The Differences Between THC and CBD


Many people do not understand the THC and CBD are not the same.  There are many differences between THC and CBD.

From indigestion and depression to chronic pain and muscle soreness, there seems to be no end to the number of health benefits associated with the cannabis plant.

While manufacturers and marketers aren’t legally permitted to recommend their CBD products for specific medical conditions, it’s hard to escape the anecdotal evidence.

The most effective products are backed by first-hand testimonials and consumer reviews that speak to amazing results for some of the most troubling mental and physical ailments.

As consumer demand grows for high-quality CBD products that are effective, more manufacturers and brand names jump into the market.

That means you have more options, but it also may mean more confusion.

Each product contains different amounts of THC and CBD, and it’s your job as a consumer to make sure you know what’s going into your body.

One of the most confusing issues for many consumers is the difference between CBD and THC.

Keep reading to learn what separates these properties of the cannabis plant and what you should look for when you see these components on the label or in the marketing materials for a specific CBD or marijuana product.

Differences Between THC and CBD

What are Cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are natural properties found within plants in the cannabis family.

THC and CBD are both cannabinoids, but each plant will contain different amounts of each.

These properties are what determine the health benefits of a cannabis plant as well as its ability to produce a psychoactive high.

When you hear someone talk about the health benefits of marijuana or cannabis, it’s the cannabinoids that deliver the expected results.

There are now more than 100 cannabinoids known to exist in various cannabis plants. THC and CBD are just two of the most widely used and well-known options.

Cannabinoids can stimulate beneficial changes within the human body because they’re similar to the chemicals that are naturally found within the body to regulate everything from appetite to mental health.

As research into cannabis plants continues, we’re likely to discover other cannabinoids that are equally as powerful for humans as THC and CBD.

Hemp vs. Marijuana – What’s the Difference?

Hemp and marijuana are plants within the cannabis family.

They each have their own natural properties, which gives them each different potential health benefits.

Marijuana plants may contain high concentrations of THC while the hemp plant contains only trace amounts.

Both marijuana and hemp plants contain CBD, though the concentrations will vary between different species and hybrid creations.

Most of the CBD products on the market today are created from the hemp plant.

They’re not designed to get you high or for recreational use.

They do provide high concentrations of CBD that may deliver health benefits that you wouldn’t maximize by simply using marijuana recreationally.

An Introduction to THC

THC is short for tetrahydrocannabinol.

It’s a cannabinoid that is found in many cannabis plants, but some plants contain a higher concentration than others.

Marijuana plants are known to contain a high concentration of THC while hemp plants may contain no more than 0.03%.

THC is the cannabinoid that causes marijuana users to feel high or experience other psychoactive effects.

You may hear some people say hemp plants don’t contain THC, which is technically incorrect.

A hemp plant may contain a slight amount of THC, but the concentration is so low that the plant doesn’t stimulate psychoactive effects.

That simply means hemp plants aren’t likely to make you feel high because they don’t contain THC.

An Introduction to CBD

CBD is short for cannabidiol.

It’s a cannabinoid that comes with many health benefits but doesn’t produce the psychoactive effects stimulated by THC.

Some of the best CBD products are pure extracts that contain no detectable amounts of THC.

Even if some of those products contain trace amounts of THC, you can take them without worrying about getting high or presenting a safety risk when operating heavy machinery at work or driving.

While marijuana is becoming legal in many states and may one day be legalized throughout the United States, most health supplements are focused on CBD rather than THC.

You can get many of the same health benefits from consuming marijuana recreationally, but CBD isolates allow you to take higher concentrations without feeling high.

Those higher concentrations combined with routine use may amplify the health benefits over simply smoking marijuana.


THC vs. CBD – Psychoactive Effects

We touched on this issue in the descriptions of THC and CBD above, but it’s worth mentioning again.

If you don’t want to experience a high or any psychoactive effects, you should choose products that contain pure CBD isolates.

Those products will contain only trace amounts of THC if any at all, which means you won’t have any psychoactive side effects.

If you live in a state that has legalized marijuana and you don’t mind experiencing some level of psychoactive side effects, then you may try products that contain THC and CBD.

THC comes with its own health benefits, and you may experience greater pain relief when enjoying the psychoactive effects that it produces.

Just make sure that you only use products containing THC when you aren’t required to drive, operate heavy machinery or care for children and other dependents.

You always want to protect yourself and keep others safe when under the impact of THC.

