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THC vs. CBD - Know The Difference



Long gone are the days where marijuana came in only variety, whatever variety was on the street. Nowadays, dispensaries are as equipped as most pharmacies to manage disease and illness, with an almost unlimited selection of medically graded products. But for those of us not accustomed to the selection, the choice can be overwhelming.


Medical grade cannabis has become increasingly scientifically dosed as it is explored for a multitude of medicinal therapies. As researchers delve deep into medical marijuana they continue to uncover more nuances to the world of cannabinoids. For the everyday user, what does the cannabinoid content even matter?  Cannabinoids matter more than you might think.


What is a Cannabinoid?


Before we uncover the differences between the two most common cannabinoids, let's first discuss cannabinoid themselves. Cannabinoids are natural compounds found in all varieties of cannabis plants. These compounds mimic similar compounds produced by our bodies. Through this uncanny similarity they are able to interact with our endocannabinoid system.


No matter which way you introduce marijuana into your system, you are essentially introducing cannabinoids. Different strains of cannabis contain different combinations of the cannabinoids, but usually, a few dozen are present. This area of research is in its infancy, but researchers are beginning to discover that every cannabinoid plays a different role within our system.




Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are two of the most commonly prescribed cannabinoids out of the dozens found within medical marijuana. Despite often being sourced from the same strain of cannabis, their similarities end there.


Arguably, THC is the cannabinoid responsible for all of marijuana’s notoriety. Out of the perhaps 60 known cannabinoids, it is the only cannabinoid responsible for the psychoactive experience. In laymen’s terms, this means it is the one that alters your state of mind and makes you stoned.


Based on current scientific understanding, the THC molecule fits directly into one of two known endocannabinoid receptors, the CB1 receptor. It fits like a hand into a glove.  Through this interaction, it activites a psychoative response within the brain. Although it may be an enjoyable experience for many people, it is also known to trigger paranoia and anxiety in others.

Despite its rather infamous nature, THC still has many important medicinal characteristics. Commonly THC heavy strains, tinctures, and isolates are prescribed for a host of different illnesses. The contemporary research is focused on the following areas of study:


  • Neuropathic pain
  • Cancer pain
  • Appetite stimulation
  • Side effects of chemotherapy such as nausea and vomiting
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Cancer treatment


The other cannabinoid which you are increasingly likely to come across is cannabidiol (CBD). It made its medical debut for the treatment of drug-resistant epilepsy in children. Unlike THC, it does not trigger any psychoactive response, and in fact has been proven to mitigate the one triggered by THC.


Researchers have yet to find a direct interaction between either of the known cannabinoid receptors and CBD, however, it does seem to have an indirect relationship with both CB1 and CB2. One of CBD's known characteristics is its ability to reduce the length and strength of a THC associated high. It does this by stimulating the CB1 receptor to release the bound THC molecule.


Much like other cannabinoids, CBD is also being pursued for a host of different health benefits. The research thus far indicates that CBD is well tolerated with almost no-known side effects. This makes CBD an acceptable therapy for a much larger portion of the population than THC, including children, seniors, and professionals. There is significant preliminary research into the following areas for CBD therapy:


  • Cancer Pain
  • Inflammation
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Cancer Treatment
  • Epilepsy


There are notable differences between all the known cannabinoids; from their different medical applications to the way they make patients feel. Knowing exactly what cannabinoids are found in your medical marijuana will work to your benefit, and help you dose correctly.  A good dispensary will be able to guide you through the nuances to THC, CBD and many of the other newly discovered cannabinoids.


Conditions for which Cannabis may be an effective treatment