Cannabis is among the intoxicating substances considered safe in the world currently. Although the exact processes through which cannabis intoxicates the body are currently unknown, it is easy to make some conclusions. As marijuana and marijuana products’ usage continues to be legalized around the world, consumers are eager to know what their options are. Among many other strains, available cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabinol are the most common.

Cannabidiol is one of the naturally present cannabinoid components of the cannabis plant. It accounts for 40% of the cannabis plant of the 113 cannabinoids present. It is normally administered via inhalation, buccal (as an aerosol spray) or as an oral solution.

Tetrahydrocannabinol is one of the cannabinoids and is the main psychoactive constituent of the cannabis plant. THC is a lipid, which is believed to be part of the plant’s defense system. THC is administered either orally, through inhalation, via trans-dermal or sublingually.

Both CBD and THC, being cannabinoids, interact with the body’s ECS (endocannabinoid system) eliciting different effects. ECS is the receptors network in the body that interacts with cannabinoids to sustain vital functions within the body.

Differences between CBD and THC

i.Chemical Structure

Both being cannabinoids, they have a similar molecular composition, i.e., 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and two oxygen atoms. Their molecular masses are almost the same;

  • 314.469g / Mol for THC
  • and 314.464g / Mol for CBD.

The only difference is in the arrangement of the atoms which explains the difference in how it will impact the body. Due to the difference in their molecular structure, the two have a different interaction with the cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, in the body. Although both bond with the CB2 receptors, they individually interact differently with the CB1 receptor.

THC can interact and bind with CB1 receptors directly, while the presence of CBD can affect the binding between THC and CB1 receptors as it does not bind with the CB1 receptors.

ii. Psychoactive Components

Despite the very similar but slightly different chemical compositions, the two have very different psychoactive effects on the body.

  • While THC is the main psychoactive component of cannabis,
  • CBD is a non-psychoactive constituent.
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This means that THC binds strongly with the CB1 receptors to provide a “high” or a feeling of euphoria with extreme mind-alteration. On the other hand, CBD is unable to bind with the CB1 receptors and can negate the binding of THC and CB1 receptors or reduce the psychoactive effects induced by the latter.

iii. Legality in the USA

The current issues on the legality of both THC and CBD in the USA are still evolving. In the United States, all the forms of marijuana are illegal, especially in the states where they are not legalized. Due to THC’s ability to induce psychoactive effects, it is classified under illegal substances around the globe, including the USA.

However, 20 states in the USA have accepted cannabis-related laws that make medicinal marijuana with substantial levels of THC legal which should and must be prescribed by a legally licensed physician. Although the use of THC for recreational purposes is federally illegal in the USA, nine states have legalized its use for recreation. CBD is a much safer option to use from a legal ground perspective. CBD is federally legalized as per the US Farm Bill of 2014. This law does not overrule state law, and every state is free to make rules on the legalization of CBD in their jurisdiction.

iv. Medical Benefits

Both CBD and THC have similar medical benefits as both can provide relief for some conditions. The only difference is that CBD does not inflict psychoactive effects like those from THC.

CBD is administered to help with such conditions as

  • pain,
  • anxiety,
  • inflammation,
  • psychosis,
  • depression,
  • nausea,
  • seizures
  • and migraines

while THC is used for conditions such as

  • pain,
  • glaucoma,
  • lack of appetite,
  • nausea,
  • insomnia,
  • And muscle spasticity.

v. Side Effects

The body’s tolerance to CBD is high even when administered in high dosage. It has no known direct side effects and the only side effects known, arise from its interaction with other types of medications. THC has some side effects derived from its psychoactive properties, however temporal they may be.

They include

  • memory loss,
  • increased heart rate,
  • problems with coordination,
  • slower reaction,
  • red eyes
  • and dry oral cavity.
  • Prolonged high use of THC can cause psychiatric conditions including schizophrenia in the long run.

vi. Drug Testing

Most cannabinoids, including CBD and THC, are deposited and stored in the fatty tissues in the body. This means that are visible on drug tests even after a few weeks of usage. Detecting CBD is not possible on all tests except for the ones sensitive to CBD. However, the primary drug tests are generally for chemicals present in THC.

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Where can you find CBD or THC?

THC and CBD are the most common cannabinoids from the cannabis plant. Although both hemp and marijuana produce THC and CBD, the concentration of CBD in hemp is higher while THC is highly concentrated in marijuana.

The Pre-Dominant Effects of:

a) High-THC Strains

THC is the main psychoactive constituent in marijuana, resulting in mood changes and perception making it the better choice for people who use it for recreation purposes. Apart from these effects, it has other analgesic properties and is also used as an anti-inflammation treatment. It is known to cause greater relaxation of the nervous system, making it helpful in combating multiple sclerosis and severe pain.

b) High-CBD Strains

CBD has found acclaim due to its anti-carcinogenic ability. Since it doesn’t have psychoactive effects, CBD is viewed as the best choice for pain management and anti-inflammatory treatments. It also has very powerful antioxidant effects, which aid in enhancing the body’s immunity. It is known to be great for treating different anxiety disorders such as social anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as depression.

