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A Comprehensive Guide: Differences Between CBD & THC

Blue Ribbon


Each year, another state progresses forward to legalize the use, sale, and farming of cannabis. More products are readily available than ever before. It’s an exciting time for the cannabis industry.

The two most commonly known cannabis related products are made up of THC and or CBD. Both of these natural compounds come from the cannabis plants marijuana and hemp. Each of these compounds offers several therapeutic and medicinal benefits.

Despite their common origin and benefits, there are a few distinct differences between CBD and THC. Understanding the distinctions between the two and how they work will help you pick the right product for your needs.

If you are considering trying out THC or CBD for the first time, check out this detailed guide to learn about their differences and what compound may best for you.

The Difference Between CBD and THC Chemical Structures

CBD and THC have very similar chemical structures, they contain the same number of oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen atoms. The difference lies in the arrangement of these atoms. This structural difference will cause CBD and THC to give your two vastly different experiences.

CBD and THC compounds are similar to the natural endocannabinoids produced in your body. It’s this similarity that allows CBD and THC to interact with your body.

Your body contains a lesser-known system called as the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system is largely responsible for regulating your:

  • Mood
  • Appetite
  • Sleep cycle
  • Sensation to pain
  • Memory
  • Reproduction/fertility

When CBD and THC molecules interact with this system and its receptors, they can affect how your body and mind experiences pain, emotion, appetite, etc.

Your endocannabinoid system contains several receptors. The two most notable ones are CB1 and CB2 receptors. The minor changes in the chemical structures of CBD and THC will direct the compounds to a specific receptor.

CBD tends to bind dominantly to CB2 receptors. These endocannabinoid receptors connect to your peripheral nervous system and don’t affect your brain as much.

THC molecules prefer to bind with CB1 receptors. These receptors affect certain areas of your central nervous system, including your brain. This interaction is how THC-containing products can give you a notable “high” sensation.

When CBD binds to CB1 receptors with THC, it can weaken the psychoactive effects of THC. These interactions are generally weak and won’t fully negate the effects of the other compound. Beginners will often use CBD in combination with THC for a less intense high.

What Is CBD?

CBD, also known and cannabidiol, is one of the main cannabinoids found in the cannabis and hemp plants. Cannabis contains hundreds of different cannabinoids which offer unique therapeutic benefits.

Cultivators will derive CBD from both hemp and marijuana plants. Hemp plants, however, tend to produce more CBD and less THC, making them ideal for CBD products. CBD derived from marijuana plants will typically contain greater amounts of THC, but according the 2018 Farm Bill all CBD produced from marijuana plants must contain a THC threshold of less than 0.3%. This bill legalized the farming, selling, and use of hemp products, provided they meet specific requirements.

The next most noticeable difference between CBD and THC is CBD doesn’t cause any psychoactive effects. Taking CBD in almost any amount will not lead to a euphoric high.

Those who want to enjoy the benefits of cannabis products without the high will usually pick CBD over THC.

Broad Spectrum vs Full Spectrum CBD

If you’ve looked at today’s range of available CBD products, you’ll find full-spectrum and broad-spectrum options. These names refer to the inclusion of other cannabinoids, like THC, in the CBD product. There are also CBD isolate products available that offer a dose of only CBD, without the inclusion of any other cannabinoids.

Full-spectrum CBD includes most naturally occurring terpenes and cannabinoids, along with up to 0.3% THC. Terpenes are aromatic compounds that offer a variety of potential health benefits.

Broad-spectrum CBD includes a few naturally occurring cannabinoids but is usually completely free of THC. Those who don’t want to risk ingesting any THC should look for broad-spectrum CBD.

Broad and full-spectrum CBD products derived from hemp are legal at the Federal level. Both products must contain 0.3% or less THC to be legal as per the 2018 Farm Bill.

The Amazing Benefits of CBD

CBD hosts a range of desirable benefits. You’ve likely met someone who uses CBD to help manage pain or stress.

The potential health benefits of CBD are continuing to grow as more research and anecdotal evidence of success emerges. Here are several desirable benefits of CBD:

  • Relieving chronic pain and inflammation
  • Easing anxiety
  • Improved sleep
  • Reducing symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)
  • Easing symptoms of Depression
  • Alleviating seizure disorders including epilepsy
  • Manage opioid withdrawal and some other drug withdrawal
  • Alleviate symptoms of Crohn’s disease
  • Manage symptoms of multiple sclerosis
  • Alleviate cancer treatment symptoms
  • Reduce migraines
  • Reduce acne
  • Stimulate the appetite
  • Neuroprotective properties, especially when used with THC
  • Improve hearth health

The benefits you experience may vary from person to person. If you decide to try CBD, you need to pay close attention to the dosage.

Always start with a lower dose and work your way up as needed. Taking too much CBD at once can increase your risk of potentially unwanted side effects.

Potential CBD Side Effects

While rare, CBD still has the potential to cause unwanted side effects. These side effects include:

  • Sleepiness and fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased thirst
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Interactions with certain drugs

If you experience any of these side affects you should lower your CBD dose immediately or quit it for a short period of time. If you have any concerns or questions, you’ll need to consult your healthcare provider before adding CBD to your diet.

What Is THC?

The most well-known natural compound found in the cannabis plant is THC. THC, also known as tetrahydrocannabinol or Delta 9 THC, is a psychoactive compound.

