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What’s the Difference Between CBD and THC, Lets Break It Down!

If you live in Canada you’ve definitely heard the terms ‘THC’ and ‘CBD’ repeatedly, either through the news, social media or from your friends over the last several years. The distinction between these two compounds may be confusing, and unfortunately, the terms are used interchangeably at times.Today, we are going to give our readers a clear-cut breakdown of the difference between the two of most prominent compounds found within Cannabis – THC and CBD.

THC v. CBD: The Basics

The chemistry of the Cannabis plant is fairly complex, as there are more than 400 chemical compounds in marijuana, though only 66 of them are unique to the cannabis plant – these are referred to as Cannabinoids

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the primary psychoactive compound found in the Cannabis plant. THC is commonly acknowledged as being the active compound that is responsible for producing a sense of euphoria among users. Additionally, users often report “high” hungers and mellowness after smoking – the magnitude of the effects depends on the concentration of THC.

  • THC can be found in various forms, such as hashish, hash oil, tinctures and edibles.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is the second active compound found in Cannabis, however, it does not produce any psychoactive effects not unlike its counterpart. This quality makes CBD a desirable alternative for those who are looking for relief from pain and other symptoms without having the mind-altering effects of marijuana or certain pharmaceutical drugs.

  • CBD oil is made by extracting CBD from the cannabis plant, then diluting it with a carrier oil like coconut or hemp seed oil. CBD can come in the form of oils, tinctures, capsules, capes, creams and edibles.

THC v. CBD: Molecular Structure

              THC and CBD have the same chemical structure – 21 carbon, 30 hydrogen and 2 oxygen atoms (C12H30O2). However, there is a slight difference between the two, in that the effects produced by both active ingredients can be attributed to the difference in the arrangement of their atoms.

THC v. CBD: Mechanisms of Action

THC is absorbed into the bloodstream and distributed to the brain, and is then re-distributed through the rest of the body. THC acts on specific molecular targets on brain cells, in that THC activates the reward system in the same way that nearly all drugs do – by stimulating neurons to release the neurotransmitter dopamine.

  • When THC is inhaled or ingested, it produces it effects through the activation of, or binding to cannabinoid receptors (CB1). The CB1 receptors are widely distributed throughout the brain, are more prominent in the areas responsible for the regulation of movement, coordination, learning, memory and higher cognitive functions.

              CBD is absorbed into the blood and distributed throughout the body. CBD produces it effects through the activation of, or binding to cannabinoid receptors (CB1), however, it binds very weakly to these receptors, resulting in a slower rate of absorption in some cases.

  • CBD requires THC to bind to the CB1 receptor which can help to reduce some of the unwanted psychoactive effects of THC, such as euphoria or sedation.

THC v. CBD: Psychological and Physiological Effects

            Despite having nearly identical molecular structures, THC and CBD both interact with the endocannabinoid system, but have significantly different physiological and psychological effects.  CBD doesn’t cause produce the euphoric effects that occur with THC, but CBD and THC can have similar effects.

              The effects of THC is attributed to users experiencing a sense of:

  • Euphoria                
  • Relaxation              
  • Amusement                  
  • Creativity
  • Hunger
  • Fatigue/sleepiness
  • Heighted senses (visual and auditory)
  • Distorted sense of time
  • Mood
  • Slowed body movement
  • Pain relief

The effects of CBD can be attributed to users experiencing:

  • Pain relief
  • Restful sleep (sleep initiation)
  • Decreased inflammation
  • Relaxation

More recently, it has been hypothesised that CBD may help to reduce the unwanted effects of THC, such as anxiety, however, further research is needed to confirm this.

THC v. CBD: Medical Benefits

              THC and CBD have many similar medical benefits, in that they can provide relief from several of the same conditions:

              CBD can be used to provide relief from:

  • Seizures
  • Inflammation
  • Pain
  • Psychosis
  • IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease)
  • Nausea
  • Migraines
  • Anxiety

THC can be used to provide relief from:

  • Depression
  • Pain
  • Muscle Spasticity
  • Glaucoma
  • Insomnia
  • Low appetite
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety

THC v. CBD: Highs and Duration

           The duration and effects of THC depends on several different factors, primarily, route of administration, dosage and potency.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

  • Smoking (Inhalation) – Effects typically peak round 12 minutes and can last between 1 to 3 hours, however, the effects can linger up to 8 hours depending on the dosage and potency. Smoking is the most effective delivery method for THC, which can be attributed to its rapid absorption into the bloodstream.
  • Eating (Ingestion)  – Effects typically peak around 30 minutes to 2 hours after ingestion, and can last up to 24 hours or longer, depending on the potency and dosage. Edibles provide a longer lasting higher, since your body has to metabolize the active ingredients within the food.

Cannabidiol (CBD)

  • Smoking – Inhaling CBD allows cannabinoids to be directly sent to the lungs, where it is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and put into circulation. By inhaling CBD, the effects typically peak between 5 and 10 minutes, and can last from 2 to 6 hours.
  • Sublingual –  This method involves placing a few drops of CBD oil under the tongue, and leaving it for 2 to 4 minutes, and using your tongue to rub it against your cheeks. CBD is then transported to the bloodstream via the mucous membranes located in the mouth, completely bypassing the digestive system and liver. The effects can peak between 15 to 45 minutes after administering the oil, and can last between 3 to 6 hours, or longer.
  • Topical (Lotion) – Topical CBD is applied directly to the skin and can be absorbed through the surface of the skin to interact with localized cannabinoid receptors. This method of administration is often used to treat chronic pain in specific areas (arthritic joints). The effects peak around 1.5 hours, and can last up to several hours.

**Disclaimer: The information on this site is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information does not create any patient-physician relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. Please consult your health care provider before making any health care decisions or for guidance about a specific medical condition

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