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Beginner’s 101

The difference between CBD vs THC: All you need to know

As the popularity of CBD products grows amongst consumers, more and more people are becoming curious as to what CBD can do for them. One of our most frequently asked questions at Endoca, is what’s the difference between CBD vs THC, are they the same?

Quite often people have heard of cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) as they’re the two most common compounds related to cannabis. But are unsure about what they actually mean and how it affects them.

Here we break down the key differences and facts of CBD vs THC, so you can make the best decision for you.

  • What are CBD and THC?
  • Where do they come from?
  • A comparison of CBD and THC
  • What are the benefits of THC and CBD
  • THC vs CBD side effects
  • The legality
  • How to choose the right CBD products for you

Firstly, What are CBD and THC?

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol is the chemical name for the plant compound CBD, which is found in the Cannabis Sativa plant species. In recent years, CBD has become popular due to its therapeutic benefits and its non-psychoactive effects.

There is a misconception that all parts of the cannabis plant are psychoactive or have intoxicating effects. However, CBD does not cause a ‘high’.

Its most common use is as a therapeutic active ingredient in CBD products. And is extracted from CBD rich strains of cannabis such as hemp, which is used to create oils, supplements, extracts, tinctures, capsules, gum, and more.

What is THC?

THC stands for tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the psychoactive and intoxicating compound found in Cannabis Sativa. THC is the most famous of all the cannabis compounds due to its ‘high’ inducing effects and is most commonly linked to recreational use.

It is usually consumed by smoking THC rich strains of cannabis such as marijuana but is also available in oils, tinctures, capsules, and other products.

Where do THC and CBD come from?

The CBD and THC compounds are both found in the Cannabis Sativa plant, which can be characterized as having high THC strains such as marijuana and low THC strains known as hemp.

Extracts that are made from cannabis that have low THC content at 0.2% or less, are derived from hemp. While extracts that have a high THC content are derived from what’s known as marijuana.

CBD and THC are present in both hemp and marijuana. However, the major difference is the amount that is found in each strain.

Still confused about CBD? You may also like to read ‘What is CBD?’ for more in-depth information.

CBD vs. THC: What’s the Difference?

Chemical Structure

There are many similarities between CBD and THC in their chemical structure, in fact, they have the exact same molecules. Both are made up of 30 hydrogen atoms, 21 carbon atoms, and two oxygen atoms. The main difference between the two is found in the arrangement of these atoms and the effects they have on your body.

How Do THC And CBD Affect the Body

The human body is made up of a vast network of receptors, which includes the endocannabinoid system. Similar to the endocannabinoids your body produces, cannabis contains phytocannabinoids that can interact with your internal endocannabinoid system.

Due to the similar chemical make-up of CBD and THC, to your own bodies endocannabinoids, they can affect your body by stimulating or interacting with your CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors.

CB1 receptors are located in the brain and central nervous system, which are connected to hormones, heart health, and digestion. While CB2 receptors are found in the immune system and help moderate inflammation and your immune response.

CBD doesn’t interact with CB2 receptors but merely stimulates them to help you produce your own endocannabinoids. CBD stimulates chemical reactions in CB2 receptors, which signals chemical reactions in your neurotransmitters. These transmitters control messages between cells, which are responsible for bodily functions such as immunity, sleep, and pain.

THC has a higher binding affinity than CBD, therefore it directly binds itself to the CB1 receptors in the brain, which is what causes feelings of euphoria or a ‘high’. CBD doesn’t bind to CB1 receptors like THC, it only stimulates your CB2s, therefore it doesn’t have the same high inducing effects as THC and is non-psychoactive.

Schema over CBD

A Complete Breakdown of CBD vs THC

CBD and THC both have similar properties and benefits that can stimulate well-being within the body. However, as a consumer, you also need to know the differences in the legality, potential benefits, and possible side effects.

When choosing products that are derived from Cannabis Sativa, knowing whether they come from hemp or marijuana is an important point to consider.

Knowing a clear difference between THC and CBD can be tricky, so here’s a table on the pros and cons to help you.

Is it found in the hemp plant?
YES, Hemp is abundant in CBD.
YES, It contains 0.2% THC or less.
Is it found in marijuana?
YES, but in lower amounts than hemp.
YES, It contains higher amounts of THC of up to 30%.
Does it create a high?
NO, CBD is non-psychoactive.
YES, THC is psychoactive and creates feelings of euphoria.
Is it legal?
YES* But country and U.S state laws may vary (more info below)
NO* But country and U.S state laws vary (more info below)
What are the therapeutic benefits?
Helps promote general well being, sleep, relaxation, calm and reduces inflammation.
Helps with low appetite, pain and sleep.
Do they have a large product range?
YES, a very wide product range, from CBD gum to supplements and suppositories.
YES, but the focus is more on recreation and medical cannabis.
Does it work with the endocannabinoid system?
YES, CBD stimulates the CB2 receptors that control, immunity, sleep and pain.
YES, THC binds to the CB1 receptors found in the brain, and the central nervous system
Does it show up on a drug test?
IT’S POSSIBLE** It depends on the type of test and where the CBD is derived from (please see more info below)
YES** (please see more info below)
Is it used for various conditions?
YES*** CBD is used by many users to treat a wide range of conditions.
YES*** CBD is used by many users to treat a wide range of conditions.

