CBD vs. THC and Other Cannabinoids

Read more about the differences and potential benefits of significant cannabinoids.


CBD and THC are now the most commonly known cannabinoids found within the cannabis family. Consumers may be wondering what exactly is the difference between these two chemical compounds and how exactly they differ from the other cannabinoids inherent to hemp and marijuana.

CBD vs. THC: Differences and Benefits

When it comes to the chemical properties of CBD and THC, the major differences lie within health benefits, legality, and psychoactivity. While the two cannabinoids do share the same molecular structure, the differences in the way the atoms are arranged are the key to why one offers mind-altering effects and the other does not. The differences in medicinal and therapeutic benefits also are a result of the way the atoms are arranged. CBD and THC both mirror the naturally-occurring endocannabinoids found within our endocannabinoid system.

The Medicinal Benefits of CBD and THC

CBD and THC have many overlapping potential medicinal and therapeutic benefits. However, each of these cannabinoids does feature exclusive promising health benefits that can be advantageous for differing chronic conditions. Even though the majority of these benefits overlap, many prefer taking CBD due to the lack of mind-altering effects in addition to legality issues. Anything higher than 0.3% THC is federally illegal and is still regulated as a Schedule I drug.

While the FDA has not approved the numerous statements made regarding CBD and THC, they have approved two pharmaceuticals relevant to this industry. Two THC-based pharmaceutical drugs and the first CBD-based pharmaceutical were both approved by the FDA this year. The THC-based pharmaceuticals contain synthetic versions of THC– one is used to treat chemotherapy-induced nausea and the other is used for boosting appetites among AIDS patients. The CBD-based pharmaceutical drug is used to treat two rare forms of epilepsy.

The Differing Psychoactivity of CBD and THC

CBD does not have any mind-altering effects which completely differs from THC. THC is the cannabinoid responsible for psychoactivity in marijuana. Interesting enough, CBD actually lessens the mind-altering effects of THC. THC binds to the CB1 receptors which are found in the brain which in turn causes the euphoric effect. CBD interferes with this binding which causes the reverse effects of the high. CBD is hypothesized to lessen the psychoactivity of THC so that the user can benefit from the medicinal benefits without the comprehensive mind-altering side effects.

The Side Effects of CBD and THC

CBD is generally well-tolerated by patients of all ages and backgrounds. In some rare cases, patients have reported temporary side effects including diarrhea, change in appetite, dry mouth, as well as fatigue. THC can cause non-life threatening side effects that are temporary as well: red eyes, dry mouth, memory loss, and slow reaction times. Both compounds taken in large quantities do not lead to overdose and are non-toxic.

The Differing Legality of CBD and THC

Hemp-derived CBD is legal across all 50 states while marijuana-derived CBD is only legal in states that recreational and/or medical marijuana are legal in. THC is only legal in states where recreational and/or medical marijuana are legal in. While it is always safe to purchase hemp-derived CBD, it is pertinent to know your state laws when trying to purchase marijuana-derived CBD and THC products.

The Different Cannabinoids Found in Hemp and Marijuana

While CBD and THC are the most commonly recognized cannabinoids found in the cannabis family, there have been at least 113 different cannabinoids that have been isolated from the cannabis plant. The main classes of naturally-occurring cannabinoids are CBG, CBC, CBD, THC, CBN, CBE, CBL, and CBT. When purchasing a full-spectrum CBD product, these other cannabinoids will also be present in order to mirror the chemical composition of a hemp plant. When purchasing CBD isolate, these other cannabinoids will not be present.

The Medicinal Benefits of Plant-Derived Cannabinoids

The following graphic from Leafly showcases all the potential medicinal and therapeutic benefits from CBD, THC, and the other cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. As you can see, many of the health benefits do overlap while some cannabinoids offer exclusive benefits. Researching more about the health conditions that affect you can help you better understand which CBD products you should be purchasing:

The potential applications of various cannabinoids.

The Benefits of CBG

CBG, short for cannabigerol, is a nonpsychoactive, minor cannabinoid that is inherently present in low levels. CBG is significant due to the fact that it is the chemical parent of CBD and THC– both CBD and THC start out as CBG. While research is limited regarding CBG, preclinical studies have showcased promising medicinal benefits from this specific cannabinoid.

  • CBG offers encouraging treatment for glaucoma because it can reduce intraocular pressure. This cannabinoid has potential neuroprotectant and vasodilator properties that may also help with glaucoma.
  • In a study with mice, CBG was able to decrease the inflammation in inflammatory bowel disease.
  • In another study with mice, CBG was shown to protect neurons in mice with Huntington’s disease.
  • In multiple preclinical studies, CBG was shown to block receptors that caused cancer cell growth in mice.
  • European studies have showcased evidence that CBG is a qualified antibacterial agent.
  • In a recent study, scientists found a form of CBG to be very effective in stimulating the appetite of rats.
  • CBG was tested in another study on bladder contractions– it tested best at inhibiting muscle contractions when compared to other cannabinoids.

The Benefits of CBC

CBC, short for cannabichromene, is considered as one of the more prominent cannabinoids. CBC, THC, and CBD all stem from CBG. CBC is converted from CBG once it is exposed to heat or UV rays. CBC has no mind-altering effects due to the fact that it binds poorly to CB1 receptors. Instead, CBC binds directly to the TRPV1 and TRPA1 receptors which are both linked to pain perception. When CBC activates these pain perception receptors, the body naturally releases more endocannabinoids like anandamide, the bliss molecule. Though CBC has been seen as a single-purpose cannabinoid, researchers believe that CBC is linked to the entourage effect which refers to the synergy present between all cannabinoids working together.

The Benefits of CBN

CBN, short for cannabinol, is another significant cannabinoid that scientists are currently conducting more research on. The most prominent characteristic of CBN is its sedative effect. According to the research done by Steep Hill Labs, 5mg of CBN is just as effective as 10mg of diazepam, which is a pharmaceutical sedative. THC actually turns into CBN when it oxides. CBN does not have any mind-altering effects and preclinical studies have showcased the following promising benefits:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Appetite stimulant
  • Pain relief
  • Anti-insomnia
  • Anti-convulsive
  • Antibacterial
  • Promotes the growth of bone cells

The Benefits of CBL

CBL, short for cannabicyclol, is a nonpsychoactive cannabinoid that is present once light converts CBC into this compound. CBL is one of the less studied cannabinoids– there is not a lot of information available regarding this compound. Research from Steep Hill Labs has concluded promising anti-inflammatory and anti-tumorous effects from CBL, however much more research is still needed.

The Future of Cannabinoid Research

With so much research emphasis on CBD, the future of other cannabinoid research remains to be seen. With some cannabinoids showcasing promising therapeutic and medicinal benefits, we’re looking forward to the expansion of phytocannabinoid research and all that it could potentially entail.

For more information regarding the differences between CBD and THC as well as other cannabinoids, please contact us!


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