Know the Difference: CBD vs THC
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You've heard all about cannabis and how it can be an effective yet natural alternative to traditional meds in terms of alleviating a number of ailments.
Both hemp and marijuana produce both THC and CBD.

But before you go out and try it, you might want to learn a thing or two about this miraculous plant first.

Understanding the different cannabinoids within the cannabis plant and how each differs should be your first step. Do you want to get high? Are you looking for some pain relief or medicinal benefits? Do you want to improve your sleep or relieve your anxiety? 

The specific goal you have in mind will determine which cannabinoid you should take; namely, CBD vs THC.

But what are THC and CBD? Since they're both cannabinoids that are derived from the cannabis plant, aren't they similar? If not, how do they differ? 

Chemical Differences Between CBD and THC

Chemically speaking, both THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) actually have near identical makeup, with the exception of a different arrangement of one particular atom. This subtle distinction makes a big difference in how each cannabinoid affects the user’s mind and body. 

This difference all comes down to how each one interacts with the receptors of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the brain and body. This system is made up of a series of receptors that interact with cannabinoids to regulate important functions in the body.

Two specific receptors - CB1 and CB2 receptors - are found all over the body and brain, and when naturally-occurring endocannabinoids interact with them, mental and physical processes are affected.  

More specifically, CB1 receptors are found throughout the brain, and CB2 receptors are found throughout the immune and central nervous systems. When outside cannabinoids like THC and CBD interact with these receptors, afflictions such as pain, inflammation, anxiety, and appetite can be better managed. 

But how each cannabinoid interacts with these receptors differs, which explains how their effects also differ. 

Both THC and CBD directly bind with CB2 receptors, but they don't interact with the CB1 receptors in the brain in the same way. THC binds with CB1 receptors directly, which is why it is able to induce psychoactive effects of the mind and is what gets users high.

CBD, on the other hand, does not directly bind with these receptors, and instead indirectly interacts with them, which is why CBD does not have any mind-altering effects in users. In fact, CBD may actually offset the psychological effects of THC

How Do CBD and THC Interact With the Mind and Body?

Since CBD and THC interact with the receptors of the endocannabinoid system differently, their effects are also somewhat different, particularly when it comes to the mind. 

CBD has recently become an incredibly popular natural remedy for a number of ailments as both a supplement and alternative to traditional medications. In particular, clinical trials have shown that CBD may induce the following effects:

THC's effects are somewhat similar, with some differences:

THC and CBD Content in Different Cannabis Strains 

The THC and CBD content of each type of cannabis plant is different. You'll find a much higher THC concentration in one plant while another will be more concentrated in CBD.

Both hemp and marijuana produce both THC and CBD. However, their exact content of each cannabinoid differs greatly. Hemp is a variety of cannabis that has less than 0.3% THC, while marijuana is a variety that contains more than 0.3% THC. CBD derived from hemp does not induce any psychoactive effects, while THC that is derived from marijuana does. 

For the most part, the majority of marijuana strains have about 17% to 18% THC with less than 1% CBD. 

Different strains will have their own specific THC:CBD ratio, which is an important factor to consider when choosing a strain to tackle your specific ailment. For instance, a greater ratio of CBD to THC will give you less of a high, while a greater ratio of THC to CBD will do the opposite.

Typically, sativa dominant strains tend to have a higher THC:CBD ratio, which is why sativa strains tend to have more psychoactive, euphoric effects — they are considered an "upper" and can activate the mind with a flow of creativity, alertness and in-depth thoughts. 

Reversely, indica heavy strains are CBD-dominant and impact the body more so than the mind — the relaxing, calming effects of indica have deemed the species a "downer" — it has the potential to provide a sleep-inducing, often therapeutic feeling when consumed or inhaled. 

How sensitive you are to THC and whether or not you're looking for something more mentally and physically sedating is a key factor in choosing the right ratio. Retail medical cannabis companies tend to offer various products with differing ratios of CBD:THC that are specifically formulated to alleviate specific ailments. 

Generally speaking, anyone looking to tackle anxiety, depression, muscle spasms, psychosis, and seizures may do better with more CBD and less THC. Those who are looking to target poor appetite or nausea from cancer treatments may find a little more THC more effective. 

Further, different times of day may also play a role in which ratio to choose; for instance, more CBD during the day and more THC at night may be an effective way to choose and use different cannabis products.

Different Ways to Consume THC and CBD

CBD and THC can be consumed in a number of different ways, depending on the user’s comfort level of the user and the specific ailment they wish to target: 

  • Smoking - THC is more commonly smoked as a joint or with a pipe compared to CBD. Evidence suggests smoking is hard on the lungs, so take caution when consuming in this manner. 
  • Vaping - Vaping is considered safer than smoking CBD or THC. Rather than burning the plant, an extract is steadily heated to deliver a stream of cannabinoids to the body, reducing any irritation to the airways. Vaping CBD is known to have euphoric effects on the body — the effects of marijuana can be felt just as heavily with vaping as with smoking, and it might be a safer alternative. 
  • Edibles and beverages - Eating or drinking cannabis produces a different effect compared to smoking or vaping because cannabinoids must pass through the digestive system first. The effects, therefore, take a little longer to be felt. However, their effects are usually longer-lasting and can be much more powerful as opposed to smoking or vaping. When consuming THC products in this manner, make sure you test the waters with a smaller dose first — you can always take more. 
  • Topicals - Those looking to target specific areas of the body that are experiencing pain, discomfort or inflammation may find topicals more useful. Both THC and CBD may be found in topical formats, such as creams, lotions and ointments. 
  • Tinctures - This delivery method allows users to apply THC or CBD hemp oil directly under the tongue, after which the cannabinoids are absorbed immediately throughout the mucous membranes and into the stomach. They're useful for those looking for more exact dosing and quick-acting effects. When consuming marijuana for medical purposes exclusively, people tend to stick with tinctures — they don't interact with the lungs and airways, you can easily control the amount you're putting into your body and they're quick and easy to use. 

Final Thoughts

Both THC and CBD can deliver amazing therapeutic effects that can rival those of traditional pharmaceuticals. While many of their effects overlap, the most significant difference between the two lies in their effects on the mind. Those who wish not to experience mind-altering effects may be better suited for a CBD product that provides a slew of medical benefits without the high.