CBD or THC: What is the Difference?
As the cannabis industry is growing at an incredible rate, you might have heard about THC and CBD. Among the number of cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, THC and CBD are the most familiar and widespread ones. Most people know that THC will make you high, whereas CBD won’t, but most do not know the difference between hemp and marijuana. Both are species of the cannabis plant but have different functions. Cannabinoids, found in the cannabis plant, interact with our bodies in sophisticated and unique ways. If you dig deeper into the science behind these two cannabinoids, it will become apparent that there is more to learn about THC and CBD.
THC and the Marijuana Plant
Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main intoxicating element in the cannabis plant, which was first described in the 1940s. Israeli scientist Rafael Mechoulam synthesized this molecule in 1965 and our understanding of THC has improved ever since. Marijuana is the species of cannabis that is dominant in the compound THC. This is the part of the marijuana plant that makes the user feel euphoric or “high” when it is broken down and absorbed into the body. Marijuana leaves are broad-leafed and have tight buds with some even having orange hairs coming off of the nugget shape, and it looks like a short and flat bush. Hemp has a different shape from marijuana; its leaves are skinnier and higher up and it tends to look tall and skinny as most of its foliage grows up top.
Marijuana is considered a psychoactive drug, and with its high concentration of TCH, it is illegal in many places. This is much higher than the THC levels that are naturally found in hemp. We still clearly don’t know how cannabis creates intoxication in our body when compared with other drugs; however, we do know the following about cannabis. We have CB1 receptors throughout our body and THC acts as an activator or agonist of these CB1 receptors. But if people with blocked CB1 receptors are given cannabis (by a different drug, called an antagonist), it won’t make them high. So now we know that to produce intoxication by THC, CB1 receptors in our brain play a crucial role.
CBD and the Hemp Plant
THC is not the only compound found in the Cannabis plant that has a direct impact on the functions of our brain. The second most important cannabinoid found in the Cannabis plant is Cannabidiol or CBD, and it represents about 40% of the extracts from the plant. CBD that is derived from hemp is non-psychoactive and contains little to no traces of THC. Although there are other methods of deriving CBD, such as from other forms of cannabis, CBD derived from hemp contains the lowest levels of THC and is generally legal in most places.
CBD has very powerful properties that can reduce anxious feelings and it interacts with the receptors of our brain. It is also not intoxicating. While THC binds directly with the CB1 receptors, CBD does not. CBD can actually interfere with the activity of CB1 receptors with the presence of THC, thus reducing the psychoactive effects of THC. It is because CBD inhibits the CB1 receptor, while THC activates it. The presence of the two cannabinoids balances the effects.
Know the Difference; Know the Benefits
The cannabis plant is a plant filled with compounds, such as CBD, that can be beneficial to our all-around health and wellness. Although there are psychoactive components to the cannabis plant, it is important to be able to distinguish the difference between hemp and marijuana, as well as being able to differentiate the properties that each species of the cannabis plant contains. Both CBD and THC (medically prescribed) have been found to have many health benefits that we are just really starting to explore and realize the incredible benefits they produce.