The Real Difference Between CBD and THC That Everyone Is Wondering

by Jenna Crawford July 26, 2018

The Real Difference Between CBD and THC That Everyone Is Wondering

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are two types of cannabinoids found naturally in the resin of the marijuana plant, Cannabis sativa. Both of these substances interact with the cannabinoid receptors found in the human body, but the types of effects brought about by these compounds couldn't be more different. For this reason, CBD is more often used as a medical treatment than THC.

Cannabinoids are a class of compounds unique to cannabis. Because they mimic the body’s own endocannabinoids, they are able to interact with our endocannabinoid system and alter neurotransmitter release in the brain.

Because of the lingering stigma around cannabis, a common misconception is that THC is the “bad” cannabinoid and CBD is the “good” cannabinoid. Scientists have found both to have therapeutic properties, and there’s evidence that they’re able to work synergistically with each other and the other constituents found in cannabis to maximize their natural effects.

Here is a list of the real difference between CBD and THC that everyone is wondering:

1. THC Will Get You High And CBD Will Not

THC has psychoactive properties that affect your brain and give you a ‘buzz’ while CBD does not. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), or more precisely its main isomer (−)-trans-Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol ( (6aR,10aR)-delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), is the principal psychoactive constituent (or cannabinoid) of the cannabis plant.

Cannabidiol — CBD— is a cannabis compound that has significant medical benefits, but does not make people feel “stoned” and can actually counteract the psychoactivity of THC. The fact that CBD-rich cannabis doesn’t get one high makes it an appealing treatment option for patients seeking anti-inflammatory, anti-pain, anti-anxiety, anti-psychotic, and/or anti-spasm effects without troubling lethargy or dysphoria.

2. THC Dominates Marijuana, CBD Dominates Hemp

While THC and CBD are each found in various concentrations in both types of cannabis plants — hemp and marijuana – THC is most plentiful in marijuana and CBD is present in higher quantities in hemp. THC dominates marijuana’s chemical makeup. In general, marijuana plants are carefully cultivated with the intent of maximizing their concentration of THC.

Hemp’s chemical makeup, however, is dominated by CBD. Hemp is naturally abundant in CBD and contains only trace amounts of THC (no more than 0.3%), well below the psychoactive threshold.

3. The Physiological Effects Of CBD Vs THC

CB1 is a G protein-coupled cannabinoid receptor located primarily in the central and peripheral nervous system with a particularly high abundance in the brain. As part of the endocannabinoid system, it is activated by the endogenous neurotransmitters, anandamide, and 2-arachidonoylglycerol, as well as other naturally occurring compounds including the phytocannabinoids found in cannabis. As a potent partial agonist of CB1, THC stimulates the CB1 receptor leading to the psychotropic effects experienced when consuming cannabis. CBD, on the other hand, is classified as a negative allosteric modulator of CB1, meaning it effectively alters the shape of the CB1 receptor. This change makes it more difficult for CB1 agonists, like THC and other endogenous CB1 agonists, to stimulate the receptor. The fact that CBD does not bind to, or stimulate, CB1 is also the reason it does not produce the psychotropic effects associated with THC.

4. THC is Prohibited Under Federal Law, CBD Is Not

In the United States, THC and marijuana are specifically listed as controlled substances under the Controlled Substances Act and therefore prohibited. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia, however, have passed their own laws permitting the use of medical marijuana containing THC if a licensed physician recommends it. Eight of those states and the District of Columbia have gone a step further and passed laws permitting marijuana with THC for personal use.

CBD is not specifically listed in the Controlled Substances Act. This means that the cannabinoid is federally legal, provided that it’s derived from hemp and not marijuana. CBD oil made from marijuana is prohibited federally, but CBD hemp oil products are legal under federal law. Some states have passed their own policies regulating CBD or hemp, but more often than not, hemp derived CBD is legally accessible in the U.S.


THC and CBD may have come from the same plant, but because of their chemical composition, they are very different. THC is the illegal substance and can usually cause high” feeling to users. While CBD is the one that is medically used because of its composition. In this post, I shared with you the real difference between CBD and THC that everyone is wondering.

Jenna Crawford


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