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Posted On: November 08, 2023

CBD vs THC - What is the Difference?

You must have heard a lot about cannabis and marijuana products. Cannabidiol, short for CBD, and THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) are getting tremendous attention these days. Both these cannabinoids (active constituents of the cannabis sativa plant) can be confusing if you’re not aware of them.  
Before we explore the difference between CBD Vs THC, let’s understand the cannabis plant. Cannabis is a plant of Cannabaceae family. It is also known as the hemp family. Most CBD products are made with the extraction of hemp plants.  
Hemp-extracted CBD products that contain less than 0.3 percent THC are legal at the federal level. However, some states still don’t recognize CBD legally. To get more information about CBD legalization and state laws, read CBD laws by state.  
Apart from CBD, there are more than 100 cannabinoids that are isolated from the cannabis plant. CBG (Cannabigerol) is the precursor for the various synthesis cannabinoids including CBD.  
THC, on the other hand, is the primary psychoactive cannabinoid of the cannabis (marijuana) plant. Both marijuana and hemp plants contain THC. But the amount of THC found in marijuana is greater than hemp plant.  
Today, in this blog post, we will discuss the difference between CBD and THC.  

CBD Vs. THC: Chemical Structure

CBD and THC, both these cannabinoids are different from each other. However, they share the same molecular structure: 21 carbon (C) atoms, 30 hydrogen (H), and 2 oxygen (O) atoms. The main difference lies in how the atoms are arranged. These arrangements give CBD and THC distinct chemical properties that affect your body differently.  

CBD (Cannabidiol) Structure:  

  1. The chemical formula for CBD is C21H30O2 (aromatic oxygenated hydrocarbons). 
  2. It consists of 12 carbon, 30 Hydrogen, and 2 Oxygen.  
  3. The molecular weight is 314.464 g/mol.  
  4. CBD has a long linear structure with a hydroxyl group (-OH) attached to the carbon atom.  

THC (Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol) Chemical Structure:  

  1. It has the same chemical formula as CBD: C12H30O2 
  2. The main difference between CBD and THC in terms of chemical structure lies in the arrangement of atoms.  
  3. THC has a cyclic structure with a closed ring that contains 5 carbon atoms.   

The different arrangement of atoms within the structure of CBD and THC leads to distinct interactions with your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). CBD and THC both work with the cannabinoid receptors that release neurotransmitters in your brain. That’s why consuming CBD and THC can have different psychological and psychoactive effects. Normally, CBD is non-psychoactive, and it won’t make you feel “high” or “euphoric”.  
But THC can do both and is associated with marijuana use. That’s why marijuana is used as the most popular recreational drug. Also, the CSA (Control Substance Act) prohibits the manufacture, distribution, dispensation, and possession of marijuana. In addition, THC is considered a controlled substance in many jurisdictions.  


CBD Vs THC: A Comparison Table

THC and CBD share many similarities. However, there are many differences too. The following table demonstrates the key differences between CBD and THC:  


CBD (Cannabidiol)  THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) 
Chemical Structure  CBD and THC share the same chemical formula: 12 carbon, 30 Hydrogen, and 2 Oxygen. But the arrangements of atom in the structure is different.   THC molecular formula: 12 carbon, 30 Hydrogen, and 2 Oxygen (C12H30O2). The arrangements of atom in the structure is different 
Psychoactive Effects  Cannabidiol has a non-psychoactive compound and does not produce “high” when consumed.  THC is psychoactive and is responsible for the intoxicating effects associated with cannabis. It can lead to the sensation of being “high” or altered mental stress. 
Medical Benefits  CBD is often used for its potential therapeutic benefits including chronic pain relief, neuropathic pain relief, anxiety reduction, and anti-inflammatory properties.  THC also has medical applications. But THC product (marijuana) is mostly consumed in the form of recreational drugs not as medicinal drugs. THC can be used for pain management, nausea relief, and appetite stimulation. 
Side Effects  CBD is generally well-tolerated with very few mild side effects.  THC can lead to side effects such as impaired coordination, memory issues, and increased heart rate. 
Source  Generally, CBD is extracted from hemp plants.  THC is primarily found in marijuana plants. 
Drug Testing  CBD is unlikely to result in a positive drug test as it doesn’t typically show up on standard tests.  THC is detectable in drug tests. Normally, THC is the compound that drug tests target. 
Interaction with prescription medication  CBD may interact with other medications such as blood thinners (warfarin), heart rhythm medication, and thyroid medication.  Some dangerous types of drug interaction with marijuana or THC include Sedatives (Ambien, Lunesta, and Benadryl), Anti-anxiety medications (Xanax, Valium, and Librium), and antidepressant medications. 
Legal Status   CBD products like gummies, tinctures, CBD syrups, and body rubs that are derived from the hemp plant (containing less than 0.3% THC) are legal in 47 states of the United States of America and many parts of the world as well.    

