What are the Differences Between CBD and THC?

On December 20, 2018, CBD became federally legal. This paved the way for myriad CBD

companies to pop up all across the country (ourselves included). Although they are derived from the same cannabis plant and share almost the exact same chemical structure, there is one big difference between CBD and THC, the element of cannabis that produces a feeling of euphoria: CBD does not have the psychoactive effects that THC does. This is the main reason many feel more comfortable and worry-free using CBD. Throughout this article we will highlight the different benefits and side effects of CBD and THC.

Psychoactive Components

CBD has been proven to help with anxiety, depression and seizures, and while it is technically psychoactive, it doesn’t bind with the cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptors to create a high or euphoria the way THC does. CBD binds very weakly, if at all, with CB1 receptors.


As of this writing 33 states, and Washington D.C. have passed laws making cannabis with high levels of THC legal for medical reasons. Additionally, several states have made recreational use of cannabis legal, as well. CBD, as we learned above, became federally legal with the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, whereby industrial hemp became a legal commodity in all 50 states. Hemp-derived CBD products (with less than 0.3 percent THC) are legal on the federal level, but are still illegal under some state laws. Marijuana-derived CBD products are illegal on the federal level, but are legal under some state laws. In light of this variance in acceptance, we recommend checking your specific state’s laws, as well as those of any places you travel.

Medical Benefits

While it’s true that CBD and THC share many of the same medical benefits, a growing number of people opt for CBD because there is no psychoactive effect. In fact, they prefer it. CBD can be taken as a nasal spray (with BioSpectrum deemed the most popular), tincture, or gummy; it is not generally smoked, which THC often is. Since CBD is a legal substance, its production and dosage are not regulated. Individuals typically use CBD to help treat the following, and this list is ever-expanding:

● Pain management

● Inflammatory bowel disease

● Seizures

● Depression

● Inflammation

● Psychosis or mental disorders● Migraines

● Arthritis

● Crohn’s disease

● Diabetes

● Multiple sclerosis

● Side effects of cancer treatment

● PTSD anxiety

THC is typically ingested by smoking or eating products that contain it. Chemically, there is no distinction between recreational and medical marijuana. In states where both are accepted, the difference generally is the amount that can be purchased at one time and how highly they are taxed. THC has potential uses in treating some of the following:

● Glaucoma

● Muscle spasticity

● Low appetite

● Insomnia

● Chronic pain

● Reduction of nausea

Why CBD is Used More Than THC for Medical Treatments

It’s important to remember that THC itself is classified as an illegal drug that may produce immediate and long-term cognitive side effects. These include impaired thinking and reasoning, a reduced ability to plan and organize, altered decision making, and reduced impulse control. Chronic use of THC further can be associated with significant abnormalities in the heart and

brain. On the other hand, CBD not only lacks the euphoric cognitive effects of THC, but counteracts its psychoactive effects - regardless of whether it is in plant form or administered from extract. Cannabis plants with small amounts of CBD and high levels of THC promote a stronger high feeling, while plants with more CBD and less THC create a weaker “buzzed” sensation. Considering the popularity of medical marijuana, breeders are now working to create strains with higher CBD to THC ratios to minimize the psychoactive effects. In short, the proven health uses and lower health risks of CBD combined with its lack of euphoria make it a very appealing option for those seeking relief without feeling high.

Are CBD and THC Safe to Use?

Extensive research has shown that CBD - even in large doses - is well tolerated and safe. Even chronic use of CBD has not been proven to cause any neurological, psychiatric, or clinical effects. The same can’t be said for THC which may carry a risk of some negative and/or temporary side effects, including memory impairment, lowered reaction time, increased heart rate, dry mouth, and red eyes. However, despite these unpleasant side effects, the National Cancer Institute has determined that it’s not possible to fatally overdose with THC.

Bottom Line

While both CBD and THC are cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, each offering specific medical benefits, research about how the plant impacts our health continues to evolve. But we do know with certainty that THC comes with psychoactive elements that aren’t always beneficial to the user, while CBD does not. In fact, CBD has virtually no potential for abuse and very few side effects. In either case, it is recommended that you consult with a physician or CBD clinician to understand the health benefits and side effects of each.

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