CBD vs. THC: Better Together?

Following the number of researches that have been conducted to better understand the cannabinoids THC and CBD, it has become easier to understand how the two work together to produce some effects in the human body. This can be explained in terms of agonist and antagonist chemicals. An agonist chemical normally binds to the receptors and results in certain biological reactions. The antagonist, on the other hand, negates such biological actions. According to studies, THC is the agonist for both CB1 and CB2 receptors. CBD, however, is the antagonist and hence it has numerous benefits to medicine.

When ingested at the same time consecutively, THC will activate the CB1 and CB2 receptors stimulating more reaction in the body, while CBD will only bind to the CB2 receptor, therefore, dampening the effects of THC. However, when ingested simultaneously, the results will depend on the first cannabinoid, either the CBD or THC molecule, to encounter the receptors. The ratio of receptors to which each cannabinoid binds to is the main factor that will dictate the effects of both cannabinoids in the body.

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In medical practices, specific ratios of THC and CBD together in the body has been proven to have better and enhanced effects. A 1:1 ratio has been proven to have augmented results and successful in treating conditions such as chronic pain, muscle spasticity, etc. A combination of both cannabinoids has also been successful at alleviating sleeping problems, arthritis, peripheral neuropathic pain and even pain from cancer treatment.

Choosing a Strain

Even the most common medicines from licensed pharmaceuticals don’t work for everybody. In the same manner, it is important to select the cannabinoid that works best for you depending on the effect you’re looking for. This also depends on the symptom you may be trying to negate such as pain or sleeping disorders.

I. CBD vs. THC: Anxiety

A lot of research has been conducted to find out how different cannabinoids affect different lifestyle patterns in people. One of the symptoms is anxiety. Research shows that cannabis might help with anxiety, while other studies contradict to state that anxiety is one of the effects and symptoms visible in someone who has ingested cannabis and cannabis-related products. A study carried out in 2010 concluded that cannabidiol (CBD) is a great reliever for people who suffer from social anxiety disorder. The cannabinoid not only changed the brain’s reactions to anxiety but also made them feel extremely better. Later analysis revealed that CBD is also the best in dealing with various types of anxiety such as post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and even general anxiety.

THC, however, due to its ability to induce psychoactive behaviors in a person, was found to have the potential to “over-excited” neurons triggering paranoia and anxiety. For anyone looking to reduce anxiety, CBD would be the better choice.

II. CBD vs. THC: For Pain

Many people have used cannabinoids at some point for pain management. Although medical marijuana, in general, is becoming more common as a replacement for traditional pain relievers, research had to be carried out to find out which cannabinoid is more effective and safer to use. Some experts suggest that cannabis is a better pain reliever than other medications. The cannabinoids CBD and THC are known to relieve pain effectively, and this can only be achieved under heat. This means that both cannabinoids need to be administered through vaporing, smoking or even baking it.

  • For chronic pain, the cannabinoid better suited was CBD which reduces both inflammations and relieves pain.
  • CBD was also found to be able to relieve digestive pain better as it also aids in digestion.
  • For relieving pain from rheumatoid arthritis (inflammations of joints in the body), CBD is also more effective.
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Although THC can relieve severe pain and may be better than CBD, its ability to have psychoactive side effects makes CBD the better choice to relieve pain.

III. CBD vs. THC: For Sleep

Research on the two most known cannabinoids has shown that both CBD and THC can alleviate medical problems which include sleeping issues. However, the way both achieve this is quite different. THC has been found to bind with the receptors in a manner that affects the sleep/wake cycle in the body. A high concentration of THC will make the user feel sleepy and drowsy. CBD, however, affects sleep by keeping you awake the following day while reducing third stage sleep.

THC has more sedative effects than CBD, making it important for people with sleeping problems. However, CBD will greatly help in creating better sleeping patterns. THC is the better choice for combating sleep problems.

IV. CBD vs. THC: For Cancer

To better understand how different cannabinoids help in fighting cancer and alleviating the side effects of cancer treatments, it is important first to understand how cancer cells work. Cancer cells are the abnormal cells in the body that continue to spread if not controlled. Research has shown that cannabinoids can inhibit the growth of cancer cells in the body.

Both CBD and THC work to slow down cancer cell proliferation and movement thereby inducing their death. Although both works to have the same effect on cancer cells, THC is inhibited by its psychoactive effects. THC is also found to be better at relieving the side effects of cancer treatment especially the pain.

The choice between CBD and THC is normally a bit personalized as everyone has the cannabinoid they prefer depending on the effect they wish to get. For more medicinal purposes, CBD is proven to be the better choice. This is because it can help a patient alleviate the intended symptoms while maintaining their mental capacity as it does not induce any psychoactive effects. THC is, however, preferred mostly by users who wish to achieve a “high” or sense of euphoria.

When it comes to determining the best cannabinoid for medicinal use, it was found that a combination of the two at a specific ratio has the best effect especially in pain management among other symptoms.