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Medical Benefits of CBD vs. THC: Your Complete Guide

The cannabis plant contains about 540 chemical substances, including over 100 other cannabinoids. Two of the most popular cannabinoids include cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

What exactly is the difference between CBD vs. THC? What medical benefits can they both offer?

Keep reading to find out! In this guide, we’ll review everything you need to know about these two cannabinoids. Then, you can make an informed decision before purchasing products for yourself. 

Read on to discover the health benefits of CBD vs. THC today!

What is THC?

Before we compare THC vs CBD, let’s look at each one individually. What is THC, exactly?

Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol is one of the chemical compounds derived from cannabis. In fact, it’s the main psychoactive ingredient found in the cannabis plant. 

THC works by activating the brain’s reward system. It’s able to signal the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter. This neurotransmitter plays a part in pleasure and your mood.

By increasing your dopamine levels, THC is able to stimulate feelings of euphoria. In addition to feeling high, you might experience hallucinations, too. 

THC is usually administered by smoking marijuana. However, you can also consume THC through oils, edibles, and capsules. 

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol is the second most prevalent chemical compound found in cannabis plants. Today, it’s used to help relieve symptoms for a range of conditions. CBD is derived from both marijuana and hemp plants.

Hemp-derived CBD only contains trace amounts of THC. Marijuana-derived CBD, on the other hand, often contains more. 

Like THC, CBD is available in different forms. You can purchase oils, tinctures, edibles, capsules, or smoke CBD.

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The Key Similarity

How exactly do CBD and THC work?

Both cannabinoids interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a cell-signaling system researchers found after THC. The ECS was named with cannabinoids in mind. 

Your ECS regulates different functions, including:

  • Motor control
  • Sleep
  • Chronic pain
  • Inflammation
  • Mood
  • Metabolism
  • Appetite and digestion
  • Liver function
  • Reproductive system function
  • Stress
  • Muscle formation
  • Cardiovascular system function
  • Skin and nerve function

Ensuring these systems function properly keeps your body in a state of homeostasis. If you’re injured, your ECS will start working to help you maintain homeostasis. 

The ECS is active within your body, regardless of whether or not you use cannabinoids. This complex system contains three main components: 

  • Endocannabinoids
  • Receptors
  • Enzymes

Endocannabinoids are naturally made within your body. They’re similar to the cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. Endocannabinoids make sure your internal functions run properly.

Receptors are found throughout the human body. They bind with endocannabinoids to tell the ECS it’s time to take action. We have two main receptors:

  • CB1 receptors, which are found in the central nervous system
  • CB2 receptors, which are found in the peripheral nervous system

Once your endocannabinoids do their job, enzymes break them down. Enzymes ensure your endocannabinoids don’t go overboard.

CBD vs THC Effects on the ECS

How do CBD and THC interact with your ECS?

THC binds to both CB1 and CB2 receptors, making it more potent. It may reduce pain and stimulate appetite. In some cases, it can cause anxiety and paranoia, too.

CBD, on the other hand, doesn’t cause a high. In fact, we don’t completely understand how CBD interacts with the ECS. It doesn’t bind to CB1 or CB2 receptors the same way THC does.

Instead, it’s likely CBD keeps enzymes from breaking down your endocannabinoids. This allows the endocannabinoids to have a prolonged effect on your mind and body.

The Key Differences

Now that you understand each cannabinoid differently, let’s discuss their differences. Here are the key differences between CBD vs. THC. 

Chemical Structure

Both cannabinoids have a similar molecular structure. They’re chemically similar to your body’s naturally produced endocannabinoids, too. That’s why they’re able to interact with your receptors. 

Psychoactive Properties

When comparing THC vs. CBD, most people consider their psychoactive properties. Remember, CBD doesn’t create the same high that THC does. 

THC is able to cause a high or sense of euphoria by binding with CB1 receptors in the brain.


CBD is found in either hemp or marijuana. It’s usually derived from hemp plants to limit amounts of THC.

THC, however, is derived from marijuana.

Potential Benefits

About 14% of Americans say they’re already using CBD. Of those who are, 40% use it for pain relief. Another 20% use it for anxiety, while 11% use it for sleep.

When comparing CBD vs. THC, it helps to understand their uses. Cannabinoids have been observed to potentially treat the symptoms associated with:

  • Pain
  • Sleep issues
  • Opioid dependence
  • Epilepsy
  • Anxiety
  • HIV/AIDs
  • Glaucoma
  • Anxiety
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Inflammatory bowel syndrome 
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Movement disorders

There are a few differences between potential CBD vs. THC effects, though. For example, CBD could help relieve symptoms associated with:

  • Inflammation
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Migraines
  • Seizures and Tremors
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Pain associated with migraines, fibromyalgia, and arthritis

THC, on the other hand, could help with:

  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Glaucoma
  • Poor appetite (often a symptom of cancer treatment)

Everyone reacts differently to THC and CBD, though. Keep that in mind before trying it for yourself. 

Potential Side Effects

Most people consider CBD and THC safe to use. However, some people experience unwanted effects, including:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Feelings of anxiety
  • Drowsiness
  • Unwanted changes in mood or appetite

THC could also cause short-term memory loss, dry mouth, and increased heart rate. 

Choosing THC vs. CBD

You can take THC or CBD in different forms, including:

  • Vape products
  • Oils
  • Tinctures
  • Edibles (gummies, chocolates, drinks)
  • Sprays
  • Topicals

When choosing between THC vs. CBD, consider the goal you want to achieve.

For example, you don’t have to choose between CBD vs. THC for pain relief. Both can relieve inflammation, which should relieve pain symptoms.

If you want to relieve insomnia or stress, however, consider CBD. THC, on the other hand, could help patients seeking cancer treatment. Otherwise, you might experience anxiety, paranoia, or psychosis while using THC.

CBD might even block some of the potential psychotropic effects associated with THC. You might benefit from using both. 

CBD vs. THC: Cracking into the Cannabinoids

To recap, what is the main difference between CBD vs. THC? Both interact with your endocannabinoid system to keep your body in a state of homeostasis. While both can soothe symptoms like pain, THC creates psychoactive effects. 

When choosing between THC vs. CBD, consider the effects you want to experience. 

Want to experience these benefits for yourself? Explore our shop today to get started!

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FDA Disclaimer

The statements made regarding these products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The efficacy of these products has not been confirmed by FDA-approved research. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. All information presented here is not meant as a substitute for or alternative to information from health care practitioners. Please consult your health care professional about potential interactions or other possible complications before using any product. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act require this notice.

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