What's the difference between THC and CBD and what are their known qualities?

There are so many abbreviations and new terms used to describe cannabis compounds and products to someone not familiar with the industry who is interested in finding out more or wanting to try hemp products for the first time it can as mind-bending as the very reputation the plant holds.

In this article, we aim to describe, in layman’s terms, the main differences between THC and CBD, to avoid any further confusion on these widely used abbreviations. We will also touch on some of the said medicinal uses of CBD and THC and offer some background into the latest developments concerning them.


CBD and THC – What’s the difference?

These are the most well-known and widely researched cannabis compounds which are known as cannabinoids. To date, there has been a total of 113 cannabinoids isolated from the cannabis plant. The clearest difference between these two most famous cannabinoids is that THC is psychotropic, basically the element that works to get you high. However, there are other more subtle differences. Not that you're likely to retain this information (especially after a dose of THC), but just in case you have interested these abbreviations stand for…

  • CBD – Cannabidiol
  • THC - Tetrahydrocannabinol

Both are famous for being the most widely abundant cannabinoids found in cannabis and as the legalisation of medicinal cannabis gradually takes hold around the world, we are finding out more and more about the known and potential benefits of these compounds and as such, we are now becoming more open to the opportunities they offer.


How does CBD and THC interact with our bodies?

THC and CBD are known as phytocannabinoids, as are all of the cannabinoid compounds isolated from the cannabis plant. However, all humans and animals have endogenous cannabinoids which are produced naturally in the bodies of humans and animals. This system is known as the endocannabinoid system, is a biological system of neurotransmitters that bind cannabinoid receptors. Little is still understood about our endocannabinoid system however research shows that it plays a role in assisting and regulating our…

  • immune system
  • appetite
  • cognitive processes
  • sleep patterns
  • pain sensation
  • mood
  • female reproductive system
  • and of course, mediating the effects of cannabis!

This fascinating system is part of our anatomy, so you don’t have to consume cannabis to find endocannabinoids in your body!

So how do cannabinoids interact with our endocannabinoid system? We know of two main endocannabinoid protein receptors...

  • CB1 – occur mainly in our central nervous system
  • CB2 – occur mainly in our peripheral nervous system

CB1 is a G protein cannabinoid receptor that is activated by THC. THC binds to the receptor giving a biological response, which is your high.

CBD alters the CB1 receptor’s shape, thus making it harder for cannabinoids to bind to the endocannabinoid protein. This is why you do not get a high from CBD and it modulates the effects of the THC. This is beneficial to allow the therapeutic benefits of CBD to enter the body, without any of the psychotic effects that THC has.


The medicinal uses of THC and CBD

Like with our endocannabinoid system, we are still at the very beginning of understanding and harnessing the potential benefits of the cannabinoids the cannabis plant contains. The most recent published report from the world health organisation gives detail on the latest research findings of the medicinal benefits of THC and CBD.

However, as yet not all of these research findings are being put into practice and there are strict FDA and FTC regulations against the claims that companies can make when selling CBD products. Thankfully governments and health organisations all over the world are now slowly beginning to pass laws that allow for the medicinal use of some cannabinoid-based medications.


Known medicinal uses of CBD

    Known medicinal uses of THC 






    Appetite stimulant

Anti-tumor effects

    Reduces glaucoma symptoms


    Sleep aid

Inflammatory bowel disease



    Muscular spasticity

Source: World Health Organisation pre-review report 2017

http://www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/5.2_CBD.pdf /


What about the other 110 cannabinoids?

Although it is said that 113 cannabinoids have been discovered from the cannabis plant, some are so scarce that it’s hard to place a precise figure. However, in addition to the two most famous and abundant of them all, several other more frequently present cannabinoid compounds have been identified and are under research for their potential benefits. 

  • CBG - Cannabigerloic acid
  • THCV - Tetrahydrocanabivarinic acid
  • CBG - Cannabigerovarinic acid
  • CBN – Cannabinol
  • CBC – Cannabichromenic acid

 Check this diagram for some of the medicinal benefits already discovered and under continuous research from these other cannabinoids...


Medicinal Uses for Cannabinoids

Source: https://www.inmedpharma.com/science/cannabinoid_science/


This is a very exciting time in history in the cultivation of cannabis. It seems we are at the very tip of the iceberg of the potential medicinal benefits cannabinoids have on our bodies and some of us are already, luckily reaping the benefits.

For anyone wanting a foolproof guide to all term’s cannabis and hemp-related check out our glossary of hemp terminology article. You can also check out our product page to find out more about our range of hemp and cannabis products.

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