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CBD vs. THC - What is the difference?

21/04/2020 6 MIN. READ Alyssha Bal
21/04/2020 6 MIN. READ Alyssha Bal


What is the difference between THC and CBD?

If you smoke or vape cannabis, you’ve probably come across the term “terpenes” at some point. But what exactly is a terpene? Well, first of all, they’re not only found in cannabis but in many other plants as well. They’re the powerful organic compounds that can affect the taste and smell of the plants, and they hold a myriad of capabilities. These aromatic compounds found in many plants and even some insects.

There are at least 100 identified terpene found in the cannabis plant and terpenes can also interact with the receptors in your body’s endocannabinoid system. They have the ability to modify the effects of CBD and THC, and other active cannabinoids found In the cannabis plant.

CBD vs. THC: Two substances, one origin

The demand for CBD is growing at an increasing rate. However, uncertainty in respect to legality and effects is also growing. It’s therefore time to take a closer look to see why CBD is literally on everyone’s lips and why cannabidiol (CBD) has nothing in common with the controversial reputation of the cannabis plant.

CBD vs. THC - What is the difference?

  1. CBD Explanation
  2. THC Explanation
  3. What are the medical differences between THC and CBD?
  4. In which products can CBD be found?
  5. Does the police in Germany check only for THC or also for CBD? Is CBD detectable?

1. CBD Explanation

One plant - two effects: More than 113 cannabinoids are currently known to be present in the cannabis plant. The two best known ones are CBD and THC. So far, so good. CBD (abbreviation for Cannabidiol) the non-psychotropic cannabinoids found cannabis. Although their chemical formula is the same, their atoms are arranged differently. The effect? Unlike THC, CBD does not cause a psychotropic effect. There’s no big high feeling. No laughing fits. But also: no red eyes and no worries. That's the most obvious difference between CBD and THC: it won't make you high, however it is psychoactive. THC and CBD are both mood-altering substances, however CBD is mood altering in the same way a cup of coffee is mood-altering, it may give you an extra pep in your step, but it certainly won't make you stoned. In fact, if you consume too much THC, CBD can come to your rescue and bring you back down to earth. What remains is a highly effective natural remedy, mainly in combination with terpenes, with the license to cure. What are terpenes? - This way.

The CBD found in CBD oils are derived directly from the hemp plant, which is related to the medicinal cannabis plants which contain higher levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, but it’s not exactly the same plant. Hemp-derived CBD contains negligible amounts of THC, but not enough to product any psychotropic effects. This variety of high-CBD-low-THC producing cannabis is known as Industrial hemp. The high THC and low CBD variety of cannabis is sometimes referred to as "marijuana" but marijuana is simply a slang term.

2. THC Explanation

THC is one of the most well-known cannabinoids when it comes to cannabis. But let’s get to the facts. First of all, it's not just called "THC"; the full form of the name is Tetrahydrocannabinol. It’s the chemical compound in the cannabis plant and has a psychotropic effect. It was discovered by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam 50 years ago. Sometimes referred to as the “father" of cannabis, he’s the chemist responsible for isolating THC. This discovery would eventually jumpstart the medical revolution and open the debate around cannabis for medicinal use.

There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding THC, its use, and potential benefits. THC stimulates brain cells and interacts with cannabinoid receptors to release dopamine, create euphoria, and it interferes with how information is processed in the hippocampus (that's the reason for being forgetful while high).

For many regular cannabis smokers, the main benefit of THC is that it gets you stoned. However, research has shown that the relaxing feeling, appetite stimulant, and laughter can potentially be used for medical therapy treatments. These discoveries in research are exactly what sparked the debate for medical cannabis legalisations in countries around the world. At the time of writing this, 40 countries and 33 states in the United States have decided to allow the use of cannabis for medical treatment of certain conditions.

Cannabis polarises. To some, it’s harmless. To others, it’s addictive and makes you stupid. Plus there's the whole debate about driving after smoking cannabis. Some enjoy the feeling of being high from THC, while others who would prefer to enjoy cannabis without the high sensation use hemp derived CBD. Some people use both CBD and THC, depending on their mood. CBD and THC products can be used separately or together at the same time.

