What is the difference between CBD and THC? And why is that important?

If you really want to maximize the positive benefits of cannabis use, understanding the difference between CBD and THC is important. While the two cannabinoids share similarities, they work in contrasting, harmonious ways; each has a specific effect on the human body. To help balance your cannabis use with your health, here are the factors that separate THC and CBD.

The high ‘

Here is an analogy to help you understand the adaptive high that cannabis produces. Think of it this way; THC acts as a pain reliever and CBD acts as a very powerful anti-inflammatory agent.

THC – Pain medications can often get you high unless they have a job to do. For example, giving morphine to someone who has just broken their leg has a different effect than giving it to someone who has not been injured. The feeling associated with THC is very similar. The extent of the psychotropic and physiological effects will depend on factors such as your current physical condition, metabolism, and tolerance.

CBD – CBD does not produce the psychoactive effects associated with THC, but some patients report that it produces a psychological effect. It is also typically classified as an analgesic. If inflammation is causing pain, CBD can make a significant difference. However, there are different types of CBD. To find the best one for you, be sure to follow Consumer’s Guide to Buying CBD.

Neuroreceptor activity

CBD and THC neuroactivity

THC – When ingested, THC binds primarily to our CB1 receptor sites as well as to our CB2 receptors. As an agonist, it stimulates neurotransmission, promotes and produces activity.

CBD – Instead of activating your CB1 and CB2 receptors, CBD acts as an antagonist and blocks their processes. For example, epilepsy is often caused by overactive neuroreceptors, which leads to seizures. When you introduce the right phytocannabinoids, they take over and stop working.

Notable point – THC promotes receptor activity while CBD blocks it. So, if you’ve ingested too much THC and aren’t enjoying the effects, taking CBD can help block what’s going on.

Molecular structure

CBD and THC structure

One of the biggest differences between CBD and THC is at the molecular level. Both cannabinoids have 21 carbon, 30 hydrogen and 2 oxygen atoms, but are arranged differently. Chemically, both molecules are similar to many endocannabinoids that our bodies naturally produce. As a result, THC and CBD can act as phytocannabinoids and enable neurotransmission.

Cause and effect on emotions


THC – THC causes chemicals to be released in the reward and pleasure centers of the brain and can thereby convey a sense of calm and euphoria. Depending on the dose, THC can help the brain produce the right levels of dopamine and serotonin. If you take a little more than you need, your receptors may become over-stimulated and get you up.

CBD – As an antagonist, CBD blocks the activity of receptors that respond to stress. Instead of stimulating calming chemicals, CBD blocks physical fight or flight responses when stress occurs. Because of this, CBD does not induce the same feelings as THC and is more of an anti-anxiety agent. It’s a blocker, not a producer.

Plant structure


THC – If you want to get some THC into your system, you can get it from the resin of a female cannabis plant. However, it’s not that simple; Activated THC (commonly referred to as Delta-9 or Delta-8 THC) is only present after the decarboxylation process. That said, you have to get rid of a carbon atom and you can do it by adding heat.

CBD – This cannabinoid can be extracted from both male and female cannabis plants. Growing plants rich in CBD can be a tricky business, especially if you’re looking to smoke a CBD bud. CBD breaks down faster than THC, which makes it a little trickier in the flowering cycle. Because of this, growers typically harvest CBD buds a little earlier. Often times, CBD is harvested from hemp.


CBD and THC dose

CBD – Because CBD blocks your cannabinoid (CB1) receptors, you don’t need a large dose to get any therapeutic effects. In fact, any additional ingestion is eliminated, making large amounts of CBD a waste rather than a benefit to the body.

THC – When it comes to THC dosages, most work by the “start low, go slow” rule. A number of factors influence the body’s response to THC, including metabolism, tolerance, and current health. When you eat cannabis, the amount of food in your stomach has a significant impact on the overall effects and the time it takes for you to feel it. When you eat an edible on an empty stomach, expect it to hit you quickly. Nibble this cookie on a full Thanksgiving style belly and it may take a while to feel it.


CBD and THC legal

As of October 17, 2018, Canadians can legally:

  • Grow up to 4 plants for personal use
  • Have up to 30 grams of dried cannabis.

Currently, the Canadian Cannabis Act doesn’t differentiate between CBD and THC, but American laws do. In the United States, the Controlled Substances Act states that less than 0.3% THC in the CBD product is exempt from cannabis regulations. As a result, CBD imports from across the border are common across Canada.

In the difference between CBD and THC, was something overlooked that should be mentioned? Which factors mean the most to you when choosing between CBD and THC? Let us know in the comments!


The diverse pharmacology of CB1 and CB2 receptors of three plant cannabinoids: Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol and Δ9-tetrahydrocannabivarin

by RG Pertwee

School of Medical Sciences, Department of Medical Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK


Cannabinoid receptors and the endocannabinoid system: signal transmission and function in the central nervous system

by Shenglong Zou and Ujendra Kumar

Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada


Endocannabinoid binding to the cannabinoid receptors: what is known and what remains unknown

by Patricia H. Reggio

Center for Drug Research, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, Greenboro, NC27402 USA


State Medical Marijuana Laws

from the National Conference on State Legislation


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