Those psychoactive effects are quite powerful, and the amount of THC is rather high in some marijuana plants.

There are thousands of hybrid plants with more being created over time, so the amount of THC in a marijuana-deprived product can vary.

THC vs. CBD – Passing a Drug Test

Are you concerned about passing a drug test while taking a CBD product?

Start by understanding that drug tests are designed to detect THC, so a pure CBD isolate shouldn’t cause you to test positive for cannabis use.

The problem is that some CBD products aren’t as pure as consumers are led to believe, so they may contain trace amounts of THC.

Consuming those products frequently might lead to a failed drug test if the test is highly sensitive.

If you use a CBD product that is made from marijuana plants, you’re more likely to fail a drug test. Marijuana plants contain far more THC than the hemp plant.

Many people believe they can’t fail a drug test if they only take CBD products that are derived from hemp plants.

Just remember that hemp can contain trace amounts of THC.

If you take high concentrations of a hemp product or use the product on a routine basis, you could have some THC in your system when you take a drug test.

The sensitivity of the test and the amount of THC in your body will determine whether you test positive for cannabis use or not.

To play it safe, stick with pure CBD extracts that contain no THC on the label.

They may still have very low concentrations of THC, but the amount is so small that it shouldn’t impact your drug test when taken according to manufacturer instructions.

THC vs. CBD – Legal Issues

While some states have legalized marijuana and the use of THC, it hasn’t been legalized at the national level.

That creates some confusion for consumers who wish to use marijuana for recreational purposes or to maximize the medicinal and health benefits that come with THC.

It’s important to understand the laws in your state as well as the federal government’s stance.

That generally means using marijuana and products derived from marijuana only within your state and within the limits established by your state.

If you carry those products to other states where marijuana has not been legalized, then you could still face criminal penalties.

Technically, you still violate federal law when using marijuana, but you’re not likely to be penalized if you’re within your rights at the state level.

Pure CBD extracts and products made exclusively from hemp are legal throughout the United States.

Just make sure you research each product to verify that they’re never created from marijuana plants.

The THC concentration should be zero if you want to make sure the product is legal.

Except for CBD products used to treat select forms of epilepsy, manufacturers and marketers aren’t permitted to make claims about the health benefits of their products.

The market is highly unregulated at this point, and most products don’t undergo scientific testing to prove their effectiveness and safety for any specific medical condition or ailment.

The FDA uses that as a reason to limit the marketing practices of products that haven’t been proven and endorsed for specific medical applications.

Just because a company can’t say that their product can cure a medical issue or even improve the symptoms of a condition, it doesn’t mean that the product isn’t effective for those applications.

That’s where anecdotal evidence from consumers who use the product come in handy.

Companies can allow consumers to speak about their experiences with their product to show new users what’s possible with correct usage over time.

Making Personal Decisions Regarding THC and CBD

Now that you understand the difference between CBD and THC and have a basic understanding of related issues and terms, it’s time to think about what type of cannabis products you want to use.

You should think about all of the following when determining the amount of THC and CBD that you tolerate in any product you consume:

  • Effectiveness for your medical or health and wellness issues. What specific ailments are you hoping to ease by using a product derived from cannabis? Understanding the benefits of CBD and THC may help you select the right cannabinoids for the issues you’re facing.
  • Your stance on psychoactive effects. Do you want to experience a high to help with pain or for recreational enjoyment? Or do you need to eliminate or minimize those side effects to ensure your cannabis products don’t interfere with your daily life? The amount of THC that you permit in your supplements should be determined at least partially by this issue.
  • Legal limitations in your state. If your state hasn’t legalized marijuana, then you should stay away from products derived from marijuana plants. You don’t have to smoke marijuana to potentially violate the law and face criminal charges. Federal law may also be a concern for some consumers.

Your use of cannabis products will ultimately come down to personal preference.

Experiment with different products until you find something that is effective while keeping you active in your daily life and safe at all times.

If you take prescription medication, you should check with your doctor to make sure that your use of CBD or THC products won’t conflict with your prescriptions.  

Related ARticles:

Key References:

Evidence for THC versus CBD in cannabinoids, Canada Family Physicans, Accecssed March 21, 2020.

Cannabis, cannabinoids and health, Dialogues of Clinical Neuroscience, Accecssed March 21, 2020.

Clinicians' Guide to Cannabidiol and Hemp Oils, Mayo Clinic, Accecssed March 21, 2020.

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