Are you struggling to understand the difference between THC and CBD?
Whether you are a longtime recreational cannabis user or just a curious consumer, it's not uncommon for you to have questions about the infamous cannabis sativa plant nor its growing repertoire of byproducts. Here, we'll give you the science behind cannabis and explain the fundamental differences between THC and CBD.
Both CBD and THC are cannabinoids derived from the cannabis plant. CBD is a non-psychoactive substance. On the other hand, THC is a psychoactive substance. As such, each substance interacts dramatically differently with your cannabinoid receptors. We'll go into greater detail about that in the section below.
For now, it's important to understand that cannabis, or marijuana, is just beginning to emerge as a legal substance in parts of the United States. Its long-awaited emancipation has attracted consumers looking for alternative medical treatments. With that, a growing market for CBD-rich products has taken root. Still, since CBD is derived from cannabis, consumers must wade through a plethora of false assumptions and misleading information.
This article will help you to disseminate between the cannabis plant's two naturally occurring cannabinoids, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). Feel free to check out this brief explainer before enjoying our comprehensive guide.
The following guide serves to break down the basic differences between these two cannabis sativa products. However, it in no way can override your state's regulations. As always, familiarize yourself with local laws and regulations before indulging in any marijuana derivatives.
When Did People Start Using CBD?
Many consumers are just now learning about CBD and its therapeutic benefits. For those who are struggling to understand CBD, it helps to take a look into the past. Before you do that, it's important to acknowledge the long and criminalized history of cannabis. For years, this plant was completely unattainable to American citizens. What's more, it was touted as an illicit substance, used only by criminals and addicts.
However, before marijuana's long prohibition, it was used for thousands of years. In fact, the earliest uses of cannabis were supposed to be during the Qin and Han Dynasties in China. All that came to a screeching halt when hemp and cannabis were banned in the United States. The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 restricted the sale and consumption of cannabis. At the time, the act opposed by the American Medical Association (AMA).
The restrictions around cannabis prevented scientists from studying the plant. That is until a Harvard graduate by the name of Roger Adams successfully isolated CBD.
Roger Adams isolated CBD over 75 years ago (1940). At the time, he was working with a team of researchers at the University of Illinois. Cannabis was still illegal when he made the discovery. Still, he had managed to score a license from the U.S. Treasury Department that allowed him to work with cannabis oil. His groundbreaking research was titled "The Chemistry of Marihuana." Adams even patented his isolated CBD.
Adams was also the first person to isolate THC and identify it as the psychoactive compound in cannabis. Eventually, Adam's findings lead researchers to form the LaGuardia Committee. Along with the New York Academy of Medicine, the LaGuardia Committee developed the first in-depth study on the effects of smoking cannabis. Their findings ruled that cannabis was harmless to users. Though there were many naysayers who responded to the study in an attempt to delegitimize it.
What is THC?
THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main component in most cannabis strains. According to the National Center for Biotechnology, THC has psychoactive properties that can alter a person's mood and perception. These changes are often characterized as a "high." However, they can also provide relief from physical and mental ailments.
THC can have a spectrum of effects on the body and the mind. According to scientists, that is because THC is capable of triggering the brain's cannabinoid receptors.
These sensory receptors are a part of the endocannabinoid system. It consists of a large network of receptors scattered throughout the brain. In addition, the system contains two locally produced cannabinoids, anandamide, and 2-arachidonoyl glycerol. When cannabinoids are introduced to the endocannabinoid system, they attach, or bind, to the cannabinoid receptors (both CB1 and CB2) and subsequently interfere with their natural functions.
What is CBD?
On the other hand, CBD does not cause people to get "high." In fact, it isn't known to produce any psychoactive effects. Still, it does have a mild influence on the body and mind. According to researchers, CBD interacts with 65 different molecular targets in the body to produce vast therapeutic impressions. These targets include serotonin, vanilloid, GPR55, and PPAR receptors.
While CBD does not bind directly to these receptors, it does modify them. This process, called modulation, can have a therapeutic effect on people. According to a study published in Biochem Pharmacol, CBD directly interacts with the body's CB1 and CB2 receptors. As such, it helps the body produce ample amounts of cannabinoids.
Medical Benefits of THC
Research shows that THC has many therapeutic and medical benefits of THC. For example, researchers from Massachusetts and New York have found substantial evidence supporting the theory that cannabis can inhibit chronic pain. What's more, smoked marijuana is proven to reduce nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy. It's even seen as a healthier alternative to opioid prescriptions.
With that said, not all users enjoy the intoxicating effects that accompany the medicinal impacts. After all, THC can cause people to become paranoid, depressed, detached, and more. What's more, smoked cannabis can cause respiratory issues and other health issues.
Common THC Uses
Medical Benefits of CBD
On the other hand, CBD offers many of the same health benefits of THC without the added intoxication. According to a study from the European Journal of Pain, CBD can reduce pain and inflammation when applied directly to the skin. It is even known to effectively treat childhood epilepsy syndromes. Not to mention, researchers from the New York University School of Medicine found that CBD has the potential to treat a range of anxiety disorders.
