There’s no shortage of information about THC and CBD; there are mountains of it, in fact, just online. Probably the most important things to know is how THC and CBD are alike and how they are different.
Here are some useful facts about THC and CBD to help you make informed choices when buying any of these products.
What are THC and CBD?
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) belong to a group of plant compounds, called phytocannabinoids, which are predominantly present in Cannabis sativa. Hundreds of phytocannabinoids have been identified, so far; THC has the highest amount in cannabis, particularly marijuana, and CBD follows in second place.
Phytocannabinoids, particularly THC and CBD, are among the most widely studied plant compounds because of their potential pharmaceutical benefits.
Are there other sources of THC and CBD?
These phytocannabinoids, or cannabinoids, are so named because they were first discovered in the cannabis plant. Until recently, scientists had only identified Cannabis sativa as the only plant that has cannabinoids; but new findings have identified other plants that also contain cannabinoids, including black pepper, broccoli, carrots, clove, Echinacea, and ginseng. As far as THC and CBD go, however, only cannabis carries significant levels of these compounds.
The Cannabis sativa species, however, may be classified into two varieties: marijuana and hemp. For the longest time, marijuana has been cultivated for its health effects — both the medicinal and psychotropic; and hemp, for its industrial byproducts, such as rope, textiles, clothing, shoes, food, paper, bioplastics, insulation, and biofuel.
As the primary compound in marijuana that is responsible for delivering its health effects, THC has always been the primary focus of most clinical studies. But the discovery of the relevant role of CBD in also delivering these health effects alongside THC made scientists take a closer look at hemp as another potential source of CBD, in particular — because hemp contains much higher amounts of CBD compared to marijuana, and only trace amounts of THC.
How do THC and CBD affect the body?
Earlier studies on THC also led to the discovery of the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), through which THC and CBD deliver their effects. The ECS is part of the central and peripheral nervous systems, and is responsible for a wide range of signal-and-response processes, including appetite regulation, mood regulation, sleep regulation, anxiety response, pain response, inflammatory response, and hormonal response.
Among the studied effects of THC and CBD on the body are:
- Treating anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety, depression, and even PTSD.
- Treating insomnia and improving quality of sleep
- Providing relief from acute pain, chronic pain, and general aches
- Helping manage inflammation
- Preventing epileptic seizures
Interestingly, THC and CBD share the same molecular formula; but their molecular arrangements are different. Simply put, their same molecular formulas account for the many similar health effects they produce in the body, such as anxiety and pain relief; the difference in their molecular arrangements, on the other hand, is the reason why THC causes a high, while CBD does not.
Studies have shown that THC and CBD work better and produce better results in the presence of each other. And while the high amounts of THC in marijuana causes euphoria, increasing the amounts of CBD — such as in a THC and CBD formulated product — can help counteract the euphoric effect. On its own or in the presence of trace amounts of THC (0.3% or lower), CBD may produce a calming effect.
THC vs CBD: High vs No High
The psychotropic properties of THC continue to place marijuana under the classification of a “controlled substance.” While the medicinal benefits of marijuana have been more widely studied, clinical trials are still limited by the aforementioned classification and there are strict regulations in place regarding the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.
In fact, only 15 states plus DC have legalized the use of recreational marijuana as of January 2021; and only 35 states allow the use of medicinal marijuana. Each state also has their own restrictions regarding the use, possession, and cultivation of marijuana. The legal status of marijuana also encompasses all products derived from the plant and its components, particularly THC.
While studies on CBD are still in their infancy, they have quickly gained traction since hemp was legalized in 2018. CBD’s non-psychotropic properties is the main reason for this and because hemp contains high amounts of CBD and no more than 0.3% THC, hemp-derived CBD products have also become widely available, giving more consumers access to the potential health effects of cannabis.
THC vs CBD: Risk for Addiction
Some studies have revealed that individuals can get addicted to marijuana because of its THC content and the associated euphoric effects. On the other hand, early evidence so far reveals that CBD has zero risk for addiction, both on its own or in the presence of no more than 0.3% THC. Keep in mind that this distinction only applies to hemp-derived CBD.
The distinction between THC products and CBD products may be intentionally or unintentionally blurred by some manufacturers and sellers, or by the confusing information found online. These two beneficial compounds exist in nature together and, as such, work better together. But in terms of legality, regulations, and personal preferences, it’s important to know the differences.
If you’re in the market for CBD, always make sure that it is hemp-derived and double check the exact THC content indicated on the label versus what is listed on the product’s certificate of analysis.