CBD and THC come from the same plant, but that doesn’t mean they affect the body in the same way. In fact, when these compounds interact with your body’s endocannabinoid system, they have very different effects.
What makes these two compounds different? What do you need to look out for when buying CBD (or cannabidiol) products?
What is CBD?
CBD is extracted from the hemp or cannabis plant, and to be legally consumed, a CBD product needs to contain less than 0.3% THC. CBD products come in various forms, from gummies and oils to topical gels, pillow sprays, drinks and skincare. However, what sets CBD apart from THC is that it doesn’t produce that intoxicated, high sensation that we often associate with cannabis.
What is THC?
THC (or tetrahydrocannabinol) is the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis and it’s what produces the high sensation. THC can be consumed by smoking cannabis but it’s also found in edibles, tinctures, oils and similar products.
How do these compounds interact with the body?
Despite being found in the same plant, CBD and THC interact differently with the natural endocannabinoid system in the body.
THC binds with the main cannabinoid receptors because of the similar structure they have to a chemical known as anandamide. This chemical is part of a group of cannabinoids which are naturally produced in the body. When THC binds with these receptors, it produces the high we associate with cannabis.
CBD, however, does not produce a high sensation and while it does interact with cannabinoid receptors, it binds differently to increase the effects of other cannabinoids. CBD also interacts with receptors outside of the endocannabinoid system, for example in our skin, giving it a wider effect on the body.
Both CBD and THC molecules have exactly the same number of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen atoms. The difference in how they affect us is purely the result of the shape of each molecule once it is assembled inside the cannabis plant.
The legalities of CBD and THC
In the U.S., the laws around cannabis are constantly changing, so doing your research and staying up to date with the legal side of using CBD products is essential.
Hemp has been removed from the Controlled Substances list, but CBD is still classified as a Schedule I drug. In several states, cannabis-related laws have been passed which means that even medical cannabis with high levels of THC is legal, but this needs to be prescribed by a licensed physician.
CBD is legal in 47 states, providing that the THC level is lower than 0.3%, but again this varies by state. If you buy or use CBD products in a state where they are illegal or if the level of THC is higher than the legal limit, you could face legal penalties, so checking the local laws before you buy is wise.
CBD and THC both offer purported benefits and are generally considered safe, but the side effects and legalities differ between the two.
It’s important to do your research before buying CBD products to be sure they’re not only safe for you to use but also legal in your location.