While CBD studies have a long way to go, there's no doubt that this toned-down version of cannabis has earned a place in the medical world. In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) even approved a prescription form of CBD. Epidiolex, as it's called, is now prescribed to people with certain types of epilepsy.
Common CBD Uses
When Should You Opt for a CBD-Intensive Strain of Cannabis?
Since CBD and THC are the most abundant types of cannabinoids in cannabis, strains are often categorized by their THC to CBD ratio. As such, you will find THC-rich strains, CBD-rich strains, and strains containing equal parts THC and CBD. All strains, regardless of their cannabinoid breakdown, can be consumed in the same ways. More often than not, consumers opt to smoke, vape, or eat their cannabis products. When it comes to CBD-rich strains, skin salves, oils, and lotions are popular alternatives.
CBD-rich cannabis strains are preferred by individuals who struggle with the psychoactive effects of THC. While not all THC consumers experience anxiety, paranoia, and other adverse side effects, many wish to avoid this potential circumstance altogether. What's more, cannabis consumers who medicate frequently may wish to avoid intoxicating THC.
Another early cannabis researcher was Raphael Mechoulam. Mechoulam is an Israeli chemist who is also responsible for re-isolating CBD in 1963, several years after Adams. While no major revelations stemmed from Mechoulam's later research, it may have helped to keep CBD on the agenda of medical researchers.
Mechoulam also went on to study the effects of CBD on epileptic people. At the time, he found that CBD prevented epileptic people from having seizures. The double-blind study involved 16 people, 8 of whom were given 3 milligrams of cannabidiol every day. Today, Mechoulam still advocates for the medicinal properties of CBD.
Today, several more studies have been done on the effects of CBD. However, it is understood that consumers are using CBD to treat a broad array of medical conditions. A recent article, A Cross-Sectional Study of Cannabidiol Users, even suggested that we need to promote further research to better understand the therapeutic potential of CBD. Therefore, we still have a lot to learn about this cannabinoid.
What are the Uses of CBD?
Let's start by saying there are many uses for CBD. To date, the FDA has only approved CBD for use in treating epilepsy. However, the large number of medical studies that have been done suggest that CBD has an even greater therapeutic potential.
According to a 2016 study published in Arthritis Care and Research, CBD oil may reduce pain related to rheumatoid arthritis. What's more, a 2017 article in Pain suggested that CBD oil has the potential to inhibit pain related to osteoarthritis.
A study published in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacol found that CBD can stop psychosis, anxiety, and depression. What's more, Brazilian researchers found that CBD can help prevent pathological anxiety.
CBD has even been used to treat severe substance abuse and addiction. One study in Neuropsychopharmacology showed that CBD reduced impulsive behaviors, anxiety, and vulnerability in subjects. What's more, the researchers found that CBD could be used in relapse prevention.
On top of that, CBD has several antipsychotic properties. Research by scientists at the National Institute for Translational Medicine in Brazil found that CBD has the potential to treat general psychosis as well as schizophrenia.
Some doctors are even beginning to prescribe cannabis products for patients with acne. In addition to its anti-inflammatory properties, CBD oil can alter the way the body produces sebum. CBD's antifungal and antibacterial properties were even highlighted in a study published in Frontiers in Plant Science.
How Does CBD Treat All of These Medical Conditions?
The Endocannabinoid system consists of cannabinoid receptors. These are located on the surface of cells. These receptors are concentrated in the nervous and immune systems. In fact, they are scattered from our heads to our toes. When CBD is consumed, it interacts with a variety of receptors.
In some instances, the CBD acts like an endocannabinoid. In other words, it activates cannabinoid receptors in order to alter their communication with the body. In some ways, it helps to think of the vast endocannabinoid system as a telephone network with crisscrossing messages.
How Can CBD be Consumed?
CBD can be consumed in many different ways. In the section below, we'll break down the benefits of each style of consumption.
CBD-rich cannabis flowers can be smoked in many different ways. Whether you roll a blunt, pack a bowl, or use a bong, CBD-rich smoke is rapidly absorbed by your lungs and then transferred to the bloodstream.
Vaping pens are yet another popular tool that you may use consume CBD. Vaping also causes the CBD to be absorbed directly into the bloodstream. As such, it increases the overall effectiveness of a dose.
Oftentimes, people choose to ingest CBD oil sublingually. This means that they apply a small amount to the area underneath their tongue. Sublingually applied CBD oil is absorbed into the mucous membranes. Like smoking and vaping methods, this allows it to directly enter the bloodstream.
There are also several different types of CBD oil products that are designed to be rubbed directly onto your skin. When applied to specific spots on the body, these CBD-rich topical agents are also absorbed directly into the bloodstream. Lotions, salves, and other CBD topicals are usually designed to treat pain or discomfort.
Last but not least, CBD edible is one of the most popular ways of ingesting cannabinoids. CBD edibles take the form of many different treats. Sodas, gummies, hard candies are just a few of the most popular forms of CBD edibles.
