Skip to Main Content

THC vs CBD: What’s the Difference?

Published on
The cannabis plant contains dozens of cannabinoids. The most popular ones are Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). While THC is known for its psychoactive effects, CBD is mostly known for its medicinal uses. Even if both cannabinoids come from the same plant, the ways they affect the human nervous system differ greatly because of their respective chemical compositions.

CBD and THC are unique compounds with astounding effects

The cannabis plant has been used in multiple civilizations for thousands of years already. Yet, its virtues are still considered as natural wonders. Comprising over 400 chemicals and compounds, some of which even induce adverse effects on the human body and mind alike, hemp keeps surprising the scientific world every day. Even expert marijuana consumers might be surprised at the many little-known facts surrounding the source of their favorite recreational or medical drug. Scientists from all around the globe keep presenting new data through extensive research in view of shedding light on the various properties of cannabis and their effects on the human body.

In the recent years, the many studies on cannabis have been narrowed on two particularly fascinating cannabinoids — or compounds produced exclusively by cannabis — that interact with the human nervous system in a compelling way. They are the CBD and the THC- the compounds that are the most abundant in the plant but also the chemicals whose effects are the most sought after upon consumption. The myriads of effects that those two respectively trigger are in fact truly extraordinary, to the point where they could further the medical endeavor in the alleviation of pain. 

THC vs. CBD: What's the Difference?

THC and CBD both impact on the nervous system

Both THC and CDB can be found on the resinous trichomes covering mature cannabis flowers. The two even share the same chemical formula. The difference between them, however, lies in how the atoms of each compound are arranged. While THC and CBD have a different way of interacting with our bodies because of that, they share the particularity of being some of the only external chemicals capable of having a significant impact on the human nervous system. 

THC is the psychoactive cannabidiol

THC, whose official scientific names are Delta 9‑Tetrahydrocannabinol or Trans-Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol, is probably the most popular kind of cannabidiol. As you might have guessed, it is because the complexly named compound induces the psychotic and psychoactive effects that usually elevate a marijuana consumer to a state of blissful euphoria. In other words, it triggers the phenomenon that has been dubbed as the stoner’s high”.

In 1964, Israeli chemist Raphael Mechoulam isolated Trans-Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol from Lebanese hashish, therefore identifying the specific reason why cannabis-based products would cause people to be in a euphoric cerebral state.

CBD is the non-psychoactive cannabidiol

CBD, or Cannabidiol, is the compound of marijuana that has gradually emerged as a source of major interest within the medical field. While mixed criticism still surrounds the consumption of the chemical for health-related issues, more and more studies are helping to bring its benefits to light. Legal actions have already been taken in some of the states across the US to allow the consumption of medical marijuana. While CBD influences the nervous system tremendously, it does not create any psychotic or psycho-active effects, meaning that it does not influence a consumer’s thinking abilities upon intake. This has even started conversations about using CBD based products to treat younger patients, potentially enabling children of a reasonable age to finally be freed from various medical plights.

THC and CBD have sets of effects that differ greatly from each other

Even though they come from the same source, THC and CBD are very different in the way they operate. Both Tetrahydrocannabinol and Cannabidiol interact with our nervous system’s endocannabinoid structure — an inherent body structure specifically meant to be influenced by cannabidiols. However, each chemical activates a specific receptor. THC activates the CB1 receptor only, while CBD exclusively interacts with the CB2 receptor. All of this is due to how the compounds — that both share the same set of atoms — are arranged.

Perhaps an excellent example of the differences between CBD and THC would be the findings brought forward by a British study. The latter, run in 2004, has uncovered that 15 milligrams THC would appear to be sedative, while 15 mg CBD appears to have alert properties as it increased awake activity during sleep and counteracted the residual sedative activity of 15 mg THC.”

Effects of THC

  • Reduces inflammation
  • Lessens depression
  • Lessens pain by acting directly on the nervous system
  • Creates psycho-active cerebral activity

Potential medical applications of CBD

  • Anxiety Disorders — British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 2013.
  • Cancer Proliferation — Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, 2014 and Journal of NeuroImmune Pharmacology, 2015.
  • Inflammation — Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, 2008.
  • Chronic Pain — Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management, 2008.
  • Arthritis — Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2000.
  • Bone Fractures — Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, 2015.
  • Alzheimer’s — Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 2014.
  • PTSD — Journal of Psychiatric Research, 2012.
  • Heroin Addiction — The Journal of Neuroscience, 2009.
  • Multiple Sclerosis — Clinical Therapeutics, 2007.
  • Infant Seizures — Paediatric Neurology, 2015.
  • Neurologic Diseases — Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics, 2014.
  • Diabetes — European Journal of Pharmacology, 2013.
  • Parkinson’s — Journal of Psychopharmacology, 2014.
  • Sepsis — Journal of Immunology, 2009.
  • Epilepsy — Epilepsia, 2015 and Epilepsy & Behaviour, 2014.

THC and CBD are expected to reach more and more people

THC and CBD are still considered as illegal drugs in many countries across the world. However, with new findings shedding the light on their respective qualities, their presence will hopefully grow within the realms of medicine and eventually reach the people in dire need of marijuana-based treatments.

What to read next

Subscribe to our newsletter

By clicking “submit,” you agree to receive emails from Civilized and accept our web terms of use and privacy and cookie policy.

Let’s see some ID

Where are you from?

Are you at least 21 years of age?

The content of this website cannot be shown unless you verify your age. Please verify to visit our site.