CBD vs. THC
Cannabis and society’s perspective on the substance has gone through great changes over the past several years. As the question of legality remains in flux around the world, people have begun looking to the active ingredients in cannabis to see the benefits. The two primary compounds that affect the body within the cannabis plant are THC and CBD, but what exactly is the difference between the two?
To understand how CBD and THC affect the body, one must first understand the similarities between the two compounds, even down to the molecular level. They have the exact same chemical makeup; their difference lies in the formation of their atoms. One may assume that because of these exceptional similarities, they should produce the same result when introduced to the body. This assumption is false, however, and to understand why you must first understand the endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system is a network of receptors that interact with cannabinoids, such as Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). Put more simply, the receptors break down into two groups called CB1 and CB2 receptors. CB1 receptors are located primarily in the brain and are tied heavily to memory, high cognition, motor coordination and the processing of emotion. CB2 receptors, on the other hand, function primarily in the general nervous and immune systems throughout the body. The changes that the two substances make to these systems are what stimulate positive health benefits such as pain relief, appetite stimulation, anxiety relief and so much more.
The way in which CBD and THC interact with these receptors is what makes them different. Both of them bond with CB2 receptors, affecting processes through the body, but they affect the CB1 receptors in the brain very differently. When THC bonds directly with a CB1 receptor, the signal that gets sent to the brain is what triggers the psychoactive event that most people call “getting high.” CBD, on the other hand, does not bond, and in fact, reverses the THC’s connection with CB1 receptors, essentially negating the psychoactive effects of THC.
Both compounds affect the body similarly, but THC is the one responsible for the feeling of getting high so often connected to cannabis. This is why the legality of both substances is so hotly debated. The psychoactive effects of THC are primarily why marijuana is banned in many places across the world, but because CBD does not cause that effect, its legality isn’t as black and white. That is changing rapidly, however, as more medical research proves the compound’s immense health benefits.
While both compounds are nearly twins on the molecular level, their effects on the body differ greatly. With CBD having nearly the same health benefits of THC without the psychoactive element, its popularity has steadily grown and will continue to do so in the coming years.