CBD Research  -  How CBD Works
Difference between THC and CBD



With CBD making the news on a weekly basis, many people are waking up to its potential.


That leads to a mad rush online to understand what it is.


  • Does it actually work?
  • What does research say?
  • Who made up some of these terms?

Eventually, the question comes up...

How is CBD different from THC!?


Many people new to CBD are apprehensive because they associate it with Marijuana.


This is especially true for older people who are really looking for longevity, health issues, and wellness aids.


CBD definitely fits that bill, but again...is it from Marijuana?


What exactly is Cannabis versus Marijuana?


So confusing!


Let's clear some of the air (really bad pun).


You can jump right to the CBD only products (legal in all States) here:


find affordable and quality cbd isolate online with zero thc


You can jump right to a section here working our way down:


We're going to learn about the difference between CBD and THC.


Let's get started!

What Is The Cannabis Plant Family

Cannabis is the formal scientific name for a family of plans.


There are three species:

  • Sativa
  • Indica
  • Ruderalis


They all have different profiles (height, length of leaves, etc).


Originally, you could gain some idea of the substances found in a plant by its species and look but not anymore.

They have been cross-bred so much, all bets are off.


The key point is that these plants contain natural substances call cannabinoids.

The two most well known are THC and CBD.


We'll jump to that in a bit but first some housekeeping (because it's been messy online!)

What Is the Difference Between Hemp And Marijuana

Terms are thrown around all the time and used and misused constantly.


First...Hemp versus Marijuana.


They both refer to a member of the Cannabis plant family.


The name difference is really a slang and legal distinction.

If a Cannabis plant has THC over .3%, it's might be called marijuana and is illegal at the Federal level.

Some states have chosen not to enforce this and more States are adding to this list.


If a plant from the cannabis family has THC under .3%, it's generally deemed as "hemp" or "industrial" hemp.


So...the amount of THC is what matters!


This makes sense (in an upside-down kind of way) since THC-heavy products are still classified as illegal federally.


Why is that?


Let's look at the two major cannabinoids found in cannabis.

What Is CBD?

CBD is a dominant cannabinoid out of over 100 present naturally in cannabis plants.

There's a great deal of research going on to investigate potential health benefitting qualities.


You can read more about CBD in our Beginner's Guide to CBD or How Does CBD Work.


The better bet is to check out or CBD by Health Issue List here.


It's exploding in use and popularity.


We're very excited about its potential.


Here's the key point for our discussion...

CBD is NOT psychoactive. It does not create a "high" feeling or euphoria (feeling of joy).


After years of scrutiny, the Federal Government has decided to treat it like a supplement or food item.


Not a drug!


You can read about CBD's safety here.


Now...on to THC.

What Is THC?

THC is the psychoactive substance in Cannabis.


It's the chemical that causes a "high" feeling and potentially other mood-altering effects.

THC amounts over .3% make a product illegal Federally.


Some states have legalized THC heavy products for medicinal and for recreational use.

Make sure to check the legal status in your State.

All the products compared and reviewed on this site are THC free or have THC below the .3% level.


That isn't to say that THC is absent of any positive effects.


More research needs to be done.


Both for good and bad outcomes.


There are still questions on THC and:

  • Habit-forming behavior
  • Psychotic behavior (although recent research points to a reversal of cause-effect there)
  • Motivational effects
  • Adverse reactions such as anxiety and paranoia.


Until we get better research on this, we're sticking to CBD which doesn't have this profile.


The negatives of Marijuana stem from the THC levels present in the particular plant.


So..CBD and THC are cousins but very different (as cousins usually are).


What family are they in when it comes to the body?

What Is The Endocannabinoid System

Both CBD and THC interact with the endocannabinoid system.

"Endo" just means internal.


It's a system we all have in our bodies which affect many other systems:

  • Endocrine system – hormones
  • Immune system
  • Nervous system – neurotransmitters
  • Cardiovascular system


The system runs far and wide in the body.


Here's a quick visual:


how does CBD work


CBD and THC (as well as the other cannabinoids) affect this system.


They don't actually plug into the receptors but they do affect activity at the local receptors.

There are actually two types of receptors in the system:

  • CB1 – found primarily in the brain and central nervous system
  • CD2 – found primarily through the rest of the body

The current theory is that the endocannabinoid system works to balance the other systems mentioned above.


It's really fascinating, and you can geek out all day at our How does CBD Work page.


Very interesting research going on there!


Back to CBD versus THC.


How do they differ in this system?

How Does CBD And THC Work On The Endocannabinoid System

CBD and THC have slightly different chemical compositions.

