CBD and THC: Similar and So Very Different
The two cannabinoids we hear about most often are THC and CBD. Both are praised for many potential therapeutic effects that could help with managing anything from depression to chronic pain. So, what is the difference between CBD vs THC?
The key takeaway is this. THC is the one that gets you high—and CBD is the one that doesn’t.
Let’s start there. There are more than 100 cannabinoid compounds within hemp and marijuana, but CBD and THC are only two of them.¹
THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the cannabinoid that produces the marijuana high. It’s heavily regulated by the US government and restricted in most states. Still, with many states pushing to legalize marijuana, a lot of research has been conducted to determine its potential therapeutic effect and psychoactive effect. Many medical patients appreciate its potential to help relieve pain, relax the mind, and stimulate the appetite.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a cannabinoid that doesn’t cause you to feel high—however, it could help in a few other ways by interacting with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is what is responsible for keeping the body regulated. Hemp-derived CBD is no longer a controlled substance. With the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, the cultivation of hemp and the production of CBD are federally legal, making it possible to now buy and sell hemp-derived CBD across the country. Your state’s laws may still have restrictions, however.²
A Brief History of Cannabinoids
These two cannabinoids were discovered separately, but which came first?
Technically speaking, CBD came first. It was first discovered by a British chemist named Robert S. Cahn, who mistook a partial CBD molecule for CBN. Later, in 1942, American scientist Roger Adams was the first to isolate it for scientific study.³ His discovery and the ability to isolate CBD eventually led to the discovery of THC in 1964 by Israeli chemist Raphael Mechoulam.⁴
The discovery of THC and different types like delta-9 THC led scientists to pinpoint that THC was the compound that caused people to feel high. That led to a surge in curiosity around the other compounds in cannabis and hemp, including CBD—resulting in the scientific community continuing to isolate and further research the cannabinoid.
While CBD was discovered in the 1940s, it wasn’t really researched until the 1980s—long after the discovery of THC. Dr. Raphael Mechoulam and his team at The Hebrew University studied CBD as a treatment for epilepsy, and while they found it effective in animal studies a lot of the research around cannabinoids had to be shelved before it could make it to clinical trials due to the raging war on drugs.⁵
By the 1990s, California had legalized medical marijuana, so research into these compounds continued. In 1992, once again at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Dr. Lumir Hanus and American researcher Dr. William Devane discovered endocannabinoids—which would lead to the discovery of the entire endocannabinoid system.⁶
Their discovery uncovered that cannabinoids like THC & CBD interact with people and animals via a complex network of receptors and chemical messengers called endocannabinoids to help the body stay balanced and homeostatic. For example, the ECS may play a role in your immune system function, pain/inflammation responses, appetite, sleep-wake cycles, mood, and more.⁷
Now for the Good Part
Between the discovery of major cannabinoids like THC and CBD and the discovery of the ECS, scientists worked to begin unlocking the therapeutic potential of each cannabinoid. They found that THC and CBD interact with the receptors found in the ECS. Both cannabinoids are praised for similar potential health benefits to the body—such as aid with stress relief, pain relief, and improved sleep. However, they go about it a little differently in their interactions with the ECS.
There are two main receptors in the ECS: the CB1 receptor (which hangs out in your brain and central nervous system) and the CB2 receptor (which is more likely to be found in your immune system).
Research indicates that the CB1 receptor plays a role in regulating the release of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and glutamate.⁸ Put simply, our CB1 receptors are interrupted by THC in a way that leads to the famous high that marijuana and other cannabis plants containing moderate-to-high levels of THC are best known for.
However, CBD has a different interaction within the ECS that doesn’t lead to a high. It interacts mainly with the CB2 receptor—found most abundantly within cells of the immune system, including the bloodstream, liver, and spleen.⁹ CB2 receptors are found within the brain, just not as many as CB1. CB2 receptors work like a switch for intracellular processes, regulating inflammation, cell survival, and proliferation.
