CBD vs. THC: What’s the Difference?

Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are two of the most well-known compounds found in cannabis. Both CBD and THC are cannabinoids, which are chemical compounds that interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system.

Although both compounds are similar in some ways, there are some important differences between CBD and THC that are important to understand. For one thing, THC is known for its psychoactive properties, while CBD is not. This means that THC can produce a “high” feeling in users, while CBD does not.

Another key difference between CBD and THC is their legal status. While CBD is legal in many parts of the world and has been shown to have numerous health benefits, THC remains illegal in many countries and can have negative effects on mental health and cognitive function when used in excess.

In this article, we will explore the similarities and differences between CBD and THC, their various uses, and the potential benefits and drawbacks of each of these compounds.

The Basics: What are CBD and THC?


CBD, or cannabidiol, is a chemical compound found in the cannabis plant. It is non-psychoactive and does not produce the “high” associated with marijuana use. CBD is commonly used for its potential therapeutic properties, such as reducing pain, inflammation, and anxiety.

CBD can be extracted from both marijuana and hemp plants. Hemp-derived CBD is legal in the United States, while marijuana-derived CBD is legal in some states but illegal on a federal level.


THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the primary psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant. It is responsible for the “high” experienced with marijuana use. THC has potential medicinal properties as well, such as reducing pain and nausea, but its psychoactive effects make it more heavily regulated.

Like CBD, THC can be extracted from marijuana and hemp plants. However, marijuana-derived THC is illegal on a federal level and is only legal for medical or recreational use in some states.

In summary, CBD and THC are both chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant. CBD is non-psychoactive and commonly used for its potential therapeutic properties, while THC is psychoactive and primarily used for its recreational effects.

How Do They Work in the Body?


CBD works by interacting with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the body. The ECS is a network of receptors and neurotransmitters that regulates numerous functions, such as appetite, pain, sleep, and immune system response. CBD binds to these receptors, particularly the CB1 and CB2 receptors, and modulates their activity. This interaction can reduce pain and inflammation, relieve anxiety and depression, and improve sleep.

Unlike THC, CBD is non-psychoactive, meaning it doesn’t produce the “high” associated with marijuana use. Instead, it provides a calming effect and is often used as a natural alternative to traditional medications for various conditions.


THC works by binding to the CB1 receptors in the brain and central nervous system. This binding triggers a release of dopamine, which produces the euphoric “high” associated with marijuana use. THC also affects other regions of the brain, such as the hippocampus and cerebellum, which can result in altered perception, decreased coordination, and impaired memory.

THC can also have therapeutic effects, such as reducing nausea and vomiting, increasing appetite, and reducing pain and inflammation. However, its psychoactive effects can make it challenging for some people to use as a medication. Additionally, regular use of THC can lead to tolerance and dependence.

Key Takeaways

  • CBD and THC interact with the endocannabinoid system in the body.
  • CBD binds to CB1 and CB2 receptors, providing calming effects without the psychoactive “high” of THC.
  • THC binds primarily to CB1 receptors in the brain, producing the euphoric “high” associated with marijuana use.
  • While both CBD and THC have therapeutic potential, their effects and uses differ significantly.

Cannabinoid Receptors: CBD vs. THC

Cannabinoid Receptors: CBD vs. THC

CBD and THC: An Overview

CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) are two of the most well-known cannabinoids that interact with the human body’s endocannabinoid system. These chemical compounds are found in both marijuana and hemp plants, but they have different effects on the body. THC is the psychoactive component of marijuana that gives users a high feeling, while CBD is non-psychoactive and has been found to have various therapeutic benefits.

Cannabinoid Receptors in the Human Body

The endocannabinoid system is made up of cannabinoid receptors, which are found throughout the human body. These receptors are responsible for regulating a variety of physiological and cognitive processes, including pain sensation, mood, appetite, and memory. There are two main types of cannabinoid receptors: CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are primarily found in the brain and central nervous system, while CB2 receptors are primarily found in the peripheral nervous system and immune system.

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How CBD and THC Interact with Cannabinoid Receptors

CBD and THC interact with cannabinoid receptors in different ways. THC activates CB1 receptors, which are primarily found in the brain, resulting in a high feeling. CBD, on the other hand, does not activate CB1 receptors and instead interacts with other receptors in the body, such as serotonin and vanilloid receptors. CBD is also known to modulate the effects of THC, reducing its psychoactive effects.

