The marijuana plant contains more than 100 different chemical compounds referred to as cannabinoids. The two most popular cannabinoids are CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). These compounds interact with the human body through the endocannabinoid system (ECS) to produce different effects. And even though the chemical composition of these two compounds might be similar, tetrahydrocannabinol is psychoactive whereas cannabidiol is not. This is just one of the major differences between these two cannabinoids. In this article, we shall explore some of the major differences between the two substances.

1.Physical interactions with body

As mentioned earlier, these two compounds interact differently with the body. Cannabinoids generally interact with cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) throughout the body in the ECS. This is precisely why topical cannabis products actually work, as even the skin and muscles on whichever part of the body contain cannabinoid receptors. Given that tetrahydrocannabinol easily binds to CB1 receptors, it stimulates the body in its own special way. The outcomes of its interaction include altered senses, general relaxation, tiredness, and hunger. The hunger aka “munchies” are a common side effect of THC.

In contrast to tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol does not directly interact with any of the cannabinoid receptors. It, instead, indirectly interacts with them- a phenomenon scientists refer to as modulation. Apart from this, CBD also increased the levels of body’s own naturally produced cannabinoids (endocannabinoids) through inhibition of the enzymes that break them down. In fact, part of the reason why the therapeutic benefits of CBD are quite extensive is its capability of influencing a broad range of receptors all over the body.

2.The psychological high

Tetrahydrocannabinol is known to get people “high”. It is responsible for the euphoric, negative-mind altering effects commonly associated with the cannabis/ marijuana plant. It alters the mind by binding to the CB1 receptors that are predominantly found in the brain. This interaction has an impact on the functioning of the brain and results to a “high”.

CBD, on the other hand, does not bind to the CB1 receptors of the brain. It is actually regarded as an antagonist of CB1 agonists; it suppresses the CB1 activating properties of THC. This means that CBD can never lead to a high no matter how much is taken.

3. Medical applications

Both compounds have different uses and benefits. Tetrahydrocannabinol is commonly used for sleep and drowsiness, relaxation and euphoria, relieving pain, relaxing muscles, and appetite stimulation. CBD, on the other hand, is commonly used for its anti-anxiety, anticonvulsant, anti-inflammatory, anti-psychotic, neuro-protective and painkilling properties.

Why is CBD commonly used for medical treatment compared to THC?

In most parts of the world, tetrahydrocannabinol is classified as an illegal drug with major short-term and long-term cognitive side effects. Some of these side effects are impaired decision-making, altered thinking and reasoning, and reduced control over impulses among others. On top of these, continued use of THC is linked to abnormalities in the heart and brain. CBD, in contrast, does not have these negative cognitive effects associated with THC. It, instead, counteracts the harmful psychoactive effects tetrahydrocannabinol has on the body. Simply put, the lower health risks of cannabidiol merged with its high efficiency in the treatment of numerous health conditions make it a more suitable candidate for medical uses compared to THC.

Bearing in mind the growing popularity of medicinal marijuana, breeders are presently coming up with new varieties that contain higher cannabidiol to tetrahydrocannabinol ratios. These new strains are expected to reduce the psychoactive side effects.

4. Source

THC is more dominant in marijuana whereas CBD is more dominant in hemp. Remember, marijuana and hemp are two different varieties of the cannabis plant.

THC dominates the chemical composition of the marijuana plant. In fact, the marijuana plant is specially grown by some companies to maximize its concentration levels. Over several years now, marijuana has been cloned and manipulated with specific emphasis on raising its tetrahydrocannabinol content. And even though the compound’s levels can be as low as 3%, there are varieties of the marijuana plant with up to 12% of the compound.

On the other hand, CBD dominated the chemical composition of the hemp plant. Tetrahydrocannabinol levels in the hemp plant is no more than 0.3%, which is almost ten times less than the least powerful variety of marijuana. The hemp plant naturally contains more CBD than THC, making it the perfect source of cannabidiol from cannabis.

Hemp plant

5. Legal status

The legal status of both cannabinoids varies in different countries and regions. Whereas most countries have very strict laws regarding marijuana and specifically THC, the legal status of CBD is still controversial in most places.

In the UK, however, CBD is legal. Its use was legalized back in January 2017 and the government put in place very strict laws governing its use. For instance, cannabidiol is only allowed for medicinal uses and only licensed medical distributors are allowed to sell it. Tetrahydrocannabinol is, however, illegal in the country but cannabis oil containing less than 2.2 percent of it is allowed.

UK Parliament

The two substances work well together

These two cannabinoids ultimately have different impacts in the human body. They, however, work incredibly well as a team. They both play important roles in physical healing.

Even though they are often separately used in treating different health conditions, the greatest effects of both compounds are experienced when they are combined. Apart from having a higher success rate of reducing inflammation and chronic pain, the combination of these two cannabinoids has been found to have significant therapeutic benefits such as prevention of tumors, increase of relaxation, and reducing inflammation.

A lot of patients are worried about the psychoactive effects of tetrahydrocannabinol and want to completely avoid it. There is some good news for them! CBD counteracts these psychoactive effects, and this is one of the main reasons that they are used together. The blend comes in varying ratios depending on the intended purpose. A high ratio of cannabidiol to tetrahydrocannabinol is suitable for those who wish to reduce or avoid the “highness” from tetrahydrocannabinol.