Lots of people have tried cannabis at some point in their lives. Whether they sampled an off-the-street baggie of low-grade weed as a rebellious pre-teen or copped a medical card early on for legitimate symptoms or simple “relaxation”, you can use cannabis, love cannabis, or consider yourself a vocal advocate and still not necessarily understand the difference between THC and CBD.

Let’s take a look, together!

What Are THC and CBD?

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) are both part of a group of compounds called cannabinoids. Though these naturally-occurring chemicals do exist in other plants, they were given this name because they were first identified and studies in cannabis, back in the 60s.

Cannabinoids are only some of the chemical compounds found in cannabis, though they make up 1/5th or more of the total compounds. Terpenes and chlorophyll are other pieces vital to create the cannabis plant.

Why Are Cannabinoids Therapeutic?

You may have heard of the Endocannabinoid System. This system exists in every human body, and most scientists agree it’s there to encourage and support homeostasis (balance) within the body systems.

If it strikes you as strange that we have a system in our body that almost has the word cannabis in it, despite the highly maligned nature of the plant for much of modern history, you aren’t alone. It turns out the endocannabinoid system was actually discovered in the 80s because of research into cannabinoids, so that’s why it has such a strange name.

Cannabinoids interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, and this is why they have beneficial effects within us. The endocannabinoid system includes receptors – known as CB1 and CB2 – that link up perfectly with cannabinoids. They also link up with the endocannabinoids our body naturally produces – anandamide is the most common one.

Because these receptors exist throughout our central nervous system, on neurons and immune cells respectively, they and anything that can bind to them can have a very profound effect on our our body’s regulation. For example, cannabinoids triggering CB receptor responses can prompt increased or decreased production of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin (hence cannabis’ effect on mood).

The Benefits of THC

what is THC's chemical structure

The chemical structure of THC.

There are a few big differences between THC and CBD, with two of them being:

  1. THC is psychoactive, creating the familiar cannabis “high” or euphoria, while CBD is non-psychoactive.
  2. THC occurs in quantities as high as 30% within certain cannabis strains, while CBD is rarely higher than about 15% (though breeders have managed to create strains with as much as 20%).

The benefits of each cannabinoid also differ, partly due to how they interact with the body’s CB receptors. THC, for instance, only binds with CB1 receptors. CB1 receptors are most prominent in the brain, which explains the largely mental effects of high THC strains. One primary thing THC does is encourage the release of dopamine.

THC can:

Cause euphoria
Decrease social anxiety
Reduce nausea
Ease pain
Improve mood

The Benefits of CBD

what is CBD's chemical structure

You can see that the chemical structure of CBD is different from THC in a number of ways.

As noted above, CBD is significant because it doesn’t cause a psychoactive effect in the user. Furthermore, the cannabinoid actually counteracts the effects of THC, which means a strain with high CBD will probably be less psychoactive than one with low CBD and the same level of THC. A strain with equal amounts THC and CBD (like our medical strains /seed-category/cannabis-seeds/medical-seeds/) is likely to be non-psychoactive.

The reason CBD doesn’t cause the classic cannabis high is simple: it doesn’t bind to the CB1 receptors in the brain. Instead, CBD binds primarily to the CB2 receptors elsewhere in the body.

CBD acts as an:

Antidepressant
Anti-convulsant (it can stop seizures)
Antioxidant
Neuroprotective agent (it can protect the brain from damage)
Anti-inflammatory
Anti-tumoral agent (it has the potential to kill off cancer cells)

THC and CBD Together

Besides the aforementioned ability of CBD to counteract THC’s euphoric effects, science points to strains (and cannabis-derived medication) containing both CBD and THC being more effective in general. It seems these two cannabinoids play very nicely together.

This discovery speaks to the whole-plant concept that natural medicine proponents have always touted – why make synthetics based on separate pieces of a plant when the unaltered form has so much promise? Of course, for issues like children with epilepsy (who cannot be subjected to psychoactive THC) and other specific cases, the separation and fine-tuning of certain cannabinoids is an important field of study.



At Growers Choice, we carry dozens of cannabis seed strains that offer a range of THC levels (10% to 27%) and CBD levels (less than 1% to 15%). Whatever your ailments, consider the benefits of growing your own medical cannabis using our premium, lab-tested seeds!

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