CBD vs THC: What’s The Difference?

As of 2019, 34 U.S. states have legalized some form of marijuana. What’s more, a Marist College study reports that nearly 55 million Americans currently use weed, much of which can now be purchased at their local marijuana cannabis store. Whether we smoke, vape, or consume it through edibles, we’re all just finding the blends that work best for us.

What makes these statistics surprising is how many enthusiasts seem to be confused about the product they are using. We all know that some strains are stronger than others. Some calm us down without making us feel particularly high, while others create quite a buzz. That is due primarily to the proportions of two compounds – cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – included in different strains. But what’s the difference between CBD and THC?

It’s important to know, our bodies have both CB1 receptors and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors are the boss of the central nervous system, while CB2 receptors hang around in the peripheral nervous system. Anything that affects CB1 receptors will likely have a psychoactive impact because those receptors affect our brain and spinal cord. Anything that impacts CB2 receptors is likely to affect the rest of our body.

CBD and THC are two of the more than 60 cannabinoids found in marijuana, although each plays a different role and impacts a different part of our bodies. CBD and THC possess the same atoms, but those atoms are arranged quite differently.

A Look at CBD

CBD binds primarily to CB2 receptors, which is why it is commonly used to relieve pain (in fact, evidence indicates that marijuana itself was used to treat pain as far back as 2900 B.C.). It is also used to reduce anxiety and depression, help people sleep, relieve symptoms of Crohn’s disease and multiple sclerosis, make the opioid withdrawal possible, help reduce nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy,  lower high blood pressure, and treat acne.   CBD is particularly popular for the way it reduces inflammation. In fact, many people count on CBD to help them get through the day.

CBD is also being studied for its neuroprotective properties. While it’s still relatively early in the research stage, there is a reason to hope that CBD can help with devastating diseases like Parkinson’s, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s. Other studies are also being conducted to determine whether CBD has antipsychotic effects, anti-tumor effects can help treat substance abuse, and prevent diabetes.

As the second most prevalent of marijuana’s active ingredients, CBD is a life-altering substance for many and has the potential to change the lives of millions more.

It’s important to note: most CBD products, whether it’s something designed to help us sleep at night or a shot into a smoothie we buy at a health club, won’t get us high. In most places, CBD cannot be sold if it contains a THC content over 0.3 percent. You may feel better, just not higher.

What About THC?

THC mimics anandamide, a natural chemical in the brain, altering the way our brain operates. It attaches to neurons in a way that influences how we think, concentrates, moves, and perceive time. It also impacts our sense of pleasure, memory, and coordination. The high we feel is a result of the way THC causes cells in our brain to release dopamine, a chemical that creates a sense of euphoria. For all these reasons, doing anything like driving a car or operating a Skilsaw are truly terrible ideas while under the influence of THC.

Like CBD, THC has a lot to brag about – particularly when it comes to health benefits. It’s often used to help people get through the worst of chemotherapy, treat depression, PTSD, and epilepsy. It can be incredibly useful to those with eating disorders and people in physical pain. And while we should never try it on our own, a knowledgeable veterinarian can show us how to use THC to calm animals and help them when they’re in pain.

In another similarity to CBD, THC can be purchased from a marijuana cannabis store in the form of drops, oils, edibles, syrups, lotions, and balms.

How CBD and THC Work Together

CBD acts like a wingman who watches out for his friend THC. Ingested together, CBD makes us feel less high, less agitated, paranoid, or cognitively impaired. Technically, all marijuana contains both THC and CBD, but due to years of growing plants with no real understanding of how the two work together, there is now an overabundance of THC-heavy weed. Having more options is what it’s all about. We want to be able to walk into our local cannabis store and tell them what we’re looking for. Do we need something to get us through nausea, or are we looking for something to help us sleep? The ratio of CBD to THC helps determine what a particular strain of marijuana can do for us.

Both CBD and THC offer benefits. It’s up to us to ask for a ratio that meets our particular needs.