Marijuana and cannabis products are rising in popularity and becoming legal in more US states. They seem to be everywhere these days – you can buy them in the form of oils, edibles, tinctures, vapes, capsules, creams, gels, supplements, and more both online and in stores.
Still, many are still confused about whether consuming these products is really beneficial. Others are skeptical and unsure whether they’ll make them high.
This skepticism is natural because the two compounds getting the most attention at the moment, CBD and THC, are both present in the cannabis plant but have very different effects on our body.
This article aims to clarify the differences and similarities between these two compounds and explain the health benefits and risks of each one of them.
The Difference Between CBD and THC
Cannabis contains over 100 compounds called cannabinoids. The most well-known of these compounds are Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
CBD products can be derived from either hemp or marijuana. Both of them belong to the cannabis plant family. The main difference is the content of THC in each of them: hemp contains less than 0.3% THC and quite a lot of CBD, whereas marijuana contains more than 0.3% THC. THC is a psychoactive compound that is known to make users high.
THC and CBD also have a similar chemical structure: 30 hydrogen atoms, 2 oxygen atoms, and 21 carbon atoms. However, these atoms are arranged differently, which gives THC and CBD different properties. As a result, they have different effects on the human body.
How do THC and CBD Affect the Human Body
Both THC and CBD interact with receptors in the human endocannabinoid system which is responsible for controlling a number of bodily functions including memory, sleep, mood, and pain.
THC tends to bind with receptors located in the brain that are responsible for controlling feelings like mood and pain. That’s the reason why consuming marijuana produces euphoric feelings and makes users high. CBD, on the other hand, is non-psychoactive, which means it doesn’t make users high. It binds with other receptors in the endocannabinoid system which are linked to feelings of well-being.
The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) and Cannabinoids
Here’s how cannabinoids work with the ECS in the human body:
As mentioned earlier, the cannabis plant contains more than 100 cannabinoids, i.e. compounds that interact with our ECS (endocannabinoid system). The ECS is made of a network of receptors that work with cannabinoids to control important functions in the body.
The first cannabinoid receptor was discovered in the 1980s. About a decade later, scientists were able to classify the receptors in two categories: CB1 and CB2.
CB1 receptors are located in parts of the brain which are in charge of various mental and physiological processes like motor coordination, high cognition, memory, and emotion, whereas CB2 receptors are located throughout the immune system and the central nervous system.
The interaction between cannabinoids such as THC and CBD and these receptors can contribute to a number of health benefits including anxiety relief, pain alleviation, mood management appetite stimulation, etc.
Health Benefits of CBD and THC
Nowadays, people use CBD products to help treat a number of conditions and ailments, ranging from arthritis to anxiety. Some claim that it can help with insomnia, chronic pain, and even cancer; however, research on CBD’s health benefits is scarce and there’s no scientific evidence to confirm these claims.
So far, there’s scientific evidence that CBD helps with epilepsy and seizures. As a result, the US Food and Drug Administration has approved the first cannabis-derived medication, Epidolex, which is used to treat two rare and quite severe forms of childhood epilepsy – Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
CBD is said to help with the following ailments:
- chronic pain
- inflammatory bowel disease
THC can be helpful with the following conditions:
- chronic pain
- pain caused by multiple sclerosis
- nerve pain
- muscle spasms
- tremors in patients with Parkinson’s disease
- low appetite
The human body can handle CBD very well, even in higher doses. When side effects do occur, they’re usually a result of interaction between CBD and other prescription drugs you may be taking.
Some of the CBD’s side effects include:
- upset stomach
- lowered blood pressure
The situation with THC is different as its psycho-activity can lead to a number of side effects such as:
- problems with concentration, balance, and memory
Make sure to consult a health care professional before taking any CBD products.
CBD and THC: Are They Legal?
Laws related to cannabis are changing frequently. Marijuana is still illegal under federal law, even though some states have legalized it for medicinal and/or recreational purposes.
In December 2018, the US Congress passed a Farm Bill which made industrial hemp legal in all fifty states. However, there are certain rules about how and where hemp-derived CBD products can be sold.
Check the laws in your state before purchasing any products that contain THC or CBD.
Although THC and CBD share some similarities, they are quite different. Bottom line is, neither THC or CBD is better. They both offer great health benefits and you can use one or both of them to provide relief for the condition you’re suffering from. Some people find THC’s psycho-activity beneficial; it all depends on individual needs.