People have prized cannabis for its medicinal qualities since times dating back to Ancient China. While people love the plant just as much today, our knowledge of it and the way we consume it have changed quite a bit. Growers produce strains that are almost pure CBD as well as alternatives that are dripping with THC, and CBD-based supplements have already become a big part of many people’s lives. Knowing the difference between CBD vs THC is your first step to trying these innovative, popular new products.
Cannabinoid Basics: CBD vs THC
CBD and THC aren’t just buzzwords; they’re two distinct chemical compounds. Together, they make up more than 90% of the cannabis plant, although the ratios can vary widely. Hemp will be more than 90% CBD while having less than 1% THC, while some recreational strains might have up to 40% THC. Both of the compounds are cannabinoids, a type of neurotransmitter. The brain naturally produces its own cannabinoids, and you can get them from foods like broccoli and cloves as well.
Ever since Japanese scientists discovered the natural endocannabinoid system in the body, studies have demonstrated many interactions between cannabinoids and the body. If you feel like you’ve heard people touting CBD as a miracle cure, there’s a reason for that. Pain, inflammation, appetite, sleep, immune response, and anxiety are just a few areas where the body can respond to cannabinoids. However, THC and CBD each interact with a different neuroreceptor in the brain, which contributes to the major differences between the two.
What is THC?
THC is the compound that creates the psychedelic high that marijuana is known for. While it’s the more famous component of cannabis, it actually makes up a minority of the plant compared to CBD. There are various types of THC, such as the most common Delta-9 type and Delta-8 THC, which is usually synthetic. However, synthetic cannabinoids tend to come with much greater risks next to natural versions, so it’s best to stick to the original.
What is CBD?
While CBD has flown under the radar, it turns out that it’s been the quiet, diligent one all along. Many of the health benefits of cannabis originate with CBD, with some studies showing that it helped most people sleep better while causing no adverse effects. It’s not psychoactive at all, and while taking too much can give you a dry-mouthed feeling, it will never get you high. According to Harvard and the World Health Organization, it has no abuse potential and presents no public health risk.
CBD vs THC: A Quick Rundown
There are many common questions about THC vs CBD, such as, “Which one is more important, or do they both get you high?” If you’re looking for quick answers to pressing questions, you’ll find them here.
Does CBD Get You High?
While CBD interacts with the same system in the body as THC, it interacts with a different neuroreceptor and is much milder. This results in many differences between the two, like the fact that CBD can’t get you high.
CBD vs THC: Anxiety Relief
Cannabis is infamously hit-or-miss when it comes to anxiety. Some people swear by it, while others only find relaxation with specific strains or actually experience heightened anxiety levels. The reason that the effect is so inconsistent is because the psychoactive qualities of THC effect individual people differently. Since CBD has a milder impact and lacks these psychoactive qualities, it has good rates of anxiety relief without any significant rates of negative side effects.
THC vs CBD for Medical Benefits
The most prevalent form of cannabis-based medicine a doctor might prescribe you is still medical marijuana. Whether you smoke it or eat an edible, it’s going to be primarily CBD but will also contain significant amounts of THC. While both compounds on their own have distinct effects on the body, consuming the two together seems to offer the most potent effect for medical purposes. However, there are new drugs coming out that rely primarily or exclusively on CBD as the active ingredient. In recent years, the FDA approved the CBD-based drug Epidiolex as a treatment for epileptic seizures. Given that CBD has only hit the medical industry in the last few years, there’s surely more to come.
That’s only counting prescription drugs, as well. When it comes to casual use for self-medication, both CBD and psychoactive cannabis are widely popular. However, CBD on its own is much milder, and adverse effects are extremely rare and minor.
Full Spectrum CBD vs CBD Isolate: What’s the Entourage Effect?
Another term that you might hear thrown around is Full Spectrum CBD or CBD Isolate. While CBD Isolate is a pure, refined powder, full spectrum CBD is less processed and contains other compounds from the plant. This can include tiny, legal traces of THC that are insufficient to get high, as well as a variety of other natural compounds. The significance of this difference is the entourage effect, a concept that gets a lot of mileage out of enthusiasts despite the science being somewhat murky.
According to advocates of the entourage effect, every element of the plant has a role to play in the positive effects that it creates. By containing traces of these other compounds, you get a result that’s greater than the sum of its parts. So far, the science has shown that some of these minor cannabis compounds do have benefits of their own, but that this isn’t the same as an entourage effect. In any event, both types of CBD seem to be fine choices if you’re interested in trying it for yourself.
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