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As far as we’re aware, according to leading scientists in the field, there are over 100 different cannabinoids found in the makeup of a cannabis plant.

Cannabinoids help form the genetic makeup of cannabis, with each strain boasting a unique combination of cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes to give it its specific genetics. 

Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, and Tetrahydrocannabinol, frequently referred to as THC, are the two most common compounds found within the plant.

What’s fascinating is the difference in effect that each compound has on the human mind and body. Although found in the same plant, these two couldn’t be more different. 

The effect these cannabinoids have on us is influenced by our endocannabinoid system and the body’s receptors.

Throughout this article, we’ll provide all there is to know about differentiating between CBD and THC.

This’ll include an introduction to cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system. If you aren’t an expert at this point, you soon will be. 

Cannabinoids & The Endocannabinoid System

If you didn’t already know, the human body is the home of multiple systems that dictates how our body operates.

For example, our digestive system regulates how we absorb minerals and nutrients from our food and drinks. Equally, we have our central nervous system that controls most of our body and mind functions.

We also have an endocannabinoid system with receptors that interact with cannabinoids. So let’s dive into this in a little bit more detail.

What Are Cannabinoids? 

CBD and THC are both cannabinoids, but what exactly are cannabinoids? They’re how we refer to the different compounds found in cannabis.

Over recent years, we’ve seen research and interest in the medical potential of these cannabinoids increase, and subsequently, we now know more than ever before. 

Cannabinoids are possible to isolate and consume individually, as we’ve commonly seen in many CBD and THC products today. We have seen, though, an abundance of evidence supporting the theory of the entourage effect. 

This theory states that cannabinoids, when consumed together, produce far more significant effects than when consumed individually in isolated forms. 

What Is The Human Endocannabinoid System? 

As we’ve already briefly touched upon, the human endocannabinoid system regulates how our body responds to cannabinoids as they enter our bloodstream.

The cannabinoids, in turn, influence how our cells communicate with one another. 

This is where the effects of different cannabinoids come into play. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is renowned for producing the ‘high’ commonly associated with cannabis.

CBD, or cannabidiol, has been recognized for its anti-psychotic, anti-inflammatory, and stress-relieving properties.

In the next section, we’ll go into a little more detail about exactly how these cannabinoids interact with our receptors to influence our body. 

How Do Cannabinoids Interact With Our Endocannabinoid System?

Located in our central nervous system are CB1 and CB2 receptors. These receptors are responsible for interacting with all cannabinoids that enter our bodies. 

CB1 receptors are located throughout our body and in the human brain. As a result, it binds more seamlessly with THC, creating the traditional euphoric and intoxicating effects of cannabis.

CB2 receptors, while also found in the brain, are primarily located in our immune and gastrointestinal systems.

They bind together most effectively with CBD, thus supporting cannabidiol’s supposed health and wellness benefits. 

CBD: What We Know

Despite their differing and counteractive effects, most would be surprised to learn that CBD and THC have the same chemical formula.

The difference between the two lies within the arrangement of their atoms. 

While CBD is still deemed psychoactive, it does not produce any ‘high’ you’d typically associate with cannabis.

Instead, its properties have led us to believe that it carries multiple medical benefits and therapeutic values. 

Thanks to its anti-psychotic and stress-combatting properties, CBD is a fantastic alternative to many anti-anxiety medications.

As it interacts with the receptors in the human brain, it slows down the messages being fired to the brain, which, in turn, provides a sensation of relaxation. That’s not all, though.

A study held to determine the effects of CBD on rats also provides evidence to support the notion that CBD can aid in the reduction of pain as it impacts endocannabinoid receptor activity.

While doing so, it interacts with our neurotransmitters to reduce inflammation, too. 

THC: What We Know

Contrastingly, THC is the infamous compound that causes a psychoactive ‘high’ when consumed. However, despite these psychological effects that lead to THC being used recreationally, it also carries medicinal properties. 

A study investigating the influence of THC on the suppression of pain concludes that as it interacts with the receptors in the human central nervous system, it activates pathways that cease signals of pain being sent to the brain. 

Pain reduction is just one of many medical uses for THC. These medical benefits have been recognized for years now.

THC is commonly prescribed to those suffering from sleep issues, lack of appetite, PTSD, and nausea relief. 

Now is time for the not-so-pretty side of THC. Unlike CBD, THC’s psychoactive side has always caused controversy when discussing the legality of cannabis.

In addition, there has always been concern regarding cannabis and mental health. Particularly in adolescents, the heavy usage of cannabis has been said to impair brain formation and lead to issues down the line.

With this in mind, there has been evidence showing that although there may be a link between cannabis and mental disorders, the risk falls predominantly onto those with a predisposition to these disorders regardless of their cannabis use.

Another study states that “the strongest evidence to date concerns links between marijuana use and psychiatric disorders in those with a preexisting genetic or other vulnerability.” 

A Summary

CBD and THC have a complicated relationship. As the two primary compounds found within the cannabis plant, it’s surprising to learn how different they are. Yet, they couldn’t be more different. 

The main difference between the two? In the case of CBD, Psychoactivity is a lack of psychoactivity.

THC is a psychoactive compound producing a high, whereas CBD is somewhat more medicinal and recreational.

Despite this difference, we’ve learned how the two can act together for optimum effects in stimulating our CB1 and CB2 receptors, ultimately influencing how our bodies one another when consumed together. 

Sources: 

  1. Gerano et al. (2017) – ‘Cannabidiol Is a Potential Therapeutic for the Affective-Motivational Dimension of Incision Pain in Rats’
  2.  Garth T Greenwell (2012) – ‘Medical marijuana use for chronic pain: risks and benefits
  3. Samuel T Wilkinson at al. (2014) – ‘Gone to pot – a review of the association between cannabis and psychosis’

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