THC and CBD both come from cannabis, but they have different effects on the body and mind, and they aren’t always legal. Learn more. CBD and THC are both derived from cannabis plants, but they’re very different. Learn the differences between CBD and THC. CBD and THC share many similarities, but they also have important differences. So what is exactly the difference between CBD and THC?
CBD vs. THC: What’s the Difference?
You’re probably hearing a lot about cannabis and marijuana products as they become legal in more and more states. Two natural compounds are getting the most attention: CBD and THC.
Cannabis is a plant that makes a thick substance full of compounds called cannabinoids. There are more than 100 of these chemicals in cannabis. They cause drug-like reactions in your body.
CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) are the most common cannabinoids found in cannabis products.
THC and CBD are in both marijuana and hemp. Marijuana contains much more THC than hemp, while hemp has a lot of CBD.
CBD and THC have the same chemical formula — 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and two oxygen atoms. The difference lies in the way the atoms are arranged. That gives CBD and THC different chemical properties, and they affect your body differently.
Both CBD and THC work with receptors that release neurotransmitters in your brain. They can affect things like pain, mood, sleep, and memory.
How CBD and THC Affect the Body
THC is the main psychoactive compound in marijuana. It’s what makes people feel “high.”
We have two types of cannabinoid receptors in our bodies. THC binds with receptors — mostly in the brain — that control pain, mood, and other feelings. That’s why THC can make you feel euphoric and give you that so-called high.
CBD doesn’t cause that high. Instead, it’s thought to work with other elements in the body linked to feelings of well-being.
People take CBD products to help with everything from arthritis and Crohn’s disease to diabetes and multiple sclerosis. Some say it helps with anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain. So far, there’s little evidence that CBD helps with any of these.
The FDA has approved one CBD-based drug. Epidiolex is a treatment for several severe forms of rare childhood epilepsy.
CBD is a hot topic for researchers. The National Institutes of Health clinical trials database shows more than 160 trials involving CBD that are either active or recruiting.
Some states authorize the use of THC as part of medical marijuana, THC may help ease things like:
- Problems with concentration
- Memory loss
Side effects from CBD can include:
- Upset stomach
CBD can also change the way some medicines work. Talk with your doctor about it.
Laws are changing all the time on cannabis. Many states allow medical marijuana, containing THC, for several uses, but it is still illegal under federal law. Some states have made recreational marijuana with THC legal for personal use. But it’s also illegal under U.S. law.
As part of the Farm Bill in December 2018, Congress legalized hemp. But there are still rules about where and how you can sell products that contain CBD. You can’t sell some across state lines, for example. All CBD products are illegal if they’re sold with the promise of medical benefits.
Check your state’s laws before buying products with CBD or THC.
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American Council on Science and Health: “CBD And THC – The Only Difference Is One Chemical Bond.”
Harvard Health Publishing: “Answers to the top questions about cannabis extract,” “Medical marijuana.”
FDA: “FDA approves first drug comprised of an active ingredient derived from marijuana to treat rare, severe forms of epilepsy.”
U.S. National Library of Medicine ClinicalTrials.gov: “CBD.”
UW Health: “Do You Vomit When You Smoke Pot? Here’s Why.”
Alcohol and Drug Foundation: “Medical cannabis.”
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: “Marijuana and Cannabinoids.”
What’s the difference between CBD and THC?
Cannabis consumers have long prized potency (a high THC content) as a primary factor for strain popularity and desirability. This traditional demand for THC has caused an over-saturation of high-potency products, though many consumers now prefer less intense products lower in THC and higher in the non-intoxicating compound called CBD (cannabidiol). Both have unique properties that make them ideal for all your weed needs.
CBD vs. THC: Key differences
THC and CBD are both cannabinoids derived from the cannabis plant, but they’re different in many ways that may influence your next dispensary purchase.
An easy way to think about it is that THC is defined by effects that cannabis makes you feel. CBD will not intoxicate you, or get you high.
What is CBD?
CBD is one of the most abundant cannabinoids found in various strains of the cannabis and hemp plants, with a long list of holistic and medicinal benefits. Like THC, the human body absorbs it via a system of cannabis-friendly receptors called the endocannabinoid system, which helps regulate everything from sleep cycles to immunity to reproductive health.
But unlike THC, CBD doesn’t bind to the system’s primary CB1 and CB2 receptors; rather, it helps regulate how these receptors and cannabinoids interact.
It can also counteract some of the intoxicating effects of THC by binding to other cannabinoid receptors, and will keep THC from activating those receptors. This translates to a less intense psychoactive effect, making products with a mix of CBD and THC great options for first-time consumers.
This does not mean that CBD, by itself, cannot offer a beneficial effect. High doses of CBD often produce a profoundly relaxing experience with ample internal perks. Like stepping out of a hot tub, your body may feel tingly and relaxed, and your brain may be clear.
Breeding the house specialty: Waterloo is a low-THC, high-CBD strain unique to Compassionate Cultivation. (Photo: Ben Adlin)
What is THC?
