The two most abundant cannabinoids found naturally in the resin of the cannabis (Cannabis sativa L.) plant are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Both the compounds interact with cannabinoid receptors found throughout the human body but have different receptor activity, function, and physiological effects.
With the increasingly legal use of medical cannabis and other cannabis products, consumer interest in alternative medicine increases. These include cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), two natural compounds found in the cannabis plant.
CBD can be obtained from hemp or leaves. Cannabis and hemp come from the Sativa plant of cannabis. Legal cannabis should not contain more than 0.3% THC. CBD is sold in the form of gums, gels, oils, additives, extracts, and other forms.
THC is the major psychoactive compound found in cannabis that causes heightened sensations. It can be used while smoking cannabis. Also available as an oil, food, tincture, capsule, and more.
Both compounds interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, but their effects are very different1.
CBD vs THC: Chemical structure
The molecular structure of CBD and THC is the same: 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms. A minor difference in the atomic arrangement determines the effect on the body.
Both THC and CBD are chemically similar to endocannabinoids in the body. This allows the molecules to interact with cannabinoid receptors.
The interaction between the molecules and the receptors results in the release of neurotransmitters in the brain. These are chemicals that carry messages between cells and play a vital role in pain, sleep, immune function, and stress.
How THC and CBD Affect the Body?
THC is the major psychoactive compound found in cannabis which plays an important role in the addiction of the drug among individuals. Humans have two types of cannabinoid receptors in the body. THC binds with the receptors in the brain that are associated with mood, pain, and other feelings. THC can help in reducing stress, depression and cancer-associated pain, but it can be addictive.
CBD doesn’t cause addiction among people as it is reported to work in conjunction with other parts of the body that are linked to feelings of well-being.
THC vs CBD: Medical benefits
There are many common medical benefits of THC and CBD. They are found to provide relief from various similar conditions. However, CBD does not lead to addiction which can be often reported to be associated with THC. Patients may also prefer CBD over THC due to the lack of side effects.
The Food and Drug Administration(FDA) has approved medicine containing CBD for treatment purposes. Many drugs based on medical cannabis are awaiting approval from the FDA23.
CBD can be used to cure conditions such as:
THC can be used to cure conditions such as:
- low appetite
- 1.Baranović G. Understanding the conformational, electronic and vibrational properties of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). Pharmacophoric similarities and differences. Journal of Molecular Structure. Published online November 2021:130945. doi:10.1016/j.molstruc.2021.130945
- 2.DiLonardo MJ. CBD vs. THC: What’s the Difference? WebMD. Published 2021. Accessed March 2022. https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/cbd-thc-difference
- 3.Holland K. CBD vs. THC: What’s the Difference? healthline. Published 2020. Accessed March 2022. https://www.healthline.com/health/cbd-vs-thc