3. What are the medical differences between THC and CBD?

The psychoactive effect of CBD oil, food products, and cannabidiol capsules is far less than that of THC. Nevertheless, both cannabinoids have similar medicinal benefits.

There are indications that CBD can be more effective for inflammation and neuropathic pain than traditional medications. THC is achieving greater success with treating muscle spasticity, and some researchers suspect that THC may have greater health benefits for humans than is currently known. But to what extent THC may be a sheep in wolf's clothing requires further research.

In a nutshell: CBD products can offer as many useful properties as THC, with the advantage of not producing mind-altering effects.

Side effects of THC and CBD

Let’s be clear: The side effects of THC are significantly more than those of CBD. First of all, THC shows acute side effects such as memory loss and longer reaction time. Not exactly a walk in the park. In case of consuming too much THC, there can be a risk of anxiety or paranoia for those who are not used to stronger doses. The best practice is to start with a low dose, and slowly dose up until the desired affect is achieved. If someone who is not used to consuming THC takes too much in the first dose, the psychotropic feeling can be overwhelming for them.

The side effects of CBD, on the other hand, are relatively minor. Some people might feel dryness in their mouth, drowsiness, a decreased appetite or dizziness. CBD and THC have similar side effects for those who are not used to consuming cannabinoids and should be taken with the same practice mentioned above: start low and slowly dose higher until the desired effect is achieved.

4. In which products can CBD be found?

Searching through the variety of CBD products is like browsing Netflix. First, you have to realise which category you’re interested in, and then you have to find the right movie - sorry, the right strength or flavour. Here’s a guide:

  • CBD oil: When taken in the form of drops, the oil’s dosage can be easily adjusted and acts particularly fast.
  • CBD capsules: Practical when you’re out and about, simple to dose and well tolerated.
  • CBD diffuser and vape pen: Available in various flavours, these diffusers and vape pens are always offering new, intensive and balanced taste experiences. Conventional e-liquids for e-cigarettes are often also offered.
  • Foodstuffs: CBD in food is popular, tastes good and offers all traditional benefits of cannabidiol at the same time.
  • CBD cream, gel, or other topicals: The anti-inflammatory and antibiotic effect of CBD gels and creams is not only suitable for helping athletes with better regeneration, but also offers pain relief for muscle and joint problems.

Note: CBD and THC can be found in full-spectrum CBD products. This doesn't mean that if you take CBD products that contain both cannabinoids you will be high, because the amount of THC found in most CBD oils is less than 0.2%. The reason CBD and THC are found in full-spectrum CBD products is because there are trace amounts of THC in industrial hemp, however it's not enough to produce a psychotropic effect.

    5. Does the police in Germany only check for THC or also for CBD? Is CBD detectable?

    There’s no need to worry about your ability to drive when taking CBD. After all, you’re not getting behind the wheel stoned. Your driving licence is safe. If you’ve only consumed isolated CBD, a traffic-control drug test, usually a urine test, will show a negative result. In theory, it is possible to detect CBD, but since cannabidiol is legal, it’s not considered drug use subject to prosecution.

    The consumption of THC, however, is a different matter. Very different. The laws surrounding THC and driving are not that straightforward. The fact is that it's not safe to drive when intoxicated. Therefore, it's a no-brainer that if you're stoned you shouldn't be behind the wheel. There's no way for police to test if you are driving while high. A blood test can be done for THC, however if you've consumed THC in the past week it will still come up a positive test. This is the reason driving laws with respect to THC consumption are complicated. Anyone caught behind the wheel after taking cannabis (and it is visibly obvious such as red eyes, smell, and reckless driving) is liable to lose his/her licence. Would you like to learn more about the legal status of CBD in Germany? This way then: CBD Legal position

    To Sum Things Up...

    CBD and THC have some similarities and differences. First, they're both cannabinoids. They both have the exact same molecular structure: and they both interact with neurotransmitters in your brain. CBD and THC also both have psychoactive effects, they’ve both both been studied for medicinal use, and they both come from the cannabis plant.

    The differences are that CBD is non-psychotropic, meaning it can't get you high. In fact, CBD can even counter some of the unpleasant side effects that can come from too much THC consumption. That being said, the cannabinoids work well together and have the ability to enhance each other.


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