CBD vs THC: What are the Main Differences?

By now you've probably heard the buzz about all the benefits of CBD, and how this plant-sourced compound can help ease insomnia, reduce chronic pain, and soothe anxiety. You probably know that CBD comes from the same family of plants that produces THC, a psychoactive drug — and you might wonder what else these two substances have in common.

Though THC and CBD do indeed share a family tree and influence your endocannabinoid system, that's where the similarities end. Let's take a look at the main differences between THC and CBD so you can make an informed choice about the products you use for yourself and your family.

What are THC & CBD?

To start, it's important to grasp that both THC and CBD are compounds that come from the cannabis plant. In fact, the cannabis plant is thought to contain at least 500 different compounds that affect our bodies in different ways.

In addition to their shared family tree, both THC and CBD work by stimulating the cannabinoid receptors in the human body. These cannabinoid receptors can be found all throughout the body: in the brain, nervous system, heart, liver, GI tract, skin, immune cells, and beyond.

These cannabinoid receptors are part of the expansive endocannabinoid system which help keep the body in homeostasis — or balance — and is involved with different bodily functions like sleep, immune health, mood, and pain. Both THC and CBD work by binding to different cannabinoid receptors to create change in the way we think, feel, and function.

The Main Differences Between CBD and THC

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While it's clear that both THC and CBD come from the same family of plants and interact with our body's endocannabinoid system, these two compounds definitely have some major differences:

CBD is Non-Psychoactive

When it comes to making the decision to consume CBD or THC, there is one crucial difference that you can't overlook: THC gets you "high," and CBD doesn't. THC attaches to cannabinoid receptors in the brain that are responsible for perception, coordination, memory, and thinking. By interacting with these receptors, THC can produce the psychoactive effects frequently referred to as a high. In addition, THC can trigger the brain to release the neurotransmitter (chemical messenger) called dopamine, which can contribute to the high feeling.

Because CBD doesn't interact with those same receptors, it does not trigger a psychoactive response. Instead, most people who use CBD simply feel relaxed and calm.

THC & CBD Affect the Body in Different Ways

Both THC and CBD have been shown to have positive effects when it comes to decreasing chronic pain and reducing inflammation in the body. However, it's important to keep in mind that there are a few differences in the way these compounds affect the body:

  • Side effects. THC is known to cause side effects that can impair function, like coordination problems, a slower reaction time, and even minor memory loss. By contrast, CBD's side effects are generally minor, if they occur at all. CBD's side effects can include dry mouth and drowsiness for some users.
  • Appetite. While THC is known to increase appetite, CBD generally doesn't produce that effect. In fact, some people who take CBD report that it lowers their appetite.
  • Mental Health. While CBD has been used to help ease depression and help with psychosis, THC is not known to have these positive benefits for mental health.
  • Seizures. Unlike THC, CBD has been studied extensively for its ability to decrease seizures. In fact, the FDA recently approved Epidiolex, a drug containing CBD which helps seizures.

Sourcing: Hemp vs. Marijuana Plants

It's true that CBD and THC are both sourced from cannabis plants. However, not all cannabis plants are created equal. CBD is sourced from hemp, which is a cannabis plant which contains no more than 0.3% THC. This explains why people who enjoy CBD in tinctures don't experience any psychoactive effects — the level of THC in hemp is simply too low. By contrast, THC is sourced from marijuana plants — which generally contain between 5 and 20% THC.

Drug Testing Results

Drug tests used by employers identify a special compound created in your body in reaction to THC. Because CBD contains such a low quantity of THC, it's very unlikely that CBD would initiate a positive response on a drug test. However, it's important to keep in mind that not all CBD distributors follow high standards when it comes to their product. Cross-contamination, poor sourcing standards, and mislabeling products could all lead to getting a positive drug test result from using CBD.

To prevent this, take measures to ensure you're only getting the best-of-the-best when it comes to CBD:

  • Buy CBD products that are fully compliant with the Federal Farm Act and contain less than 0.3% THC.
  • Ensure that the CBD products you purchase are sourced from industrial hemp.
  • Only purchase from reputable companies that make sure to lab-test their CBD products.

Choose High-Quality CBD

Though CBD and THC both come from the cannabis plant and interact with our body's endocannabinoid system, it's clear that there are some major differences between the two compounds. If you decide CBD is the right choice for you, make sure you seek a reputable company that enforces strict standards for their CBD products.