CBD vs. THC: Benefits and Effects Explained

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CBD and THC are both components of the hemp and marijuana plants.

Whenever people talk about hemp, the terms CBD and THC frequently crop up. This is because Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are the most abundant cannabinoids found in hemp. There are many ways to use these two hemp products. They are also remarkably similar at the molecular level. For these reasons, it is not surprising that the public often confuses them.

When analyzed at the molecular level, these two have the same chemical structure comprising 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms. The difference between these two lies in the way their atoms are arranged. THC has a cyclic ring whereas CBD contains a hydroxyl group. Although the difference is minuscule, it is this difference that enables THC to produce psychotropic effects. CBD generally doesn’t produce any psychoactive effects when used.

So, what is the difference between these two? Which of them is more beneficial?

What are the benefits of CBD?

Cannabidiol or CBD has been used as an organic remedy for a wide variety of ailments. Although the sensation of getting “high” is often attributed to the use of marijuana (Cannabis sativa plant), CBD doesn’t cause the said sensation. This is the major reason why the use of CBD is appealing to those who seek relief from pain but don’t want the mind-altering effects of marijuana or other pharmaceutical drugs. CBD oil is a product made by extracting CBD from marijuana. The extract is then diluted with a carrier oil like coconut or hemp seed oil.

Pain Relief. Marijuana has been used to relieve pain as early as 2900 B.C. There are now studies showing that CBD can help reduce chronic pain. This happens by impacting endocannabinoid receptor activity. As a result, inflammation gets reduced and pain gets relieved. Sativex, an oral spray, has been approved in several countries as a treatment of pain related to multiple sclerosis. Sativex uses a combination of THC and CBD. Sativex is also the subject of a study that showed users experiencing improved pain during movement, pain at rest, and sleep quality.

Anti-depressant. CBD oil is now considered an effective treatment for depression and anxiety. CBD oil has also been used as a treatment for insomnia and anxiety in children suffering from the post-traumatic stress disorder. This is largely due to CBD’s ability to act on the brain’s receptor for serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and social behavior.

Reduces Cancer-related symptoms. Cancer treatments have been delivering promising results for decades. However, these treatments also produce side effects that further burden cancer patients. Side effects include nausea, pain, and vomiting. CBD may help reduce nausea and vomiting resulting from chemotherapy.

Improved circulatory system. There are now researches indicating that CBD can be beneficial for the heart and the circulatory system. CBD is also credited with the ability to lower high blood pressure. CBD’s ability to help lower blood pressure may be related to CBD’s ability to reduce stress and anxiety.

What can THC do for me?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), THC can affect aspects of human physiology like thinking, memory, mobility, concentration, coordination, pleasure, and sensory and time perception. It is for this reason that the use of THC has exhibited several health benefits.

Improved Appetite. An increase in appetite is one of the most well-known effects of THC? THC interacts with the same type of receptors that release the hormone ghrelin. The said hormone stimulates hunger. THC is also said to make food taste better. This can greatly benefit those who suffer from conditions like HIV, eating disorders, hepatitis, and dementia.

It can protect the brain cells. Although Reefer madness has tainted the reputation of cannabis consumption, in reality, THC is a neuroprotectant. This means that THC protects brain cells from damage. A 2014 study showed that those who have THC in their systems were 80% less likely to die from traumatic head injuries. Experiments conducted on animals have shown that THC can protect the brain after an injury.

Antioxidant. THC is a potent antioxidant. One of the primary functions of THC in the cannabis plant is to protect it from pathogens. The cannabis plant also increases its THC production when exposed to UVB light. A UVB light is the same type of light that causes oxidative stress in humans. This oxidative stress contributes to visible aging and other skin diseases.

Anticonvulsant. Although cannabis CBD is more popular as an anticonvulsant, THC also has anticonvulsant properties. A study in the 1940s showed that THC treatment was successful in reducing seizures in 2 of 5 epileptic children. These children were unresponsive to conventional epilepsy treatments during that time.

Muscle Relaxant. There is a good reason why consuming cannabis makes people feel sleepy. THC has muscle relaxant properties. This is one of the reasons why THC is important to those who suffer from multiple sclerosis. Sclerosis is a medical condition that results in muscle spasticity, pain, and cramping. THC has the ability to ease cramps and tension in the muscles.

Sensory Enhancement. Some people may consider sensory enhancement as more of a side effect than a benefit of THC. The psychoactive effects of THC are the major reason why many people steer clear of THC. Yes, the psychoactive effects of THC are not for everyone. However, when used with the right intention and at the right dosage, THC can be very beneficial. Sensory enhancement due to THC can lead to deeper personal insights. THC is also known to produce psychological benefits.

How do I use THC and CBD?

Cannabis can get introduced into the human body in two ways: eating and smoking.

Smoking. This is the fastest way for marijuana to work. Inhaling or vaping CBD is also a form of smoking marijuana. In this process, your bloodstream carries CBD to your brain. This is the reason why it only takes a few seconds or minutes for its effects to start manifesting. The amount of THC in your blood usually tapers off in 1-4 hours.

Eating. This means of taking marijuana produces slower effects because the THC has to go through the digestive system. Your body will then have to digest marijuana before letting it into your circulatory system. Due to this process, it can take up to 2 hours before you can feel any effect. The upside of this is it takes longer for the effects to wear off. You can mix cannabis into brownies, cookies, and candy. You can even brew it into a tea.

What are the side effects of CBD and THC?

The primary concern with CBD oil is that it may interact with several medications. This includes some anti-epileptic drugs. There is also a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) that cautions pregnant women and nursing mothers to avoid marijuana use. This is due to possible adverse developmental effects on their baby.

Some studies have indicated that using CBD oil may trigger some side effects. These include:

  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Dry Mouth
  • Drowsiness

On the other hand, THC also causes temporary side effects, such as:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Dry mouth
  • Coordination issues
  • Red Eyes
  • Memory loss
  • Reduced reaction time


Currently, only 10 states plus Washington D.C. have legalized the sale and consumption of recreational marijuana. When it comes to the use of medical cannabis, 33 states plus D.C. have approved its use. It is worth noting though that each of these states has its own parameters surrounding the use of cannabis products, whether for recreational or medicinal purposes. The laws passed by each state specifies the number of cannabis products that one can possess within the bounds of the law. They also have different definitions of how many plants each household can legally grow. It is for this reason why someone who intends to use cannabis, whether for recreational or medical use, should take a careful look at what is legal according to the laws in the state they are at.

Final Word

Both CBD and THC can provide medicinal benefits. Both are also considered safe to use. Clinical trials have proven that these chemical compounds derived from the Cannabis sativa plant have the potential to improve the lives of those who suffer from Crohn’s Disease and Huntington’s Disease. There is also evidence that cannabis can help those who suffer from Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, a form of childhood epilepsy.

However, there are still a lot of states that consider cannabis and its by-products as controlled substances, whether it is for recreational use or marijuana for medical use. Before you purchase any cannabis-derived products, know the laws of the state you are in. It is also important to conduct your own research on what might be the possible side effects of marijuana. You should also consider the possible adverse effects of cannabinoids or THC products with other medications that you are taking. As much as possible, consult with your healthcare provider if you have any doubts or questions that you need guidance on.


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