- Both THC and CBD are cannabinoids – naturally occurring cannabis-derived compounds
- They can both have effects on the human body and mind
- THC and CBD are very different in terms of effects, health benefits, and more
- THC is the part of cannabis that makes people feel high but also offers pain relief
- CBD can help with stress relief, pain relief, and more
Cannabis contains a lot of different compounds, from cannabinoids to terpenes. CBD and THC are two of the best-known and most talked-about cannabinoids, but what do they do, and how do they differ? In this guide, we’ll take a look at CBD vs THC comparison, highlighting the similarities and differences between them.
In This Article
What Is THC?
THC, otherwise known as tetrahydrocannabinol, is one of the most famous cannabinoids. It’s the primary psychoactive ingredient in the marijuana plant, which means that it’s part of the plant which makes people feel high. It has various other effects and was initially discovered back in the 1960s. [Source]
THC works by binding with CB1 receptors in the body’s endocannabinoid system, or ECS. The ECS is responsible for controlling and affecting various bodily processes and sensations, like the pain response and the feeling of tiredness or hunger. By interacting with the ECS, THC can trigger feelings of euphoria, along with increased appetite, heightened senses, and more.
What Is CBD?
CBD, also known as cannabidiol, is one of the most common cannabinoids in both the hemp plant and cannabis plant. It’s found in a wide range of cannabis strains, as well as in hemp plants, CBD was discovered by scientists back in the 1940s and has since been researched and studied for its medicinal and therapeutic medical benefits. [Source]
Just like THC, CBD is absorbed into the human body through the endocannabinoid system. However, CBD doesn’t actually bind to any of the CB1 or CB2 receptors in the ECS. Instead, it has an effect on how those receptors act. In doing so, it can trigger various effects, like a feeling of relaxation, or pain relief, but it’s not intoxicating and won’t get you high. [Source]
Where Do They Come From?
So, we’ve seen some of the basics of THC vs CBD, but where are these two cannabinoids found? Well, while both of them are present in the plant matter of the cannabis plant, it’s important to note that CBD can also be found in hemp plants, whereas THC is not present in hemp (or is only present in extremely small trace amounts).
THC vs CBD: Similarities
CBD and THC have a lot in common when examined under a microscope, containing the same numbers of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms, for example. They can have similar effects and can both help with certain medical conditions, too.
CBD vs THC: Key Differences
While CBD and THC have a couple of things in common, they’re generally quite different compounds with different effects, benefits, levels of psychoactivity, and even different legal statuses, too. Let’s take a look at some of the main differences you need to know between CBD and THC.
It’s interesting to take a look at CBD and THC molecules under a microscope, as we can see that they actually share similar chemical structures. They’re both made up of the same number and combination of atoms: 21 carbons, 30 hydrogens, and 2 oxygens. However, the difference between them comes in the arrangement of those atoms.
Since the molecules are arranged a little differently in CBD and THC, the two compounds can have different effects and work in different ways within the human body. They both interact with the ECS, but they do so in different ways.
Both CBD and THC can have a wide range of effects on the human body, and they share certain effects, but also have some that are completely unique and separate from one another.
- THC is known for inducing feelings of euphoria and creating a high sensation. It may also help people feel more motivated, chatty, sociable, and creative. It can also stimulate a person’s appetite and offers pain relief and nausea-relief feelings.
- CBD, meanwhile, can also provide pain relief and nausea relief, as well as the ability to ease feelings of stress, anxiety, and even depression. It may also promote feelings of calmness and relaxation in the user. It does not affect appetite, nor does it produce a high.
Both THC and CBD are used medicinally due to their potential benefits.
- THC can help with inflammation, pain, stress, and insomnia, and it may aid in the treatment of various other conditions, like helping cancer patients or those with appetite problems.
- CBD, meanwhile, can offer pain relief, anti-inflammation properties, and assistance for those with various mental health conditions, including depression. It can also help relieve nausea and may aid in reducing seizures.
As well as offering some beneficial effects and medicinal benefits, both THC and CBD have a risk of causing some unwanted side effects in the people who consume them.
- THC is regarded as the riskier of the two, as its list of side effects can lead to paranoia, dizziness, disorientation, and dryness of the mouth. Or, in more severe cases, patients might even notice panic attacks, vomiting, memory loss, and concentration problems.
- CBD, meanwhile, can still have some side effects but is regarded as less worrying in this area and shouldn’t cause any serious issues that require hospitalization. However, it may still lead to tiredness, feelings of nausea, lightheadedness, and possible stomach issues.
One of the big areas in which CBD and THC differ is in terms of their psychoactivity. A compound’s ‘psychoactive effect’ refers to its ability to have an effect on a person’s mind, and the term is most commonly used to refer to substances that can make a person feel intoxicated or high.
- THC is an intoxicating and psychoactive compound, and it’s the main part of the marijuana plant that makes people feel high. It does this through binding with CB1 receptors in the ECS.
- CBD is not able to make a person feel high. It’s still technically classed as psychoactive, as it can have an effect on your mind, but it won’t make you feel high or euphoric like THC can.
Laws regarding cannabis products are changing all the time, and many laws have softened in recent years, especially in the US, with various states legalizing overall cannabis use and a variety of cannabis products for medicinal and recreational marijuana use.
In general, THC is more strictly controlled than CBD, due to its ability to make people high. Because of this, you may have an easier time finding CBD products at your local cannabis dispensary compared to THC products.
However, the laws vary from state to state. Some places allow both THC and CBD, while others will allow CBD but might not allow the sale and use of marijuana strains that are high in THC.
How Do They Show in a Drug Test?
Most drug tests look specifically for THC, rather than CBD. CBD can be detected on some tests, as well, but they’re not usually designed for this purpose, and THC is the main compound that they’re trying to track.
How Long Do They Stay in the Body?
CBD can usually stay in your system for between a day and a month, depending on various factors, like how you take it and how much you take. THC, meanwhile, can stay in the system in trace amounts for several weeks and is stored in the body’s fat cells.
Read more about how long marijuana stays in your system.
We’ve seen the differences between CBD and THC, but how do they react when consumed together? Well, thanks to something called the Entourage Effect, CBD and THC actually work together in the human body to produce more noticeable effects in certain areas, like pain relief and stress relief. CBD can also block some of the receptors that THC uses, resulting in a lesser or lighter high.
It’s important to understand the differences and key features of the various cannabinoids you might consume when using cannabis or cannabis products, and the more you know, the better informed you’ll be to make decisions for your body.
Heather Wilson is a passionate cannabis enthusiast who has dedicated over four years of her life to working as a budtender. With a deep understanding of the difference between marijuana strains, cannabinoids, terpenes, and their effects, she has helped countless customers find the perfect product for their needs.
In addition to her work as a budtender, Heather is also an enthusiastic cook who loves to try new recipes incorporating cannabis. Whether she's whipping up a batch of infused cookies or cooking a delicious meal with cannabis-infused oil, Heather is always eager to explore the culinary possibilities of this versatile plant.
For Heather, cannabis is more than just a recreational substance. She uses it for her health and is an advocate for safe and responsible use. With a strong desire to spread awareness about the benefits of cannabis and fight the stigma that still surrounds marijuana, Heather is a true champion of this misunderstood plant.
Through her work and cooking, Heather is helping to change the conversation around marijuana and show the world that this plant has a lot to offer, both medically and recreationally. Heather joined with Brian to found Concept420 in 2022.