Cannabis consumers have long preferred products containing high concentrations of THC. This demand has created an oversaturation within the market, causing many consumers to demand less intense products that are lower in THC and higher in CBD. While both compounds are derived from the cannabis plant, they are different in many ways that may alter your next dispensary purchase. In this article, we discuss the primary differences between cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-nine-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
CBD vs THC: Chemical Structure
CBD Molecular Structure
THC Molecular Structure
Both CBD and THC share the exact same molecular structure – which consists of 30 hydrogen atoms, 21 carbon atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms. Even the slightest difference in how these atoms are arranged creates differing impacts upon the human body. CBD and THC are similar to our body’s own endocannabinoids, allowing them to freely interact with cannabinoid receptors throughout the body. This complex interaction influences the release of neurotransmitters within the brain that are responsible for relaying information between cells.
What is the difference between THC and CBD?
Delta-nine-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the two most prominent compounds within the cannabis plant. However, they differ quite dramatically in their effects. Unlike THC, CBD is a non-intoxicating compound, meaning that it is unable to get its user “high.” Due widely to this trait, CBD (as opposed to THC) is frequently used as a natural and dietary supplement.
What is THC?
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the primary psychoactive component within the cannabis plant. THC works, at least in part, by imitating the effects of 2-AG and anandamide. Both of these neurotransmitters are naturally produced by the human body to help modulate healthy eating and sleeping habits, the perception of physical pain, as well as countless other bodily functions.
The known effects of THC include:
- Altered senses of smell, hearing, and sight
- Reduced aggression
Are there any natural benefits of THC?
Scientists have been studying the effects of delta-nine-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) for years and have come to some pretty astonishing conclusions. The following studies demonstrate that THC may be helpful with:
- Chronic Pain – Certain studies suggest that THC has the potential to help alleviate chronic pain. The report concluded, “Small doses of smoked cannabis may improve pain, mood and sleep in some patients with chronic pain.”
- Inflammation – THC has demonstrated its ability to help each symptom of inflammation. One study concludes that “cannabinoids have been shown to regulate the tissue response to excessive inflammation…”
- Nausea and vomiting – Certain studies have demonstrated the ability of cannabinoids to help reduce the symptoms of nausea and vomiting.
- Side-effects of chemotherapy – One particular study concluded that “cannabis and cannabinoids are useful in managing symptoms related to cancer and its treatment.
- Multiple Sclerosis – There is currently very promising evidence that suggests THC’s ability to help ease symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis.
- Digestive Health – One prominent study on the role of THC on digestive health, “sheds light on the part of cannabis in the gut, liver, and pancreas and also on other GI symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting.
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is the second most prominent cannabinoid existing within the cannabis plant. Unlike THC, CBD does not induce intoxicating effects. CBD is instead more so accredited for its potential medicinal applications. While more in-depth research is required before any claim can be substantiated, researchers believe that CBD demonstrates potential as a novel treatment for conditions and disorders including:
- Anxiety & Depression
- Cancer/chemotherapy management
- Chronic pain & inflammation
- Epileptic and non-epileptic seizures
- Neurological disorders (Parkinson’s & Alzheimer’s)
- Sleep disorders
THC vs CBD: Side-Effects
Neither cannabinoid is toxic nor considered dangerous. Furthermore, there is no risk of addiction, abuse, or even potential overdose-related complications. However, THC has been known to cause temporary side-effects due to the compound’s psychoactive properties, such as:
- Dry mouth
- Red Eyes
- Increased heart rate
- Coordination problems
- Memory loss
- Slower reaction times
At this time, it is essential to note that high THC use amongst adolescents may be connected to more long-term psychiatric effects that will be discussed more in-depth in the next section.
CBD, on the other hand, has been proven to be a well-tolerated compound, even in large doses. Current research suggests that any side-effects that are believed to be linked to CBD are actually more likely to be the result of drug-to-drug interactions between the cannabidiol and other medications that a person happens to take.
Why does CBD see more usage than THC in natural supplements?
There are many reasons for this. Firstly, THC is still widely considered to be an illegal substance with the potential to lead to specific cognitive side-effects with chronic long-term use. This includes a reduced ability to plan and organize, altered decision-making, impaired thinking and reasoning, and a possibly reduced control over impulses. It is also suggested that chronic use of THC could be correlated with significant abnormalities in the brain and heart.
Unlike THC, CBD lacks these harmful cognitive effects. In fact, it has been proven that CBD can actually counteract THC’s psychoactive effects. This means that cannabis plants that contain only small amounts of CBD and a higher concentration of THC typically result in a more robust “high” feeling – while plants with a higher level of CBD and smaller amounts of THC create a weaker and more relaxed effect. Due to the ever-increasing popularity of medicinal cannabis, cultivators are currently creating unique strains with a higher CBD to THC ratio to minimize the intoxicating side-effects. In summary, the lowered health risks of CBD combined with its effectiveness, make it a far better candidate for therapeutic applications than THC.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), are both 100% natural plant byproducts that are considered extremely safe and effective in treating a vast array of disorders. In some instances, a patient would benefit more from a standalone CBD product, another would find more relief with THC, and others help from a mixture of the two.