As hemp grows in popularity and marijuana continues to enjoy a more relaxed legal status across the country, there are certain labels on products that are starting to appear more common. More and more products are starting to have labels that say “CBD-infused,” while other CBD products are starting to say “THC-free.” If you are new to products derived from hemp or marijuana, it’s easy to get lost in a sea of confusing acronyms. However, don’t worry! One of the most common questions people have when they begin to shop for these kinds of products is “What is the difference between CBD and THC?” This answer can be somewhat technical, so we’ve got it broken down for you below!
What’s the Difference Between THC and CBD?
To get a solid understanding of the difference between THC and CBD, it’s helpful to know the basics of what they are and where they come from. CBD is short for cannabidiol, which is a naturally occurring endocannabinoid that can be found in both marijuana and hemp. THC is short for tetrahydrocannabinol, which is also a naturally occurring endocannabinoid that can also be found in both marijuana and hemp.
So far, they seem pretty similar, right? Well, this is pretty much where their similarities end. How THC and CBD affect the brain, their legal status, and potential health benefits are pretty different. Let’s take a closer look at some of those key differences.
THC Makes You High. CBD Does Not.
The ways that THC and CBD interact with your brain are different. While CBD is able to interact with your brain and interact with your endocannabinoid system, it lacks any kind of intoxicating or debilitating effect. While it can make you sleepy or feel relaxed, your mind will remain functioning normally.
THC, on the other hand, is quite the heavy hitter. It is the active compound in marijuana and is the substance that is responsible for producing the classic “high” that marijuana is notorious for. It can impair memory, stimulate appetite, but can also trigger anxiety or paranoia if used in too high of a dosage.1
THC is Federally Restricted. CBD is Not.
THC is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug according to the Drug Enforcement Agency. That is the most restrictive classification and denotes that the federal government views marijuana as “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse2.” Emerging research is beginning to refute that claim, and many states have relaxed the legal status of THC. Many states allow for “medical marijuana,” where products containing a certain percentage of THC are allowed to be sold to those that have gone through the process of getting a license. Other states have struck it from the legal books altogether, allowing for recreational sales and use of marijuana.
CBD, on the other hand, is 100% legal. When the 2018 Farm Bill was signed into law, it effectively legalized the cultivation and cross-state selling of hemp. Hemp is an off-shoot of cannabis and a cousin to marijuana, but instead of being mostly THC, hemp is mostly CBD. Hemp does have trace amounts of THC (just like how marijuana has trace amounts of CBD), but as long as the hemp product has less than 0.3% THC, it’s perfectly legal.3
THC and CBD Offer Different Health Benefits
Not only do THC and CBD affect your mind in different ways, the strengths of their potential health benefits also differ. Research shows that CBD is a promising anti-inflammatory, which makes it a fantastic choice for treating muscle pain, joint point, and health conditions like Krohn’s Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It’s also one of the reasons that CBD is frequently found in topical forms like creams, as it can interact with on-site inflammation like many other traditional over the counter creams attempt to do as well. It may also be an effective antidepressant while avoiding some of the worst side-effects traditional antidepressants can cause.
THC, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to do much for problems associated with inflammation. What research does show is that THC may be a great tool in fighting pain associated with nerve pain. This is promising for those that struggle with pain related to multiple sclerosis, those that suffer from tremors associated with Parkinson’s, muscle spasms, and glaucoma. Research also suggests that THC is a great tool for managing nausea, too!
Research is still fairly new with the health effects of CBD and is very new with the effects of THC, so these differences may be shown to be more pronounced or different as more research is conducted. You should also note that this section focused on how their health benefits differ, but there is a lot of cross-over in many other health benefits they may provide, including treating insomnia, general pain, and helping to ease anxiety.4
THC and CBD are very distinct compounds that impact your body in very different ways. However, both offer very promising health benefits that may be able to avoid a lot of negative side-effects other traditional medication may cause. Regardless of why you’re interested in trying either CBD or THC, always double-check with your doctor to make sure that they won’t interact with other medications you are taking, and you should check on the legality of THC in your specific state before attempting to find it and purchase it.
- Holland, Kimberly. “CBD vs. THC: What’s the Difference?” Healthline, Healthline Media, 29 Jan. 2019, www.healthline.com/health/cbd-vs-thc#medical-benefits. Accessed 11 July 2020.
- United States Drug Enforcement Administration. “Drug Scheduling.” Dea.Gov, 2019, www.dea.gov/drug-scheduling. Accessed 11 July 2020
- Hudak, John. “The Farm Bill, Hemp Legalization and the Status of CBD: An Explainer.” Brookings, Brookings, 14 Dec. 2018, www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2018/12/14/the-farm-bill-hemp-and-cbd-explainer.
- “Endocannabinoid System: A Simple Guide to How It Works.” Healthline, 17 May 2019, www.healthline.com/health/endocannabinoid-system#thc.