What is the difference between THC and CBD?

What is THC?

THC is the compound in cannabis that results in psychoactive effects, or the ‘high’ feeling patients may experience. While some patients enjoy the heady feeling, others prefer the medicinal benefits of cannabis without the side effects.

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What is CBD used for?

CBD, on the other hand, does not elicit the psychoactive effects produced by THC. While the majority of CBD oils or products will contain small traces of THC, it is usually below 0.3%, and patients will not experience a "high".

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THC Details


THC is rapidly absorbed through lungs after inhalation. It quickly reaches high concentration in blood. Approximately 90% of THC in blood is circulated in plasma and rest in red blood cells. Following inhalation, ▵9-THC is detectable in plasma within seconds after the first puff and the peak plasma concentration is attained within 3-10 minutes.

Chemical Properties

The primary psychoactive constituent of cannabis, delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (▵9_THC), produces a myriad of pharmacological effects in animals and humans. THC affects cannabinoid receptors which are found in brain regions that influence learning, memory, appetite, coordination, and pleasure.

Future Consideration

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of at least 85 active cannabinoids identified within the Cannabis plant. It is a major phytocannabinoid, accounting for up to 40% of the Cannabis plant's extract. Research into the effects of marijuana on the brain has been hampered by the fact that a large amount of people who use marijuana also drink alcohol, which can have their own negative effects on the brain.

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CBD Details


The cannabis plant contains more than 421 chemicals of which 61 are cannabinoids.In particular, CBD has shown promise as an analgesic, anticonvulsant, muscle relaxant, anxiolytic, antipsychotic and has shown neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant activity.

Chemical Properties

Cannabidiol is a phytocannabinoid derived from Cannabis species, which is devoid of psychoactive activity, with analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antineoplastic and chemopreventive activities.

Future Consideration

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of at least 85 active cannabinoids identified within the Cannabis plant. It is a major phytocannabinoid, accounting for up to 40% of the Cannabis plant's extract.

CBD resources

Common Questions

  • What is the chemical difference between THC and CBD?
    THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) are the two main cannabinoids found in the marijuana plant. THC binds with the cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptors in the brain. It produces a high or sense of euphoria. CBD binds very weakly, if at all, to CB1 receptors. CBD needs THC to bind to the CB1 receptor and, in turn, can help reduce some of the unwanted psychoactive effects of THC, such as euphoria or sedation.
  • Can I use THC and CBD together?
    Absolutely! Using a combination of THC and CBD can help patients experience greater benefits from medical cannabis treatment. CBD and THC have many of the same medical benefits. They can provide relief from several of the same conditions. However, CBD doesn’t cause the euphoric effects that occur with THC. Some people may prefer to use CBD because of the lack of this side effect.
  • What is the "entourage" effect?
    Scientific research has found that using THC and CBD together can produce greater effects than using either compound on its own. Studies have shown using a combination of the two cannabinoids can help conditions such as epilepsy and chronic pain due to cancer. Every cannabinoid and terpene present in full-spectrum CBD works synergistically to enhance all other components so CBD users can experience optimal health benefits.
  • What if the THC makes me feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed?
    You are not alone. You can limit THC’s Psychoactive Effects With CBD. Many patients who are beginners to medical cannabis treatment raise the concern about the psychoactive effects that THC produces. They may not want to experience the possible side effects like anxiety or mental impairment and anxiety. Fortunately, CBD has been shown that it can help counteract the psychoactive effects of THC.
  • Can I fail a drug test due to CBD use?
    Unfortunately, yes. While CBD has a very low level of the active ingredient that is tested for in drug testing (eg. THC), it can still trigger positive tests. Very small amounts of THC present in the material that CBD is extracted from can get into the CBD oil in high enough amounts to result in a positive drug test. Always err on the side of caution and refrain from using any products that contain CBD if you are concerned about drug testing.
  • Do physician recommend THC or CBD?
    There is no consensus winner. Each substance has its benefits and drawbacks. One thing medical cannabis users often do early on is listen to physician recommendations and experiment with different products until they find the right fit. It is not an exact science like pharmaceutical drugs so there is a little bit more of trial and error to find what works best for each person.
  • Want to learn more?

    Check out our medical cannabis education section

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