What are the Side effects of CBD vs THC?

Even though CBD and THC are similar in many ways, the main difference between the two is found in their side effects.

Here are the main differences between the side effects of THC and CBD.

The possible side effects of CBD, include:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Upset stomach
  • Low blood pressure

CBD is usually tolerable, even in large doses. However, reactions may occur when taken with other drugs or medications, if you are on mediation, seeking medical advice is advised first.

The main side effects of THC, include:

  • Increased heart speed
  • Vomiting
  • Reduced saliva (dry mouth)
  • Slower reactions
  • Dizziness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Increase appetite
  • Red eyes
  • Drowsiness

The side effects of both are usually temporary and subside within a few hours. None of these side effects are serious enough to cause death. However, the long term side effects of THC are seen to be more negative than those of CBD. Especially when taken in large amounts over time. THC can potentially have long term mental health effects, which could lead to psychiatric disorders.


Is CBD Legal?

In the United States, cannabis laws vary from state to state and are ever-changing as the legal system catches up with the popularity of CBD and cannabinoid-based products. Cannabis itself still remains a scheduled substance at federal level.

*However, in 2018 hemp was made federally legal by the US government as an agricultural commodity. Therefore hemp-derived CBD products with 0.2% THC or less are legal under federal law. Each state has its own laws and some states still class CBD as illegal.

Tip Always check your state and country laws before purchasing or traveling with CBD products even if they are hemp-derived.

Why is THC Illegal?

THC is a psychoactive compound and is considered to have mind-altering effects, therefore it is illegal at a federal level in the United States and in most countries around the world.

*Some states in the U.S have legalized the use of THC and marijuana for recreational use, while others have only made medicinal cannabis legal, which allows patients with a licensed prescription to access cannabis with THC for medical use only.

In states and countries where marijuana and THC are legal for medical or recreational use, CBD should also be legal.

Drug Testing

When taking anything derived from cannabis or even hemp, knowing how it may affect you and your job should be high on the list of things you need to find out before taking anything.

**CBD and THC can stay in the body long after they have been taken. For days and even weeks, they can be stored in the body’s fat cells, which means they could show up on a drug test even if it’s been a while since you’ve taken it.

Most standardized drug tests aren’t checking for CBD and are mainly looking for THC. Which means CBD may stay undetected. However CBD is still a cannabis component, and there are some tests that are CBD sensitive.

**If your CBD products are derived from hemp there will be small trace amounts of THC at 0.2% or less included. The majority of tests are only looking for THC, however, these trace amounts might be detectable even though they are very low.

Job roles that require mandatory drug testing, such as government workers, should always make the necessary checks before buying and taking any cannabis or hemp-based product.

How to Choose Your CBD Products

  • Check where your products are derived from– Hemp-derived CBD products have less than 0.2% THC which is considered a trace amount but could possibly show up on drug screening in rare cases. Hemp-derived CBD also doesn’t have high inducing effects.
  • Choose reputable companies to buy your CBD products from – The CBD industry is unregulated and products are unapproved by the FDA. Some companies may mislabel their products, use unsafe manufacturing practices or products that may contain chemicals and inaccurate amounts of CBD or THC. Look for companies that publish their lab results and check the results.
  • Always check state laws where you live or laws where you are traveling to before using any cannabis-based product – If found in possession of CBD or THC in states or countries where it is prohibited, you could face legal problems.
  • If you are subject to drug testing, choose products with ZERO THC – There is still a small chance of a positive result especially if tests are CBD sensitive. However, the chances are massively reduced if you choose a THC free product.

The Main Takeaway

Often misconceptions about cannabis can lead people to believe CBD and THC act in the same way. They both have benefits in their own right***, and this article serves as a guide to help breakdown the difference between them, so you can make informed decisions about what is right for you.

There are many things to consider if you are thinking of taking CBD or THC, but always make sure you do your own personal research before you take anything, especially if you are subject to drug testing or on medication.

Still wondering which CBD product is right for you? Our customer care team is always there to help you with your questions about our CBD products. Contact us in the chatbox in the right-hand corner for more information.

Jada Lynton

Our in house copywriter is an avid holistic health and cannabis advocate. Her passion for cannabis grew after experiencing the positive effects CBD has first hand. Over the past two years, while working for Endoca her knowledge and experience of cannabis has grown and she continues to spread the word about the amazing effects of cannabis and cannabinoids.

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