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What Differentiates CBD from THC

I must admit it I am surprised by the misconceptions some still have surrounding CBD, considering its increased popularity.  CBD (cannabidiol) is still heavily associated with THC which I guess I can understand as they are cousins from the same “family”, but the simple truth is that CBD can’t get you high just like “near beer” can’t get you drunk.

While hemp has beneficial industrial applications such as rope, clothing, textiles and even soap, when you hear about its health benefits, we’re primarily talking about CBD extracted from hemp. Hemp is a CBD-enriched plant with very little THC concentration, while the opposite can be said for the marijuana plant, which is high in THC and has minimal amounts of CBD.  Surprisingly, CBD and THC have basically the same chemical formula, but their atoms are in a different arrangement, and this slight variance causes THC to create a psychoactive (“high”) effect.  CBD possesses all the health benefits and more, but without the euphoric after effects.

The main takeaway here is that CBD and THC share many similarities and hold many of the same health benefits, but they have one very distinct difference-

–       THC provides health benefits with psychoactive effects.

–       CBD provides multiple health benefits without any “high” effects

 Let’s delve a little deeper….

The Chemistry of CBD and THC

There is a total of 113 known distinct cannabinoids isolated from cannabis, all exhibiting a variation of traits in how they interact and affect the human body, of which the most prominent two are cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

CBD and THC are very similar to one another in their chemical arrangements.  So similar in fact, they technically have identical molecular compositions-

  • 21 carbon atoms
  • 30 hydrogen atoms
  • 2 oxygen atoms

The difference between them lies in the alignment of these molecules, and it’s the slight arrangement differential in a single atom (see diagram above) that allows them to behave differently in how they impact the human body.

The Endocannabinoid System

The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is the bodies largest self-regulatory system. Your body actually produces cannabinoids, of which CBD and THC are both chemically akin, allowing them to interact with your endocannabinoid CB1 and CB2 receptors.  When this interaction occurs, neurotransmitters are released in your brain, relaying messages to the cells that are controlled by your ECS, including mood, appetite, sleep, pain, hormones, and the immune system.  By having disparate molecular structures, CBD and THC interact with your cannabinoid receptors differently.  While THC will actually bind to the CB1 receptors in your brain, creating a “high” or euphoric effect, CBD doesn’t, thus eliminating any chance of psychoactive effects from its use altogether.


Both THC and CBD have their place in the world of medicine, and both can be very beneficial based on your ailments. The fact that CBD provides these health benefits without changing your mental state make it a safe solution towards your personal well-being.

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