CBD .v. THC: What Are the Differences? Which Is Best?

CBD .v. THC: What Are the Differences? Which Is Best?

What is it?

  • CBD is short for cannabidiol, which is a natural compound found in the cannabis plant.
  • THC is short for tetrahydrocannabinol, which is also a natural compound that is also found in the cannabis plant. 

So they both come from the same plant? In broad terms, yes, although there are subspecies of cannabis (and different strains) which means there are options. Here at Go Hemp, we extract our CBD from female Cannabis sativa plants.

As reported by AnalyticalCannabis.com, there is no consensus among botanical taxonomists as to some of the details. However, “the legal distinction has to do with the percentage tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). For example, in the United States, if a plant is greater than 0.3 percent THC, it’s a marijuana plant. If it’s 0.3 percent or lower, it’s a hemp plant.” [1] 

So what’s the main difference between CBD and THC?

The most significant difference is that THC can make you feel ‘high’ whereas CBD will not. CBD cannot make you intoxicated. 

What about their chemical structure? Same or different?

Surprisingly they have the same chemical composition: 
Carbon: 21 atoms
Hydrogen: 30 atoms
Oxygen: 2 atoms. 

But the arrangement of those atoms is different in CBD and THC. They’re both ‘cyclic compounds’ which means some of their atoms form a circle. With CBD, the ring (circle) is open. With THC, it’s closed. And that is why these two almost-identical compounds act on the endocannabinoid system quite differently. 

Compare their medical benefits

  • CBD: According to ‘Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders, published in the journal Neurotherapeutics, “existing preclinical evidence strongly supports CBD as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD]” [2]
    The report goes on to say, “Preclinical and clinical studies show CBD possesses a wide range of therapeutic properties, including antipsychotic, analgesic [pain killing], neuroprotective, anticonvulsant, antiemetic [stops vomiting], antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiarthritic, and antineoplastic [prevents or stops tumors] properties.” 
  • THC: “THC is particularly effective in relieving nausea, appetite loss, insomnia.” [3] MedicalNewsToday.com adds pain, anxiety, glaucoma and muscle plasticity. [4] It’s also a bronchodilator. [5]

By way of a quick review of similarities between CBD and THC, they both…
Relieve pain
Reduce nausea
Ease migraines
Reduce anxiety
Help with insomnia
Are anti-inflammatory. [6] 

Compare their side effects

  • CBD: Says the World Health Organization, CBD “is generally well tolerated, with a good safety profile…  CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential.” [7]
    The main concern would be possible interactions with the pharmaceutical medicines that users might also be taking. We’d urge readers to discuss this with a doctor before consuming CBD. 
  • THC: Temporary side effects can include dry mouth, red eyes, slower response times, memory loss, coordination issues, elevated heart rate. As the teenage brain is still developing, young people can experience adverse psychiatric effects. Large or regular doses of THC can raise the risk of schizophrenia in at-risk individuals. [8]  [9]  [10] Note: these side effects will not arise from the minuscule amount (under 0.3 percent) of THC that’s in legal CBD products.
    In a 2017 study, Bahorik and team found that “marijuana use worsened depression and anxiety symptoms; marijuana use led to poorer mental health functioning.” [11]
    The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) “notes that THC alters how the hippocampus and orbitofrontal cortex function. These areas of the brain are important in the formation of new memories and the ability to shift attention from one thing to the next.” [12] 

Legality: Is it a controlled substance?

At the time of writing this, products made from hemp-derived CBD are federally legal but illegal in some states. Products made from marijuana-derived CBD are federally illegal but legal in some states. So check the laws that apply in your area, and also if you’re traveling interstate. As the benefits of cannabis are increasingly accepted by the lawmakers (and the risks are no longer over-reported), we can expect these restrictions to relax. 

How does it interact with the human body?

Not so many years ago, it was discovered that the human body has cannabinoid receptors scattered throughout the body. There are two types, CB1 and CB2, standing for Cannabinoid 1 and 2.

CB1 receptors are mostly in the brain and central nervous system. THC latches onto them, or in medical jargon it binds to them, causing the ‘high’ feelings until the THC is all ‘used up’.

CB2 receptors are mostly in the peripheral nervous system, gut and immune system. CBD stimulates these receptors but doesn't bind onto them. 

Note the difference - CBD  stimulates but it doesn't latch on! 

Question: What does CBD stimulate the body to do? 
Answer: It stimulates the body to make more of its own natural endocannabinoid chemicals. These create balance in the body. [13] Which is one reason why CBD is so beneficial. 

Cannabinoids? Endocannabinoids? Phytocannabinoids? What’s all that about?

Cannabinoids are naturally occurring compounds. When they occur in plants, they’re called phytocannabinoids, from the Greek word phyto, meaning plants. When they occur in the human body (which they do naturally), they’re called endocannabinoids, from the Greek endo, meaning internal. 

And the significance of this?

CBD and THC from the cannabis plants are both chemically similar to the body’s endocannabinoids. Which is wonderful news because this similarity enables them to interact with your cannabinoid receptors, and thereby release all their benefits. 

Is it psychoactive? Will it make you high?

Cannabis-derived CBD can, if it contains high levels of THC. 
Hemp-derived CBD can't.

Why the difference? Because the cannabis-derived product typically has a high level of THC, from around 12 percent up to 30 percent or even higher in some strains. By contrast, the hemp-derived product has a very low amount of THC. By law in the USA, that must be no higher than 0.3 percent, which is less than one third of one percent. A tiny trace presence! 

THC produces a sense of euphoria or in some cases a sedating (sleepy) effect. 

CBD produces a feeling of calm and relaxed wellness; it also has been shown to help with anxiety and depression. These are all related, of course. “I feel calm, I feel less anxious and my depression is lifting.” 


300mg CBD Anti-Aging Moisturizing Cream 
25mg CBD Broad Spectrum Soft Gels


Hemp 101: Fascinating Insights into the Amazing Hemp Plant 
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[1] https://www.analyticalcannabis.com/articles/cannabis-sativa-vs-indica-is-there-a-difference-311780

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4604171/

[3] https://www.leafly.com/news/cbd/cbd-vs-thc

[4] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325871

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1429361/

[6] https://www.healthline.com/health/cbd-vs-thc

[7] https://www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/5.2_CBD.pdf 

[8] https://academic.oup.com/hmg/article/26/13/2462/3574683

[9] https://www.webmd.com/schizophrenia/schizophrenia-marijuana-link

[10] http://www.schizophrenia.com/prevention/streetdrugs.html

[11] https://centerforanxietydisorders.com/can-medical-marijuana-increase-anxiety/

[12] https://www.verywellmind.com/cbd-vs-thc-differences-benefits-side-effects-legality-5071416

[13] https://gohempusa.com/blogs/news/what-is-homeostasis-and-can-cbd-help-in-balancing-your-body


By WriterGary.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any disease.*

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