Marijuana legislation is changing around the world. These changes are largely based on political decisions, even though much of the argument surrounding them concerns potential medical or medicinal benefits.
All of this hubbub might’ve made you think that you need to get “high” to benefit from cannabis but nothing could be further from the truth.
It turns out that most of the health benefits in cannabis sativa come from parts of the plant that are not intoxicating. In fact, left to its own devices cannabis will grow into hemp instead of marijuana which has most of the medicinal benefits and won’t get anyone high. It really all comes down to the difference between CBD and THC.
If you live somewhere with legal or recreational marijuana you canget stoned in the pursuit of the medicinal benefits of cannabis. I don’t live in any of those places and wouldn’t want to anyway. So this blog will be educational about the differences between CBD vs THC.
What is THC?
THC is short for Tetrahydrocannabinol.
THC is a chemical compound known as a “cannabinoid” and it is the primary psychoactive component of marijuana. Cannabinoids are compounds that interact with the human endocannabinoid system (ECS.)
When THC enters your blood stream your body produces a metabolite called 11-Hydroxy-Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol. Most drug tests look for the presence of certain concentrations of this metabolite. This plays a major role in whether or not CBD will show up on a drug test.
The amount of THC present in a cannabis plant is the difference between “marijuana” and “hemp.” Lower than .3% THC by volume is legally considered hemp, while plants with greater than .3% THC are considered marijuana.
- Gets you high
- Is the only cannabinoid that makes you produce the metabolite drug tests screen for
- Is the difference between Marijuana and Hemp
- Legal with a prescription in most states
- Legal without a prescription in 9 states
What is CBD?
CBD is short for Cannabidiol.
CBD is another cannabinoid found in cannabis sativa. CBD is somewhat less known than it’s cousin THC but it’s actually responsible for most of the medicinal therapeutic effects people praise cannabis for. Perhaps the main reason it’s less well known than CBD is because it does not get you high.
The FDA recently approved the first cannabis pharmaceutical drug for treating Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, which are seizure disorders. This drug is really just a purified concentrated form of CBD.
CBD is perhaps most well studied for seizure disorders, anxiety, and pain although people use it for many different reasons. People have anecdotally claimed that it is good for acne and rheumatoid arthritis. There is some research to suggest it can help with symptoms of dimensia and might be anti tumor.
- Doesn’t get you high
- Great for anxiety and pain
- In an FDA approved medication
- Is in both hemp and marijuana but there is more of it in hemp
- Is legal in all 50 states.
CBD vs THC for pain
Both THC and CBD help ease pain but they do it in different ways.
For a full article on this subject please look at my blog post on CBD oil for pain. CBD helps with pain by lowering systemic inflammation and creating an analgesic effect similar to NSAIDS such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen (but without all of the damage to your gut.) This is what is known as an analgesic effect, meaning that it disrupts pain without disrupting cognition or consciousness.
THC is mostly known for bonding to CB1 cannabinoid receptors in your brain. Because THC blocks your natural cannabinoids from fulfilling their functions, THC can alter your perception of the world around you.
This altered perception often slows signals down from reaching the brain and softens their impact. Many people believe this softening is how THC helps patients tolerate pain more easily. THC also has some anti-inflammatory properties and those of course lessen pain as well.
Is CBD or THC in Hemp Seed Oil?
The short answer is no.
I included this section because people should be advised that most products for sale on amazon that pretend to be CBD oil are actually just hemp seed oil. Hemp seed oil is a terrific base oil and a great source of gamma-linolenic acid, omega 3 fatty acids, and omega 6 fatty acids but it does not contain active cannabinoids and it is not expensive.
This is because CBD is actually against Amazon’s TOS and they do not allow people to sell it. So if you are going to buy CBD tinctures you should get it directly from the website of a reputable brand.
CBD vs THC effects
THC’s effects are well known through pop culture. It makes you giggle and eat snacks, right?
Well, sort of. THC mimics a natural brain chemical called anandamide. Anandamide is a neurotransmitter which means it sends chemical messages between cells throughout the nervous system. Replacing anandamide with THC disrupts normal brain communication in a few crucial ways.
It increases hunger by stimulating appetite but at the same time in increases the rewards felt my the pleasure center of the brain in response to sweet foods. This results in a state pop culture calls “the munchies.”
THC interferes with balance, coordination, and reaction time – leading some to suggest it is dangerous to consume prior to driving.
Too much THC can cause hallucinations, panic, delusions, and a loss of identity, however at low doses THC can alleviate stress, anxiety, and pain as well as act as a strong anticonvulsant. The positive benefits of THC are especially effective when combined with higher doses of CBD.
CBD is a completely different story from THC. It doesn’t cause a “high” but does give people a sense of calm and comfort. CBD does not bind directly to any cannabinoid receptors but instead helps regulate your entire endocannabinoid system (ECS) which can be therapeutic for a variety of ailments including anxiety, insomnia, inflammation, nausea, and high blood pressure.
CBD high vs THC high
CBD does not cause a “high” but at high doses it does give you a noticeable sensation of relaxation. It can also improve sleep and mood in general.
THC on the other hand gets people high because it is “psychoactive.” The high that people get from THC can vary from person to person and changes depending on the amount of THC they consume, how they have consumed it, how often they consume it, and how much CBD is administered at the same time.