THC is restricted in many places. However, it is only legal for medical or recreational use in specific jurisdictions.  

Note that this table provides a general overview of CBD and THC. If you want to take CBD or any other product related to cannabis, make sure to consult a healthcare professional. 

⇒ Know More: Cannabis Oil Vs CBD Oil

How CBD and THC Affect Your Body 

THC affects the body through the ECS (Endocannabinoid) system. It binds with brain receptors and can control pain perception, mood, and other feelings. THC can also produce the characteristics of a “high” or altered mental state associated with cannabis use. It may affect cognitive functions and perceptions.  
These are the effects of THC on your body:  

  • Psychoactive effects 
  • Euphoria  
  • Appetite Stimulation  
  • Pain Relief 
  • Potential for psychological dependency 
  • Anxiety and paranoia  
  • Memory and coordination impairment  

CBD, on the other hand, isn’t psychoactive. It also interacts with the ECS system (Involved with functions like pain sensation) and cannabinoid receptors. It can stop the neurotransmitter that is causing seizures. CBD does this by enhancing the release of an inhibitory neurotransmitter called GABA. Also, In essence, unlike THC, CBD's effects on the human body are positive and have many health benefits.  


Medical Benefits of CBD and THC 

CBD and THC can treat many physical and mental health conditions. However, CBD products that are available can also contain small amounts of THC.  
Here is a list of health issues that can treated by CBD (Via Medical News Today):  

  • Inflammation  
  • Arthritis  
  • Seizures 
  • Depression 
  • Migraine  
  • Insomnia  

Medical marijuana or THC can help to treat many diseases and medical conditions as well. It’s the same as recreational marijuana but used for medical purposes. 

People typically use THC or medical marijuana for the treatment of the following health conditions (Via WebMD):   

  • Alzheimer's disease 
  • Appetite loss 
  • Cancer 
  • Crohn's disease 
  • Diseases affecting the immune system like HIV/AIDS or Multiple Sclerosis (MS) 
  • Eating disorders such as anorexia  
  • Epilepsy 
  • Glaucoma 
  • Mental health conditions like schizophrenia and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 
  • Multiple sclerosis 
  • Muscle spasms 
  • Nausea 
  • Pain 
  • Seizures 
  • Wasting syndrome (cachexia) 

In the next section, we’ll discuss some popular uses of CBD and THC for several health benefits. 

CBD vs. THC for Anxiety

CBD and THC both have distinct effects on anxiety. CBD contains anxiolytic properties (via the National Institute of Health). It can potentially reduce anxiety by interacting with serotonin receptors and promote a sense of calm without causing you “high”.  
On the other hand, THC, while sometimes initially offering relaxation, can worsen anxiety in some individuals due to its psychoactive effects. Besides, higher doses of THC may lead to paranoia or increased anxiety. That’s why CBD is considered safer than THC to treat anxiety.  

THC vs CBD for Pain Management

THC can be highly effective in reducing pain, particularly in chronic conditions like cancer-related discomfort and neuropathic pain. By interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system, it can influence pain perception. However, it can also lead to unwanted side effects due to its psychoactive effects including cognitive impairment, and addiction potential.  
Oppositely, CBD can lessen pain without the high associated with THC. CBD has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties and its ability to reduce various types of pain, including arthritis, and chronic inflammation. You can read this “How does CBD reduce inflammation to learn more about CBD and inflammation. 

CBD vs. THC for Sleep

CBD has the potential to promote better sleep patterns which makes it alluring for those who are suffering from insomnia or sleep disturbances. Our body’s ECS system plays a vital role in regulating sleep. CBD can interact with it to reduce anxiety and stress, which are common contributors to sleep problems. 
Conversely, THC is more complex than CBD in terms of sleep issues. If lower doses are taken, THC induces drowsiness, which potentially helps with insomnia. However, higher doses of THC can do the opposite. It may disrupt sleep patterns and lead to fatigue upon waking. Also, it can affect your dreams and sleep quality.  
Learn more about CBD Doses. Read this “Can you take too much CBD”.


How to Take THC and CBD

THC and CBD products have two types of ingestion methods: edible and topical. Edible CBD products are available in several forms such as CBD gummies, CBD syrups, CBD Capsules, and infused food like CBD candy or beverages. Of note, CBD edible takes longer to produce effects, as it must pass through the digestive system.   
Topical CBD is available in forms like CBD body rubs, balms, creams, CBD lotions, etc. For pain relief CBD topical is one of the popular choices. 

