Though the title of this article seems to set the stage for a battle of, well, molecular proportions, we don’t intend to say that either THC or CBD is any better than the other.

In reality, they’re too different to directly compare.

You’ve probably heard for yourself about the many differences between THC and CBD. THC stands for tetrahydrocannabinol, and it’s the plant compound responsible for cannabis-induced euphoria.

CBD, on the other hand, has emerged into mainstream awareness a little more recently thanks to an incredible array of purported health benefits. What’s the compound all about, exactly, and why are so many people now preferring CBD over THC? We’re glad you asked.


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A (Short) History of Cannabinoids

Cannabis research really picked up in the 1940s. It was then that the plant’s primary active ingredients — fittingly enough called cannabinoids — were discovered. CBD was identified first (though THC dominated the attention of researchers until recently).

These unique compounds were soon found to be a normal part of the cannabis plant’s metabolism. Helpful to cannabis itself, it turns out that they’re also helpful to us.

From a molecular standpoint there are more similarities between CBD and THC than differences. Both cannabis compounds share the same basic molecular structure and have virtually the same molecular mass. Both can be abbreviated as C21H30O2.

Their difference lies in CBD’s carboxyl group. In layman’s terms, the CBD molecule’s shape means it doesn’t fit so perfectly into physiological receptors. And that makes all the difference — as we’ll soon see.

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Different Plants, Different Effects

THC and CBD come from different species of the same plant family, so it’s only natural that they can be taken in many of the same ways. Both compounds can easily be smoked, vaped, ingested, or even applied topically.

In today’s market, there’s something for everybody! Getting the cannabinoid you want is really just a question of source:

THC comes from high-THC cannabis, which is sometimes called ‘marijuana’. Different strains of cannabis have different cannabinoid and terpene levels, so some will be stronger while others might be mellower and more relaxing.

CBD comes from industrial hemp, which is really just low-THC cannabis. Indeed, cannabis has to contain .3% THC or less to be considered industrial hemp; with this classification it’s legal nationwide. This low-THC limit also ensures that hemp definitely won’t be getting anyone high.

Things take a distinct turn for the different upon ingestion, though. Cannabis and hemp may look, smell, and even smoke similarly, but their physiological impacts are anything but…

THC from cannabis quickly produces euphoria and other highly psychotropic impressions. That’s because it binds directly to CB1-type endocannabinoid receptors, which the brain is absolutely full of. Areas like the hippocampus, which oversees memory formation, are ‘hit’ especially hard. This may explain why THC seems useful for those with chronic anxiety or even PTSD.

CBD from hemp, on the other hand, doesn’t produce euphoria. But it’s not exactly non-psychoactive either, though that’s what many people mistakenly claim. Instead CBD may gently uplift one’s mood by boosting the production of internal cannabinoids like anandamide.

CBD may also cause changes in CB1 receptor shape and size, which tends to have a modulating effect on THC and other cannabinoids. Overall, CBD simply helps the endocannabinoid system work better, resulting in a happier, healthier, more hopeful you.


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Important Similarities...and Important Differences

So far we’ve talked a lot about how different CBD and THC are. And that’s true — they are! — but it’s important to appreciate the amazing similarities between molecules, too.

Here’s a practical similarity we haven’t mentioned yet: regardless of whether you take CBD or THC, you can take steps to ensure that whatever product you choose is pure and high-quality.

When it comes to CBD, it’s important to check your product for 3rd-party lab testing. Sometimes companies obtain their hemp from dubious sources, so be wary of any product or brand that doesn’t cite their test results.

It’s also a good idea to look into the importance of full spectrum CBD, which simply refers to CBD that’s been extracted along with the other cannabinoids and terpenes it comes with in nature. Full spectrum CBD may contain as many as a hundred other unique plant compounds, which synergize together to become stronger than the sum of their parts. Scientists call it the entourage effect.

For those on a quest to find the best THC products, the path looks a little different.

Similarities in health benefits between CBD and THC abound. Both compounds have been shown beneficial for those with anxiety. THC’s impact may be a little more biphasic, but its extra strength could be good for some people.

THC also shows promise in the areas of pain relief and muscle relaxation. But once again, so does CBD…so it depends on what one specifically needs.

And since determining what’s best can be tricky, we’d encourage you to consult with your doctor or another health professional before using either type of cannabis. It’d also be a good idea to do some diligent research on your State’s laws. THC-rich cannabis may not be legal where you live, but you never know, as cannabis-related laws are constantly changing.

In the meantime we’ve made a chart that should help you make sense of the common similarities and differences between CBD and THC:


THC CBD
Mental Effects Strong, Immediate Subtle, Indirect
Therapeutic Uses

Reduced pain

Reducedperception of stress 

Improved neuroplasticity

Safer carbohydrate metabolism

Reduced inflammation

Reduced stress

Improved neuro-selectivity

Improved fat metabolism

Modes of Action

CB1

Serotonin (5-HT2A)

CB2, GPCR 55, TRPV1

Serotonin (5-HT1A)