THC and CBD are the two most prevalent cannabinoids among more than 110 unique cannabinoids found in the marijuana plant. Cannabinoids are the compounds responsible for the effects that cannabis has on our bodies, as they interact with specialized receptors in our endocannabinoid system.


What’s the difference between THC and CBD?

Despite having a similar chemical composition, these two compounds serve different purposes when it comes to medical and recreational use. In this article, we will answer the question “What’s the difference between THC and CBD” two chemical compounds and examine closely their effect on our experience.

Figure shows the endocannabinoid system in the human body

What is the Endocannabinoid System?

The endocannabinoid system is a key part of the human body affecting everything from the vascular system and your muscles, to the liver, spleen, immune system and so much more. It’s involved in regulating many of the basic functions of the human body and helps respond to illness. Some scientists now believe the overall function of the endocannabinoid system is to regulate homeostasis.


Leaf science explained cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system best:

“Cannabinoids are the chemical messengers for the endocannabinoid system. While many different cannabinoids exist, they all fall under two categories: endogenous or exogenous.

Endogenous means originating inside the body. Also known as endocannabinoids, these compounds are produced naturally by the human body. They interact with cannabinoid receptors to regulate basic functions including mood, memory, appetite, pain, sleep, and many more.

Exogenous means originating outside the body. The cannabinoids found in marijuana, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), are considered exogenous. When consumed, they also interact with cannabinoid receptors to produce physical and psychological effects in the body.”



The Cannabinoid That Gets You High: THC

What is the difference between THC and CBD molecules?

Essentially, the biggest difference between THC and CBD is how they interact with cannabinoid receptors in the human body. THC mainly interacts with CB1 and CB2 receptors, which are denser in the brain and they are more sensitive to psychoactive stimulation. THC molecules have higher compatibility with those receptors, while CBD is less compatible. This affinity is essentially what makes THC psychoactive and very popular among recreational users.


Effects of consuming THC-rich cannabis are cerebral and euphoric. When ingested, THC fires up a neurotransmitter (anandamide) that is associated with pleasure and reward centers in humans and animals. In more potent strains, THC content can reach very high levels (upwards of 20%) as its popularity has forced breeders to focus almost exclusively on backcrossing naturally psychoactive Sativa plants.



The Cannabinoid That Heals Your Body: CBD

Diagram of the cannabis CBD molecule

On the other hand, CBD is not a very good option if your primary goal is to get high as a kite. Not only is it not a good fit for CB1 and CB2 receptors, but it also neutralizes the euphoric effects of THC. Think of the two as opposing forces in a fictional tug-of-war: the one negates the other. However, in our case, THC always comes out on top because of its higher concentration. Contrary to THC, levels of more than 4% for CBD are considered a high concentration.


But if it doesn’t interact with cannabinoid receptors, how does it work?

While THC binds and activates the cannabinoid receptors that cause euphoria, CBD does not pair well with any of them. Instead, it slows down the production of an enzyme called FAAH, that is responsible for breaking down anandamide. This results in a higher concentration of anandamide in the human brain, and a much more muscle relaxing effect for the user.



THC or CBD: Which One Is Right For You

For recreational users that want nothing more than get high and have a good time, strains that are high in THC are your best bet. On the other hand, if you consume marijuana for its medicinal purposes, CBD-rich varieties can get you a long way. That is not to say that THC doesn’t have any medical properties, but CBD is used for more common conditions, like seizures and Crohn’s disease. High CBD with low THC products available at dispensaries are a great solution to manage pain during the day without feeling stoned.


The endocannabinoid system of humans still holds many surprises for scientists. Research has yet to uncover all the potential uses of the cannabis plant. Whether it is recreational or medicinal it goes without saying, you should choose tested cannabis strains directly from reputable vendors near you.



View our Canadian Dispensary Finder here to find the best CBD and THC products in your community and online in Canada.



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