CBD vs. THC: Properties, Benefits, and Side Effects

Written by Resurchify | Updated on: February 14, 2023

CBD vs. THC: Properties, Benefits, and Side Effects

The way CBD and THC interact with your body is different even though they are both found in cannabis plants.


As the legalization of hemp and other cannabis products expands, consumers are becoming more interested in their options. This includes cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), two naturally occurring compounds found in Cannabis plants.

Both compounds interact with your body's endocannabinoid system, but their effects are quite different. Continue reading to learn more about these compounds. While they share many similarities, some key differences influence how they are used.

What is CBD? 

Cannabidiol is referred to as CBD. All cannabis plants contain CBD, but hemp contains more of it. As long as CBD is present in a product with less than 0.3% THC, hemp and CBD have been federally allowed since 2018. THC is frequently smoked, whereas CBD is typically taken orally, as a tincture, as a gummy, or in other ways. As a legal substance, CBD's manufacture and dose are unrestricted.

Dopamine levels have not been proven to be impacted by CBD; however, THC has been shown to have an effect, which may contribute to its psychoactive properties. Piomelli claims that CBD has no psychotropic effects. According to Piomelli, the research on CBD is limited since for many years scientists believed it had no physiological effects. He asserts that CBD may have three potential scientifically proven uses. As follows:

  • Applications for anti-seizures Epidiolex, an oral CBD solution, was approved in 2018 for the treatment of persons with two kinds of epilepsy who are older than two years old. The FDA has only authorized this application of CBD.
  • Usage for anti-anxiety. According to Piomelli, research suggests that CBD may reduce anxiety, but further research is required to demonstrate its effectiveness and safety.
  • Usage of antipsychotics. Scientists are looking into whether CBD, particularly for those with schizophrenia, might lessen psychosis.

Despite the limitations of the study on CBD, advocates maintain that it can aid in treating ailments like chronic pain and insomnia. According to Weiner, these alleged advantages haven't been validated. The claims of CBD and THC's therapeutic uses, he asserts, "far outrun actual peer-reviewed studies." Although it has shown promise in several areas connected to reducing inflammation, most of CBD's alleged benefits remain unvalidated. CBD is essentially an anti-inflammatory.

According to Piomelli and Weiner, CBD has a very low chance of abuse and few negative effects. The long-term, high-dose usage of CBD hasn't been thoroughly investigated, according to Piomelli, who also notes that it might have an impact on liver function.

CBD vs THC: Key Differences

Despite coming from the same plant, CBD and THC behave very differently in the body due to their different chemical compositions. They are also treated differently in the American legal system as a result of these fundamental disparities.

CBD vs. THC: Chemical Structure

The molecular makeup of CBD and THC is the same: 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms. The various effects on your body are caused by a small variation in the arrangement of the atoms. Your body's endocannabinoids share chemical similarities with both CBD and THC. They can now interact with your cannabis receptors as a result.

Your brain's neurotransmitter release is impacted by the interaction. Neurotransmitters are molecules that convey messages between cells and have a variety of roles, including those in pain, immunological function, stress, and sleep.

Psychoactive Properties

The substance most frequently linked to psychoactive effects is THC, whereas CBD is not. However, according to Monique McHenry, Ph.D., director of the Medical Cannabis Center for Research and Education at the University of Vermont Medical School, this perception is "a massive mistake."

In agreement with McHenry is Lauren Rudick, a partner in the cannabis department at the New York law firm Hiller, PC. It's a crucial distinction, she claims. Despite not being intoxicated or impairing function, CBD is nonetheless psychoactive, meaning it has an impact on the mind.

THC's interaction with CB1 receptors is what gives it is "high" feeling. CBD doesn't have the same intoxication effects as THC since it doesn't bind to CB1 or CB2 receptors like THC does. However, when consumed combined, CBD and THC bind to receptors and prevent THC from doing the same, reducing some of the effects of the THC.

CBD vs. THC: Legality

Cannabis-related legislation is constantly changing in the US. CBD is still technically categorized as a Schedule I substance under federal law. The Controlled Substances Act no longer lists hemp, but the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continue to list CBD as a Schedule I substance. However, medical cannabis with high THC levels are now permitted in 37 states, as well as Washington, D.C., thanks to cannabis-related legislation. A qualified doctor may be required to prescribe cannabis.

Additionally, adult recreational cannabis and THC usage is now legal in 19 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia. You should be able to purchase CBD in places where cannabis is permitted for personal or medical use.

It's crucial to check your state's regulations before trying to purchase CBD or THC-containing goods. You risk facing legal repercussions if you possess cannabis-related items in a state where doing so is against the law or if you use the products for medical purposes in a state where you don't need a prescription.

Drug Testing

Drug tests are typically developed to find THC in a person's system, not CBD. However, a drug test can also be used to look for CBD, depending on who requests the test and what they plan to do with the results.

It's also crucial to remember that even if you use CBD products derived from hemp that contains a permissible amount of THC (no more than 0.3%), THC can still be found in a drug test. Steven Phan, the CEO of Come Back Daily, a CBD dispensary in New York, advises choosing broad-spectrum CBD or CBD isolate, both of which completely exclude THC if you want to consume CBD products without taking this chance.

