Cannabis plant and CBD and THC

CBD vs. THC: Differences, Benefits, and Effects

With the growth in the legality of cannabis and hemp products, consumers have become more curious about the available options. This includes THC and CBD which are naturally-occurring compounds in the cannabis sativa plants. You can extract CBD both from hemp and cannabis which are plants in the cannabis sativa family. Legal hemp has no more than 0.3% THC.

On the other hand, THC is a psychoactive compound in cannabis that is associated with high sensation. You can consume THC by smoking or vaping cannabis. THC is also available in forms like tinctures, oils, capsules, and much more. Despite both THC and CBD interacting with the endocannabinoid system in the body, they have varying effects. Here, we will learn about the difference between CBD and THC.

CBD vs. THC: Major Differences

It isn’t easy summarizing all the differences between THC and CBD. All the same, below are the vivid ones in a nutshell:


  • On a federal level, CBD products derived from hemp are legal
  • CBD can be extracted from marijuana and hemp plants
  • You won’t get high from CBD since it is a non-intoxicant
  • CBD does not bind to the brain’s cannabinoid receptors directly
  • People associate CBD with medical, wellness, and health benefits
  • CBD will never cause toxicity even when used in large amounts
  • You can use CBD to dampen the high you get from THC.


  • In Uruguay and Canada, THC is completely legal. 16 states in the USA have legalized the recreational use of THC.
  • You can only extract THC from marijuana plants
  • THC has intoxicating properties and can get you high
  • Sends signals to the brain by binding to cannabinoid receptors
  • THC is linked to recreational use of cannabis despite having so many health benefits
  • Low THC doses reduce anxiety and stress, but high doses aggravate the feelings among sensitive users for its biphasic nature.

Chemical Structure

As we mentioned earlier, THC and CBD have almost the same chemical structure, whereby the molecular structure is the same. Both have 2 oxygen atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 21 carbon atoms. The difference arises in the manner in which the atoms have been arranged that makes the difference in the effect that both have on your body.

Psychoactive Components

Despite having an almost similar chemical structure, cannabinoids have different psychoactive effects on the body. Well, just like THC, CBD is psychoactive but not like THC. You will never experience the high associated with THC when you use CBD. What happens is that THC binds with CB1 receptors to produce euphoria feelings. On the other hand, CBD will bind weakly if that must happen. CBD actually helps to reduce the psychoactive effects that are associated with THC. You will find CBD in different forms including gummies, gels, oils, and many more.

Potential Benefits

Even though research into the potential benefits of CBD and THC is in the early stages, there is some evidence that the substances could help in treating different conditions. CBD and THC have similar effects and are commonly used in treating similar ailments. All the same, there exist some differences. CBD will alleviate symptoms that are related to:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Seizures
  • PTSD
  • Migraines
  • Inflammation

THC, on the other hand, could be administered as medical marijuana to alleviate the symptoms of conditions like:

  • Glaucoma
  • Tremors
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Poor appetite

THC and CBD leaf

Side Effects

There is some research that suggests that CBD and THC are safe and will result in a few side effects. Even though they are deemed safe, it does not necessarily mean that you won’t experience unwanted effects. Side effects from CBD can include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Stomach upset
  • Drowsiness
  • Tiredness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Crankiness
  • Lightheadedness

THC could cause side effects such as:

  • Memory loss
  • Dizziness
  • Concentration issues
  • Balance
  • Vomiting

Legal Status

In the United States, the laws regarding cannabis are evolving very fast. According to federal law, CBD derived from hemp is legal, having met the requirements in the 2018 Farm Bill. This bill requires that the hemp-derived CBD has less than 0.3% THC. State laws, however change from one state to the other. For instance, there are 33 states, including Washington D.C. that have made different cannabis-related laws. The laws make the use of cannabis with very high THC levels legal. However, you might need a prescription from licensed physicians to use cannabis. Additionally, there are several states that have allowed recreational use of THC and cannabis.

Drug Testing

Cannabinoids like CBD and THC are normally stored in body fat. In this case, they can be easily detected weeks or days after use. All the same, not all drug tests will detect CBD. The standard drug tests screen for chemicals that are related to THC. This means that marijuana or THC use could be detected upon screening. Hemp can yield some THC along with CBD. This, therefore, means that you could have a positive THC test even though you haven’t used any. The bottom line is that CBD alone will not show on a drug test.

The Bottom Line

Summing up, we believe that you now understand the difference between CBD and THC. These two are complementary but different compounds that support the working of the endocannabinoid system. Rather than looking at them as competitors, they should be looked at from a different perspective. Both have unique health benefits. When used together, they help you to discover the full therapeutic benefits that cannabis has to offer. In case your region has not legalized marijuana, you can enjoy the benefits that full-spectrum CBD from hemp offers. In all 50 states, hemp-derived products remain legal so long as the THC levels do not exceed 0.3%. This low THC amount will never get you high but can evoke the beneficial entourage effect.


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