Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are two natural phytocannabinoids that interact with our endocannabinoid system to bring about therapeutic and healing effects. The endocannabinoid system is responsible for regulating many of our body’s processes, such as immune function, mood, pain response, inflammation, anxiety, and sleep. Researchers have worked to further understand how modulating the endocannabinoid system with cannabinoids could be used therapeutically to decrease pain, fight cancer, prevent neurodegenerative diseases, and promote general health.
While the body naturally produces cannabinoids, there’s evidence that most people don’t generate enough and that deficiencies can lead to the development of diseases and disorders. Supplementing your diet with active cannabinoids like CBD and THC may help prevent this deficiency and even encourage the body to create more naturally occurring endocannabinoids.
Cannabinoid products are dominant in either CBD or THC. So what’s the difference between the two? And which is best for you?
Here we compare the major differences between the two major cannabinoids, CBD and THC:
Psychoactive vs. Non-Psychoactive
One of the key differences between CBD and THC is whether the cannabinoid will cause a euphoric effect. THC is the well-known chemical compound that is responsible for producing a high. CBD, on the other hand, produces no euphoric side effects. While some cannabinoid users prefer the effects of THC, for those interested in avoiding any of the psychoactive effects of cannabinoids, consuming a product dominant in CBD is ideal. Because CBD produces no side effects, it is regarded as safe for use by people of all ages.
How They Interact with Cannabinoid Receptors
Both CBD and THC bring about therapeutic effects through their interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system and its specialized cannabinoid receptors. There are two main types of cannabinoid receptors — CB1 and CB2.
CB1 receptors are primarily located on nerve cells in the brain, spinal cord, reproductive organs, gastrointestinal and urinary tracts, eye, and more. They play a role in memory, mood, sleep, appetite, and pain sensation. CB2 receptors are located within the immune system, with a great density of receptors occurring in the tonsils and in the spleen. They are instrumental in reducing inflammation and providing neuroprotective effects.
THC has a highest affinity for binding with CB1 receptors. CBD doesn’t bind directly to either cannabinoid receptors, but rather acts indirectly against cannabinoid agonists. CBD also interacts with various other receptors throughout the body, such as the 5-HT1A receptor, which is linked to serotonin, a neurotransmitter thought to be a contributor to feelings of well-being.
It is through this interaction with various systems within the body that these cannabinoids promote balance and healing. Although they interact with the body through different channels, both THC and CBD have proven to be beneficial for modulating the endocannabinoid system and improving health.
The “entourage effect” is the idea that cannabinoids work best when they interact with your body as a group, along with the other natural constituents found in cannabinoid-producing plants, than in isolation. Most cannabinoid products are full-spectrum, meaning they contain CBD and THC, as well as many other natural phytocannabinoids. Where products vary is at what ratio each of the cannabinoids they contain.
THC-only medicines often refer to substances that contain only THC, but are typically synthetic rather than natural renderings of the cannabinoid. CBD-only medicines often refer to strains that are CBD-rich, but they still contain trace amounts of THC. However, recently CBD isolate products have hit the market. Made by isolating the natural CBD and removing all the other cannabinoids and natural constituents, CBD isolate is ideal for those looking to consume only CBD.
Which is Best for Me?
Like with all cannabinoid products, the ideal one is dependent on your personal health concerns and preferences.
Studies have found THC and CBD to each be beneficial for varying conditions, and you can learn more about their specific therapeutic benefits by visiting our article, “A Look at the Major and Minor Cannabinoids.”