Additionally, you might want to find out more about the CBD test you'll be doing or speak with a doctor about its use.

CBD vs. THC: Medical Benefits

Many of the therapeutic advantages of CBD and THC are similar. They can offer relief from a number of the same ailments. But unlike THC, CBD doesn't have the same euphoric effects. Due to the absence of this negative effect, some persons may favor using CBD.

What is CBD?

The FDA authorized Epidiolex, the first CBD-containing prescription drug, in June 2018. It is used to treat uncommon, challenging kinds of epilepsy. (Epidiolex has not yet been given the go-ahead for any of the additional conditions listed below.) In addition to these conditions, CBD is utilized to treat:

  • Seizures sinflammation spain
  • Psychosis or other mental illnesses
  • Inflammation of the colon
  • Nausea smigraine sdepression sanxiety

2020 claims that CBD may be helpful for

  • Social phobia
  • Schizophrenia
  • Sleep problems
  • Diseases caused by traumatic stress

The FDA has not yet authorized it for these use. To determine whether CBD can successfully treat these ailments and others, more research is required. CBD is now being studied in clinical trials as a potential therapy for:

  • Mood problems
  • Enduring pain
  • Inflamed conditions
  • Disorders that affect the nervous system, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's
  • Tumors

What is THC?

The FDA has authorized two synthetic THC preparations for treating particular diseases. The FDA has given Nabilone (Cesamet) approval to treat chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting. The FDA has approved the drug dronabinol (Marinol, Syndros) for the treatment of chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting. Additionally, it is permitted to increase appetite in AIDS or anorexia patients.

THC is frequently employed to assist with the following:

  • Muscular spasms in pain
  • Glaucoma
  • Insomnia and hunger
  • Nausea sanxiety

Recent research examines THC's ability to cure the following conditions:

  • Obstructive snoring
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Persistent neuropathy pain

Getting ‘high’

Although they are both cannabinoids, CBD and THC have a slightly distinct effects on the brain's cannabinoid receptors.

According to the evidence, THC can attach to the primary cannabinoid receptors because its chemical structure is comparable to anandamides. This substance is a member of a class of cannabinoids called endogenous cannabinoids or endocannabinoids, which the body naturally makes. Because of their structural resemblance, THC and these receptors can interact, producing the high that people associate with cannabis usage for recreational purposes.

The high that many associates with cannabis usage are not produced by CBD, in contrast to THC. Although experts are unsure of its specific mechanism of action, CBD is thought to connect to receptors differently than THC. Instead, CBD might enhance the effects of other cannabinoids or bind to receptors that are yet to be identified by researchers.

Where Do They Come From?

Cannabis plants naturally contain both THC and CBD. However, the cannabinoids present in different species of these plants may vary. For instance, CBD from hemp, a particular strain of the Cannabis sativa plant, is used when a person consumes a medicinal cannabis product with a high CBD content.

The level of THC in hemp and other cannabis plants is the primary distinction between them. According to the 2018 Farm Bill, C. Sativa plants with less than 0.3% THC are regarded as hemp. Other strains often have more THC and lower CBD content. According to a 2016 analysis, cannabis plants' average potency increased from about 4% in 1995 to 12% in 2014. The average CBD concentration dropped from 0.28% to less than 0.15% between 2001 and 2014.

CBD vs. THC: Side Effects

According to certain studies, THC and CBD have few negative side effects and are generally safe. The fact that these medications seem harmless does not guarantee that you won't encounter any negative side effects. Some unfavorable outcomes that have been mentioned include:

  • Mood and appetite changes
  • Drowsiness
  • Anxiety symptoms or other mood swings
  • Nausea, lightheadedness
  • Unpleasant side effects from THC use include memory loss, a faster heartbeat, and a dry mouth.
  • Short-term memory loss, poor judgment, and poor coordination are just a few of the short- and long-term negative consequences of marijuana. Cannabis use may affect brain development and impede cognitive function, according to research.

Additionally, according to NIDA, THC affects how the hippocampus and orbitofrontal cortex work. These brain regions play a crucial role in the creation of fresh memories and the capacity to change our focus. This not only hinders a person's capacity for learning and memory formation but also makes it challenging for them to complete challenging activities.

How to Take CBD and THC

THC and CBD can both be ingested in a variety of ways. Smoking THC can be used to consume marijuana, but there are also other cannabis products available, such as:

  • Oils Tinctures Sprays
  • Vaping devices
  • Gummies and chocolates are among the edibles.
  • drinks that include marijuana oil

Similar to THC, CBD can be ingested in a variety of ways. Although there have recently been worries about the health risks posed by vaping, CBD oils can still be prepared for use in vaporizers. It can also be included in salves and lotions for topical use. The effects of these topical products will be localized because they are not being eaten, which is a crucial point to remember.

As a tincture, oil, pill, or spray, CBD can also be consumed orally. Gummies, candies, and beverages that contain edible CBD are also widely used. It's crucial to take the product's formulation into account while buying CBD products. CBD alone is included in isolate products. While full-spectrum CBD products include both CBD and THC, broad-spectrum products only contain other cannabinoids besides THC.

