THC and CBD: What’s the Difference?


There’s been some confusion recently about the difference between THC and CBD. Let’s clear that up. While both substances come from the same plant, there are some important differentiators to keep in mind.

CBD, or cannabidiol, and THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, are both phytocannabinoids, which are molecules found in cannabis plants. While people refer to cannabis as “hemp” or “marijuana,” the distinction is based on the level of THC — and on legal definitions. THC is one of the intoxicating phytocannabinoids in the plant (i.e., the element that can make a person feel “high”), but CBD and the majority of the other phytocannabinoids do not have intoxicating effects. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about getting high from hemp-derived extracts.

For crop cannabis plants to be considered hemp in the U.S., they must follow the legal cutoff for THC — less than 0.3% — established by the Farm Bill. If a plant contains more than that amount, it is categorized as marijuana.

Hemp originally was an industrial product used in everything from lotion to rope and clothing, but newer strains are less fibrous and have higher levels of CBD. Marijuana, on the other hand, is still considered an illicit drug in many places. Scientifically, the differences between the terms “hemp” and “marijuana” are mostly trivial because each one is a common way to refer to the same botanical genus Cannabis spp.

However, as many people know, the words themselves can carry different connotations in terms of legal and popular culture perspectives. Increasingly, comparisons refer to “hemp” versus “cannabis,” while “marijuana” is used as a legal term — particularly in “war on drugs” rhetoric.

Since CBD and THC are distinct compounds, they don’t affect our bodies in the same ways. THC directly binds to receptors in the brain and nervous system, known as CB1 receptors. The activation of these receptors leads to the “high” sensation people get from consuming cannabis. CBD, on the other hand, does not directly bind with CB1 but instead modulates its activity indirectly. It also interacts with other receptors and pathways that explain many of its potential health benefits.

THC has direct action with another receptor type, CB2, which is mostly found in immune cells. Although lately there has been a lot of discussion about the potential applications of CBD, research into possible therapeutic uses of THC and underlying mechanisms has been ongoing since even before its discovery as a distinct compound in the cannabis plant.

One of the more interesting aspects of cannabinoid science that you may have heard of is the “entourage effect.” This term refers to the idea that cannabinoids are more effective together, which is why many experts recommend full-spectrum cannabis products rather than isolates.
With these distinctions in mind, you should be better able to determine which products are the right fit for your needs. Click here to learn more about Neptune Wellness Solution’s offerings, containing high-quality cannabis extracts.