THC is the star cannabinoid of the weed world. It imparts cannabis’ beloved high sensation, and its use for treating numerous medical maladies via the plant has been cited in medical texts for thousands of years. It was first discovered and isolated in Israel in 1964, and high-THC weed remains the world’s most widely-consumed illicit substance.
THC primarily binds with the body’s CB1 receptors, which abound in the brain and central nervous system, as well as the eyes and spleen.
The intensity of THC’s effects can change when combined with other cannabis and terpenes as part of the entourage effect theory, which argues that “various cannabis compounds work together to create unique effects and benefits.”
CBD vs. THC: Legality
Currently, 37 states plus DC, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands have medical marijuana programs with both CBD and THC products; 18 states have legal adult use laws. The passing of the Farm Bill in December 2018 made industrial hemp a legal agricultural commodity in all 50 states.
However, the legality of hemp-derived CBD may vary from state to state, so it’s important to check your state’s laws before stocking up on hemp-derived CBD products.
Marijuana and THC are classified as Schedule I substances and remain illegal at the federal level. Strains that have a high CBD:THC ratio are legal only in states with legal, regulated cannabis markets.
CBD vs. THC: Molecular structure
On a molecular level, THC and CBD have a lot in common. They resemble the endocannabinoids our bodies naturally produce, and both contain 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms. They diverge in the structures that connect these atoms, which impacts how they bind to different receptors and catalyze the release of neurotransmitters in the human body. This accounts for their distinct effects on consumers.
CBD vs. THC: Psychoactive components and effects
The molecular differences between CBD and THC contribute directly to their difference in effects on the body and endocannabinoid system. THC’s molecular structure fits perfectly into CB1 receptors and mimics the effects of endocannabinoid anandamide, which signals the brain to release dopamine—hence, the high. CBD’s atomic arrangement means it does not bind well to CB1 and CB2 receptors, but its presence can counteract the presence of THC binding, as well as influence the efficacy of other neurotransmitters in the body.
CBD vs THC: Medical benefits and effects
In the limited body of marijuana research, cannabinoids like THC and CBD have shown to work most effectively when in tandem with one another, terpenes, and other minor marijuana compounds in a synergy called the entourage effect. But both can help address a number of conditions in isolation.
CBD medicinal effects
The list of conditions CBD may help with continues to grow and evolve. Despite ample self-reported and studied evidence, more research is still needed to better understand the efficacy and range of CBD’s benefits for humans and animals with endocannabinoid systems. Many use CBD and CBD-based products to manage the following symptoms and conditions:
- Epilepsy and seizure disorders
- Pain and inflammation
- PTSD and anxiety
- Crohn’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Opioid withdrawal
Though clinical and anecdotal evidence suggests CBD can help manage different conditions, CBD became most famous for treating a rare and debilitating form of pediatric epilepsy. Dravet’s Syndrome is notoriously resistant to current treatment methods. People with the condition are plagued by seizures, often up to hundreds a day, and they usually worsen as people age and can be life-threatening.
Currently, treatment methods include having a child wear an eyepatch, specialized diets, and brain surgery, but all have mixed success rates.
One of the earliest CBD success stories involved a young girl with Dravet’s Syndrome named Charlotte Figi, who at five years old was given an ingestible oil derived from Charlotte’s Web, a high-CBD cannabis strain specifically developed to provide her with all the benefits of the plant without the high.
In less than two years, Charlotte went from a monthly seizure count of 1,200 to about three. Other success stories followed and more parents have begun to speak out, particularly parents desperate for access to this life-saving treatment.
Though Charlotte passed in April of 2020 at the age of 13, she far outlived the prognosis given to her before starting CBD treatment, which predicted she wouldn’t live past eight.
In 2018, the FDA approved Epidiolex, the first CBD product federally approved to treat Dravet’s Syndrome. The DEA has scheduled it as a Schedule V substance.
THC medicinal effects
While the euphoria that comes with smoking, dabbing, eating or ingesting weed doesn’t officially count as a medical treatment, high-THC cannabis and byproducts have a long history of mitigating mental and physical health symptoms and conditions.
Many patients find that a balance of CBD and THC offers the best symptom relief as the two work together synergistically, and they overlap in treatment, but THC is particularly effective in relieving the following symptoms and conditions.
- Nausea and vomiting
- Anxiety and depression
- Loss of appetite
How to find the best CBD cannabis product for you
CBD has no lethal dose or known serious side effects, and many of THC’s negative side effects have been debunked as based on bad-faith research. Using cannabis-derived compounds for pediatric conditions remains a touchy subject in a culture rife with cannabis stigma. We recommend doing your own research and speaking with a medical professional familiar with cannabis and how it may benefit you. If you live in a legal state, Leafly can help you find a doctor.
What are some high-CBD strains I can try?
