CBD vs. THC: Know the Difference

Scroll through the information swirling around online about CBD and THC, and it’s only natural to get confused. Misinformation spreads at the same rate as information, and unfortunately, there is a lot of conflicting data across the internet. Additionally, laws are constantly changing and reshaping public opinion of what cannabis is and how we should feel about it. We will simplify the differences between these frequently misunderstood chemical compounds to help you know the difference between CBD and THC.

What is CBD?

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a naturally occurring chemical compound found in the cannabis plant. CBD makes up roughly 40% of the cannabis plant but is just one of over 100 different chemical compounds that can be extracted from the plant. It is non-psychoactive, meaning it does not alter the mind. CBD is considered an all-natural dietary supplement and is widely available in oil, isolate, capsules and topicals.

What is THC?

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is another naturally-occurring chemical compound found in the cannabis plant. The compound is illegal in most states due to its mind-altering effects. Despite its bad rap, there are many benefits to THC, which is why medical marijuana is largely legal across the United States. THC can be smoked, ingested through edibles and capsules, extracted into an oil, and used in topicals.

How Do They Work?

Both CBD and THC impact by the body by interacting with the body’s natural endocannabinoid system located in the central and peripheral nervous system (in the brain and spine). The endocannabinoid system includes CB1 and CB2, two cannabinoid receptors. CB1 plays a critical role in essential functions like sleep, memory, mood, pain sensation and appetite. CB2 is primarily located in the immune system and crucial for optimal functions like anti-inflammatory response. CBD is unique as it engages indirectly with cannabinoid receptors and impacts the endocannabinoids in the body by stimulating them and preventing their natural breakdown. THC influences cells to stimulate dopamine (a neurotransmitter that helps transmit signals in the brain) and directly interact with cannabinoids. The result of this stimulation can lead to various emotions such as relaxed mood, happiness, paranoia and pain relief.

Possible Side Effects

Current research on CBD has found minimal short-term and long-term side effects. Some users have reported dry mouth and minor dizziness, but since CBD is non-toxic and non-psychoactive, there is no possibility of a lethal overdose. Users do not experience the “high” or intoxicated feeling associated with THC. Research has shown large doses of CBD had little to no effect on a user’s overall health. CBD is continually being studied for its benefits and long-term side effects.

THC research has shown the substance to have both short-term and long-term effects on the brain. Immediate side-effects include disrupted memory function, anxiety and paranoia, delusions, increased heart rate, dry mouth, motor impairment and sedation. Long-term health side effects related to smoking THC include chronic cough, build up of phlegm, lung irritation, compromised immune system and may worsen pre-existing heart conditions.


Both THC and CBD have a wide range of benefits for users.

CBD Benefits:

  • Reduces levels of anxiety and depression.
  • Suppresses frequency of seizures in patients with epilepsy.
  • A natural antioxidant that protects against neurodegenerative diseases.
  • Combats mental illness and psychosis.
  • Eases discomfort related to cancer treatments.
  • Restores optimal cell function.
  • Reduces nausea and vomiting.
  • Manages pain and inflammation.

THC Benefits:

  • Helps induce sleep.
  • Stimulates appetite.
  • Relaxes for feelings of euphoria and well-being.
  • Reduces pain and inflammation.
  • Enhances psychoactive effects such as intensified sensations, time distortion, paranoia and altered mental state.

Legal Issues

CBD is currently legal in 49 states. The state of Indiana recently banned CBD substances in terms of possessing, making, and selling. The current exception to this law is for patients and retailers on a state-monitored registry for epilepsy. CBD is found in hemp, which can be legally imported and sold in the United States.

THC is becoming less risque as time passes. Currently, 29 states have legalized medical marijuana and 8 states have made THC legal for recreational use. If you are caught possessing, buying, making or selling THC-based products in a state where it is illegal, you can face harsh fines and possible jail time.

CBD and THC may both be chemical compounds located in the cannabis plant, but they are very different entities. CBD lacks the harmful side-effects associated with THC use and is more medically accepted as a dietary supplement with vast medical benefits. CBD is related to lower health risks and higher effectiveness for various conditions and can be incorporated into a daily diet to help combat unpleasant symptoms.

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