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THC vs. CBD: The benefits, effects and differences

THC Versus CBD: Which is Right For You?

In total, the cannabis plant, which includes both marijuana and hemp, contains over 100 distinct, naturally-occurring compounds called cannabinoids. Its two most prominent cannabinoids are also it’s most well-known to date: THC and CBD. Cannabinoids interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system. This system regulates many bodily processes, including the brain, endocrine, and immune tissue function. Despite both THC and CBD being cannabinoids, they have very different effects on the human body. Deciding whether THC or CBD is right will depend on your individual needs.

The primary differences between THC and CBD

An essential difference between THC and CBD is that THC has intoxicating effects while CBD does not. The endocannabinoid system contains the receptors CB1 and CB2. THC binds with CB1 receptors, which are primarily found in the brain and central nervous system. For this reason, THC has psychoactive effects that make users feel “high.” On the contrary, CBD does not bind to CB1 receptors. Instead, it suppresses their function, so regardless of how much you consume, you will never get high from taking CBD alone.

Marijuana and hemp are simply two different kinds of the cannabis plant, their THC vs. CBD content being the main factor of differentiation. In marijuana, THC is the dominant cannabinoid, and today, many growers aim to maximize THC potency. Most marijuana strains contain at least 12 percent THC, though it can go as low as three percent and can even be found in concentrations of upwards of 30 percent. In hemp, CBD is the dominant cannabinoid. While marijuana can have varying levels of CBD as well as THC, hemp can only have a maximum of 0.3 percent THC content.

The legality of THC and CBD

Marijuana and THC are federally considered schedule 1 controlled substances. Currently, 33 states and Washington D.C. have separate laws legalizing medical marijuana, and 10 of those states and Washington D.C. allow recreational marijuana use. The U.S. passed the Farm Bill in late 2018, making hemp-derived CBD legal in all 50 states. Marijuana-derived CBD is still illegal in states where marijuana is illegal.

Medical benefits of THC and CBD

While more research is needed to fully understand the extent of the effects of THC and CBD from a medical standpoint, they can provide relief from many conditions. Current information suggests that THC and CBD seem to have similar therapeutic benefits.

In 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a CBD-based drug called Epidiolex to treat a rare form of epilepsy. Other than that, some preliminary studies show that CBD can help with seizures, chronic pain, inflammation, stress/anxiety, depression, psychosis, sleep disorders, skin disorders, nausea, drug addiction, and cancer prevention and treatment. Similarly, THC may be useful in treating chronic pain, sleep disorders, stress/anxiety, depression, inflammation, low appetite, muscle spasticity, nausea, cancer prevention and treatment, and glaucoma. Since CBD is legal at the federal level and marijuana is legal in many states, more clinical studies about CBD and marijuana medical benefits will come soon.

Choosing a cannabis product based on your needs

If you’re not looking for the intoxicating effects of cannabis, CBD is the way to go. Some people report CBD makes them feel noticeably relaxed.

If you don’t mind or are specifically looking for the intoxicating effects of marijuana, there are lots of options.
Marijuana can come with a high concentration of THC (between 10 and 30 percent) and only trace amounts of CBD. This variety of marijuana will impact your mental state. For those who are sensitive to THC, heavy concentrations can cause anxiety, paranoia, dizziness, sleepiness, and a euphoric or even “out of it” sensation that is associated with being extremely intoxicated. However, if this is not an issue for you, THC is known to be effective at controlling pain, anxiety, inflammation, and other ailments. So a high concentration of THC could prove to be helpful if you’re dealing with specific health problems.

Marijuana can also come with a more balanced concentration of THC to CBD (5-15 percent of each). These strains are less likely to lead to things like paranoia, anxiety, drowsiness, and feeling heavily intoxicated in general. While you will still feel somewhat intoxicated, more CBD in your marijuana means your “high” won’t be as intense as a strain with a lot of THC. The effects will be more mellow.

There are also marijuana strains with a heavy CBD concentration and light THC concentration (5-20 percent CBD and less than 5 percent THC). These tend to provide only slight mind-altering effects, leaving users clear-headed and fully functional.