  • Due to this, THC primarily interacts with CB1 receptors (brain and central nervous system).
  • CBD primarily interacts with CD2 receptors (rest of the body)


This partially explains why they have such different effects within a person.

THC has more effects on mood such as the "high" feeling.


It can also have effects on pain which is why many people use it.


There can be some downsides to this interaction:

  • Effects on dopamine system which controls motivation over longer-term
  • Adverse effects such as paranoia, anxiety, and lethargy


This is partially why it was made illegal in the US.


CBD doesn't have these effects!


Its interaction is primarily with the CB2 receptors.


This allows it to interact significantly with the immune system, endocrine system, and other important bodily systems.


Check out the Beginner's Guide to CBD for info on what it does.


There's a flurry of activity on CBD now as it exhibits some pretty remarkable attributes.


list of CBD benefits


Every new piece of research points to one aspect of its work in the body.


These two different ways of affecting the endocannabinoid system have trickled down (rightly or wrongly) to how our government views THC versus CBD.

CBD Versus THC – Legality In The US

Here's the net net.

If a plant of the cannabis family has over .3% THC, it is Federally illegal.


Some states have made it legal for medicinal and/or recreational use.


That doesn't mean the Feds are in agreement!


What about CBD.

If the CBD is derived from plants with under .3% THC (legally called "Industrial Hemp"), the CBD is legal in all 50 States.

find affordable and quality cbd isolate online with zero thc


You can even buy it online here:

There are serious questions as to whether THC should be illegal when alcohol is legal (and far more destructive by many counts)


That's a question for legislators and it's definitely changing.


We really need more research on THC's impact long term on the body and brain.


There's a good review of CBD legal status by State here.


There are questions to be addressed.


Addiction and long-term joy/happiness effects need to be further researched.

CBD Versus THC – Habit Forming

CBD and THC have very different effects on the body.

CBD has shown no record of becoming habit-forming.


There is no "normalization" or gradual lessening of feeling its impact.


In fact, you rarely get a "feeling" from CBD.


More of a lessening of other feelings (such as anxiety, negative thoughts, pain, etc).


THC has some questions to answer.


Long term THC use has been implicated in affecting the Dopamine or motivation area of the brain.


Basically to make it respond to THC more!


That's not great. It's the basis of addiction in the brain.


We need to understand better what is going on here and that requires research.


In fact, CBD is showing benefits to address THC addiction (more here).


Net-net...CBD is not habit-forming!

CBD Versus THC – Psychoactive (Creates "High" Feeling)

This is probably the single reason why CBD and THC have such different treatment under the law.

THC creates a "high" feeling or a sense of euphoria similar to other illegal drugs (and legal drugs such as alcohol).


This is the so-call "recreational" reason to take in THC.


CBD does not create this effect on the brain...


Which makes sense since it interacts with receptors in the body primarily.

In fact, CBD can block or remediate (take away) the high effect of THC!


There's another aspect that needs to be researched between THC and CBD effects...




There are conflicting reports on whether early and chronic use of THC can lead to schizophrenia or psychosis.


A follow-up bit of research turned it around and found that maybe people who are prone to psychosis are drawn to marijuana (THC).


This needs to be cleared up.

Conversely, CBD has shown remarkable ability to normalize brain activity in the three regions that go haywire during psychotic breaks!


Read that again.


They gave CBD to people who were pre-psychotic and then they put them in an MRI.


The brain regions suspect for showing irregular activity came back into balance.

The doctors then rated many of the people who had CBD as not diagnosable as psychotic!


Learn all about this study at our CBD and psychosis and schizophrenia page here.


This is AMAZING and needs to be further studied.


Add to this the potential for anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders!



  • Jury is still out on THC
  • CBD has its verdict...very positive!

A recent study showed that 80% of the positive effects that people get from using Marijuana may come from the CBD present.


Meaning...they might just be self-medicating with the CBD and getting the THC as a side-note.


You can get just the CBD now!

CBD Versus THC And Drug Test

Drug tests are very common for employment and other uses.


THC can cause you to fail a drug test.


It will show on the panel.

CBD products (with NO THC) will not cause you to fail a drug test.


We want to make sure to use good brands that have 3rd-party testing for THC levels.


Keep in mind that many "full-spectrum" CBD products might contain THC up to .3% and that can make you fail a drug test!


You can find those here:


find affordable and quality cbd isolate online with zero thc

CBD Versus THC And Sleep

CBD may help with sleep but it doesn't have the effects of a sedative.


This mechanism isn't completely understood, but the endocrine system (hormones) is integral to good sleep (cortisol, melatonin, etc).


