What are they, and what’s the difference? 

We know a great deal more about marijuana today, than we ever have despite its long record historical use. From new uses, and ways in which we can manipulate this herb to our benefit, to the science behind why we get “high” we learn more and about this astonishing plant each and every day. One of the greatest things that we have discovered, is the existence, and function of certain chemicals within the cannabis plant, mainly THC and CBD.  Basically, we have discovered how and why marijuana does what it does. While these CBD and THC are not the only chemicals actively present in cannabis, we do know the most about them, and for good reason.It seems that these chemicals are most responsible for the effects we are all familiar with. But what are the differences between these two important chemicals? What do they do, and what is the big deal with “pure” CBD, or THC products? Is it a good thing? Today, we will be exploring this topic, and answering these questions among many others! Sit back, and relax as we embark on this brief, but detailed, molecular journey into the world of marijuana.

What are Cannabinoids?

Before we get into just exactly what THC and CBD do, as well as how they differ, it is important to understand just exactly what they are, and what they have in common. THC and CBD have much more in common with each other, than they do differently. THC and CBD are both chemicals that belong to the cannabinoid family, a vast group of diverse chemicals found all over the natural world, but first discovered in cannabis, including variations in our very own bodies! In fact, we have a system, the endocannabinoid system, or ECS for short, which reacts with such chemicals as THC and CBD, and creates the effects we are familiar with and is responsible for the general homeostasis of our bodies. It is the cannabinoids, and there are hundreds of them, that give cannabis its unique qualities. These special compounds, in their special combinations, are what make cannabis what it is.

Now, almost just as important is a variation of the cannabinoid, which is the endocannabinoid. These are produced naturally by our bodies and are so similar to cannabinoids that they can swap places. It is these extra cannabinoids in our ECS, that causes the high. Now you may be wondering if there are so many cannabinoids, and endocannabinoids why are THC and CBD so important? Well, for a few good reasons, so let’s continue on and find out!

What is THC?

We first learned about THC in 1964, thanks to Israeli scientists who were able to isolate the compound, and since then most cannabis study has focused on THC itself, which is short for tetrahydrocannabinol. This is why THC is so well known, it’s the most studied cannabinoid! THC is now by far the most well known, and well researched chemical involved with how cannabis works. In fact, we knew about THC and cannabinoids before we knew about endocannabinoids and our own bodily systems involved with it! It was the discovery of THC that has fathered cannabis research, and almost everything relating to it.

Before we continue, it is important to remember this is not a physiology lesson, and while we will touch on how THC works, we are going to save the most explicit details for later!

As we know, THC is the main active ingredient responsible for the “high” that we feel.We have found that out of all the hundreds of cannabinoids, including CBD, THC it is the most well known to cause these effects, both positive and negative, euphoria, and paranoia, etc. Both extremes are thanks to THC, and the way this occurs is the special way in which THC molecules bind to the receptors in our brains. Cannabinoids are so similar to endocannabinoids, that they can take their place, and when a THC molecule binds to our receptors, vs. what our body naturally created, we are going to feel it. The ECS, considering it maintains homeostasis, is very important, and anything that changes it is going to be noticed.

As we all know, THC has a wide variety, of generally short-lasting effects, and it is thanks to its unique chemical compound that we can feel these effects when THC is introduced to our systems. Such effects that can be caused but not limited to, are:

  • Elation
  • Relaxation
  • Sedation
  • Pain relief
  • Memory impairment
  • Energy
  • Hunger
  • Drowsiness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Dry mouth
  • Red eyes
  • Laughter
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety/paranoia

This is but to name but a few! THC, as we have discussed can cause a range of effects from positive to negative. But it’s not all fun and games, and THC possess many possible medical properties as well. While we are still researching the exact ways in which THC can benefit our health research is showing that the following conditions can see some positive effects from THC consumption:

  • PTSD
  • Neuropathic and chronic pain
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Inflammation
  • Arthritis
  • Migraines
  • Cancers
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Glaucoma
  • ADHD
  • Appetite loss

As it turns out, THC is responsible for quite a great deal of what we know to be a marijuana high, as well as the proposed medical benefits. So then where does CBD fit in?

What is CBD?

Now that we have learned more about THC, where does CBD come in? Well, as we discussed CBD and THC really have much more in common than they do differently, both being cannabinoids that interact with our ECS causing various effects. It is where these effects come in, that things being to change. CBD is nowhere near as psychoactive as THC and posses many other qualities both in general and for medical benefit.

CBD is known to possess the following qualities, among many others as this is but a short list:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Sleep Aid
  • chronic pains
  • stomach problems
  • a general beneficial dietary supplement
  • reduces anxiety
  • antipsychotic features
  • can help with seizures
  • promotes cardiovascular health

As one can see, the main differences are the symptoms treated, as well as effects caused when this chemical is introduced into our systems. CBD often counteracts many of the more negative effects of THC, such as nausea and paranoia, and posses very few negative side effects itself.

Both of these chemicals are powerful cannabinoids, with powerful effects on our bodies and minds, both medically and otherwise. CBD and THC are 2 sides of a many-faced die, themes well known and the most well researched. Both are very similar to each-other, with some distinct differences as we have learned. Many people will choose THC or CBD depending on their needs as they both can be consumed in concentrated forms, or together as they occur more naturally. Are their benefits to consuming them on their own vs. together? Well, that brings up an important point, the entourage effect.

The Entourage Effect

While it seems that the new craze is all about concentrates, and getting the highest percent of THC, or if it’s your choice, CBD as possible within a product, it may not be the most effective for some people, and many ailments. While we pretty much well understand how these individual chemicals work, we less understand how they work together. When two or more chemicals effects combine to produce other, stronger effects, this is known as the “Entourage Effect” and is something that can be easily observed when THC and CBD are used together. Many of the negative effects of THC can be counteracted by the positive effects of CBD, and thus oftentimes a blend and balance of the two (among the other cannabinoids) as it occurs in nature can be the most beneficial. It all depends on your needs and tastes. But to anyone who claims THC has no medical value, or that CBD “does nothing”, now you know how to counter them. This belief is all too common, but as we find out more and more we see how important these interactions are. The most level high, with the least amount of polar effects, will come from a nice blend of CBD and THC.


Well, while this has been but a brief overview and introduction to the world of cannabinoids, as well as cannabis and its consumption in general, hopefully now you have a better understanding of what THC and CBD are, how they differ as well as what they do. There is still much more to learn about them, but that will have to come at a later time. For now, at least, we will conclude here, satisfied with what we have learned about THC, and CBD, as well as the amazing things that they do. Cannabis and our understanding of it would surely not be the same had we not made the discoveries we have about THC, and subsequently CBD as well as the other cannabinoids that we did not discuss here. Research into cannabis and how it works is ongoing, and only the future holds what we will discover, and be able to do next with this amazing herb, and the components that make it up.