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CBD(Cannabidiol) vs THC(Tetrahydrocannabinol): What’s the Difference?


Cannabis contains more than 113 different chemical compounds known as cannabinoids. Cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are two types of cannabis-derived chemicals. Interest in the potential health effects and benefits of cannabis has increased in recent years. Much of this interest lies in these two cannabinoids.

That interest is likely to grow as marijuana and cannabis products become legal in more countries. A number of different products have emerged that contain CBD, THC, or both to help relieve ailments such as stress, anxiety, and insomnia. To understand the side effects and potential benefits of this product, it is important to understand the difference between CBD and THC first.

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol, commonly called CBD, is the second most common chemical found in marijuana. CBD was first discovered in the 1940s and has recently become more popular as a natural treatment for various conditions. It can be obtained from hemp or marijuana. CBD from hemp still contains traces of THC, while CBD from marijuana may contain more.

What is THC?

Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), THC activates the brain’s reward system by signaling the release of the brain chemical dopamine.1 Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in mood and pleasure. By triggering a higher than normal release of dopamine, THC makes people feel euphoric. THC is often administered through smoking marijuana, but it can also be found as an ingredient in capsules and edible oils.

CBD vs. THC: Key Difference

THC and CBD affect the endocannabinoid system, a system that plays an important role in maintaining homeostasis. Researchers are still working to understand the intricacies of this complex system, but they know that it includes processes such as memory, appetite, sleep, mood, and fertility.

While THC and CBD have similarities, there are some key differences between the two compounds.


  • Not psychoactive (does not cause high)
  • Usually made of hemp


  • Psychoactive (high yielding)
  • It’s made of marijuana

Psychoactive properties

CBD and THC act on different receptors in the brain. As such, CBD usually doesn’t have any psychoactive effects – in other words, it won’t level you up.

THC, on the other hand, has psychoactive effects. It is these connections that create the high levels that people associate with marijuana.

Chemical structure

Both CBD and THC have a chemical structure similar to the body’s natural endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids are neurotransmitters that work in the brain.

Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that transmit signals between nerve cells in the body. They play important roles in a variety of functions, including sleep, pain, appetite, mood, and the immune system.

CBD and THC have the same molecular structure, but there are differences in the arrangement of these molecules which are responsible for the different effects. By mimicking endocannabinoids, they bind to receptors and cause various effects in the body.


Although CBD can come from hemp or marijuana, it is often extracted from hemp to avoid adding large amounts of THC. THC, on the other hand, is obtained from marijuana.

Cannabis-derived CBD may have more THC in it, which may not be ideal for people trying to avoid THC. For example, some CBD products made from marijuana may contain more THC than the label recommends.

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