CBD vs. THC: How Do They Differ?
March 07, 2024

CBD vs. THC: How Do They Differ?

You have probably heard a great deal about marijuana lately since more and more states are legalizing the use of cannabis products.

Marijuana comes from the cannabis plant, which makes a thick substance consisting of compounds called cannabinoids. A normal cannabis plant produces over a hundred cannabinoids, with two major ones called CBD and THC.

These powerful compounds cause drug-like reactions in your body. THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the main ingredient in the cannabis plant that makes you feel “high” after consuming marijuana. It mostly comes in three forms such as herbs, hash, and hash oil.

Let's dive into the world of CBD and THC and learn about their key differences in this article. 

cbd vs thc

Where Do CBD and THC Come From?

The origin of both CBD and THC are the same. Both come from a plant named Cannabis sativa. However, there are some major differences between the 2. 

CBD mostly comes from the hemp plant, which is also a type of cannabis plant. The hemp plant contains very little THC (less than 0.3%). Cannabis plants with THC greater than 0.3% fall into the marijuana category. 

THC and CBD are made from the resin on the leaves and the buds of the female cannabis plants. Additionally, they are also extracted from the flowering heads of the hemp plant.   

Chemical Structure of CBD and THC

Although CBD and THC both have 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms, the atoms are arranged differently. This is why their chemical properties are different, and each gives you a different type of feeling. However, both affect the way your brain cells communicate with each other. 

Effects of CBD and THC on Your Body

THC and CBD have unique effects on your body. Here is a comprehensive breakdown of the way each of them makes you feel:

CBD Effects

When it comes to the way CBD affects your body, experts have identified multiple molecular targets that are affected by CBD.

Although there is no clear way that CBD impacts body functions, researchers think that it numbs your brain by slowing down signal processing.

CBD also lowers your brain’s inflammation and changes the calcium levels of the brain cells. Note that calcium plays an important role in communication between different cells.

Note: One concern about CBD products is that they might not contain the right concentrations of the substance. As most aren't regulated by the FDA, no one can guarantee their purity. Some may even contain THC. This could give you a false positive for THC when all you consume is CBD. 

THC Effects 

THC is famously known for affecting the areas of your brain that stimulate the feeling of pleasure. It releases your body’s feel-good hormone “dopamine.” Hence giving you that relaxed and euphoric feeling. 

There are multiple ways you may consume THC, and each way has its intensity of effects. For instance, if you consume 50 mg edibles it can give you a strong feeling of relaxation compared to other conventional methods such as taking marijuana. 

If taken in excessive amounts, THC has negative effects on your body, such as:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Psychosis

CBD vs. THC Benefits

Like all other drugs, CBD and THC have their fair number of positive effects. Most people take these substances hoping to relieve a wide variety of physical and mental health conditions.

Although this hasn't been extensively researched yet, some studies suggest that CBD may help conditions such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Inflammation
  • Nerve-related pain

For THC, researchers have tapped into the potential health benefits, including:

  • Treatment for muscle stiffness 
  • Chronic nerve pain
  • Epilepsy or seizures
  • Parkinson’s disease tremors
  • Nausea
  • Glaucoma
  • Appetite stimulation for people with HIV/AIDS
  • Agitation in Alzheimer’s disease
  • Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder

CBD vs. THC for Anxiety Treatment

Most drug users globally relate their drug intake directly with reduced anxiety and stress levels. It has been the most significant motivation for people who take drugs. 

Although there has been little scientific backing for CBD and THC being effective for anxiety treatment, a small study showed that people who take CBD have improved sleep cycles and lower anxiety levels. 

Another research compared medical marijuana, CBD, and placebo for treating anxiety in war veterans with chronic PTSD. The results showed that every group had major improvements in their symptoms.

However, those who got THC or CBD were no better than those who got neither. Hence raising questions about the effectiveness of the 2 substances in tackling anxiety in the long run. 

Side Effects of CBD and THC

Like any other drug substance, CBD and THC both expose you to a great deal of risks with serious side effects. 

Common side effects of THC

  • Weak concentrations levels
  • Inability to make strong judgments.
  • Weaker memory
  • Faster heart rate
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of balance

Common side effects of CBD

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach upset issues
  • Constant tiredness and fatigue
  • Lightheadedness
  • Crankiness
  • Low blood pressure

CBD can also alter the way your body reacts to external medicines. Make sure you talk to your doctor if you are a regular user of CBD or THC.

Legality of CBD and THC

The legality of CBD and THC may differ based on your location. Laws pertaining to these substances keep changing all the time.

In the United States, CBD, which is made from hemp, has been legalized at the federal level and is legal in most states. Moreover, many states allow marijuana for medical and recreational purposes.

However, as far as the federal government is concerned, it's still illegal to consume CBD and THC in the U.S. As per the laws of 2023, 38 states and the District of Columbia have legalized the medical use of marijuana. However, you would still need a prescription from a doctor to get THC.

FDA hasn’t approved CBD or THC to treat most conditions. You may only be eligible to use these substances for certain seizure disorders or some chronic nausea cases, especially for cancer patients, and nausea is a side effect of chemotherapy. 

The Bottom Line

CBD and THC are globally consumed for medical and recreational purposes according to local laws. The answer to which one is better can be different for every person.

CBD can help you with anxiety, inflammation, and some chronic pain conditions. Whereas THC helps with muscle stiffness, seizures, and other medical conditions such as nausea. 

Beware that excessive use of these drugs can have detrimental health effects and can significantly reduce life quality.