What’s the Key Difference Between CBD and THC?


Did you know that the cannabis plant contains over 500 different compounds? Of these, at least 100 are phytocannabinoids, which are plant-occurring cannabinoids. Cannabinoids, in turn, are compounds that interact with the mammalian endocannabinoid system (ECS).

Of those 100+ types of cannabinoids, CBD and THC are the most well-known. Although they share some similarities, there’s a significant difference between CBD and THC.

In this guide, we’re comparing CBD vs. THC and what sets them apart. So, keep reading, as knowing these differences can help you choose the right products.

What Is CBD?

CBD stands for cannabidiol. It’s one of the primary phytocannabinoids in hemp and other cannabis plants. However, hemp flowers and leaves seem to have the highest concentration, ranging from 12% to 18%.

Many people use cannabidiol to help with pain, seizure disorders, anxiety, and stress. Some also take CBD products for sleep, arthritis, and nerve disease.

There’s also one FDA-approved medication that contains cannabidiol: Epidiolex. It’s an oral solution used to treat seizures related to two rare and severe types of epilepsy. One is Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, with the other being Dravet syndrome.

Other than Epidiolex, no other CBD product has received FDA approval.

What About THC?

THC stands for tetrahydrocannabinol. It’s also a primary phytocannabinoid, occurring in high concentrations in some cannabis species. Some specially-grown plants may even contain up to 25% THC.

THC, like CBD, may also help with chronic pain, sleep problems, and anxiety.

But unlike CBD, there’s no FDA-approved medication with cannabis-derived THC. However, there are two that contain dronabinol, a synthetic version of THC. These include Marinol and Syndros, indicated for nausea associated with chemotherapy.

Another FDA-approved medication related to THC is Cesamet, which contains nabilone. Nabilone is a synthetic derivative with a chemical structure similar to THC. The FDA has also approved it for chemotherapy-related nausea.

What Then Is the Difference Between CBD and THC?

The most crucial difference is that CBD is non-psychoactive. By contrast, THC is the primary component that makes cannabis sativa psychoactive. In other words, CBD won’t make you high, but THC will because it’s a mind-altering substance.

For the same reason, CBD products derived from the hemp plant are legal in many U.S. states. However, they must still contain less than 0.3% of THC.

The good news is that some high-quality CBD products often use THC free distillate. These are extracts carefully derived from hemp to ensure high CBD content. Top-of-the-line distillates may contain anywhere from 70% to 85% CBD and zero THC.

On the other hand, THC products are often only legal in states where recreational C. sativa is legal. There are 19 states wherein this is the case, including Colorado, California, and Nevada, to name a few.

That’s How CBD Differs From THC

And there you have it, the primary difference between CBD and THC. You’ve learned that while both are phytocannabinoids, CBD isn’t mind-altering. By contrast, THC is, and because of that, it can make you high.

And now that you know all that, you can make a more informed choice when buying hemp products.

Are you interested in reading other health and lifestyle guides? Check out our most recent news and blog posts, then!

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