CBD vs THC: Breaking Down The Differences Between The Two Cannabinoids


CBD and THC are two of the most controversial substances today. The approval of the Farm Bill set further confusion to people, most especially to those who have zero to minimal knowledge of hemp.

Since both are cannabinoids from marijuana, most people think that CBD and THC have the same effects. But are they really similar?

This article aims to debunk public misconceptions and break down the differences between CBD and THC. Moreover, understanding the difference is important to help you with your buying decision.

So, without further ado, let’s get right into it.

What is CBD?CBD and THC

What makes people concerned about cannabidiol or CBD is because of its source. It is actually the second most common cannabinoid in Cannabis Sativa plant.

It is far from what THC is; CBD does not make you feel high. Instead, its main effects are pain alleviation and stress removal.

Many researchers continue to conduct further studies to prove the positive effects of CBD. When I said “studies,” it goes as far as CBD has the potential to cure terminal illnesses like cancer, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and others. The National Institutes of Health in the US even concluded that it has potential clinical benefits to those suffering from epilepsy.

If you want more and in-depth information on cannabidiol, read our complete guide on What is CBD?

What is THC?

On the other hand, tetrahydrocannabinol or THC changes the function of the brain. It leads to a “kick” or the psychoactive effect (yes, that kind of high you’re thinking of).

How does this actually happen? Unlike CBD, THC binds with the Cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptors in the brain.

Out of the hundreds of cannabinoids that can be found in cannabis, THC is the key component to put the user in a euphoric state. It also brings fatigue, hunger, and relaxation.

Given the right amount, THC can actually be used for its pain-relieving effect in the body. But be careful, because the results are often unpredictable.

CBD vs THC: Medical Purposes

CBD Medical Purposes

CBD as Treatment

For Pain Relief – CBD oil has an anti-inflammatory property to help relieve pain. In fact, the FDA approved such a drug called Sativex to treat pain felt by Multiple Sclerosis patients.

For Anxiety – Since CBD interacts well with the ECS (Endocannabinoid System), it helps improve the lives of those who are suffering from different kinds of anxieties.

For Drug and Smoking Cessation – Researchers found out that CBD oil can help people who are experiencing withdrawals.

For Epileptic Seizures -The government has proven the potential of CBD oil to help lessen the frequency of attacks.

For Neurologic Conditions – Studies have found out the possible positive effect of CBD on patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

For Cancer – Ongoing research is being conducted to prove the potential participation of CBD to stop cancer from spreading.

For Acne – If you don’t have allergies to CBD, it can actually help your face to suffer from acne by calming down the inflammation.

THC as Treatment

For Neurologic Conditions – There are some studies that also show that THC can help relieve symptoms caused by Tourette’s and Multiple Sclerosis.

For Cancer – Tests were conducted showing that THC has the potential to kill cancer cells.

For Pain Relief – THC acts like CBD for pain. Even though it could place you in a euphoric state, THC blocks the inflammation.

For Nausea – A prescription drug called Marinol is a synthetic THC, which helps relieve nausea.

CBD vs THC for Pain

Aside from immune-related diseases, CBD and THC are known to relieve pain caused by different conditions. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) attest to the efficacy of CBD products with the reports they’ve released in 2012 and 2017.

Their researchers also proved that CBD could help cure inflammation and joint pains. Just imagine how wonderful it is to get cured naturally without worrying about side effects!

On the other hand, THC helps in relieving muscle spasms and tumor-related pains. However, users may experience euphoric sensation in the process.

But there isn’t any need for you to choose which to use. In fact, a combination of both becomes a super-effective natural medication.

CBD vs THC: Recreational Purposes

Most often than not, CBD is not used for recreational purposes because it is non-psychoactive. THC is used more for recreation because of its strains.

When a person uses the Sativa strain, it would make him feel energetic and in a great mood. If Indica is used, on the other hand, you’d feel hungry or lethargic.

The Fusion

When combined, CBD and THC bring the “entourage effect.” This means you can maximize the full potential of both components and feel relief effectively.

A research concluded that the CBD and THC combo is more effective than using THC alone. The test was done focusing on cancer-related pain in a controlled environment.

In another study, CBD seems to blend well with THC. At some point, CBD pacifies the euphoric effect of THC and just leaves all the good stuff to work its way in the body.

