However, while both are at the forefront of ample conversations and continued studies alike, when talking about the two compounds, it's not a matter of which is better than the other. In fact, learning about their respective differences is crucial to understanding their relationship to one another.
To break it down simply, CBD and THC are cannabinoids naturally found in the cannabis plant, whose genus includes both hemp and marijuana. In the plant itself, there are over 100 different cannabinoids that have been identified, but CBD and THC are two standouts due to their abundance in the plant and their unique properties.
Similar to all cannabinoids, THC and CBD interact with the human body through a regulatory system known as the, endocannabinoid system. This system, which was discovered in 1992, is comprised of endocannabinoids, receptors and enzymes that work together to maintain homeostasis, as well as influence how the body responds to things like stress, pain and anxiety. Endocannabinoids are naturally produced by the body, whereas exogenous cannabinoids aren't produced by the body, but are found in the cannabis plant. In other words, the body is designed to respond to compounds found in the cannabis plant.
This brings us back to talking about THC and CBD specifically. Both cannabinoids have the same molecular structure. They are comprised of 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms and 2 oxygen atoms. A minor difference in how they are arranged is exactly why the body reacts to each in different ways. The major difference between the two is in psychoactivity. CBD is a non-psychoactive compound, whereas THC is the main psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant. When THC enters the body, it binds with receptors in the brain, known as CB1(cannabinoid 1) receptors, that in turn produce a sense of euphoria or "high." CBD, on the other hand, doesn't bind to CB1 receptors with the same vigor, if at all. Scientists are still learning more about how CBD and THC interact with one another through the ECS, including determining if the medicinal benefits are strengthened when both compounds are consumed. This is known as the “entourage effect.”
CBD is a non-psychoactive compound, whereas THC is the main psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant.
Due to the psychoactivity of the THC compound, cannabis plants with more than 0.3% THC have been deemed illegal by the U.S. federal government. Plants with 0.3% THC are defined as industrial hemp and were decriminalized through the 2018 Farm Bill. The legality of cannabinoid products is largely dependent upon its THC concentration and its source. Hemp-derived CBD products are legal on the federal level, but this can also vary under some state laws. Marijuana-derived CBD products (products with higher traces of THC than 0.3%) are illegal on the federal level, but legal under some state laws.
Both CBD and THC have many of the same benefits, including providing relief from several conditions, such as pain, anxiety, nausea and more. While both are considered safe, there is much to learn about CBD and THC, specifically when it comes to testing THC/CBD ratios and understanding how to best take advantage of nature's medicine.