Contrary to popular belief, CBD does not actually keep you from getting high or lessen the effects of THC. In fact, CBD can prolong the amount of time that you feel the effects of THC and minimize the harmful effects such as heart palpitations and anxiety. It is a good idea to have extra CBD on hand if you intend to consume THC because it may save you from an unpleasant experience if you take too much.
To sum up: there is no CBD high vs THC which does cause a “high.”
CBD oil vs THC oil
Cannabinoids dissolve in oil instead of water, so oil tinctures are a common method of ingesting them. These are extracts of Hemp or Marijuana in an oil carrier. The base, or carrier oil, is usually hemp seed oil, fractionated coconut or MCT oil, or olive oil.
Studies have shown that cannabinoids are up to three times more effective when administered in a carrier oil. (1) This increase in efficacy is partly due to the fact that our intestinal lymphatic systems are extremely good at absorbing oils and fats and putting them right to work in the body.
Cannabis grows into hemp when farmers do not isolate the female plants from the male plants and they are allowed to cross pollinate. Special care is taken of female plants to grow high-THC strains of marijuana.
It is worth noting that cannabis plants do not directly contain CBD or THC but rather cannabinoid acids that turn into CBD and THC when they are heat-treated in a process known as decarboxylation.
CBD oil has a variety of medicinal uses. The most well-known health problems that CBD can treat are seizures, nausea, anxiety, and pain. There are also studies that suggest it benefits those with dementia, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease and that it can help shrink tumors.
THC oil is primarily used to treat pain, nausea, and for recreational purposes. Oil is not the most common method of ingesting THC although it is lipid soluble like CBD. THC oil can contain therapeutic amounts of CBD. CBD oil will also contain small amounts of THC if it is full spectrum.
If you’re choosing between CBD and THC oil it will depend on what you’re choosing it for. THC oil may be the best bet if you’re in tremendous pain however most of the medicinal benefits of cannabis are actually a result of the CBD so for many people CBD oil is the way to go. I prefer CBD because I like to be alert and aware and do not personally enjoy the fogginess of being stoned.
Cannabis THC vs CBD
It turns out that cannabinoids are probably meant to protect the plants from bacteria, mold, UV rays, heat, and even insects.
This is why THC and CBD have such powerful anti-microbial properties that make it a medicine for humans. Human beings evolved eating various plants and our bodily systems have developed special responses to them. And although we first discovered cannabinoids in Cannabis Sativa (hence the name) they actually exist in a variety of different plants including hops, black pepper, cacao, and Echinacea
Although some of these plants have been found to contain CBD, the only known source of THC is Cannabis Sativa.
THC specifically protects the cannabis plant from Ultra Violet radiation. Female plants produce substantially more THC than male ones. To grow a plant with the maximum amount of THC, farmers isolate female plants from male plants and expose them to excessive ultraviolet light. Over time the plants that thrived best through this process were selected, cloned, and cross bred with other plants that had complimentary properties.
As THC production increases, CBD production tends to decrease. Plants that are very high in THC have little CBD and vice versa. As a result, modern farmed cannabis sativa is substantially different from what might have been considered marijuana even 50 years ago. Older plants would have had much higher CBD content and lower amounts of THC.
CBD vs THC edibles
Edibles are made by making snack foods that contain cannabis oils or butter. Almost any prepared food can be infused with cannabinoids. Consumers embrace edibles as a healthier alternative to smoking marijuana. Some medical patients who use oxygen or have lung issuess take edibles because smoking is not an option for them.
The problem with CBD edibles is that oral consumption doesn’t deliver that much of the CBD to your blood stream. Instead it may be filtered out by your liver and go to waste.
If an edible dissolves slowly in your mouth such as a sucker or hard candy then some of it will be absorbed sublingually. This is generally the best kind of edible to get if you do not want to waste any of your cannabinoids. About 10-15% of the cannabinoids can reach your blood stream this way. If the edible is chewed and swallowed quickly, such as with baked goods, this percentage can drop as low as 6%.
It can also take upwards of two hours for cannabinoids to enter your blood stream via oral ingestion. This is what leads to most cases of “overdose.” Novice marijuana users will often eat more cannabinoids because “it’s not working” when it just hasn’t actually kicked in yet. Then when the double or triple dose hits them later they regret their choices and sometimes wind up in the emergency room.
THC effects people differently as an edible than it does when smoked. Although marijuana is classified as a hallucinogen, most people do not experience hallucinations from smoking. Edibles on the other hand can induce hallucinations, blurring or moving surfaces, and visual trails.
CBD is more of a health and wellness tonic and it is not psychoactive, so “overdose” isn’t a concern with CBD. You will never hallucinate from taking CBD. Studies have repeatedly shown no adverse reactions to CBD even at really high doses. If CBD doesn’t kick in for an hour and you wind up taking more because you are still in pain the worst that will happen is that you’re using your CBD oil up faster than you need to, which can be a waste of money.
- American J of Transl Research 2016; 8(8): 3448–3459.
Dietary fats and pharmaceutical lipid excipients increase systemic exposure to orally administered cannabis and cannabis-based medicines
Atheer Zgair, Jonathan CM Wong, et al