CBD vs. THC: Learn the Difference
A great deal of confusion currently exists among consumers and brand owners alike when it comes to knowing the difference between CBD and THC.
CBD and THC are only two of about 100 phytocannabinoids we can find in plants. THC is the main compound present in the marijuana plant, and CBD is the main compound present in hemp. Even though they’re both categorized as “cannabinoids”, they act differently when consumed.
The terminology surrounding CBD can be confusing since sometimes consumers think it’s the same as THC because both fall under the “cannabinoid” category. Take vitamin A and vitamin C as an example; both are categorized as vitamins, but when consumed, whether via food or supplements, they produce different physiological effects. This same concept applies to cannabinoids where CBD is completely different from THC. From a practical standpoint, this means that CBD can’t get someone "high".
CBD vs. THC: Chemical Structure Differences
CBD and THC are two cannabinoids that are very similar at the molecular level, in fact both have the same chemical makeup and contain 21 carbon, 30 hydrogen and 2 oxygen atoms and thus are nearly identical twins - creating another reason that led the public to often believe they’re the same, but CBD is not the same chemical structure as THC. What makes them different is the arrangement of a single atom.
This difference in molecular structure makes CBD and THC interact differently with one of the two cannabinoid receptors (CB1) in our body and makes CBD a ‘good guy’ against THC. This also leads THC to cause a psychotropic effect.
Taking this a step further, the best approach is to use products with a clinically researched dose of full-spectrum phytocannabinoids, rather than limiting it to just CBD. Not only do full-spectrum phytocannabinoids provide comprehensive support to the body, but they have a good safety profile associated with regular use, which is not necessarily the case with THC.
CBD vs. THC Infographic
We've created a handy infographic so you can easily understand what the difference is between CBD and THC:
Does Hemp Have THC or CBD?
Hemp contains CBD primarily with a very low concentration of THC (0.3% or less). Thus, it is used to produce a wide range of THC-free CBD products.
Benefits of CBD and THC
CBD and THC have many common medical benefits as well as major differences due to their respective effects on the human body.
CBD benefits include helping deal with various medical conditions like inflammation, pain, migraines, nausea, anxiety, depression, inflammatory bowel disease, seizures and psychotic or mental disorder while THC benefits are seen in alleviating pain, insomnia, anxiety, nausea, muscle spasticity, glaucoma and low appetite.
Medical Benefits of CBD
CBD is used
- To reduce depressive symptoms in patients with depression.
- To lower anxiety in individuals with social anxiety disorder.
- To reduce psychotic symptoms in people with schizophrenia.
Medical Benefits of THC
Medical applications of THC include
- Treatment of glaucoma by reducing pressure inside the eyes.
- Helping counter side effects of chemotherapy by reducing vomiting and nausea.
- Stimulates appetite.
Does CBD/THC Get You High?
THC binds directly with CB1 receptors and creates psychoactive effects of ‘getting high’. CBD, on the other hand, doesn’t bond directly with the CB1 receptor and do not create a psychoactive effect. Additionally, it can even neutralize the stoned effect of THC by negating the bond between THC and CB1.
CBD vs. THC - Effects on the Body
Effects of CBD:
- Decreases inflammation
- Anxiety relief
- Relief from convulsions and nausea
- Reduction from psychotic symbols
- Helps lower blood pressure
Effects of THC:
- Increased appetite
- Altered senses of smell, sight and hearing
Side Effects of CBD and THC
CBD side effects are minimal to non-existent. Research suggests that CBD side effects are likely to result from drug interactions between CBD and other medications and involve
- Dry mouth
- Reduced appetite
On the other hand, short term THC side effects are part of its psychoactive properties and include
- Dry mouth
- Slower reaction times
- Red eyes
- Memory loss
- Increased heart rate
- Coordination problems
Long term THC side effects include negative psychiatric effects that can be linked to high THC use in adolescents. THC use increases the risk for some psychiatric disorders including schizophrenia.
Are CBD and THC Legal in the United States?
CBD and THC, both are active ingredients in FDA-approved drugs. The FDA has made it clear that it has been unlawful to market CBD or THC products as or in dietary supplements or to introduce food containing added CBD or THC into the interstate commerce, irrespective whether the substances are hemp-derived. It indicates that CBD or THC cannot be a part of dietary supplements.
However, plants like hemp contain naturally occurring phytocannabinoids including CBD. There are other plants as well that contain phytocannabinoids or have cannabinoid properties and can lawfully be used in the dietary supplements industry. These include culinary herbs such as cinnamon, basil, cloves, black pepper, etc., medicinal herbs including turmeric (Curcuma spp.), licorice (Glycyrrhiza), etc. and foods including grapes, Theobroma cocoa, Camellia Sinensis (black and green tea), etc.
Farm bill 2018 has legalized hemp by removing it from the controlled substances list and considering it as an agricultural product. Legal experts now say that products containing naturally occurring phytocannabinoids from plant sources like hemp are not a problem, provided they are not positioned as CBD products. The legality of CBD is determined largely by its source and thus, hemp-derived CBD is legal in all 50 states.
Is CBD Legal in All States?
- Legal in all states as Epidiolex – a prescription drug to treat epilepsy.
- Not legal in any state for any other medication purpose.
- Not legal in any state as a dietary supplement.
In What States Is THC Legal?
- States, where THC is legal for recreational or medical use, are – Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Alaska, Colorado, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maine.
- States, where THC is legal for medical use only are – Hawaii, Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Florida, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire.
- States, where THC is illegal, are – Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Texas, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia.
Hemp legalization through Farm Bill 2018 has made consumers feel more secure about purchasing hemp-derived phytocannabinoid products.
How Can You Create Your Own Supplements?
You can create full-spectrum CBD supplements containing no more than 0,3% THC that help in a range of medical conditions owing to the proven entourage effect which is much more effective than that of any single phytocannabinoid. Refer to our simple 10 step guide for starting your dietary supplement company.
For brand owners - both new and existing - that are looking to cash in on the CBD "Gold Rush", understanding the differences between CBD and THC is not easy but is incredibly important. We hope that our quick read gave you enough information so that you can custom manufacture or private label a high-quality, hemp-derived phytocannabinoid product.
How Can NutraScience Labs Help You?
The team at NutraScience Labs has over 50 years of nutraceutical industry experience and can be your ideal partner when it comes to custom contract manufacturing phytocannabinoid supplements. We are known for our providing our clients with high quality finished products that are packaged and labeled according to the industry’s best practices. Besides superior contract manufacturing, we offer one-stop solutions that save you time, money and stress. Our services encompass –
- Convenient fulfillment services
- Award-winning packaging and label design
- Dedicated account management & 24/7/365 live customer support
Still have questions? We're here to help! Call (855) 492-7388 to speak with one of our knowledgeable representatives or send us your request to receive a free phytocannabinoid manufacturing quote in 48 business hours!
About the Author: Gene Bruno
Gene Bruno, MS, MHS, RH(AHG) - With decades of experience working along side healthcare professionals and natural product retailers, developing innovative nutraceutical formulations, and working with academic institutions, Gene has cultivated a truly unique and impressive catalog of nutraceutical knowledge and insights.