CBD and THC are two compounds derived from cannabis that have gained significant attention for their potential therapeutic benefits.

While CBD is known for its non-psychoactive properties and wide-ranging applications, THC is primarily responsible for the euphoric effects associated with cannabis use. Therefore, understanding the differences between these compounds is essential for individuals seeking natural remedies or exploring the medical potential of cannabis.

In this article, we will explore the unique characteristics of CBD and THC, shedding light on their effects, applications, and legal considerations.

What is CBD?

CBD, which can be derived from either hemp or the cannabis plant, originates from the Cannabis sativa plant. Therefore, hemp and cannabis are both sources of CBD. It is important to note that legally classified hemp must have a THC content of 0.3% or less, as specified by reliable sources.

CBD is available in various forms, including gels, gummies, oils, supplements, extracts, and more, catering to different preferences and needs.

One crucial characteristic of CBD is its inability to induce the intoxicating “high” sensation commonly associated with cannabis use.

CBD, the main active ingredient derived from hemp, is a federal law in many regions due to its non-intoxicating nature and potential health benefits.

CBD products have shown promise in reducing seizures, while THC is commonly used to treat nausea, especially in cancer chemotherapy patients.

What is THC?

THC, the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis, produces the intoxicating “high” sensation. Therefore, it is commonly consumed through smoking cannabis.

Additionally, THC is available in various other forms, such as oils, edibles, tinctures, capsules, and more, providing diverse options for consumption.

THC, the primary psychoactive compound found in cannabis-derived products, alters perception and cognition, so its legal status and availability depend on local laws.

What Is The Origin Of Their Existence?

origins of cbd and thc

CBD and THC are cannabinoids that occur naturally in cannabis plants, but their levels can vary among different species.

For instance, when individuals consume a CBD-dominant medical cannabis variant, they utilize CBD derived from hemp, a specific strain of the Cannabis sativa plant.

The primary distinction between hemp and other cannabis plant species is their THC content. According to the 2018 Farm Bill, cannabis plants with less than 0.3% THC are classified as hemp.

In contrast, other strains typically have higher THC levels and lower CBD concentrations. An analysis conducted in 2016 revealed that the average potency of cannabis plants increased from approximately 4% in 1995 to 12% in 2014.

From 2001 to 2014, average CBD levels decreased from 0.28% to less than 0.15%.

Achieving A State Of Euphoria Or Excitement

Despite belonging to the same cannabinoid family, CBD and THC engage with distinct cannabinoid receptors within the brain, as indicated by evidence from various sources.

THC can bind to the primary cannabinoid receptors, owing to its chemical structure resembling anandamide—a cannabinoid that naturally occurs in the body.

This similarity allows THC to interact with these receptors, eliciting the intoxicating effects commonly associated with recreational cannabis use.

In contrast, CBD does not induce the euphoric sensations typically associated with cannabis consumption. Although CBD’s receptor interaction mechanisms remain uncertain, experts speculate it binds differently from THC.

Additionally, CBD may enhance the effects of other cannabinoids or bind to undiscovered receptors, as suggested by ongoing research.

Exploring the Potential and Legal Considerations

CBD and THC are two natural compounds derived from the same plant, cannabis sativa, yet they have distinct properties and effects on the body.

As regulations and the medical community continue to evaluate the potential of both compounds, understanding the key differences between CBD and THC is vital for individuals seeking relief from health conditions and navigating legal considerations due to drug abuse and pain relief.

State laws regarding medical marijuana play a crucial role in determining the accessibility and usage of cannabis for therapeutic purposes.

Complementary and integrative health approaches, including the use of medical cannabis, are subject to regulations under the Controlled Substances Act.

While hemp-derived CBD products are more widely available, it’s important to note that FDA-approved medications may result in a positive drug test, as cannabis affects the central nervous system.

Consulting with the National Center and understanding state medical cannabis laws is essential for informed decision-making.

The Arrangement Of Atoms In A Molecule

cbd vs thc comparison

CBD and THC share an identical molecular structure comprising 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and two oxygen atoms. However, a subtle variation in the arrangement of these atoms contributes to cannabis potency and their distinct effects on the body.

Regarding chemical structure and composition, CBD, and THC resemble the endocannabinoids naturally produced within the body. This similarity enables them to engage with cannabinoid receptors.

The interaction between cannabinoids and receptors influences the release of neurotransmitters in the brain.

Neurotransmitters play a crucial role in transmitting messages between cells and contribute to various bodily functions, including pain perception, immune response, stress regulation, and sleep patterns.

Psychoactive Components

Despite their similar chemical structures, CBD and THC differ in their psychoactive effects. While THC is known for its psychoactive properties and ability to induce a “high,” cannabis products, on the other hand, exhibit psychoactivity in a different manner. CBD does not produce the typical euphoric sensation associated with THC.

THC primarily binds to the cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptors in the brain, leading to the experience of a high or a sense of euphoria. Research suggests that the intensity of this high may be greater when THC is inhaled rather than ingested.

