CBD vs. THC: The Difference, Benefits, And Risks

28.01.2020 | Blog

With full legalization of cannabis products in Uruguay and Canada and many areas of the United States, more and more people are looking into what these products have to offer. Some are interested in medical marijuana for various issues while others are trying out recreational marijuana. Others like the CBD products for the benefits without the effects of the THC. So, what’s the difference between CBD and THC and how do they affect you? 

CBD vs. THC: What’s the Difference?

There are a few select differences between CBD and THC, including their chemical makeup and how they affect you. In some areas, there are also legal issues to consider when using one or the other, so be sure to consider the following areas before purchasing these products.

Chemical Structure of CBD

Both THC and CBD come from cannabis plants, though Cannabidiol (CBD) has a higher concentration in hemp plants. It has a very specific chemical formula, consisting of 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms. These atoms are arranged in such a way that they can offer you a variety of health benefits without giving you the high that marijuana is known for.

Chemical Structure of THC

Unlike CBD, which comes from hemp, THC is extracted from marijuana plants. The chemical structure of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has the same chemical makeup as CBD, consisting of 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms. Despite this similarity, THC has a single atom that is arranged differently than in CBD. This microscopic difference between these two structures makes these two compounds react differently in the body, affecting you in very different ways

CBD vs. THC: Legal Differences

Though all types of marijuana are legal in Canada, the U.S. hasn’t changed federal law concerning these products. Each state is allowed to make their own laws regarding the use, sale, or prescriptions for marijuana. Many states have approved medical marijuana, with a few also allowing marijuana for recreational use as well. Though the rules regarding high-THC products are changing, it is best to check out the laws in your state to be sure you aren’t breaking them when buying a batch of weed.

The laws aren’t the same when it comes to CBD. In December 2018, Congress passed the Farm Bill, which legalized hemp. Of course, there are still rules in place concerning how and where you can sell CBD oil and other products. They can’t have a THC content higher than 0.03% and you can’t sell them with any type of guarantee that they have medical benefits, as there is still research being done in this area. Otherwise, you can buy and use it as you see fit.

How Does CBD Affect the Body?

Cannabidiol is one of 85 known cannabinoids that can be found in the Cannabis plants. When extracted and ingested, these cannabinoids interact directly with the Endocannabinoid System, or ECS. This system consists of a network of receptors that interacts with the cannabinoids, which help maintain our body’s vital functions.

There are 2 main cannabinoid receptors in the ECS system, called CB1 and CB2 receptors. These react with the cannabinoids and give you those health benefits that scientists are looking for. CBD binds to the CB2 receptor, but it doesn’t bond with the CB1 receptor directly. In fact, it can interfere with the bond that THC has with CB1 receptors, eliminating the psychoactive effects the THC would otherwise cause.

Even though it doesn’t bond with the CB1 receptor, CBD can still offer a wide variety of benefits, without the mind-altering high. You also won’t be breaking the law while using it to help relieve some of your medical issues.

How Does THC Affect the Body?

The small difference in the chemical makeup that we discussed above that separates THC from CBD determines how it affects the body. THC also binds to the CB2 receptor, the same way that CBD does. The difference lies in how it reacts to the CB1 receptors. Its special chemical structure allows THC to bind directly to the CB1 receptors. This bond causes a reaction that creates signals, which are then sent to the brain. This is what causes those psychoactive effects THC is known for.

That’s why smoking a joint gets you high while eating a CBD gummy has no such effect. This mind-altering influence is also why THC retains its status as an illegal drug in many areas of the United States and around the world, though this may not stay this way forever.

Benefits of CBD over THC

As well as being relatively legal in most areas, there are a few other benefits to using CBD over THC. First of all, THC has negative side effects. These can be minor, like red eyes and a dry mouth. There can also be some that are a bit more serious, like an increased heart rate, slower response times, coordination issues, and memory loss.

There could also be some adverse psychiatric effects in teenagers using marijuana since their brains have not fully developed yet. Some research also suggests that large amounts of THC can even increase the risk of schizophrenia in people who are already predisposed to this condition, though this obviously won’t affect everyone.

When it comes to CBD, there is not a single known side effect to speak of, even if it’s used in large quantities. The only potential side effect related to CBD results from using it with other medications, though some research still needs to be done as to which ones could cause this type of reaction.

When it comes to medical benefits, CBD and THC seem to help many of the same conditions. These include chronic pain, nausea, insomnia, and anxiety. THC is also used to help with a few other conditions, including glaucoma, muscle spasticity, and low appetite.

Research is starting to show that CBD is better for some more serious issues, such as inflammation, psychosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, migraines, and depression. The Food and Drug Administration has also approved prescription medication Epidiolex, which contains CBD. This medication is used to treat a rare form of epilepsy, which is otherwise difficult to control.

Though research is still needed to prove whether CBD can help treat other medical issues, the World Health Organization has reported that it can potentially treat a wide variety of other medical issues. The list includes Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, cancer, inflammatory disease, hypoxia-ischemia injury, infection, cardiovascular diseases, IBD, and complications from diabetes.

Another benefit that CBD has over THC is the fact that it doesn’t have the psychoactive effects. Many people are willing to try cannabis for its medical and health benefits but don’t want to get high in the process. Though medical marijuana can help them out with certain issues, the high that comes along with it may affect how they go about their day.

CBD doesn’t have a high THC content, so it could still give you the relief you’re looking for from your medical symptoms, without affecting your mind in the process. You can use it at work, running errands, or looking after your children without worrying about coordination issues, memory loss, or a case of munchies kicking in.

Key Takeaways

There are a lot of similarities that are shared by CBD and THC. The first is that they both come from cannabis plants, though CBD has a higher concentration in hemp plants and THC is largely found in marijuana plants. They both offer a variety of medical benefits as well.

Of course, there are a couple of major differences. THC has those psychoactive effects that get you high, which CBD doesn’t contain. Some people like this but it isn’t for everyone. THC is also illegal in many areas for both medical and recreational use, while CBD is legal, provided it has a low THC content.