Marijuana leaves with cbd thc chemical structure

THC vs. CBD: What is the difference?

More than 100 active substances are present in the cannabis plant (Cannabis Sativa), the so-called phytocannabinoids. The unique combination of these substances has not been discovered in any other plant so far, giving cannabis an excellent potential for therapeutic use.  Cannabinoids interact with various receptors in the human brain and nervous system and can therefore influence numerous processes in the body. Probably the two best known are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). In this article, you will learn everything there is to know about THC vs. CBD. From the different effects on the body to the side effects of the two active ingredients.

The difference between THC and CBD

Before we can take a look at the difference between THC and CBD, we first need to know the difference between cannabis and hemp. Both plants are descended from the genus Cannabis Sativa but have different genetics due to selective breeding. Industrial hemp contains a very high percentage of CBD and almost no THC. The opposite is true for cannabis.

Let’s talk about cannabinoids; both THC and CBD act on the endocannabinoid system (ECS ) – a system responsible for various body processes. There are two primary receptors that cannabinoids bind to: CB1 and CB2.

  • The CB1 receptors are found in the brain and central nervous system and are primarily responsible for our mood, memory, and pain. When THC enters the body, it affects the CB1 receptor and consequently impairs concentration, coordination, and memory.
  • CB2 receptors are located throughout the body, including the gastrointestinal system and organs. Their job is to inhibit inflammation when it spreads too quickly. Because CBD works with and supports these receptors, it works so well as an anti-inflammatory.


Below, we’ll take a detailed look at THC vs. CBD to illustrate their different effects on the body.


Cannabidiol (CBD)

The second most abundant cannabinoid in the hemp plant – and the most abundant non-toxic – is cannabidiol. While THC is probably the best-known compound in cannabis, CBD is its non-psychoactive friend. Research into this hemp compound is still in its infancy, but the potential is slowly being recognized, and therefore cannabidiol is becoming increasingly popular

So far, multiple studies show that cannabidiol might have potential to alleviate symptoms for people with following ailments:

– chronic pain

– inflammatory diseases

– migraines

– anxiety and panic disorders

– depression

– psychoses

– sleep problems

– multiple sclerosis

– epilepsy

– diabetes

– rheumatism

Although CBD products can legally contain up to 0.2% THC, that is not enough to have an intoxicating effect on the body.  Cannabidiol, therefore, has the advantage of promising health benefits without psychotropic side effects.

Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

Tetrahydrocannabinol is another phytocannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. However, unlike CBD, it has a psychotropic effect – meaning it induces a high feeling and affects the psyche. THC is very well researched; this is mainly because the active ingredient is classified as a narcotic in most countries and is therefore illegal. Common effects of THC use are relaxation, fatigue, and appetite stimulation. It docks onto the CB1 receptors in the brain, triggering the intoxicating feeling and euphoria. Unfortunately, THC-containing cannabis is still known primarily for its intoxicating effects, although many use it for its medicinal effects and pain relief.

Researchers have found that THC has potential to provide relief for people with the following ailments:

– pain

– sleep disturbance

– muscle spasticity

– nausea

– low appetite


 The chemical structure of THC vs. CBD

To better understand the two cannabinoids, we must take a look at their chemical structure. Both THC and CBD share the same molecular structure: 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms (C21H30O2). How can it be that they act so differently? A slight variation in the arrangement of the atoms provides a different effect on the body and mind.

 Let’s take a look at the main differences in the way the two cannabinoids work:

– Psychotropic: Both cannabinoids dock onto the nerve cells in the brain. However, unlike THC, CBD does not induce a high feeling because the nerve cells are not anesthetized.

– Psychosis: While THC can cause psychosis in the brain, CBD counteracts this and can reduce or even neutralize the effects of THC.

– Fatigue: Almost everyone knows that cannabis use makes you tired. This is due to its sleep-inducing effects, which come from its high THC content. CBD has a relaxing impact on the body but does not make you sleepy because the effect on the brain is not too significant.


Side effects of THC vs. CBD

Taking CBD is relatively harmless, and overdosing is not possible as it is the case with toxic substances. According to the WHO (World Health Organization), cannabidiol is tolerable for humans and animals and has no potential for dependence or psychosis. Even though the active hemp ingredient is often described as entirely free of side effects, this is not the case. While this may be true for most people, side effects such as fatigue or diarrhea can still occur.

THC is a little different; some known side effects can occur. These include coordination problems, increased heart rate, memory loss, and slower reaction time.

In summary, although THC and CBD both originate from the Cannabis Sativa plant and are almost identical chemically, they are pretty different in their effects. While tetrahydrocannabinol provides an intoxicating effect and is psychoactive, cannabidiol is taken purely for its medicinal benefits.

Leave a Reply