The Therapeutic Potential of CBD and THC

Both CBD and THC have been found to have therapeutic potential. THC has been used to treat conditions such as chronic pain, nausea and vomiting, and muscle spasticity. CBD has been found to have anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and antipsychotic effects, and has been used to treat conditions such as anxiety, epilepsy, and chronic pain. However, more research is needed to fully understand the therapeutic potential of these compounds, and their interactions with the endocannabinoid system.

Legal Status of CBD and THC


CBD is legal in many countries around the world. In the United States, CBD derived from hemp containing less than 0.3% THC is legal under federal law. However, the legality of CBD can vary from state to state. Some states have strict regulations on CBD, while others have legalized it for both medical and recreational use.

Outside of the United States, the legality of CBD can also vary. In Canada, CBD is legal for both medical and recreational use, while in the United Kingdom, CBD is legal as long as it does not contain more than 0.2% THC.


THC is illegal under federal law in the United States. While some states have legalized recreational and/or medical use of marijuana, it remains illegal on a federal level. Possession, sale, or use of THC can result in both federal and state legal consequences.

Outside of the United States, the legality of THC also varies from country to country. In Canada, marijuana for recreational and medicinal use has been legalized. In some European countries, such as the Netherlands, marijuana is tolerated in regulated coffee shops, but it remains illegal under Dutch law.

It is important to be aware of the legal status of CBD and THC in your own country or state before using these substances. Ignorance of the law is not a legal defense and can result in serious legal consequences.

Medical Benefits of CBD

Pain Relief

One of the most significant medical benefits of CBD is its ability to relieve pain. Research has shown that CBD can interact with receptors in the brain and immune system to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. This makes it a promising option for those with chronic pain conditions such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and fibromyalgia.

Anxiety and Depression

CBD has been found to have potential benefits for those with anxiety and depression. It works by interacting with serotonin receptors in the brain, which are responsible for regulating mood and social behavior. This makes it a potentially useful treatment for those with anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders.

Epilepsy and Seizures

CBD has also been found to have potential benefits for those with epilepsy and seizures. In fact, the FDA has approved a CBD-based medication (Epidiolex) for the treatment of two rare forms of childhood epilepsy. Research has shown that CBD can reduce the frequency and severity of seizures in those with epilepsy.

Cancer-Related Symptoms

CBD has been found to have potential benefits for those undergoing cancer treatment. Research has shown that it can help alleviate symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and pain. It may also have anti-cancer properties and could potentially be used as a complementary therapy alongside traditional cancer treatments.

Neuroprotective Properties

CBD has been found to have neuroprotective properties, meaning it may help protect the brain from damage and degeneration. This makes it a potentially useful treatment for those with neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease.

Medical Benefits of THC

1. Pain Relief

THC is known for its analgesic properties that can provide relief for chronic pain, such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, and multiple sclerosis. It can also help with neuropathic pain resulting from nerve damage, chemotherapy-induced pain, and headaches.

2. Appetite Stimulation

Another medical benefit of THC is its ability to stimulate appetite, making it helpful for those undergoing cancer treatment or suffering from anorexia or other eating disorders. It can also aid in weight gain for individuals who have difficulty maintaining a healthy weight.

3. Muscle Relaxation

THC can help reduce muscle spasms and stiffness, making it useful for individuals with conditions such as multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and Parkinson’s disease. It may also help with tremors, restless leg syndrome, and other neuromuscular disorders.

4. Nausea Relief

THC has been shown to help alleviate nausea and vomiting, making it beneficial for individuals undergoing chemotherapy or suffering from gastrointestinal disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease or Crohn’s disease.

5. Glaucoma Treatment

THC can help lower intraocular pressure in individuals with glaucoma, a condition that can lead to vision loss and blindness. It may also be effective in treating other eye conditions such as macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.

In conclusion, THC has several medical benefits that can help improve quality of life for individuals with various health conditions. However, it is important to note that THC can also have adverse effects and should be used under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

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Side Effects of CBD

1. Dry Mouth

One of the most common side effects of using CBD is dry mouth. This occurs because cannabinoids like CBD can interfere with the production of saliva, making the mouth feel dry and sticky. Drinking plenty of water can help alleviate this side effect.

