Cannabis Science, CBD


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Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are two well-known cannabinoids found in cannabis. According to Healthline, they’re also the most prominent cannabinoids. CBD and THC do not have the same concentrations among the various types of weed plants. Hemp, for example, has very low amounts of THC and higher amounts of CBD. However, cannabis has a higher concentration of THC. Healthline states that the average cannabis strain nowadays contains about 12% THC. If you’re curious about how they affect our bodies, their side effects and their benefits, we’ve done a CBD vs THC comparison for you!

Photo: Unsplash

CBD vs THC: Chemical Structure

Even though there are many differences between THC and CBD, they’re actually chemically similar. In terms of their chemical makeup, Healthline says, “Both CBD and THC have the exact same molecular structure: 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms.” It’s the slight difference in their chemical structure that affects the effects they have on us.

CBD vs THC Photo of the chemical structure of THC and CBD. Source: Research Gate

CBD vs THC: Relationship

Both cannabinoids have a very interesting relationship. Scientists believe that CBD may actually work against THC and dull its effects. On the other hand, they may work with other cannabinoids in a phenomenon known as the entourage effect.

CBD vs THC Effects 

One of the main differences between CBD and THC is the effect they produce. CBD is not psychoactive which means you won’t feel high. On the other hand, THC is the main psychoactive chemical in cannabis and so it will most definitely get you high.

They’re both similar to our body’s endocannabinoids which is why they bind to our endocannabinoid receptors. Endocannabinoids are neurotransmitters that deliver messages. According to Very Well Mind, “Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that relay signals between nerve cells in the body. They play an important role in a wide range of functions including sleep, pain, appetite, mood, and the immune system.” 

Since these cannabinoids bind to the endocannabinoid receptors, they cause effects that can affect sleep, pain, appetite, mood etc. Here’s what you can expect. 

Effects of CBD

As mentioned before, CBD doesn’t produce psychotropic effects and binds weakly to the CB1 receptor (if at all). As a matter of fact, it can lessen the intensity of some of THC’s more unpleasant effects. According to Healthline, “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.” 

CBD does have some side effects in some people which may be unpleasant. Healthline lists them as:

  • appetite changes
  • fatigue
  • weight loss
  • dizziness
  • diarrhea

Medicinal benefits of CBD

CBD is perfect for people who want certain medicinal benefits without experiencing a high. For those with mental issues such as anxiety and depression, CBD is a great choice. CBD is also great for pain and inflammation and is trusted by athletes to alleviate those conditions. CBD, according to Healthline can alleviate nausea, migraine and inflammatory bowel disease. Finally, CBD is used in the treatment of seizures. As a matter of fact, the FDA approved a drug called Epidiolex which contains CBD and is used to treat two severe forms of epilepsy. 

Effects of THC

THC binds to the CB1 receptor and produces a high as said before. THC causes the brain to release dopamine. According to Very Well Mind, dopamine is important in terms of our mood and pleasure. The article also said, “by triggering a higher-than-normal release of dopamine, THC causes people to experience feelings of euphoria.”

THC also has some less than pleasant side effects. According to Healthline that includes:

  • an increased heart rate
  • coordination problems
  • slower reaction times
  • memory loss
  • anxiety

There also milder side effects such as dry mouth and red eyes.

While Healthline admits there is no conclusive evidence that cannabis causes psychiatric disorders, “high THC use may be connected to long-term negative psychiatric effects”.

Medical benefits of THC 

It is believed that THC has some medical benefits and can help to alleviate the following conditions, according to Healthline:

  • pain
  • muscle spasticity
  • glaucoma
  • insomnia
  • low appetite
  • nausea
  • Anxiety

One tangible example of the medical benefits is the chemical dronabinol, a synthetic THC. According to Very Well Mind, drugs that contain that chemical such as Marinol and Syndros, are used to treat nausea and vomiting in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. 

CBD vs THC Edibles

Both CBD and THC can be consumed in various ways and one popular is by using edibles. If you’re looking for particular effects of THC, CBD or both, eating or drinking them is one way to get them. You can get THC in brownies and other solid foods as well as drinks. CBD edibles are popularly found in gummy form. 

THC Edibles

These edibles will get you high and if you’re new to THC it’s best to start with a smaller dose. Remember with edibles, it can take a long time to start feeling the effects. Therefore, don’t have too many at once. When you do start feeling the effects, remember they can linger for a couple of hours. While it’s near impossible to overdose on weed, some people are rushed to the emergency room due to anxiety which can pop up after consuming too much THC. 

CBD Edibles

According to Medical News Today, there are various types of CBD gummies (and other edibles). There is full-spectrum CBD which has other cannabinoids such as THC. Manufacturers may also use broad-spectrum CBD. Broad-spectrum CBD has all the other phytochemicals in cannabis and no THC. Finally, you have CBD isolate which is just CBD. You’ll just have to be careful of the manufacturer because sometimes there is THC in CBD products when the product was labeled as CBD only. 

In addition to that, research shows that CBD edibles with THC in them are better for pain management than edibles with only CBD. This is not surprising because both cannabinoids work together to produce effects. 


CBD and THC are both prominent cannabinoids in weed. They both have individual benefits and side effects but are also believed to come together to produce effects as well. They’re chemically similar but their difference accounts for the difference in how the body reacts to them. Knowing which one best suits your needs can help you make better decisions if you opt to use weed for any of its benefits.


About Trevann

Trevann is Stoner Rotation’s Jamaica-based lead writer for the Science section of our cannabis blog. She graduated with honors receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in Molecular Biology from the University of West Indies, Mona. For the last three years, she has covered some of the biggest questions around cannabis and health underpinned with research from supporting studies, medical journals and scholarly articles. Got something on your mind? You can reach her at [email protected].