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CBD vs THC: What’s the difference?

Cannabis and cannabidiol; what’s the difference? CBD or Cannabidiol is one of the most beneficial cannabinoids found in the hemp plant. It is extensively used as a medicinal drug to relieve a variety of ailments including anxiety, chronic pain, and insomnia. Unlike its equally famous counterpart, the cannabinoid THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD is non-psychoactive, i.e., it doesn’t give you the ‘high’ that is characteristic of the former. Read more to find out what the other differences between these two compounds are. 

Both CBD and THC are derived from the cannabis plant, however, these two compounds differ in their properties, effects, uses and benefits.

Table of Contents

Difference between CBD and THC

Psychoactive effects

Both compounds are derived from the Cannabis sativa plant. The cannabis plant contains over 540 chemical substances. THC and CBD are the main cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, although there are more than 100 other cannabinoids.
THC is derived from marijuana, the part of the cannabis plant which contains high concentrations of THC. Whereas, CBD can come from hemp or marijuana. Although, CBD that is derived from marijuana may contain more THC. Therefore, it is often derived from hemp. When the cannabis plant contains little amounts of THC, it is known as industrial hemp.

CBD can be formulated to contain only CBD, known as CBD isolate products. Broad-spectrum CBD products contain other cannabinoids, except THC, and Full-spectrum CBD products contain CBD, THC, as well as other cannabinoids.  See our article on the differences between full spectrum and broad spectrum CBD for more information.

How and where the compounds are derived from can account for their differing effects and uses. Whilst CBD is mainly used as medicinal remedy, THC due to psychoactive effects is often used recreationally, as a drug to get people high. 


Further, the legality of the substances can differ. In most places THC is illegal, as marijuana is still considered a controlled substance under drug laws. Although, several countries allow marijuana for medicinal purposes and products containing THC to be prescribed by a doctor. Some places, such the US state of California allow recreational use of marijuana and products containing THC.

When it comes to CBD, it is more of a grey area. CBD is legal in many places, often with the caveat that only products containing low amounts of THC (>0.3%) are allowed. See our article on where is CBD legal for more information. 

Type of products

CBD and THC can be consumed in several different forms.  THC is often consumed by smoking. But also comes in oils, tinctures, sprays, vape products, edibles, such as gummies and chocolates, and drinks.

CBD can be smoked via vapes, but is more often taken in the form of tinctures (drops). Orally, it can be taken as an oil, capsule, or spray. In edible forms CBD can be taken as gummies, sweets or in beverages.  It can also be taken topically via lotions to the skin.

Benefits of CBD and THC

Although more researched is needed to clarify the potential health benefits of cannabinoids. Drugs containing cannabinoids have been found to be helpful in treating conditions such as epilepsy, the nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy,  and the loss of appetite and weight-loss associated with HIV/AIDS.  While CBD and THC can have similar effects and can be used to treat the same ailments, there are differences. 

CBD is extensively used as a medicinal drug to relieve a variety of ailments including chronic pain, and insomnia.

The benefits of CBD Oil are:

  • Managing depression and anxiety
  • Managing pain and inflammation
  • Calms Epilepsy
  • Helps with symptoms of PTSD
  • Can alleviate cancer-related symptoms
  • Acne
  • Addiction
  • Migraine
  • Sleep Disorders

THC, which can be administered as medical marijuana, may be used to help with the symptoms of several conditions.

THC may be helpful for:

  • Glaucoma
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Pain
  • Poor appetite
  • Tremors

Synthetic THC forms a part of several drugs that are medically used to treat nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, and to treat weight loss and appetite problems associated with chemotherapy and HIV/AIDS.
THC can be combined with opioids in order to control pain with a smaller dose of opioids. Which can be beneficial for decreasing reliance on opioids. Although, the finding are inconsistent, and more research is needed.
Further, there is some evidence that THC may be beneficial in helping with tic severity in people with Tourette syndrome.

Effects of CBD and THC

CBD and THC have the same molecular structure but they differ in how these molecules are arranged, which are responsible for the differing effects they each have. The key difference is that CBD and THC affect different parts of the brain – THC has psychoactive effects, whereas CBD doesn’t. In other words, THC contains the compound that produces a high.

Side effects

While CBD and THC are generally safe, having minimal side effects, taking these substances can still result in some unwanted effects. Such as:

  • Changes in mood and appetite
  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Feelings of anxiety, or other mood changes

THC has the additional effects of dry mouth, memory loss, and increased heart rate. Consistent marijuana use has also been found to lead to increase risk of impaired short term memory, altered judgement and impaired coordination. It could also effect brain development, leading to cognitive impairment.

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Which one should you take? CBD vs THC

Whether you take CBD or THC depends on the purpose for which you are using these products. CBD may be helpful for everyday conditions, such as reducing stress, sleeping better, or alleviating pain. CBD can also provide these benefits without some of the side effects of THC. Whereas, THC may be helpful incases where medicinal marijuana has shown benefits, such as with tremors or nausea.

There is some evidence, that THC and CBD, when combined can produced a greater therapeutic effect, known as the ‘entourage effect’. However, this may be dependent on dose. Low does of CBD have been found to amplify psychoactive effects of THC, whereas high does of CBD reduced effects.

Researchers still do not yet fully understand the effects cannabinoids have, therefore it is always best to speak to a medical professional if you are considering taking CBD or THC. As well as consulting what the laws for each substance are in your country.

What’s the main difference between CBD and THC?

CBD oil and THC come from similar places but are different compounds. THC and CBD Oil both come from the cannabis plant, the main difference between the two is that CBD does not contain the properties which create the feeling of being high. Both have a number of benefits and have shown some evidence of being used as remedies to help with various conditions. However, research in this area is still relatively new and thus further investigation is required.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can CBD & THC be used together?

Yes, CBD & THC can be used together. THC and CBD appear to draw out the best qualities in one another. If you are not experiencing the relaxation you desire from just THC or CBD, try both together.

Can CBD reduce the negative adverse effects of THC?

Certain people experience adverse effects such as anxiety, hunger and sedation when they take THC. The human and rat studies included in the same review of 2011 indicate that CBD can help to reduce the effects of these substances.

THC used for non-medical reasons is prohibited in the UK as well as CBD products should contain less than 0.2 percent THC, and not more than 1mg of THC per product.

Is delta-8 THC comparable to CBD?

Delta-8 THC is more potent than CBD. While CBD doesn’t get you high like delta-8, it does. It’s similar to delta-9 which causes the high side effects of cannabis than CBD.

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Disclaimer: Despite the general safety of CBD products, minimal side effects can occur, especially at the first use. Contact your medical professional for advice.

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