That's a good place to start!

We have many women in perimenopause and menopause respond that CBD was the only way they could sleep through the night!


Let us know your CBD story here. We'll keep it anonymous but it can help others!


THC on the other hand may have a more sedative effect.


Again, THC is still not federally legal, but common use of it (where legal) is to help with sleep.


See above for potential downsides.


Learn all about full-spectrum CBD versus isolate here.


You can compare CBD products here to see if they have full-spectrum.

CBD Versus THC And Pain

Both CBD and THC are reported to help with pain.


You can see the research on CBD and pain here.


In States where it is legal, you typically see a ration of CBD to THC in products.


CBD should also help with pain by itself, especially when applied topically.


What about the interaction between CBD and THC?


Let's look at two simple ways they interact (much is still needed to be known!)

Do You Need THC To Activate CBD

Anecdotally, many people that use cannabinoids for pain swear that THC activates the CBD, especially for pain.


It partially depends on what your using CBD for and IF legal in your State.


Nerve pain, PTSD, and similar issues seem to respond better to a combination. although CBD by itself has so many benefits.


There's not a lot of research to this effect, however.  Check out full summary of whether you need THC to activate CBD here.


Pain associated with inflammation (most of our modern diseases) responds well to CBD.


If it's legal in your state, make sure to look at the ratio.


Here's the rule of thumb:

  • If CBD to THC ratio is 1:1, you should not be impaired (dosage dependent)
  • If CBD to THC ratio is 10:1, you would feel no effect (high or mood) from the THC
  • There are products with 20:1 and even 30:1 on the market where legal.


The products we review have now THC or have THC below .3%.

Does CBD Block THC?

The various cannabinoids might interact with each other in the body.


They can augment or offset each other.

CBD works very well to block some of the psychoactive effects of THC by blocking its metabolism in the liver.

It's the metabolites (leftovers from liver) of THC that create the "high" and other psychoactive effects.


CBD binds to these liver receptors and therefore offsets these effects of THC.

That's why the ratio mentioned above is so important.

Recreational cannabis can have much higher levels of THC versus CBD.


That results in the "high" feeling and other positive/negative effects.


CBD works as a calming agent while THC can have a very different effect.

In fact, CBD can be used to mitigate the adverse effects of THC in the body and brain.


The products we review have a THC level below .3% with very high CBD levels.


In terms of isolate, it's almost all CBD!


You can see those products here:

find affordable and quality cbd isolate online with zero thc


Learn all about THC versus CBD here:


CBD versus THC or cannabis for anxiety
Is CBD effective without THC

What Is Full-Spectrum CBD

This requires its own article! (Full spectrum versus Isolate CBD)

Basically, full-spectrum CBD means more of the plant makes it into the product (except for THC).


There are all kinds of cohorts to CBD.

  • Other Cannabinoids such as CBN, CBG
  • Different variants of CBD (CBDa, etc)
  • Terpenes
  • Flavanoids
  • Minerals


Full Spectrum allows these other potentially beneficial plant compounds to make it into the final product.

They call it the "Entourage" effect.


The theory is that the compounds on their own are not nearly as effective as together.


Check out the article above to see what research says about this purported "effect".

How To Compare CBD Products

First thing...check out the CBD Comparison and Review here.


We lined up all the major brands side by side based on:

  • Safety
  • Quality of CBD
  • Cost
  • Company ease of use


It's really the place to start.


A large number of CBD brands on the market aren't great.

In fact, a wholesaler we spoke with off-record said they were "Trash".

  • Diluting CBD
  • Using bad source plants
  • Pesticides
  • Heavy Metals
  • Bacteria or mold
  • Solvents


This is supposed to be used for health so...let's make sure we're not taking that stuff in!


3rd-Party Testing is paramount here!


Check out the How to Buy CBD article here for more info.

How To Buy CBD Only Products

Check our CBD Buyer's Guide.


We'll go through:

  • How to buy CBD online
  • Is CBD through a dispensary different than online
  • Can I buy CBD through Amazon
  • Important requirements when buying CBD
  • Can I buy organic CBD oil
  • Which brand of CBD should I buy
  • What type of CBD should I buy
  • What dosage of CBD should I buy
  • How to get the best price CBD online


You can always access our screened CBD products here:


find affordable and quality cbd isolate online with zero thc


Of course, we're happy to help with any questions.

New Research Updates for CBD versus THC:

Teen brain volume affected by 1-2 uses of cannabis with THC: details here

Shop and Compare CBD Oils here for brands with 3rd-party testing