However, the science behind it is still in the works, so people sort to trial and error. There isn’t any standard dosage to “balance” the two yet.

Possible Adverse Side Effects

Side Effects of CBD

In reality, there were only a few reported adverse effects when using CBD. The results of experiments usually turn out great, except for some cases.

In a study conducted in 1986, CBD users could possibly experience light-headedness, sedation, slow thoughts and motion, and low blood pressure. However, in a more recent study, only a few people show such effects.

Side Effects of THC

Between the two, I’d say THC is more controversial than the other because of its effects. This actually leads to confusing the general public. If they are from the same plant, then why don’t they have the same effect?

Apparently, THC has the psychoactive property, which CBD does not have. Instead of interacting with the CB receptors, THC binds with them – like weakening their defenses. Here are some of the known adverse side effects when using THC:

Loss of Memory – The use of THC would bind with the neurons found in the hippocampus region or the memory bank in our brain. This causes a loss of memory. For how long? Scientists need to study further to identify if it’s a permanent thing or not.

Bloodshot Eyes – Having red eyes is the common indication that a person is in a euphoric state. Since the user would have lower blood pressure, his blood vessels would then dilate.

Cotton Mouth –This is another known effect. It weakens the control of the salivary glands, making them inactive. This often happens when you get THC from smoking.

Speedy Heartbeat – THC expands the blood vessels, causing low blood pressure and increase your heart rate.

Possible Psychosis – THC usage may lead to cannabis-induced psychosis or CIP. Worse, it might lead to schizophrenia.

The Chemical Makeup

CBD and THC Chemical Structure

Now, this sounds a little too science-y but CBD and THC look almost the same, structure-wise. What makes them different is how these chemical components are positioned. 30 hydrogen atoms, 21 carbon atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms are arranged in a slightly different way, thus giving different effects.

Since the body has endocannabinoids, the receptors would not know the difference between CBD and THC. The body’s reaction changes once these two are bound to different receptors. However, the immediate reaction is usually to relieve pain.

Notice that when you use topical products with CBD and/or THC, you would feel the relief. This is because there are receptors everywhere in our body.

The legality of CBD and THC


Thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, CBD is legal in all 50 states as long as it does not contain THC. Well, that’s based on federal law – meaning some states may still have reservations.

The states are categorized into four:

The Friendliest States – They have mandates bluntly stating that hemp-based products are legal like in New York and Illinois.

Friendly States – They exempt hemp that is grown following the Farm Bill guidelines like in Hawaii and Oklahoma.

The Gray Area States – They don’t have a straightforward mandate about selling CBD products but have exceptions like in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

States with Concern – They have no specific prohibitions versus the retail of CBD products like in Michigan and Ohio. However, they have “conservative” actions leading to the idea that it’s risky to buy.


As for THC, 33 states plus Washington DC legalized the medical use of marijuana but with restrictions. Only 10 states, including Washington DC, have friendlier legislation for recreational use.

Even with the Farm Bill, 16 states still consider the use of marijuana in any way as illegal. The list includes Texas, North Carolina, and Iowa.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is there a recommended dosage when taking CBD?
There is no standard dosage when using CBD. However, you should always start with the minimum, which is 5 mg or less before you sleep. Some people find minute dosages to be effective. If you think you aren’t relieved from pain, you can double the dosage.

Is it okay to take CBD while I am under a different medication?
The outright answer is no. Remember: different medications have different effects. Do not confuse your system.

Will I fail a drug test when I use CBD?
If the CBD product you are using has zero to 0.3% THC in it, then you are good to go. Usually, people who fail drug tests are those who use CBD with THC that’s higher than recommended. Expect the worse when you only use THC as a standalone.

Does CBD make your eyes red?
It’s the THC strain that causes the red eye effect, so if you use CBD with zero to 0.3% of THC you might experience a little redness or not at all.

Our eyes have a lot of CB1 receptors, of which THC binds with. When THC sets in, the eyes experience lower blood pressure, thus the redness.

Which is Better: CBD or THC?

This is quite a trick question, but it all boils down to what you need. CBD is known to alleviate chronic pain, as THC is for muscle spasm.

Both help in relieving stress as well. But unlike THC, CBD does not have any known adverse side effects to date.

When combined, you would feel like getting all the great juices one can extract from cannabis. So if you were to choose, get the best depending on what your body actually needs.

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