CBD, THC, and the Differences Between the Two

CBD is becoming ever more popular across the nation, with more consumers jumping into adding cannabidiol into their daily routine now more than ever. As the CBD market climbs up as a multibillion-dollar industry, we look at what it is really offering to those who decide to try it.

If you’ve been considering trying one of the hemp-derived products skyrocketing with popularity, you may have some unanswered questions that have been holding you back. What is CBD, and how is it related to THC? If THC and CBD are from the same plant, does that mean CBD can get you high?

We look to answer these questions, and more, as we dive into the difference between CBD and THC, along with everything else you could need to know about the subject to make the best educated decision for your needs. If you’ve been trying to decide if a CBD product is right for you or not, this is the guide for you.

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of the 60+ cannabinoids within the cannabis plant family. Though there are some CBD-rich marijuana strains, it is more abundantly found in the hemp plant, which will be our main focus today. As the 2018 Farm Bill made industrial hemp that contains under 0.3% THC legal for cultivation, possession, and use, we now have legal access to plants that are incredibly rich in CBD.

The most abundant non-psychoactive component in hemp, it is not possible to get high on any amount of CBD. However, it does have a variety of medicinal properties that researchers are still combing over, while anecdotal evidence on the matter just keeps stacking up.

To date, we already see studies that cannabidiol may help reduce anxiety, improve sleep, fight acne, relieve certain pain types, improve brain and heart health, and much more. The benefits of CBD, though they vary from person to person, are virtually endless when considering how the hemp compound interacts with the human body.

Our Endocannabinoid System

One of the more recently discovered body systems, in 1988 scientists found the first cannabinoid receptor contained in humans. After identifying the second cannabinoid receptor in 1993, it was as early as 1995 that we started classifying them as CB1 and CB2 receptors.

Typically, CB1 receptors are found in the brain – particularly, the regions responsible for physiological and mental processes like motor function and coordination, emotion, cognition, and memory. The CB2 receptors, on the other hand, are found most abundantly throughout the immune and central nervous systems.

This network of CB1 and CB2 receptors, now identified as our endocannabinoid system (ECS), can interact with cannabinoids the body naturally produces in order to maintain a range of vital functions.

From our immune system to our cardiovascular system, it appears the ECS plays a necessary role for our body to remain at its most efficient. While our bodies naturally produce cannabinoids, our ECS can also interact directly or indirectly with outside cannabinoids, such as CBD, THC, and the less abundant cannabinoids that pair with the two.

This interaction between the CB receptors and an outside cannabinoid is what acts as the catalyst for all the medicinal properties and other health benefits CBD has to offer, such as promoting general wellness, mood management, appetite stimulation, anxiety relief and pain relief.

What is THC?

The psychoactive counterpart to CBD, THC, or Tetrahydrocannabinol, is found abundantly in most marijuana strains. Psychoactive in nature, it’s the compound that causes one to feel “high” and is responsible for marijuana’s psychological effects. Though THC acts like many cannabinoid chemicals that are naturally made by the body, the over-abundance of THC in your system is what causes the psychological and psychoactive effects.

As we mentioned, the CB1 receptors of the ECS are found primarily in the brain. These receptors are set in regions of the brain associated with time perception, coordination, pleasure, memory, and cognitive thinking – all things that can be disrupted when you’ve consumed an abundance of THC.

This is why THC affects a person’s sensory and time perception, movements, memory, concentration, and more. Fortunately, it doesn’t last forever just because it’s been consumed; likewise, there are no known cases of overdosing or consuming “too much” THC, or any cannabinoid for that matter.

The Big (and Molecular) Difference

So, you now know a little about CBD, as well as the endocannabinoid system. CBD, as a cannabinoid, interacts with the ECS, but not just like any other cannabinoid. On the contrary, CBD and THC have molecular structures that don’t react with the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the same way.

On a molecular scale, CBD and THC are almost identical twins. They even have the same exact chemical makeup: 2 oxygen atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 21 carbon atoms. So, what’s different?

The arrangement of a single atom. Yep, that’s it. A difference so small, you genuinely cannot even see it, and that’s what determines if a compound is THC or CBD.

CBD and THC on a Molecular Level
The arrangement of a single atom is what sets CBD and THC so vastly apart.

How CBD Interacts with our Endocannabinoid System

So, CBD and THC are different on the slightest molecular level ever – but what does that mean for how CBD and THC interact differently with the endocannabinoid system? First, though THC and CBD can both bind with the CB2 receptors located primarily in the immune and central nervous systems, they respond very differently to the CB1 receptors located mostly in the brain.

While it’s able to bond to the CB2 receptors, CBD’s molecular structure does not allow it to bind directly with the CB1 receptors. Research even shows that CBD’s presence can possibly negate the bond already there between CB1 receptors and THC. This can effectively neutralize the mind-altering and psychoactive effects induced from THC.

CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system by using that system to help regulate other systems in the body. For example, by interacting to confer a therapeutic effect with various ion channels, CBD directly helps the body mediate body temperature, inflammation, and pain perception. Known as the vanilloid receptor, CBD binds to this to help influence pain perception throughout the rest of the body.

Another example is CBD’s ties to our serotonin receptors. At high concentrations, CBD can directly activate the serotonin receptor, which triggers an anti-anxiety effect in the body. As our serotonin receptor is also well known as our “happy receptor,” this is what causes CBD to help with anxiety, stabilizing mood, and stimulating relaxation.

How THC Interacts with our Endocannabinoid System

THC, due to its molecular structure, can bind directly to CB1 receptors. By this bond forming, a reaction triggers signals throughout the brain that ultimately results in the psychological and psychoactive effects of “getting high.” Depending on the level and method of consumption, how long this “high” lasts and how long it takes before you start to feel the effects differs by person and circumstance.

Though it does provide a series of health benefits on its own, THC’s mind-altering effects aren’t preferred by everyone. It’s also another reason used to keep marijuana on the list as a federally classified schedule I drug.

That’s why people are switching to CBD, as it provides the same medicinal properties and health benefits without the mind-numbing psychological high that comes with it. As a bonus, CBD and hemp-derived products under 0.3% THC content level remain legal across the nation; THC and marijuana-derived products are only legal in certain states at this time.

CBD vs THC: The Legality Behind the Matter

Though cannabis plants were initially made illegal in 1937 in the US due to its threat to the timber and petroleum industries, it spread throughout most countries around the world as a controlled substance after that. It’s classified as an illegal substance besides a few countries, like Canada, that have already taken the plunge to legalize cannabis again recreationally nationwide.

For the first time since cannabis prohibition began, activists’ voices are being heard and movements are being made to change the laws. The government continues to be pressed to legalize it or put it in the people’s hands to decide – and that starts with CBD.

Still in the gray area because of its new legalization and its close relationship with THC, CBD products are a lot safer from a legal perspective than handling THC or marijuana-derived products in any state that is not legally recreational. CBD derived from hemp is federally legal, though we still await better regulation for the CBD industry.

Federal law defines industrial hemp as any cannabis plant that contains less than 0.3% THC. This means CBD derived from a marijuana plant with more than the legal limit of THC is still not legal, though the government is being questioned as to how one can determine which plant pure CBD comes from.

In conclusion for the legality behind CBD versus THC, cannabidiol is legal across the nation excluding states that have specifically banned CBD in accordance with the state’s power under the 2018 Farm Bill. We are happy to see CBD legal and researchers continue to learn about it and hemp’s massive range of benefits and medicinal properties.

Different Types of CBD Products

We’ve already touched on just a few of the many benefits CBD has to offer, such as providing anxiety relief, influencing pain perception, and regulating inflammation throughout the body. The benefits of CBD vary from person to person; one may find that cannabidiol primarily helps them get better, deeper sleep, while someone else may find CBD helps them most with their inflammation.

Likewise, the dosage strength and type of CBD product you use plays a role in the benefits you’ll receive. For example, a CBD topical cream is meant to target specific areas on the body. Typically, a topical cream’s main focus is to treat inflammation or pain for that target area. There are other products that help provide more generalized or intense relief, however, like a CBD tincture or vape product.

By using a tincture, you apply drops of the CBD oil under your tongue to get the fastest effects. While it can be swallowed directly, applying it under the tongue and swishing for up to 90 seconds helps the CBD absorb into the bloodstream faster by skipping the metabolism portion of consumption.

Likewise, using a CBD vape product will allow the effects to be felt sooner, though it may not last as long as a tincture might. There are still other CBD products out there, too, like CBD capsules or edibles that make it easier to disguise your serving of cannabidiol for the day.

Can CBD Get You High?

To reiterate, CBD is the non-psychoactive component in cannabis plants, which means it cannot make you high. Many report feeling more focused, productive, and motivated after taking their daily serving of CBD, with stacking benefits the longer they take it consistently.

Final Thoughts

One thing to note about the benefits of CBD: they rarely happen immediately. While you may feel some relief on the first day of trying CBD, consistent, daily servings is what will make you feel the most of its effects. Many compare their first day and first month on CBD to night and day. A month of taking CBD consistently will allow it to regulate your endocannabinoid system far easier than a single, one-off serving of cannabidiol.

Once you find your preferred CBD product, whether it’s a CBD edible, tincture, vape product, or something else in between, you can feel the stacking benefits of taking it every day. Try CBD for at least one month consistently before deciding if it’s not right for you. Likewise, always make sure to speak with a certified medical professional before incorporating CBD into your daily routine, especially if you are currently on any other type of medication.

What CBD product have you been considering? If you’ve been looking for a product that can help you with general wellness, along with a massive variety of other benefits and medicinal properties, CBD might be your answer. It can stimulate relaxation, help relieve stress, but most importantly, it helps regulate your body to do what it already does best.