to psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia.
CBD vs THC: The Drug Test
CBD doesn’t show up on a drug test.
Although, various products of CBD contain a trace amount of Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main active compound of marijuana.
CBD vs THC: Ways To Take
CBD & THC provides multiple ways of consumption. Some choose to smoke or vape CBD or marijuana, while others choose different ways with certain conditions.
CBD comes in a variety of forms, such as
- Edibles (Gummies/Honey)
- Topicals (Beauty products/Pain relief creams)
- Vape Juices
THC comes in different forms, such as
- Smokable products
- Edibles (brownies)
If CBD and THC are two different compounds, then why do people talk about THC content in CBD oil?
It is known that CBD and THC are the most prominent compounds extracted from the Cannabis plant. Both compounds are produced by both the varieties of cannabis – Hemp & Marijuana.
The difference is – Marijuana has a higher concentration of THC, while hemp has a trace level of THC (0.3%) and a higher concentration of CBD.
Research suggests that the average strain of marijuana strain contains about 12% of THC. CBD oil may contain a few amounts of THC because it is already present in the hemp plant. Cannabidiol products can have no THC more than 0.3% to be legal at the federal level.
CBD vs THC: Final Conclusion
We have known that CBD and THC both may have various health benefits; even, both are considered safe. Still, there’s a possibility of some negative-effects because of interactions between the drugs a consumer takes.
Let’s make out the direct difference between CBD and THC, on the basis of various variants.
|Source||Hemp (<0.3%THC)||Marijuana (>0.3% THC)|
|Chemical Properties||Hydroxyl Group||Cyclic Ring|
|Produce a “high”||NO||YES|
|Illegal||NO(above)||YES(except some states)|
|Interact with Endocannabinoid system||YES(CB2 Receptor)||YES(CB1 Receptor)|
|Side Effect||Almost None||Psychoactive Side Effects|
|Appear on a drug test||Possibly*||YES|
|Helps with insomnia||YES||YES|
We have seen that CBD and THC have many similarities, but they also have some differences which make them distinct from each other.
It is true that in terms of benefits neither THC or CBD is better than each other. Both the cannabinoids provide outstanding medicinal benefits to render the desired relief.
It just depends on the individual’s need to choose either of the two, as for some psychoactive effects of THC may benefit rather than showing several side-effects. Consulting a doctor before choosing your CBD dosage is advisable.