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Let’s be honest: learning the differences between CBD and THC can be tricky, even if you’ve been enjoying the cannabis plant for a while. But, when it comes to CBD vs THC, knowing the differences is key to having the best experience possible.

Whether you’re interested in getting high or simply want to experience the cannabis plant’s medicinal benefits, these two cannabinoids can help you out.

So, what are the differences between CBD vs THC? From legality to psychoactivity and more, we’re covering it all.

What is CBD?

What does CBD stand for? CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of the main chemical compounds you’ll find in the cannabis sativa plant.

CBD has become increasingly popular over the years and isn’t only found in dispensaries, but is often even sold in tinctures and vapes at your local health and wellness store.

How did one of the most prevalent properties of marijuana become so accessible? It’s simple, CBD alone doesn’t get you high. 

This makes CBD great for individuals who are seeking relief but don’t want the psychoactive effects. (CBD is still considered psychoactive, but the effects are so mild it doesn’t cause impairment.)

The cannabinoid interacts with neuroreceptors in your endocannabinoid system, which helps regulate your movement, mood, and immune system.

CBD is known to help with a plethora of symptoms caused by medical ailments, such as inflammation, anxiety-related disorders, chronic pain, insomnia, addiction, and even epilepsy syndromes

As of now, the only FDA-approved CBD product is a prescription oil called Epidiolex. Patients use it to treat seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, and in some cases has stopped seizures completely.

But, it is worth noting that hemp-derived CBD products are currently legal in the US under the 2018 Farm Bill.

What is THC?

THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is the other most prevalent chemical compound you’ll find in cannabis sativa. CBD vs THC effects differ mainly in their power to produce an intoxicating feeling.

Delta 9 THC is actually the main psychoactive compound found in cannabis. (Delta 8 THC also contributes psychoactive effects, but it is much less abundant in cannabis.)

THC is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, producing effects that can be useful for helping with a variety of medical conditions, like nausea, pain, and symptoms of mental illness.

Some studies show that THC has antidepressant-like effects, uplifting the mood of patients suffering from depression, anxiety, or PTSD. 

THC can often lead to relaxation and sleepiness in a number of patients, but for some, especially those with less cannabis experience or those who struggle with anxiety, THC can cause paranoia or panic.

CBD vs THC anxiety uses really depend on the patient and their standard anxiety level, which could be brought to the forefront upon consuming THC.

CBD vs THC: Key Differences

Cannabis plants contain more than 120 different phytocannabinoids. Of these, the two most significant are CBD and THC. CBD and THC consist of an identical chemical formula, and often work hand in hand to benefit patients physically and mentally.

Even though they are typically found in cannabis products together, the two cannabinoids can produce very different effects. Thus, consumers can enjoy them separately.

Chemical Composition

THC and CBD are isomers (compounds that contain exactly the same number of atoms), which means that they share the same chemical formula (C21H30O2) with different chemical structures.

Their chemical structures make them unique, so unique that one cannabinoid generates psychoactive effects (gets you high) while the other does not.

Cannabinoid Receptor Interaction

So what’s the difference between CBD and THC? CBD and THC bind differently with the receptors in the body’s endocannabinoid system, which play an important role in the central nervous system’s development.

THC binds with the two main receptors in the endocannabinoid system, CB1 and CB2, while CBD alone binds very weakly to these receptors. CBD needs THC to bind to the CB1 receptor. 

Depending on the particular plant, either THC or CBD is the most abundant cannabinoid in marijuana.

For example, the cannabis sativa plant is classified by its CBD and THC content, separated into three categories. 

Does hemp have THC or CBD? Both, but more CBD than THC. Type III cannabis sativa contains less than 0.3% THC and more than 0.5% CBD, which classifies it as hemp.

CBD vs THC Effects

So what’s the difference between CBD and THC, and which is best for you? CBD or THC? Maybe both? 

CBD vs THC effects in the body often differ, but might work best when consumed together for some uses. Although both cannabinoids are beneficial on their own, studies show that cannabis products that contain THC offer better pain relief than products that only contain CBD.

But how do you counteract the potential negative side effects of THC, like panic attacks?

CBD has been shown to reduce the side effects of THC, like anxiety, hunger, and sedation. So when looking for a cannabis product, it is helpful to start out with something high in CBD and not so high in THC (although the THC level will likely still be higher than the CBD level.)

As time progresses and you begin experimenting more, you will be able to distinguish what is working for you and what isn’t.