Is CBD or THC Legal?
The legality of cannabis-related products varies from state to state. However, when it comes to CBD, there is an exception. That is because CBD can be derived from two plants: marijuana and hemp. While both hemp and marijuana are cannabis plants, there are a few key differences.
The Legality of Hemp-Derived CBD
Most notably, hemp is a plant that contains 0.3% or less THC. At least, that is the legal definition of hemp as laid out in the Hemp Farming Act of 2018. According to the act, hemp and hemp-derived products have been removed from the U.S. Schedule 1 controlled substances list.
The Hemp Farming Act was incorporated into the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018. The act also gives newfound rights to America's hemp farmers and producers. Prior to 2018, hemp was not produced in the United States.
All CBD products that are not produced according to the 2018 Farm Bill are still considered illegal. In fact, the only CBD product that has been approved for pharmaceutical use is an anticonvulsant drug for individuals with epilepsy. The drug is known as Epidiolex.
The Legality of Marijuana-Derived CBD
Many states have developed their one cannabis law. Currently, 33 U.S. states have approved the sale of cannabis products for use in select medical purposes. Moreover, 10 U.S. states have legalized the recreational use of cannabis. These states include Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, Nevada, California, Michigan, Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia. On top of this, there are currently 21 states considering bills that would legalize recreational marijuana.
Still, the federal government does not recognize marijuana as a legal substance. It is still a Schedule 1 illegal substance. However, that has not stopped states from requesting Congress to support changes to marijuana laws and regulations.
With that said, marijuana-derived CBD products can be purchased in states that allow adult recreational use of marijuana. Of course, consumers are subject to alternative state laws as soon as they cross over the border. There are even specific penalties for transporting a controlled substance over a state line. The nation's patchwork of marijuana laws makes it difficult for individuals to acquire quality marijuana-derived CBD.
Are there Benefits to Using Marijuana-Derived CBD?
If you're following along closely, you're probably wondering why someone would go through the trouble of finding marijuana-derived CBD when hemp-derived CBD is technically legal.
For one, marijuana also contains substances called terpenes. Terpenes are the aromatic oils that are often used to categorize different strains of marijuana. People often describe marijuana's terpenes as being citrusy, fruity, piney, or even cheesy.
Besides adding a distinct quality to different buds, terpenes are known to have medicinal properties. A recent study published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research showed that the terpenes in cannabis have anti-inflammatory properties. What's more, researchers from the Cleveland Clinic Neurological Institute found that the terpenes and flavonoids in cannabis have the potential to ease migraineS, headacheS, and generalized pain.
Marijuana-derived CBD is considered a whole plant medicine. When you consume CBD from marijuana, you reap the benefits that come from consuming a diverse array of cannabinoids and terpenes.
Unlike isolated CBD, whole-plant CBD and THC cannabinoids offer a range of therapeutic benefits. A 2015 research paper published in Pharmacology & Pharmacy suggested that cannabidiol (CBD) derived from Cannabis sativa synergized with the plant's other components to achieve an anti-inflammatory effect. The same could not be said for the purified CBD that was used as a control in the experiment.
What Does this Mean for the CBD Industry?
More advanced research in the effectiveness of CBD, THC, and terpenes can help growers to develop even more beneficial strains of marijuana. With a greater understanding of how these elements work together, help experts can prescribe patients flowers and cannabis derivatives that provide precise therapeutic qualities.
In other words, a patient with extreme anxiety could be prescribed a CBD-rich marijuana strain without risking increased stress and paranoid. This is because the terpenes and cannabinoids in that strain would work together to create a cohesive and beneficial experience for the user.
CBD-dominant strains of marijuana are on the rise. For example, Harlequin is a CBD-high strain of marijuana that is often prescribed to medical marijuana patients. It is often used to treat pain and inflammation.
The Future of CBD Legality
Under current laws, there are still many people dealing with marijuana-related convictions. Some of the first states to legalize marijuana have developed propositions that would expunge some offenders of their marijuana-related convictions.
It seems as though the entire country is slowly but surely moving toward marijuana decriminalization. For now, all citizens can do is keep an eye on their local ballot box. In the meantime, it is important to observe all state laws to avoid incurring marijuana-related convictions. Harlequin has more than twice as much CBD than CBD.
The marijuana industry is growing and with it have come newly popular cannabis products. As such, consumers must learn to decipher the difference between the cannabis plant two very different cannabinoids: CBD and THC.
As you've just learned, many recreational and medical marijuana users opt for THC-rich strains of the plant. They offer a wealth of therapeutic properties but can have some undesirable mental and physical effects. On the other hand, CBD offers many of the same therapies without the added mental consequences. As such, it is more attainable to consumers looking for a treatment that won't leave them glued to the couch or overwhelmed with paranoia.
CBD-seeking consumers have plenty of options to choose from, including federally recognized hemp-derived options and more biodynamic marijuana-derived alternatives. While there is still a long road ahead for marijuana advocates and researchers, it's clear that now is a high time for cannabis.