When consumed, whether, through inhalation or oral consumption, you will likely experience a euphoric feeling of happiness and peace. For some, THC can have the opposite effect, causing some anxiety and paranoia depending on the amount consumed. During this time, you might not be able to think as clearly, and you may experience impaired judgment.

This high occurs when the THC molecules interact with your body’s ESC and affects your body’s reward system. When this happens, your body will release high amounts of dopamine.

This natural chemical is the neurotransmitter responsible for regulating your mood and sense of pleasure. Since THC causes the body to release significantly more dopamine than normal, you’ll experience a euphoric pleasurable sensation.

Any form of THC, smoked or eaten, will cause a psychoactive high. The amount of THC needed will vary from person to person.

Some individuals will find they have a low tolerance for THC and will only need a small amount to experience their desired effects. Others may have a higher tolerance and will need more to feel the same effects.

What the Heck Is Delta 8 THC?

More recently, a second type of THC has been hitting the cannabis industry’s headlines. Delta 8 THC is another cannabis compound very similar to the better-known Delta 9 THC. It’s common in most cannabis plants but only in very trace amounts.

Delta 9 and Delta 8 are both forms of THC. They offer similar effects, although Delta 8 is much less potent. Delta 8 also binds and similarly interacts with your endocannabinoid system.

The main difference between these two compounds is the location of their double bond. Their molecular structures are almost the same. Delta 9 THC has a double bond on the ninth carbon while Delta 8 has this double bond on the eighth carbon.

The location of this double bond influences how Delta 8 THC molecules will bind to both the CB1 and CB2 receptors in your endocannabinoid system.

Many researchers consider Delta 8 a degraded form of Delta 9 THC. When the cannabis plant produces too much THC, it starts to store it. Over time, this stored THC will start to degrade and eventually turn into Delta 8 THC.

Combining either form of THC with cannabinoids can maximize your experience and enhance the benefits.

The Amazing Benefits of THC

Like CBD, THC offers many great therapeutic benefits. Medical professionals, for example, may prescribe medicinal marijuana to treat certain conditions and symptoms. THC, whether it’s medicinal or recreational can help with:

  • Relieving chronic pain and inflammation
  • Alleviating nausea and vomiting
  • Promoting sleep
  • Treating symptoms of PTSD
  • Promoting brain health
  • Increasing appetite
  • Easing cancer treatment symptoms
  • Alleviating tremors
  • Managing seizures caused by severe forms of epilepsy
  • Managing glaucoma

THC is fairly safe when consumed in lower doses but taking too much THC could cause negative side effects.

THC Side Effects

The psychoactive property of THC is the most apparent side effect of this compound, some may not consider it a side effect at all. The high you experience will impair your judgment and ability to drive or use any heavy machinery. If you use any product containing THC, use it in a safe comfortable space.

Delta 8 THC doesn’t have as intense a high as Delta 9. Most users describe the psychoactive aspect of Delta 8 as a calm and happy effect. Consuming very high amounts of Delta 8 THC can intensify the high.

There are a few more side effects you should be aware of before trying THC. These include:

  • Increased feelings of anxiety
  • Feelings of paranoia
  • Drowsiness and fatigue
  • Psychosis
  • Increased heart rate
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness and fainting
  • Increased appetite and weight gain
  • Breathing problems when inhaled
  • Temporarily impair cognitive function

You can avoid the majority of these undesirable side effects by taking THC in low amounts. Starting low allows you to better gauge the right dose for your needs as well as get you familiar with the effects of THC.

Beginners should combine their THC with CBD and other cannabinoids. Two things will happen.

First, combining CBD with THC can reduce the intensity of the psychoactive effects. This gives beginners an idea as to how THC will affect them.

Second, the combination of CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids creates an event known as the entourage effect. This idea believes that combining various cannabinoids will enhance the benefits of both CBD and THC.

The Legal Difference Between CBD and THC

The legal difference between CBD and THC is CBD is legal at the federal level and THC is not. CBD is legal in almost all fifty states while recreational marijuana and THC are only legal in 15 states, as of March 31st, 2021. As mentioned, CBD cannot exceed a level of 0.3% THC.

The legality of THC is up to each state’s discretion. Delta 8 THC is illegal in 11 states but legal in all other states. Some may have restrictions on who can buy, sell, or use it.

If you’re considering using either CBD or THC or both, you’ll need to check your state’s laws. You should note that both Delta 9 and Delta 8 THC will show up positive in a drug test. Certain THC-containing CBD products may show up as well.

How To Enjoy Your CBD and THC

You can enjoy CBD and THC in many of the same forms. Vaping is one of the most popular methods to use CBD and THC because it’s easy and fast. The effects are almost immediate upon inhalation.

Smoking is also a fast and effective method. You can find CBD and THC flowers available for smoking. Smoking is less convenient and more conspicuous.

Both forms of inhalation can increase your risk of developing respiratory health issues.

Edibles are gaining popularity and come in a variety of different candies. Many people enjoy cooking with cannabis and CBD. There are no additional health risks with eating CBD and THC products.

Other methods include tinctures, topicals, and sprays. Tinctures are oils that may consist of additional cannabinoids or 100% pure CBD or THC.

CBD and THC topicals are great for joint and muscle pain. Topicals localize the treatment to a specific area and don’t cause any known side effects.

The method you use will depend on your needs or the condition you’re trying to treat.

Safely Use CBD and THC Today

By understanding the difference between CBD and THC, you can safely start using either or both of these compounds. CBD and THC offer numerous health benefits with far fewer side effects than other medications. Give CBD and THC a try today to enjoy your best life.

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