The Difference Between CBD vs. THC: Properties, Health Benefits, and Side Effects

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Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are two different cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. When consumed, these two compounds interact with the receptors present in the human endocannabinoid system to help treat or prevent a number of ailments.

The Rise of Cannabis Products

Since Congress passed the 2018 Farm Bill and made industrial hemp legal in all fifty US states, the popularity of cannabis-derived products has skyrocketed. More and more people are becoming curious about products that contain both CBD and THC. However, many of them don’t really know the difference between these two compounds or the effects they can have on the body. 

The Difference Between CBD and THC

Cannabidiol can be derived from marijuana or hemp, both members of the cannabis plant family. The difference between marijuana and hemp is in the concentration of THC: marijuana contains more than 0.3% THC, whereas hemp contains less than 0.3% THC.

Tetrahydrocannabinol is the primary psychoactive compound found in marijuana, i.e. the compound that makes users high. THC is most commonly consumed by smoking marijuana, but it’s also sold in the form of edibles, oils, capsules, tinctures, etc.

CBD and THC have a very similar chemical structure and both interact with the endocannabinoid system. This interaction triggers the release of chemicals called neurotransmitters in the brain. Their job is to convey signals between cells and play an important role in the regulation of different functions such as stress, immunity, pain, etc. 


Even though CBD and THC have a very similar structure, their effects on the body are quite different. THC is a psychoactive compound. It binds with cannabinoid receptor type 1 in your brain, thus producing euphoric feelings and making you high. CBD, on the other hand, doesn’t bind with these receptors (or binds weakly), which means it won’t make you high. In fact, CBD can mitigate THC’s psychoactive effects. 


As mentioned before, the 2018 Farm Bill has lifted many of the restrictions previously imposed on the cultivation and sale of hemp. However, THC and marijuana are still considered Schedule l substances, which means that federal law regards them as illegal.

 On the other hand, some states have passed laws to make marijuana legal for medicinal purposes. In many of these states, the marijuana has to be prescribed by a licensed health care practitioner. A few states have even legalized marijuana for recreational purposes and everyone can buy CBD products freely.

 If you want to start using CBD products, make sure to check the laws in your state. If cannabis products are illegal in your state or you have procured them without a doctor’s prescription in a state where CBD products are legal for medicinal purposes, you could face steep fines and/or other legal penalties. 

Health Benefits

Both CBD and THC have a number of similar health benefits. However, unlike THC, CBD doesn’t produce euphoric feelings.

 In 2018, the US Food and Drug Administration approved the first cannabis-derived prescription drug, Epidiolex, which is used to treat two rare childhood forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, and Dravet syndrome. 

THC can help with the following conditions:

  • anxiety
  • pain
  • glaucoma
  • muscle spasms
  • insomnia
  • nausea
  • low appetite

 CBD can help with:

  • inflammation
  • seizures
  • pain
  • psychosis
  • depression
  • inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • nausea
  • anxiety
  • migraines


Side Effects

In general, humans can tolerate CBD quite well, even when taken in bigger doses. Research has found that any side effects are most likely caused as a result of the interaction between CBD and other drugs and medications the person may be taking.

 On the other hand, due to its psychoactive properties, THC is more likely to produce unwanted side effects. If you have consumed too much cannabis, you’ll most likely have an unpleasant experience. Even though ingesting, vaping, or smoking too much cannabis doesn’t cause a toxic overdose, it can produce a number of adverse side effects such as:


  • Elevated heart-rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Anxiety or panic attack
  • Paranoia
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Chest Pain
  • Nausea and vomiting


If you’re suffering from any medical conditions, you may be risking complications like heart attack or seizures.

 If you believe you’ve consumed too much cannabis, try to relax and stay calm to avoid injuring yourself unintentionally. Lie down in a quiet room and drink some water. Breathe and take some rest.

 Most of the above-listed side effects usually pass after the body processes the THC (in about six to ten hours). However, If symptoms persist after ten hours, be sure to seek medical attention.  If you suspect you might be having a heart attack or experiencing a seizure, call 911 immediately.

 The negative effects of THC can be more serious in teenagers. Long-term use increases the risk of a number of mental disorders including schizophrenia.

 The good news is neither CBD nor THC are fatal.

 Ways to CBD and THC

When it comes to CBD, the preferred form is oil. On the other hand, many people prefer smoking or vaping marijuana.

 THC comes in different forms, such as:

  • oils
  • smokable products
  • tinctures
  • capsules
  • edibles, like brownies


CBD is available in a number of forms, such as:

  • oils
  • creams and ointments
  • supplements
  • gels
  • edibles like gummies and cookies
  • vapes
  • tinctures
  • capsules


Main Takeaways

Both CBD and THC have a number of health benefits.

CBD is derived from industrial hemp, a plant belonging to the cannabis family with THC concentration less than 0.3% or from marijuana, a cannabis plant with THC concentrations greater than 0.3%.

CBD products derived from marijuana are illegal on the federal level. However, some states have laws that make these products legal. CBD products derived from hemp are legal throughout the States, but laws in certain states make them illegal. Make sure to check the cannabis-related law in your state before using any CBD products.

In general, both CBD and THC are considered safe to use, but side effects are possible, especially if you’re already taking prescription drugs. Be sure to talk with a healthcare professional before using any cannabis-related products.


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