THC Vs. CBD: What’s the Difference?
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD) are the two main cannabinoids found in cannabis and hemp plants. These cannabinoids work within a regulatory system in the body known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Numerous cannabinoid receptors are located throughout the body that are a part of this system.
THC and CBD primarily work with two receptors known as CB1 and CB2. These receptors are found in almost every part of the body. CB1 receptors primarily are found in the brain and nervous system, while CB2 receptors are found primarily in the immune system. CB1 receptors work alongside other parts of the body to produce and release neurotransmitters.
In addition, they work with the liver to complete the lipogenesis process. CB2 receptors, on the other hand, primarily are involved with immune system processes, including immune suppression and apoptosis. Both receptors work together to assist in the body maintaining equilibrium, also known as homeostasis.
CB1 and CB2 receptors typically are stimulated by the body’s naturally occurring cannabinoids. However, they also can be stimulated by other natural cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD. While THC actually binds to these receptors, CBD simply encourages them to do more of what they normally do. This is where the two cannabinoids start to differ.
Because THC binds to CB1 and CB2 receptors, it has psychoactive properties. This is the main difference between THC and CBD, though both contain numerous healing properties. When THC is ingested, not only does it activate the CB1 and CB2 receptors, it also penetrates the brain and stimulates cells to release a substance called dopamine. The combination of these two things is what causes the general state of calmness, happiness, and relaxation that typically follows THC consumption.
Other potential side effects of THC consumption include dilated pupils, enhanced senses and, for some individuals, increased anxiety. THC also can affect memory and decision-making, as well as perception of time. These effects usually occur somewhere between 15 and 30 minutes after THC is consumed.
THC also contains numerous healing properties. One of the most well-known medicinal benefits THC provides is an analgesic, or pain reliever. Studies have shown that THC activates certain pathways found in the central nervous system. These pathways work to block pain signals from being sent to the brain.
Another common use for THC is as an appetite stimulant. This can be helpful for people suffering from conditions such as anorexia and cancer, who may have a hard time eating on a regular basis. In addition, THC can be helpful in inducing sleep. For people who suffer from sleep disorders such as insomnia, THC can be a great addition to an existing treatment regimen.
As mentioned previously, CBD differs from THC in that it does not actually bind or activate the CB1 and CB2 receptors directly. Rather, CBD boosts the amount of endocannabinoids in the body, which activate the receptors. This causes the receptors to be more active than normal, thereby producing medicinal benefits.
Because CBD is not psychoactive, it is becoming a more popular treatment for a multitude of health conditions. One of CBD’s main medicinal properties is as an anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is thought to be one of the leading causes of numerous diseases, including arthritis, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, and skin conditions such as psoriasis and acne.
CBD also has shown to be neuroprotective, which means it can help protect nerve cells against damage and degeneration. In fact, studies have shown CBD actually may slow the growth of malignant cells such as cancer cells. Dr. Wai Liu, a lead researcher in a study looking at the correlation between cannabinoids and cancer treatment, stated: "The benefits of the cannabis plant elements were known before, but the drastic reduction of brain cancers if used with irradiation is something new, and may well prove promising for patients who are in gravely serious situations with such cancers in the future." CBD also is known to have an antipsychotic effect, unlike THC, which can increase feelings of paranoia, anxiety, etc.
Another common use for CBD is reducing the negative effects of THC. For individuals who desire to receive the medicinal benefits of both cannabinoids, CBD often is responsible for the effects of THC being largely mitigated. By taking both cannabinoids in conjunction with each other, the medicinal properties of both can be obtained.
Compiled below is a condensed version of the main effects of both THC and CBD:
Disclaimer: Research into the benefits and effects of THC and CBD still is largely inconclusive, yet very promising. The following effects have been shown through preliminary studies, though not scientifically proven.
Main Effects of THC
- Appetite stimulant
Main Effects of CBD
Overall, both CBD and THC have numerous beneficial qualities, though they differ greatly from each other. Both cannabinoids can be used in conjunction with each other and additional treatments to provide relief from a multitude of health conditions. Most individuals prefer to use a product high in CBD for legal purposes. These products can come in the form of tinctures, balms, oils, and more.