When using a topical on the skin for pain and inflammation, you can integrate both THC and CBD for the best results, allowing them to work their best without any psychoactive effects.

LEARN MORE: Medical Marijuana vs. Recreational Marijuana

CBD vs THC Anxiety

CBD vs THC anxiety uses vary from person to person. For some patients, THC is a breath of fresh air, offering relaxation and stress relief. While others, typically those who already struggle with some level of anxiety, might get paranoid or anxious from consuming THC (usually fairly high amounts.) 

Because of this, consuming CBD is usually a safe bet for treating anxiety. Studies show that CBD works as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and PTSD. 

So what’s best for treating anxiety, THC or CBD? This really depends on the person. THC works alongside CBD, enhancing the other’s effects, which may include anxiety relief.

If CBD alone is not achieving anxiety relief for you, you might try out a cannabis product that also contains THC.

But if you are already anxious and not in the right headspace to experience psychoactive properties, stick to CBD.

In some states, you can qualify for an MMJ card because of anxiety. Click here to find out where.

CBD vs THC Appetite

Does THC or CBD increase appetite? Marijuana is known to stimulate appetite, but what cannabinoid is actually responsible for that?

THC interacts with receptors that increase appetite, while CBD works indirectly to potentially stimulate hunger.

If your nausea or anxiety causes a lack of appetite, CBD might allow you to eat more by treating those ailments. Severe appetite loss is a common symptom of many chronic illnesses, like cancer, HIV/AIDS, and more. 

CBD and THC Legality

Though both CBD and THC have therapeutic properties, their legal status differs greatly depending on where you live in the United States.

CBD derived from hemp plants has been legalized nationally while THC remains illegal under federal law but legal for medical use or recreational use in some states.

Hemp CBD is legal in all 50 states thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill. This bill outlined that CBD derived from hemp plants that contain less than 0.3% THC is legal in the United States.

THC, on the other hand, remains illegal under federal law. You can only access delta-9 THC products in states that have legalized either medical cannabis or recreational.

How to Consume CBD or THC

THC products typically contain CBD, but there are many stand-alone CBD products. CBD comes in many forms, including tinctures typically administered under the tongue, edibles, beverages, vapes, and topicals for use on the skin.

You can consume THC products by inhaling dried flower, concentrates, edibles, beverages, tinctures, topicals, and capsules.

For accurate dosing when consuming THC or CBD, patients can use a tincture (or a dropper), an edible, or a drinkable weed beverage to choose exactly how much product they are getting.

Drug Testing

Will CBD and THC show up on a drug test? Yes, typically THC will. CBD, on the other hand, will not. show up on most standard drug tests. This would only occur if you took a CBD-specific drug test.

So if you fear your job might drug test you, make sure there is no THC in your CBD product. 

Avoid products labeled “full-spectrum CBD oil,” which may contain small amounts of THC, and look for “CBD isolate,” instead. Isolates contain CBD alone. 

For CBD that is completely rid of THC while retaining the cannabinoids and terpenes present in the plant, keep an eye out for “broad-spectrum CBD.”

Whether it’s THC or CBD, We’re Here to Elevate Your Cannabis Experience

So what’s the difference between CBD and THC? Hopefully, now you know how both cannabinoids affect the body. When choosing a cannabis strain, it is important to keep in mind the CBD and THC levels, as well as the terpenes the strain contains to find the cannabis product that is best for you. 

If you plan to try THC or CBD, make sure that you are getting it from a reliable source like a dispensary. To do that, you’ll need your medical marijuana card – that’s where we come in.

Elevate Holistics is a 100% online, simple process to get your MMJ card. We connect you with a certified cannabis physician via video chat and can help you every step of the way.

It’s quick and easy, book an appointment with Elevate Holistics to get your medical marijuana card today.


Patient Resources: Cannabinoids 

Get Your MMJ Card Right From Home

Elevate Holistics’ process is quick, affordable, and done entirely online. It’s never been so easy.

About the author

Ally Hilbert is the Content and SEO Manager here at Elevate Holistics, working to publish and run Elevate’s blogs and landing pages, as well as conduct keyword research, competitor analysis, and more. After having brain surgery at the age of 17, Ally became fascinated with medical cannabis and its benefits, and, at 18, had her first CBD-related piece published. Today, she’s been writing about cannabis for the past six years, and simply can’t think of a better company to get to do it for. When she’s not writing or editing, Ally’s side-by-side with her pup Sadie in Seattle.
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