Differences between THC and CBD

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Differences between THC and CBD


The two main active components of cannabis — THC and CBD — produce different effects, but they interact together, balancing each other.

Cannabis contains more than 100 cannabinoids, but there are two that are the main ones, and that has very different effects and legal status. These are THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol). Each one produces something different and contributes both to the sensation that marijuana produces and to its therapeutic applications. Knowing both compounds allows you to better choose the variety when growing, as well as knowing what to look for according to whether you want something recreational or medicinal.

First, what they have in common: both THC and CBD are cannabinoids, and act on the endocannabinoid system, which all mammals have, including humans. This is an intercellular communication system, which is naturally activated to create homeostasis, but which can be stimulated by phytocannabinoids—that is, cannabinoids of plant origin, such as those found in the cannabis plant. These cause different effects than those that occur naturally in the body. The main receptors of the endocannabinoid system are CB-1 and CB-2, which are found in the central nervous and immune systems.

THC is the psychoactive component of cannabis and is linked to these two receptors in the human brain. CB-1 influences pleasure, appetite, memory, and concentration, while CB-2 moderates pain sensation, and plays a role in homeostasis in certain parts of the body, such as the kidney and liver.

CBD is the non-psychoactive cannabinoid of cannabis. The way it interacts with the CB1 receptor is such that it changes its shape that inhibits its ability to bind with THC, thus taming its psychoactive effects. 

Main differences: 

  • Differences in molecular structure, and how they interact with cannabinoid receptors
  • THC is psychoactive; CBD is not

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