THC products can also come in the following form:  

  • Smoking or vaping 
  • Oils 
  • Tincture 
  • Edible THC (e.g., brownies)  

Note that THC or marijuana or pot, whatever you call it, isn’t recommended by medical experts to treat any health conditions on your own. You should always consult your doctor before consuming CBD or THC in any form.

CBD Vs THC: Common Side Effects

CBD and THC can have side effects. However, the side effects of these cannabinoids depend on the dosage, user’s age, gender, body weight, medications, lifestyle, and metabolism.  
Here is a list of possible side effects of CBD (Via mayoclinic):

  • Dry mouth  
  • Diarrhea 
  • Dizziness 
  • Drowsiness and fatigue  
  • Reduced appetite 

Note that these side effects are generally mild. However, if you feel any discomfort after consuming CBD products, make sure to consult with a healthcare provider. 

Consumption of THC or marijuana can lead to both short-term and long-term effects. short-term effects include (Via National Institute of Health):  

  1. Altered senses (seeing brighter colors, for example) 
  2. altered perception of time mood swings) 
  3. Impeded range of motion 
  4. Inability to think clearly and solve problems 
  5. weakened memory 
  6. hallucinations (from excessive dosages) 
  7. delusions (from high dosages) 
  8. psychosis (the risk is higher when high-potency marijuana is used frequently 

The long-term effects of taking THC can lead to severe physical and mental problems such as breathing problems, Chronic coughing (if you smoke), increased heart rate, anxiety, functional impairment, memory problems, decline in IQ, etc. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are some queries asked by searchers to learn more about the difference between THC vs CBD. We’ve answered these queries to provide you with more insights.   

1. What is CBD and THC?

CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) are both natural compounds found in the cannabis plant. They are part of a larger group of chemical compounds known as cannabinoids. However, CBD isn’t psychoactive whereas THC is responsible for making you high with its psychoactive effects.  

2. What's the difference between CBD and THC?

The main difference between CBD and THC lies in their psychoactive properties. THC is the psychoactive component responsible for the "high" associated with cannabis use, while CBD does not produce any intoxicating effects. 

3. How long do THC and CBD stay in urine? 

The duration of THC and CBD presence in urine varies depending on factors such as individual metabolism, frequency of use, and the amount consumed. Generally, THC can be detectable in urine for up to 30 days, while CBD is typically eliminated from the body within a few days. 

4. Are THC and CBD the same?

No, THC and CBD are not the same. As mentioned earlier, they are distinct cannabinoids with different effects. CBD is non-intoxicating and is often used for its potential therapeutic benefits, while THC is responsible for the psychoactive effects associated with marijuana use. 

5. What do CBD and THC do together?

When THC and CBD are used together, they can interact synergistically, producing what is commonly referred to as the "entourage effect." This means that their combined effects might be more significant than when used individually. The exact nature of this interaction and its potential benefits are still being studied by researchers. 


The Bottom Line

CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) are distinct cannabinoids from the cannabis plant. THC is responsible for the psychoactive high associated with marijuana, while CBD lacks intoxicating effects. CBD has gained popularity for potential therapeutic benefits like pain relief, anxiety reduction, and anti-inflammatory properties without causing intoxication. 

THC, with both recreational and medicinal uses, carries potential side effects and legal restrictions in many places. It's crucial to adhere to local laws and regulations regarding CBD and THC products. Ongoing research aims to understand their effects and applications better. 

Users should make informed decisions, consulting healthcare professionals for personalized advice, especially when considering medicinal use. Responsible and informed usage is essential for maximizing potential benefits and minimizing risks associated with THC and CBD. 



1. Fletcher, Jenna. “CBD vs. THC: Differences, Benefits, and Effects.” https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325871

2. Watson, Stephanie. “How Medical Marijuana Works, and Which Conditions It Treats.” https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/medical-marijuana-faq

3. “Use of Cannabidiol for the Treatment of Anxiety: A Short Synthesis of Pre-Clinical and Clinical Evidence - PMC.” PubMed Central (PMC), https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7480724/

4. Bauer, Brent. “CBD: Safe and Effective? - Mayo Clinic.” Mayo Clinic, 6 Dec. 2022, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/expert-answers/is-cbd-safe-and-effective/faq-20446700

5. Abuse, National Institute on Drug. “Cannabis (Marijuana) DrugFacts | National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).” National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institute on Drug Abuse, 24 Dec. 2019, https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/cannabis-marijuana