What is the difference between CBD & THC

CBD 101: Part Two

The use of cannabis products to relieve physical and mental ailments is growing exponentially — probably because it actually works! But, even with so many people experiencing positive results, many others are still wary to use CBD because of its association with the hallucinatory drug marijuana.

While it is true that both marijuana and CBD come from the same plant genus, these two products are really quite different. Perhaps the most notable difference –and the one that causes the most concern– is how THC causes a psychoactive effect in marijuana. Because many people are aware of this effect, they are also concerned about whether CBD will do the same thing.

So, to help clear the air and relieve some concerns, let’s talk a little about what makes THC and CBD so different from each other.

What are THC and CBD?

Before we jump into the difference between CBD and THC, let’s first talk about what they are. CBD stands for cannabidiol, and THC stands for tetrahydrocannabinol. Both CBD and THC are chemical compounds called cannabinoids. You can find cannabinoids in a variety of plants, but CBD and THC are most commonly found in cannabis.

Cannabinoids interact with the body’s natural endocannabinoid system (ECS), which helps regulate mental and physical processes, such as appetite, mood, motor skills, memory, pain management, and more. However, CBD and THC interact with the body very differently, which is the main reason for why they have such different effects.

Where do THC and CBD come from?

Although THC and CBD come from the same plant genus Cannabis, these two cannabinoids are derived from very different plants. THC originates from several varieties of marijuana (Cannabis indica) and provides a “high” that makes marijuana famous. CBD primarily comes from varieties of hemp (Cannabis sativa), which does not produce a psychoactive effect. In fact, many people use hemp oil in cooking for their families as a replacement for olive or coconut oil.

The difference between THC and CBD

In our body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), enzymes work to create our body’s own endocannabinoids, which then activate cannabinoid receptors and regulate all of our body’s internal processes. Within the ECS, there are two main cannabinoid receptors: the CB1 receptor and CB2 receptor. Your CB1 receptors are concentrated mainly within the brain and nervous system, and your CB2 receptors are located throughout the body and work as an immune system response.

When you ingest THC, the molecules interact mainly with your CB1 receptors and the cognitive processes they regulate. THC binds directly to the CB1 receptors and mimics the molecules that the body naturally produces. As a result, THC activates and can over stimulate the receptors, creating the mind-altering “high” effect.

CBD, on the other hand, works a little differently. CBD interacts with both your CB1 and CB2 receptors, but instead of binding directly to them like THC, it influences the receptors indirectly. This indirect influence helps stimulate the receptors’ signaling processes without actually activating the main receptor. Not only that, but CBD also inhibits the body’s enzyme that breaks down cannabinoids, so it helps the ECS produce and maintain the proper amount of endocannabinoids it needs to properly regulate everything in the body.

Because CBD does not directly attach to and activate the body’s cannabinoid receptors, it does not cause a psychoactive or mind-altering effect like THC.

The different health benefits of CBD and THC

Both CBD and THC are known to have therapeutic benefits, particularly pain relief. While it’s true that both of these cannabinoids help relieve pain, they both offer some additional and very different benefits.

CBD is most often used to help calm the mind, reduce anxiety, and treat epilepsy. It can even help balance the effects of THC and reduce psychosis. CBD also helps reduce and prevent tumor growth within the body, and works as an anti-inflammatory.

THC creates a feeling of euphoria and relaxation. As a result, the muscles in the body relax, and you can experience greater sleepiness. Because THC activates your CB1 receptors in the brain, it also stimulates your appetite and can impair your motor skills.


Now that we’ve discussed how CBD and THC are different, you can be confident in trying CBD products, knowing that you can experience the many therapeutic benefits it has to offer without any of the mind-altering effects of THC.


“Plants Other Than Cannabis That Produce Cannabinoids.” Royal Queen Seeds. 

Rennie, Lisa. “THC vs. CBD for Pain: Which is Better?” September 19, 2018. 

“THC vs. CBD: What’s the Difference?” Leaf Science. November 22, 2017. 

“The Brain Loves CBD: What are the effects of this major cannabinoid?” CBD Health & Wellness. September 4, 2018. 

“Why CBD & Your Brain Can Be Best Friends (Scientific Approach)”. Healthy Hemp Oil. 

One Comment

Tev Brannan
July 5, 2019 7:33 am

This is the BEST information regarding CBD. I use this entire series as reference since it is easy to understand without all the hype and commentary from those who fight for the use of this product for the wrong reasons, IMO. If more people could understand how to use CBD properly there might not be the fear associated with it. RMO clears up the confusion in a concise way. Thank you!

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