2. Dizziness

Some users may experience dizziness or lightheadedness after taking CBD. This could be due to a drop in blood pressure, which can happen when CBD interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system. It’s important to start with a low dose of CBD and gradually increase as needed to avoid this side effect.

3. Changes in Appetite

CBD can also affect a person’s appetite. Some users report an increase in appetite, while others may experience a decrease. This side effect can be managed by paying attention to one’s diet and eating habits.

4. Fatigue

While CBD may help promote relaxation, it can also cause fatigue or drowsiness. This side effect is more common with higher doses of CBD and is often temporary. If fatigue persists, it may be necessary to adjust the dosage or timing of CBD use.

5. Interactions with Medications

CBD can interact with certain medications, including blood thinners and antidepressants. It’s important to talk to a healthcare provider before using CBD if taking any prescription medications to avoid potential interactions and complications.


While CBD is generally considered safe, users should be aware of potential side effects and take steps to manage them. Starting with a low dose and gradually increasing, staying hydrated, and talking to a healthcare provider about any medication interactions can help minimize the risk of side effects.

Side Effects of THC

Psychological Effects:

THC is psychoactive and can affect the brain and mood. It can cause feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and altered perception. However, it can also cause anxiety, paranoia, and hallucinations in some people, especially when taken in high doses. Long-term use of high doses of THC can also lead to a condition called cannabis use disorder, which is characterized by addiction and withdrawal symptoms.

Physical Effects:

THC can have several physical side effects, including dry mouth, increased heart rate, bloodshot eyes, and impaired coordination. It can also increase appetite, which is why it is sometimes used to treat conditions such as anorexia and nausea. However, the increased appetite can also lead to overeating and weight gain, which can be a concern for some people.

Legal and Social Consequences:

THC is illegal in most states and countries, and possession or use of it can result in legal consequences such as fines or imprisonment. It can also have social consequences, such as loss of employment or damage to relationships. Additionally, THC can impair judgment and driving ability, which can lead to accidents and legal consequences.

Therapeutic Potential and Side Effects:

While THC has several potential therapeutic uses, such as pain relief and appetite stimulation, it is important to consider its potential side effects and risks when using it for medical purposes. It is also important to consult with a healthcare provider before using THC or products containing THC, especially if you have any preexisting medical conditions or are taking other medications.

  • References:
  • Abrams, D. I. (2018). The therapeutic effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: An update from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report. European Journal of Internal Medicine, 49, 7-11.
  • Borgelt, L. M., Franson, K. L., Nussbaum, A. M., & Wang, G. S. (2013). The pharmacologic and clinical effects of medical cannabis. Pharmacotherapy: The Journal of Human Pharmacology and Drug Therapy, 33(2), 195-209.

How CBD and THC Are Used

CBD Uses

CBD is primarily used for medicinal purposes due to its non-psychoactive properties. CBD has been shown to alleviate anxiety, depression, and pain, and may have potential anti-inflammatory, anti-epileptic, and anti-cancer properties as well.

CBD can be found in various products such as oils, tinctures, capsules, and edibles. Oils and tinctures can be ingested directly or added to food and drinks for consumption. Topical creams and balms containing CBD can be applied directly to the skin for localized relief of pain and inflammation.

THC Uses

THC is primarily used for recreational purposes due to its psychoactive effects. It is known to produce a feeling of euphoria, often referred to as a “high”.

THC can also be used for medicinal purposes, particularly in the treatment of pain, nausea, and appetite stimulation. However, its psychoactive effects may not be desirable for some patients.

THC is typically consumed through smoking or vaporizing the dried leaves and buds of the cannabis plant. It can also be found in various edible products such as brownies and gummies, as well as tinctures and oils that can be ingested or applied topically.

Potential Risks and Precautions

THC Risks

THC has psychoactive properties and can cause a range of side effects, including:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Anxiety or paranoia
  • Impaired memory and concentration
  • Red eyes
  • In rare cases, THC can trigger psychotic symptoms, such as delusions or hallucinations.

THC can also be addictive and may lead to marijuana use disorder in some people.

CBD Risks

CBD is generally considered safe, but it can have some potential side effects, including:

  • Dry mouth
  • Reduced appetite
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue

CBD can also interact with certain medications, such as blood thinners, and may increase the risk of liver damage when taken in high doses.