In contrast, CBD binds very weakly, if at all, to CB1 receptors. Therefore, CBD’s interaction with CB1 receptors is minimal. However, CBD can modulate the effects of THC by binding to other receptors or pathways. By doing so, CBD can help mitigate some of the unwanted psychoactive effects of THC, such as euphoria or sedation.

Comparing the Medical Benefits of CBD and THC

CBD and THC offer numerous overlapping medical benefits, making them potentially effective in alleviating similar conditions.

Both cannabinoids can provide relief for various ailments. However, one crucial distinction lies in the psychoactive effects associated with THC but not with CBD.

Unlike THC, CBD does not induce euphoric sensations, which leads some individuals to prefer CBD due to the absence of this side effect.


Canada approved Epidiolex, the first prescription medication containing CBD. This medication is utilized explicitly for treating rare and challenging-to-control severe forms of epilepsy. However, it is important to note that Epidiolex has not received approval for addressing any other conditions mentioned below.

CBD is widely used to aid in the management of various conditions, including:

  • Seizures
  • Inflammation
  • Pain
  • Psychosis or mental disorders
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Nausea
  • Migraine
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

According to a 2020 study, CBD shows the potential to help with the following:

  • Social anxiety
  • Schizophrenia
  • Sleep disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorders

However, it is essential to highlight that the FDA has not yet approved CBD for these particular uses.

Further research is necessary to determine the efficacy of CBD in treating these conditions, as well as others. Ongoing clinical studies are exploring CBD as a potential treatment for:

  • Mood disorders
  • Chronic pain
  • Inflammatory diseases
  • Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
  • Tumors


Canada has approved two synthetic formulations of THC for targeted therapeutic applications.

Nabilone (sold as Cesamet) has received approval to treat chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.

Dronabinol (available as Marinol and Syndros) is approved to alleviate nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy drugs. It is also authorized to stimulate appetite in individuals diagnosed with AIDS or experiencing anorexia.

THC is commonly utilized to assist with the following conditions:

  • Pain management
  • Muscle spasticity
  • Glaucoma
  • Insomnia
  • Appetite stimulation
  • Nausea relief
  • Anxiety reduction

Recent research studies have been investigating the potential of THC in treating the following conditions:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic neuropathic pain

Comparing the Side Effects of CBD and THC

medical benefits of cbd vs thc

CBD oil is generally well tolerated, even at higher doses. However, reported side effects associated with high doses of CBD usage are likely the result of potential interactions between CBD and other medications being taken, which could lead to adverse effects, including liver damage, as suggested by sources.

The potential side effects of CBD may include:

  • Changes in appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhea
  • Sleepiness and drowsiness
  • Increased risk of suicidal thoughts, as indicated by reliable sources.

THC, on the other hand, can cause temporary side effects due to its psychoactive properties. These side effects may include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Coordination problems
  • Dry mouth
  • Red eyes
  • Slower reaction times
  • Memory loss
  • Anxiety
  • Tiredness
  • Confusion
  • Distress
  • Low blood pressure
  • Seizures and seizure-like activity
  • Neither CBD nor THC is considered fatal.

However, prolonged and excessive THC use may be associated with adverse psychiatric effects, particularly in adolescents who consume large quantities.

Long-term cannabis use has been linked to conditions such as motivational syndrome, where individuals may experience symptoms of depression and reduced motivation, as highlighted in 2021 research.

The same research also notes that cannabis use has been associated with psychosis, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and substance use disorders.

Nevertheless, it is important to note that no definitive evidence exists to establish a causal relationship between cannabis use and psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia.

Different Methods and Approaches

To cater to different preferences and needs, a wide range of products containing these cannabinoids are available in the market.

CBD can be found in diverse forms, including:

  • Oils
  • Gummies
  • Capsules
  • Tinctures

Similarly, both marijuana and THC can be obtained in various forms, such chemical compounds such as:

  • Smokable products
  • Oils
  • Tinctures
  • Edibles, like brownies

Comparing CBD and THC in Drug Testing

Cannabinoids like THC and CBD can be stored in the body’s fat cells. As a result, traces of these compounds can be detected in drug tests for a period ranging from several days to weeks after their use.

While not all drug tests can identify CBD, there are tests specifically designed to detect its presence. Standard drug tests typically target substances associated with THC, meaning that THC or cannabis usage may result in a positive screening.

Moreover, hemp plants can potentially contain small amounts of THC alongside CBD. Consequently, a drug test could yield a positive result for THC, even if the individual has not directly consumed it.

It is crucial to recognize that products claiming to be THC-free may still contain traces of THC. Therefore, individuals subject to drug testing should refrain from using any CBD or THC products to avoid potential complications.

Final Thoughts

CBD and THC, two cannabinoids derived from cannabis plants, share similarities in their structure and potential therapeutic applications.

However, the key distinction lies in the psychoactive effects associated with THC, which can induce a euphoric high, whereas CBD does not produce such effects.

To ensure compliance with legal regulations, individuals must acquaint themselves with the specific laws and regulations regarding the acquisition and usage of CBD and THC in their respective state’s laws and jurisdictions. Currently, both CBD and THC remain federally legal in Canada.