Before human intervention, cannabis grew wildly with much lower cannabinoid levels than present day. Most cannabis strains are bred for potency and high THC, with less than 1% CBD or other cannabinoids. CBD is typically the second-most abundant cannabinoid in cannabis, but this isn’t always the case. A strain may deliver CBD and THC in the following ratios:
- High THC, low CBD (e.g.,10-30% THC,
- Balanced CBD/THC (e.g., 5-15% THC and 5-15% CBD)
- High CBD, low THC (e.g., 5-20% CBD, THC under 5%)
Typical levels of CBD & THC in marijuana
By and large, most of the weed you’ll find in dispensaries and on the black market has been grown to exhibit as much THC as possible. Most pre-packaged flower sits at around 20% THC, and
High-CBD strains tend to deliver very clear-headed, functional effects without the euphoric or sedating highs associated with high-THC strains. They suit consumers who are extremely sensitive to the side effects of THC (e.g., anxiety, paranoia, dizziness).
A high-CBD strain also benefits anyone needing to medicate throughout the day to control pain, inflammation, anxiety, or other chronic conditions.
Balanced CBD/THC strains feel more euphoric than CBD-dominant strains, though they’re much less likely to induce anxiety, paranoia, and other negative side effects. Strains like these tend to be the most effective for pain relief, and they’re also well-suited for THC-sensitive consumers who’d like a mellow buzz.
You can smoke or vaporize CBD-rich flower, eat a CBD-infused edible, swallow a CBD oil capsule, apply a CBD lotion, or use a CBD tincture sublingually, just high-THC products. Hemp products also contain CBD, though it is a less efficient source and lacks the beneficial chemical diversity of cannabis-derived CBD products (more on that here).
Keep in mind that CBD levels may vary from crop to crop—even from plant to plant. We also recommend checking with dispensaries about the specifics of their strains’ CBD levels, and purchasing only lab-tested products that clearly state the CBD/THC levels, so you know what kind of experience to expect.
CBD vs THC- What’s the difference?
CBD and THC share many similarities, but they also have important differences. So what is exactly the difference between CBD and THC? And should you choose cannabis with high or low THC or CBD? It is not that one is better than the other. Your choice depends on the benefits and effects you’re looking for.
What is THC?
THC (Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol) is a well known psychoactive cannabinoid and is responsible for the majority of the effects that you get from marijuana consumption. Ultimately THC is what gets you “High.” The more THC you consume the stronger effects you will get.
THC mostly has a wide range of cerebral effects, which can make you feel happy, euphoric, energetic, anxious, paranoid or even nervous. Medicinally THC has been shown to have anti-depressant effects and even relieves pain and insomnia. It also induces relaxation and stimulates the appetite, which has shown to be useful with cancer and anorexia patients. Most cured cannabis buds range from 12%-21% THC content and if grown properly can reach even higher levels.
What is CBD?
CBD (Cannabidiol)is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, which is known for changing the effects of consumed THC. CBD increases the happy, euphoric and cerebral effects of THC while decreasing paranoia, anxiety and nervousness. This cannabinoid is almost always in much lower concentrations than THC in most cannabis plants, usually less than 1%. In rare strains, CBD concentrations can outweigh THC levels.
Medicinally CBD has been shown to relieve anxiety, pain, muscle spasms, inflammation, and convulsions. So it is great for patients with MS, fibromyalgia, and epilepsy. During a study when CBD was combined with THC and injected into breast and brain tumors, it was shown to inhibit cancer cell growth.
How to choose the right THC level?
Most of the folks find it frustrating and difficult to treat chronic pain, but we can help you handle the situation efficiently with our highly effective medical cannabis seed varieties. The strains that we supply are the best for medicinal cannabis users, especially due to their consistent THC levels so that one knows exactly how much medicine to consume.
Depending upon the disease you are suffering from, you may select the correct medication from the types of medical cannabis.
- Low CBD | Low THC – Medicinally THC has been shown to have anti-depressant effects and even relieves pain and insomnia. It also induces relaxation and stimulates the appetite, which has shown to be.
- High CBD | Low THC – Medicinally CBD has been shown to relieve anxiety, pain, muscle spasms, inflammation and convulsions. So it is great for patients with MS, fibromyalgia and epilepsy.
- Low CBD | High THC – Medicinally THC has been shown to have anti-depressant effects and even relieves pain and insomnia. It also induces relaxation and stimulates the appetite, which has shown to be.
- High CBD | High THC – Medicinally CBD has been shown to relieve anxiety, pain, muscle spasms, inflammation and convulsions. So it is great for patients with MS, fibromyalgia and epilepsy.
What are h igh CBD low THC strains?
If you’re looking for a type of cannabis with high CBD and low THC you can choose for seeds like Little Dipper, Alegria of Hindu Kush. These are medical cannabis seeds with high CBD and low THC.
What are high THC high CBD strains?
If you are looking for seeds with high CBD and high THC you can choose for Sugar Baby AF, Mount Cook, T99, Mako Haze, Auto Mako AF, or White Island.
WARNING Patients with high anxiety or those who have schizophrenia should avoid strains with extremely high levels of THC.