THC can bind to both sets of receptors—while CBD doesn’t really bind to either of them unless THC is present. In the presence of THC, CBD antagonizes some of your CB1 receptors—which helps to mitigate the high THC can cause.¹⁰ Since it doesn’t really bind to either receptor but rather interacts with them instead, CBD won’t cause you to feel high.
But even without the high, the effects of CBD are still noticeable. It works within the ECS to help promote balanced moods—which may, in turn, promote better sleep. More importantly, it could reduce the ability of your body to signal pain responses entirely—which means it has the potential to help manage pain caused by inflammation.¹¹
While the effects and benefits of THC are more obvious, CBD interacts with both CB1 and CB2 receptors—which may help boost the efficiency of your ECS overall. An optimized ECS that streamlines and manages various bodily processes may mean feeling your best overall (versus masking symptoms with a sensation of feeling high).
At the end of the day, the main difference between THC & CBD is THC will get you high—and CBD won’t. History and science aside…
- causes you to feel high
- alters your perception, which may make you feel mentally uplifted and in less pain
- can make you feel hungry, sleepy, and/or euphoric
- may cause side effects like anxiety, paranoia, and cottonmouth
- does not get you high
- triggers the ECS to help you remain balanced or homeostatic
- may help reduce pain and inflammation naturally without altering your perception of pain
- may assist in regulating appetite, mood, and sleep-wake cycles by working with the ECS
- could promote anti-convulsive and anti-nausea effects
Keep in mind that the FDA doesn’t regulate CBD or THC, so they’re not intended to be a cure or treatment for anything. Right now, only one CBD product, Epidiolex, is approved by the FDA for treating two forms of severe epilepsy.¹²
That said, as more research is conducted on these two cannabinoids, these learnings will help bring the potential benefits of THC and CBD to light for everyone. The good news is reputable companies like Lazarus Naturals craft a wide range of products for you to choose from, so you can find what works best for you.¹³
Trying THC & CBD For Yourself
Lazarus Naturals is proud to offer a range of CBD products like CBD oil tinctures, CBD capsules and softgels, CBD topicals, CBD edibles, and CBD pet products—even having introduced CBG, CBN, and THC to our line.¹⁴⁻¹⁹
Our THC-Free products are made with CBD isolate, which contains nothing but CBD in its most pure form.²⁰ However, we do also offer full spectrum CBD—which contains up to 0.3% THC, in addition to CBD and all the cannabinoids and terpenes naturally found within the hemp plant.²¹ Evidence suggests full spectrum CBD may be more effective, as all the other cannabinoids and terpenes may boost the effects of CBD due to the entourage effect.²² (This doesn’t mean CBD can’t offer plenty of potential benefits on its own.)
It’s also worth mentioning that the 0.3% THC found in full spectrum CBD products isn’t enough to get you high—but you might be able to explore the potential benefits of CBD on its own with THC-Free products, or CBD & THC together via our full spectrum offerings.
Since many of the potential benefits of THC and CBD vary from person to person, you might try a THC-Free tincture for 30 days—then a full spectrum CBD tincture for 30 days.²³⁻²⁴ Maintain a daily journal documenting progress along your journey to compare the results you get with a THC-free tincture to the results from a full spectrum tincture. This is invaluable in helping you to align on which type of CBD works best for you and your lifestyle.
When buying any CBD product, it’s essential to research the company.²⁵ At Lazarus Naturals, we do it all. From our farm to your front door—aside from the delivery truck. That’s how we can consistently deliver effective products of the highest quality. There’s no secret to our approach. From the organic hemp we farm to our growing family of products, we focus on consistency and sustainability. As pioneers in the CBD industry, we’ve learned how to do things right and make it our mission to pass that on to you by keeping prices low and potency high.
Every Lazarus Naturals product undergoes third-party testing to help ensure quality, safety, and consistency.²⁶ Test results can be viewed by visiting Test Results on our site or by scanning the QR code on your product.²⁷