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It is important to speak with a healthcare provider before using any products containing THC or CBD, especially if you have a medical condition or are taking medication.

If you choose to use THC, start with a low dose and be aware of the potential side effects. Avoid using THC if you have a history of psychosis or other mental health conditions.

When using CBD, be sure to buy from a reputable source and follow dosage instructions carefully. If you experience any side effects, stop using it and speak with a healthcare provider.

It is also important to be aware of the legality of THC and CBD in your state or country, as laws vary widely.

Choosing Between CBD and THC

Consider Your Medical Needs

When choosing between CBD and THC, it is important to consider your medical needs. CBD is commonly used to treat anxiety, seizures and inflammation, while THC can help with pain, nausea and insomnia. If you are looking for a non-psychoactive treatment option, CBD may be the right choice for you. However, if you are looking for a treatment option that provides psychoactive effects, THC may be a better choice.

Understand the Differences in Side Effects

Another important factor to consider when choosing between CBD and THC is the differences in side effects. CBD is generally well-tolerated and has few reported side effects, while THC can cause short-term memory impairment, dry mouth and anxiety in some people. If you are worried about experiencing side effects, CBD may be the safer choice.

Know the Legal Status of CBD and THC

It is also important to be aware of the legal status of CBD and THC in your area. While CBD is legal in most states and is easily accessible, THC is still illegal on a federal level in the United States and is only legal in a few states for medical or recreational use. If you are looking to use THC for medical purposes, you will need to be in a state where it is legal and obtain a prescription from a doctor.

Consult with a Healthcare Professional

Ultimately, the decision between CBD and THC should be made in consultation with a healthcare professional. They can help you assess your medical needs and potential risks and benefits of each treatment option. They may also be able to recommend alternative treatment options based on your individual needs and preferences.

Questions and Answers:

What is the difference between CBD and THC?

CBD (Cannabidiol) and THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) are two of the most well-known compounds found in the cannabis plant. CBD does not produce the psychoactive effects associated with THC. CBD is believed to have a number of therapeutic benefits, such as reducing inflammation, anxiety, seizures, and pain. THC, on the other hand, is responsible for the “high” associated with marijuana. It can also have therapeutic effects, such as relieving pain, nausea, and appetite loss.

Is CBD legal?

Yes, CBD is legal in most countries, including the United States, as long as it is derived from hemp and contains less than 0.3% THC. However, laws vary by state and country, so it is important to check local regulations before purchasing CBD products.

Can CBD help with anxiety?

Yes, CBD has been shown to have potential in reducing anxiety symptoms in several studies. CBD acts on receptors in the brain that regulate mood and stress responses, which may explain its calming effects. However, more research is needed to fully understand how CBD affects anxiety and to determine the optimal dosages and delivery methods.


Samantha Robinson

As a reader, I found this article on CBD vs. THC very informative. It clearly laid out the differences between the two substances, their effects on the body, and their legal status. I appreciated the explanation of how CBD can help with anxiety and various other conditions without the psychoactive effects of THC. It was also interesting to learn about the varying legal status of both substances in different states and countries. Overall, this article helped me understand the difference between CBD and THC and which one might be more suitable for my needs.

Emma Williams

As someone who is interested in exploring the world of cannabis, I have always found myself confused about the difference between CBD and THC. This article was incredibly helpful in breaking down the distinctions between the two compounds. I appreciate that it went beyond the basic explanation of one being psychoactive and the other not, and delved into the various health benefits of both CBD and THC. I was particularly intrigued to learn about how combining the two can actually enhance their effects. Overall, I feel much more informed about these substances and feel better equipped to make an informed decision about what products to try.

Christopher Lee

As a male reader, I found the article “CBD vs. THC: What’s the Difference?” to be very informative and engaging. The clear and concise explanations of the differences between these two compounds allowed me to grasp the key concepts easily, even though I’m not a specialist in this field. It’s interesting to know that THC is psychoactive, while CBD is not. This makes CBD more appealing to many people as it can provide therapeutic benefits, without the ‘high’ associated with THC. I was also fascinated by the fact that CBD may help with anxiety and pain relief, among other things. The article was well-researched and well-written, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about the unique characteristics of CBD and THC.