Cannabis plants have over 100 compounds, but out of all of them, only Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are the most researched. They are both extracted from the plant and have different effects on the body. These compounds were discovered in the 1940s, and their research has been ongoing since, with experts saying what is known of cannabis is only the tip of the iceberg.
When used together – and not just THC and CBD, but all the compounds of the cannabis plant – they are said to have what is referred to as the entourage effect. Individually, they are used medicinally and recreationally, mainly to alleviate pain and calm the mind. This article delves into THC and CBD, their differences, similarities, and legal status in the US and most of the world.
How Do They Differ
The CBD vs. THC debate has been ongoing for a long with some people believing one to be better. Several publications, including AskGrower’s piece on CBD vs THC https://askgrowers.com/blog/the-differences-between-cbd-and-thc have demystified these two compounds and shed some light on how they differ. While the differences may be subtle, they show why one compound ne more desirable to some than the other.
Chemical Structure: While CBD and THC share the same chemical formula – C21H30O2 – they are structurally different. THC has three 6-membered rings while CBD only has two, and the atom arrangement is slightly different too. The receptors binding to the endocannabinoid system are CB1 and CB2, found in the brain and the central nervous system, respectively. THC binds to them both, while CBD has little to no bond. When used individually, a user will feel the effects of THC much more due to this bond, while they might feel no impact from CBD alone.
- Psychoactive Effects: CBD and THC have psychoactive effects but not at the same level. Because THC binds to CB1 receptors, the impact is felt throughout the body, but the effects in CBD are dulled by its inability to bind to said receptors. When used together, CBD binds to these receptors in the brain to mitigate the euphoric effects of THC. Used individually, THC has a proper psychoactive impact that leaves a user quite high, and research has shown it binds even better and faster when inhaled and not ingested.
- Drug Tests and Legality: The feds have maintained that cannabis is classified as a harmful substance whose use should be regulated. They allow for 0.3% THC in dry products, including hemp-derived CBD, and anything higher than this is considered illegal. As of April 2023, 38 states in the US had legalized weed use, with 25 of them allowing recreational use too. Uruguay, Chile, South Africa, Morocco, Switzerland, Colombia, Jamaica, Lesotho, the Netherlands, and Rwanda are a few of the countries that have legalized the medicinal use of cannabis.
As for testing, most tests look out for THC, primarily because CBD barely binds to the CB1 brain receptors, but a few may go for CBD as well. THC remains in the body days after consumption, so it will show in tests. A test will show the presence of THC even if it is within the 0.3% threshold, so those that prefer not to test positive may want to stick to CBD isolates.
What are their similarities? Both compounds bond to the body’s cannabinoid receptors and work well together for the best results. The industry has found a sweet spot that agrees with the Federal government’s regulations while producing the desired level of the entourage effect.
Benefits of CBD
Cannabis sativa plants are classified into three types depending on their THC contents: Type I with 0.3% THC and less than 0.5% CBD; Type II with over 0.3% THC and 0.5% CBD; and Type III with less than 0.3% THC and over 0.5% CBD. Type I&II are classified as marijuana, while type III is hemp, and only CBD from this type is federally legalized for sale in the US. The rest fall under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act due to their THC content.
CBD is said to help calm the mind, work on anxiety, sleep disorders, and depression. The low percentage of THC in the product will not result in highness, but users are still advised to consume it in the right dosages as administered by a budtender.
Benefits of THC
THC may get a bad rap occasionally, but it’s a great compound if consumed right. Users want to check the contents of their products before buying and, even better, stick with verified dealers as some product is often mislabeled.
THC could treat insomnia, loss of appetite, anxiety, nausea, muscle spasticity, and other conditions. The best results are derived from combining THC and CBD to mellow THC’s psychoactive effects.
- Consumption methods for THC and CBD: We have several of these, the most common being inhalation through smoking, ingestion of edibles, vaping a condensed vapor from cold-pressed oils, and topical application for localized pain. Cannabis products are available as gummies, cookies, lotions and balms, soaps, oils, bath bombs, smokable joints, and infused beverages.
- Important Pointers: CBD is still beneficial even without THC, but you will want to go for the isolate if it’s CBD in its purest form you seek. Before using either, you may want to seek a doctor’s input, especially if you are on other meds. As is the case with everything, excessive consumption of either CBD or THC may have undesirable effects, so seek an expert’s opinion on what’s enough for a day. There is no perfect ratio of CBD: THC, but we know from research that a little CBD will make THC bearable.
CBD isolates have no known side effects except excessive sleepiness when consumed in large quantities. THC has some associated effects, including paranoia, euphoria, cottonmouth, and even dizziness in some people. The effects vary from user to user, and people are advised to pace themselves to gauge their tolerance. When used together and in the right quantities, these compounds are beneficial medicinally or recreationally. They could help with insomnia, manage pain and anxiety, and could lift the mood of a depressed person.
This article was written by AskGrower’s Tia Moskalenko, who specializes in interviewing cannabis experts and brand representatives. Her work, published in Ganjapreneur and Detroit Metro Times, has expounded on several aspects of the industry, from farming to distribution, fair representation, and value-addition.