How CBD Works - CBD versus THC
None of the statements on this website have been evaluated by the United States Food and Drug Administration. CBD products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. A doctor’s advise should be sought before using CBD products especially if you have a serious medical condition, use prescription medications, are pregnant, or are nursing a child.
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.
Eventually, the question comes up…
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?
Let’s clear some of the air (really bad pun).
You can jump right to the CBD only products (legal in all States) here:
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!
Cannabis is the formal scientific name for a family of plans.
There are three species:
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.
We’ll jump to that in a bit but first some housekeeping (because it’s been messy online!)
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.
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.
CBD is a dominant cannabinoid out of over 100 present naturally in cannabis plants.
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…
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.
THC is the psychoactive substance in Cannabis.
It’s the chemical that causes a “high” feeling and potentially other mood-altering effects.
Some states have legalized THC heavy products for medicinal and for recreational use.
Make sure to check the legal status in your State.
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:
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?
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:
The system runs far and wide in the body.
Here’s a quick visual:
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:
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?
CBD and THC have slightly different chemical compositions.
This partially explains why they have such different effects within a person.
It can also have effects on pain which is why many people use it.
There can be some downsides to this interaction:
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.
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.
Here’s the net net.
Some states have made it legal for medicinal and/or recreational use.
That doesn’t mean the Feds are in agreement!
What about CBD.
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 and THC have very different effects on the body.
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!
This is probably the single reason why CBD and THC have such different treatment under the law.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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:
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!
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.
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!)
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:
The products we review have now THC or have THC below .3%.
The various cannabinoids might interact with each other in the body.
They can augment or offset each other.
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.
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.
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:
Learn all about THC versus CBD here:
This requires its own article! (Full spectrum versus Isolate CBD)
There are all kinds of cohorts to CBD.
Full Spectrum allows these other potentially beneficial plant compounds to make it into the final product.
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”.
First thing…check out the CBD Comparison and Review here.
We lined up all the major brands side by side based on:
It’s really the place to start.
A large number of CBD brands on the market aren’t great.
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.
Check our CBD Buyer’s Guide.
We’ll go through:
You can always access our screened CBD products here:
Of course, we’re happy to help with any questions.
Email us your CBD story for others to learn
Dozens of Brands
“I was lost…there’s so many CBD products out there. Thank you for making this all make sense!”
“I literally lay down and I’m out. I wake one to use the bathroom and them I’m out again til morning. I almost NEVER am able to sleep like that! It’s pretty awesome”
“I feel like my body is oddly more flexible in the gym if that makes sense. I do notice that I sleep deeper.”
“CBD is the only way I get through the night. It’s been a life-saver for me. Thank you for the research!”
SEE Statement at bottom regarding FDA notification and legal statement on claims
“I love the comparison! It’s impossible to figure out what’s being offered and for how much. Thank you so much! I’ll make sure to send my CBD story to you!”
“I had no idea how important the lab results were with CBD. I won’t touch it without first seeing what’s in there now.”
“I was spending sooo much energy fighting off negative thoughts before CBD. I have so much more energy now.”
“Thank you so much for your marvelous work. I’ve told all my family members to check out the how it works page. Simple enough for even me to understand!”