Which One Should You Take?

Your choice of product may be influenced by the results you hope to attain. For instance, CBD might help you relax more or get a better night's sleep without having the harmful effects of THC. For symptoms or illnesses where THC has shown promise, including tremors or low appetite, it might be a preferable option.

According to certain studies, taking THC and CBD together at the same time may tend to increase the potential therapeutic effects of both cannabinoids. The entourage effect is the name given to this phenomenon. It has also been demonstrated that combining CBD and THC can lessen some of the negative effects that THC may cause. For instance, according to one study, CBD may be able to mitigate some of the detrimental cognitive effects of regular cannabis users.

For instance, cannabis users, particularly those who use it while the THC content is high, may be more likely to have psychiatric symptoms including paranoia, anxiety, and psychosis. However, research suggests that CBD might lessen some of these negative effects.

According to one study, CBD assisted in preventing some of the possible mental effects of THC. According to the study's authors, these results have significant ramifications for how cannabis products are used. Those who are susceptible to unfavorable side effects, for instance, may still be able to benefit from the possible health advantages by sticking to products with higher CBD content than THC levels.

It's also crucial to keep in mind that THC and CBD both affect various parts of the brain and that researchers are still learning about the effects of these cannabinoids on their own and in combination.

According to some data, the combined effects of CBD and THC may be dose-dependent. For instance, a 2019 study discovered that while large dosages of CBD lessened the effects of THC, low amounts of CBD contributed to enhancing those effects.

How Are CBD and THC Similar?

Given their nearly identical chemical composition, CBD and THC have several effects in common and can even reinforce each other's advantages.

Potential Benefits

Physical pain and sleep issues have been linked to both CBD and THC, according to research. Additionally, CBD is frequently utilized to reduce tension and anxiety.

Together, they can be administered to produce even more powerful medicinal effects. For instance, Nabiximols (also known as Sativex) is a 1:1 THC and CBD mixture used to treat the pain associated with cancer and the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. 27 nations have legalized the use of napiximols, but not the United States.

Clinical trials have also demonstrated that THC and CBD mixtures are effective in treating PTSD and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis symptoms (ALS).

Ingestion Methods

THC and CBD can both be ingested in the following ways:

  • Smoking dried cannabis flower and breathing in the smoke
  • Use of a vape pen to inhale the vapor
  • Snacks such as gummies
  • Oil or plant material extracts

The Relationship Between CBD and THC

Although the two compounds may coexist in equal amounts in nature, humans have grown cannabis to contain higher levels of either THC or CBD (hemp). According to Piomelli, the alleged variances in various strains of CBD and THC can be explained by the varying concentrations of CBD and THC as well as each compound's levels.

Even though scientists do not distinguish between the strains, Piomelli argues that it makes sense for different concentrations to have various outcomes. For instance, cannabis with more CBD may have fewer psychotropic effects than cannabis with less CBD because THC and CBD have opposing actions on cannabinoid receptors. This is because CBD blocks part of the effects of THC.

Cannabis CBD vs. Hemp CBD 

CBD and THC are two of more than 540 compounds found in cannabis and hemp plants. The quantity of each chemical in the two plants is what distinguishes them most from one another. Cannabis has less CBD and more THC. Less THC and more CBD can be found in hemp.

Most significantly, whether CBD is derived from cannabis or hemp, its advantages remain the same. The usual adverse symptoms, such as nausea, fatigue, or restlessness, continue to exist. This is because the chemical composition of CBD is independent of the type of plant it comes from.

The quantity of CBD that can be extracted does, however, depend on the source. The most profitable alternative for manufacturers and the option with the fewest potential legal repercussions is hemp plants because they contain far more CBD.

The key distinction between CBD from hemp and CBD from cannabis is their legal standing. The majority of the USA, except for three states, is covered by the 2018 Farm Bill, which makes items made from plants that adhere to the legal requirements for hemp legal.

This law prohibits the sale of goods derived from plants with high THC content. However, it is crucial to remember that even CBD products created from cannabis should have less than 0.3% THC, as this requirement applies to all CBD products. In places where cannabis usage for recreational purposes is prohibited, the United States Substance Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies any CBD products with more than 0.3% THC as a Schedule I drug.


The two primary substances included in the cannabis plant, THC and CBD, each have potential health advantages. However, since hemp, which contains CBD, was prohibited by federal law until 2018, and cannabis, which contains THC, is still prohibited, study on both is severely constrained.

While there is little or no definitive data on many cannabis-related health effects, both positive and bad, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind. Despite the majority of states having some sort of medical or recreational cannabis legalization, THC is still illegal on the federal level and has no recognized medical uses. Federal law permits the use of CBD provided that the product also contains less than 0.3% THC.

According to Piomelli, who has studied cannabis for decades, the plant certainly has an impact on our bodies and should not be used carelessly or without taking health effects into account. He claims that many people are reassured by the fact that these substances are natural and have the misconception that natural substances are harmless. "This plant is really powerful and old. Observe it."



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