With more states legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, many people are asking questions about terms associated with marijuana. Two of those terms are CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), compounds that both derive from the cannabis plant.
However, there are some major differences between the two, starting with the form of cannabis that they come from. CBD is extracted from the hemp plant. Scientists have undertaken a large amount of research on CBD since its initial discovery in 1940, discovering many medical benefits.
THC, identified in 1963, is extracted from marijuana and is the compound that induces a psychoactive high. Medical experts’ knowledge of THC is more limited. Thus, much more debate surrounds the use of THC than CBD. Importantly, both substances are technically illegal in states that have not legalized marijuana, although a few states have made certain exceptions for CBD.
Given the wide variance in their effects, it is surprising that both CBD and THC have identical molecular components. Each has 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms. The difference arises from the way in which the atoms are structured.
Cannabinoids like CBD and THC are similar to the body’s endocannabinoids. They can connect to the body’s cannabinoid receptors and generate the release of neurotransmitters, which results in mental, emotional, and physical effects.
THC easily binds to cannabinoid 1 receptors, triggering the euphoric sensation that is commonly called a “high.” It can create feelings of positivity and improved cognition. Usually these feelings are completely harmless and can reduce symptoms of anxiety. However, high doses of THC can create very intense sensations that actually become anxiety or even paranoia.
Conversely, CBD is nonpsychoactive, meaning that it will not produce a high and may even lessen the influence of THC. CBD does not bond well with cannabinoid 1 receptors, so when it is combined with THC, it can block THC from bonding and inhibit its effects. Psychiatrists have used CBD to treat anxiety, depression, psychosis, and other mental disorders.
The big question these days is how effective CBD and THC are in treating medical problems unrelated to mental health. The general conclusion is that both seem to have positive effects and can treat many of the same symptoms, but there are a few distinctions.
Many studies have shown that CBD can provide powerful benefits, particularly in the treatment of epilepsy. Because CBD releases chemicals throughout the body, it produces a feeling of bodily relaxation, alleviating pain and inflammation in the process. Patients who take CBD have reported a sense of well-being permeating their bodies. Moreover, CBD has almost no side effects, even with large dosages.
THC also improves inflammation and provides pain-relief, but its greatest impact comes from its influence on the brain. The euphoric high THC induces may help people undergoing chemotherapy to feel less nauseous. It can also arouse their appetite. Nonetheless, that same high also causes temporary side effects, such as dry mouth and slower reactions.