THC vs CBD, What’s the Difference

The key differences between THC and CBD are subtle and mostly only interesting to scientists. Most users are happy to know that THC causes the big bang in the buzz, and CBD makes you alert and hungry.

Cannabis strains are typically chosen based on the effects that users want. But, THC and CBD co-exist in countless combinations and ratios, it creates a great variety of experiences and a shopping experience.

THC and CBD are chemical compounds in cannabis. More specifically, they are released as terpenes, the source of cannabis aroma. They both occur naturally, and they naturally interact with cerebral and physical systems in the humans with marked to subtle results.


They shortened tetrahydrocannabinol to THC – fortunately for every weed smoker out there. Of the many chemicals found in cannabis sativa, it is the most active. It’s the one that explains the euphoric and psychoactive effects of the drug.

You’ll find it in all cannabis strains, but it varies in strengths. To chemists it reads △9 THC = C21H30O2.

Male cannabis plants have less THC than the flowering parts of the feminized plant where it is denser.

There are trichomes there where you’ll find the most potent THC, those that bind with the brain’s CB1 receptors. These trichome gland lies clustered on the leaves and stems in and around cannabis flowers with the larger leaves tossed away and the smaller leaves and organs close to the flower promising the most.

Those clustered trichomes seem to protect cannabis plants and their flowers from insect herbivores and cold temperatures while attracting pollinators.

The secretion is there in the first place as the plant’s key to survival. It serves as an anti-microbial to fight specific or not all environmental germs, pathogens, and pests. In addition, the tight weave of crystalline threads may protect the plants from ultra-violet light rays.

Sensiseeds also reports many common plant produce elements that mimic cannabinoid effects, including Liverwort, Echinacea, Flax, and Chinese Rhododendron, perhaps explaining why these plants have long contributed to natural remedies.

Discover has covered work by scientists at the Technical University in Dortmund, Germany where they have engineered a yeast that produces THC in low strength. The potential for harvesting a supply to develop additional medications is promising.

And, Stuart Fox reported for Popular Science, “scientists at the University of Minnesota have identified the genes in cannabis that allow the plant to produce THC. Finding the genes opens the path to either create drug-free hemp plants for industrial purposes, or to develop plants with much higher concentrations of the psychotropic chemical.”

The chemistry origin and contemporary science surrounding the nature, purpose, and effect of THC argues that fear of THC may owe its roots to social and political conflict.


CBD is the working code for Cannabidiol, sometimes called the “good” cannabinoid. Similar in structure to THC, CBD is non-psychoactive because it is less likely to bind with CB1 receptors. It’s the cannabis source of relaxation and chill not the intoxication and euphoria. It’s in all strains to some degree.

You must look very close to see the difference in the drawings. It’s no wonder most have overlooked its role when their focus has been on the cerebral impact promised by THC.

But, the medical potential for CBD has put cannabis in the hands of many people suffering from bodily ailments. It has proven effective in care of many physical and neurological afflictions.

Continuing research is attracted by its role as anti-inflammatory, neuroprotectant, antidepressant, analgesic, and anti-psychotic. It partners with THC to produce some of the high experienced, but its influence is largely sedative.

Like THC, CBD interacts with receptors in the brain. But, the receptors it works with function to allay anxiety, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, nausea, neuropathic pain, PTSD, and other symptoms. And, much testing and excitement has arisen around its role in treating forms of epilepsy.

Project CBD clarifies the difference between strains labeled “CBD-Rich” and “CBD-Dominant” strains. It notes that “CBD-Rich” describes strains that have an equal balance of THC and CBD or more CBD than THC. “CBD-Dominant,” on the other hand, applies to strains that have “very little THC content.”

That balance can be important to users because CBD can also modify or offset the negative effects of THC like memory loss or paranoia. And, this adds to its value in medical marijuana applications.

CBD remains a Schedule 1 drug according to the U.S. DEA. But, an increasing number of states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized CBD-based medications even where marijuana use remains illegal.

Public sympathy and scientific research, however, are lessening federal constraints. The FDA has permitted trials of Epidolex, a product of the U.K.’s GW Pharmaceuticals, to treat rare pediatric problems with Dravet syndrome, Infantile Spasms, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, and Tuberous Sclerosis Complex. This follows GW Pharmaceuticals’ Sativex treating multiple sclerosis in 24 countries.

The easily available CBD oil is the source of its own controversies. Advocates for hemp derived oil insists it is or should be exempt from Schedule 1 classification. The same advocates push against the arrival of synthetic CBD products like those under FDA trials.

How to shop for yours:


Cannabis is marketed as medical marijuana in the form of beverages, capsules edibles, concentrates, infused sprays, and other forms including prepared foods and recipe ingredients. A moderate balanced ratio of CBD:THC = 10:1 may be a good start. Then, depending on your doctor’s advice, your budtender’s input, and the packaging information, you can move the ratio one way or the other to treat your specific needs.

You would start with a low volume dose, taking several low doses over the day instead of one big one. Stick with that regimen for three to five days, and keep a journal of the effects and side-effects. You have several ways to moderate the treatment: increasing or decreasing the dose, the frequency, or ratio. Keeping some record will help you make future buying and treatment decisions.

THC vs CBD is a distinction with informational and practical value to new and veteran cannabis users. And, if you take the information seriously, you can see its personal value to you.

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