What is CBD? How is it different from THC?

CBD is everywhere these days and for good reason – in preclinical studies, it has been shown to reduce inflammation, alleviate anxiety, stem seizures, improve homeostasis and more. It’s no wonder that so many people are looking to try CBD products. In fact, according to a recent report from Cannabis Business Executive, 40% of US adults are interested in trying CBD and women are a big part of the market.

Infographic from Cannabis Business Executive March 2019



Q. What is CBD?

CBD, short for Cannabidiol, is a specific cannabinoid. It is a non-psychoactive chemical compound extracted from Cannabis plants commonly referred to as Hemp and Marijuana. CBD is the decarboxylated form that provides therapeutic effects to the body by interacting with your internal endocannabinoid system.

To put it plainly, CBD is a specific chemical compound not too dissimilar from compounds found inside your own body, which is why it is theorized to have such a diverse range of health benefits.



Q. What is a Cannabinoid?

Wikipedia has the simplest answer. “A cannabinoid is one of a class of diverse chemical compounds that acts on cannabinoid receptors, also known as the endocannabinoid system in cells that alter neurotransmitter release in the brain.”

There are three categories of cannabinoids – phytocannabinoids (produced by plants) , endogenous cannabinoids (produced by the human body), and synthetic cannabinoids (created in a lab).

CBD is one of 110+ cannabinoids that have been identified along with THC. CBD and THC are referred to as “major cannabinoids,” however, recently scientists are exploring applications for “minor cannabinoids,” such as CBN and CBG. Major cannabinoids are considered major because Cannabis plants produce more of these Cannabinoids and there is more scientific research about these two, THC and CBD.

Cannabinoids and their potential applications, an infographic from Leafly




Q: What is the difference between THC and CBD?

CBD and THC have the same molecular structure, 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, 2 oxygen atoms, but the atoms themselves are arranged differently. This slight difference changes how THC and CBD interact with your endocannabinoid system. Why does this matter? Well, the most critical result is THC psychoactive and CBD is non-psychoactive. THC and CBD also have different potential medical applications – one may be better than another to solve your specific ailment. To understand why this happens we need to first understand how the endocannabinoid system works.

Source: https://www.thenewamsterdam.com/cbd-thc/



Q: What is the endocannabinoid system and how does CBD affect my body?

“The endocannabinoid system is a system of receptors that runs through the central nervous system and affects physiological processes like pain, mood, memory, and appetite. […] The receptors are mostly found in the brain and nervous system and control immune system functions and how the body responds to pain.” (“What Is CBD?” The ABC’s of CBD: Why Pot Is Not What We Were Taught: the Essential Guide for Parents (and for Regular Folks Too), by Shira Adler).

Experts refer to the endocannabinoid system (ECS) as the “master” regulator of the human body because it is so crucial in maintaining homeostasis and a healthy equilibrium in the human body. You can imagine this system as a network of “locks” (receptors) and “keys” (cannabinoids). Many believe the ECS has more receptor sites than any other system; the two major receptors are called CB1 and CB2.

CB1 receptors are found in the brain, stomach, heart, skin, and so many other places. The largest concentration of CB1 receptors is in the central nervous system, specifically the hippocampus, which is commonly viewed as the center of emotions and memory.

CB2 receptors are predominantly in the immune system and other organs like the heart, stomach, spleen, tonsils. There is frequent overlap between CB1 and CB2 receptors but the critical difference is that the only receptor in your brain is CB1. So remember, brain = CB1.

THC can mimic the same type of cannabinoid that your body naturally makes called anandamide, which translated from Sanskrit as “the bliss molecule.” Acting like your body’s endogenous cannabinoids, THC is able to activate neurons in the brain typically within seconds after entering your bloodstream. By THC binding to CB1 receptors in your brain, you’ll get the experience of feeling “high.”

CBD cannot unlock the CB1 lock, which is why CBD doesn’t have the buzz associated with THC. In fact, CBD actually restrains a specific enzyme that activates CB1 receptor- so you won’t get high off of CBD. CBD instead works with other receptors like serotonin. The result is CBD can regulate pain perception, inflammation, nausea, appetite, and anxiety.

CB1 and CB2 Receptors in our bodies
Source: https://everythinghempoil.com/how-cbd-works/



Q: Do THC and CBD come from the same plant?

Both THC and CBD can be derived from Cannabis. It can get a bit confusing because of the plant taxonomy but people typically talk about THC and CBD levels by varieties of Cannabis commonly referred to as Hemp & “Marijuana.” These two plants are a part of the same species Cannabis Sativa but Hemp naturally has significantly less THC than it’s cousin “Marijuana.”

Created by HerLeaf inspired by and created from The Universal Plant and The Future of Cannabis

Hemp as a variety is defined as a Cannabis plant with less than 0.3%. Most CBD products you see online come from Hemp as Hemp-derived products were legalized in 2018 with the Farm Bill.



Q: Does Cannabis affect men & women differently?

Yes. In fact, your endocannabinoid system (ECS) is tailored to YOU. Meaning the effects of Cannabis will be different person to person – as they say, it’s not a magic bullet but a shotgun approach targetting your ECS. Broadly, it is believed that the endocannabinoid system in men and women is different. Men have a higher density of CB1 receptors than women. Consequently, men require more cannabinoids to get the same results as women. What this means for you as a consumer is your dosing may require adjusting based on gender.

Cannabis is a fascinating plant and we are just at the beginning in understanding how it works. There is significant research that still needs to be done but there is still plenty of pre-clinical, and non-US clinical studies to show evidence that Cannabis can have ample therapeutic applications.

Leave us a comment and tell us what questions you have about Cannabis and CBD.



Header photo: Photo by Landon Arnold on Unsplash

“What Is CBD?” The ABC’s of CBD: Why Pot Is Not What We Were Taught: the Essential Guide for Parents (and for Regular Folks Too), by Shira Adler, ValPoSa Books, 2018, pp. 9.

“The Endocannabinoid System and Cannabis The Perfect Partnership for Self-Regulation and Healing, by Scott A. Johnson, AMP, CEEOS, CCMA, CPC, Scott A. Johson Professional Writing Services, LLC, 2019, pp. 14-37.






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Disclaimer: The statements made regarding these products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The efficiency of these products has not been confirmed by FDA-approved research.  These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.  All information presented here is not meant as a substitute for or alternative to information from healthcare practitioners.  Please consult your health care professional about potential interactions or other possible complications before using any products.  The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requires this notice.

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