CBD vs. THC: What’s the difference?
Cannabis consumers have long prized potency (a high THC content) as one of the main factors that makes a particular strain more desirable. Though traditional demand for THC has caused an oversaturation of high-potency products, many consumers are starting to prefer less intense products that are lower in THC and higher in the non-intoxicating compound called CBD (cannabidiol).
What’s the difference between CBD and THC?
THC and CBD are both cannabinoids derived from the cannabis plant, but they’re different in many ways that may influence your next dispensary purchase.
An easy way to think about it is that THC is defined by what cannabis makes you feel, while the effects of CBD can’t be felt. The important distinction is that, unlike THC, CBD will not intoxicate you. It also addresses one of the most common reasons people choose to use CBD—pain management.
CBD can also block some of the intoxicating effects of THC. By binding to cannabinoid receptors, it will keep THC from activating those receptors. This translates to a less intense psychoactive effect, which is why products with a mix of CBD and THC are great for first-time consumers.
This does not mean that CBD, by itself, cannot offer an effect. High doses of CBD often produce a profoundly relaxing experience. Like stepping out of a hot tub, your body may feel tingly and relaxed, and your brain may be clear.
CBD vs. THC: legality
With the passing of the Farm Bill in December 2018, industrial hemp became a legal agricultural commodity in all 50 states. While the DEA still considers CBD to be a Schedule I controlled substance, it clarified in a memo that trace amounts of CBD found in hemp stalks or seeds were legal.
However, the legality of hemp-derived CBD may vary from state to state, so it’s important to check your state’s laws before stocking up on hemp-derived CBD products.
Cannabis strains that have a high CBD:THC ratio are legal only in states with legal, regulated cannabis markets.
What are the medicinal effects of CBD?
The list of conditions CBD may help with is ever-expanding. More research is needed to better understand the efficacy and range of CBD’s benefits, but it’s popularly used to manage the following symptoms and conditions:
- Epilepsy and seizure disorders
- Pain and inflammation
- PTSD and anxiety
- Crohn’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Opioid withdrawal
Though clinical and anecdotal evidence suggests CBD can help manage different conditions, CBD became most famous for treating a rare and debilitating form of pediatric epilepsy.
Dravet’s Syndrome is notoriously resistant to current treatment methods. People with the condition are plagued by seizures, often up to hundreds a day, and they usually worsen as people age and can be life-threatening. Currently, treatment methods include having a child wear an eyepatch, specialized diets, and brain surgery, but all have mixed success rates.
One of the earliest success stories involves a young girl named Charlotte who was given an ingestible oil derived from Charlotte’s Web , a CBD strain that was specifically developed to provide her with all the benefits of the drug without the high.
In less than two years, Charlotte went from a monthly seizure count of 1,200 to about three. Other success stories followed and more parents have begun to speak out, particularly parents desperate for access to this life-saving treatment.
CBD has no lethal dose or known serious side effects. The idea of using cannabis-derived compounds for pediatric conditions remains a touchy subject in a culture where cannabis has been stigmatized.
If you would like to know more about the benefits of CBD, check out our CBD Guide.
Although THC is best known for its mind-altering euphoria, it too has important medical benefits. There’s some overlap in what CBD and THC can treat, but THC is particularly effective in relieving nausea, appetite loss, insomnia, among other symptoms. Many patients find that a balance of CBD and THC offers the best symptom relief as the two work together synergistically.
What are some high-CBD strains I can try?
CBD is typically the second-most abundant cannabinoid in cannabis, but this isn’t always the case. A strain may deliver CBD and THC in the following ratios:
- High THC, low CBD (e.g.,10-30% THC, trace amounts of CBD)
- Balanced CBD/THC (e.g., 5-15% THC and 5-15% CBD)
- High CBD, low THC (e.g., 5-20% CBD, THC under 5%)
(The Cannabiz Agency/iStock)
High-CBD strains tend to deliver very clear-headed, functional effects without the euphoric high associated with high-THC strains. They’re typically preferred by consumers who are extremely sensitive to the side effects of THC (e.g., anxiety, paranoia, dizziness).
A high-CBD strain would also be a great choice for someone needing to medicate throughout the day to control pain, inflammation, anxiety, or other chronic conditions.
Balanced CBD/THC strains will be a little more euphoric than CBD-dominant strains, though they’re much less likely to induce anxiety, paranoia, and other negative side effects. Strains like these tend to be the most effective for pain relief, and they’re also well-suited for THC-sensitive consumers who’d like a mellow buzz.
CBD strains can be consumed just as you would THC strains. You can smoke or vaporize CBD-rich flower, eat a CBD-infused edible, swallow a CBD oil capsule, apply a CBD lotion, or use a CBD tincture sublingually. Hemp products also contain CBD, though it is a less efficient source and lacks the beneficial chemical diversity of cannabis-derived CBD products (more on that here).
Keep in mind that CBD levels may vary from crop to crop—even from plant to plant. We also recommend checking with dispensaries about the specifics of their strains’ CBD levels. It’s always a good idea to purchase only lab-tested products that clearly state the CBD/THC levels so you know what kind of experience to expect.
This post was originally published on July 3, 2018. It was most recently updated on April 1, 2020.
CBD and THC are both derived from cannabis plants, but they’re very different. Learn the difference between CBD and THC.
What is the difference between hemp CBD and cannabis CBD?
As interest in cannabidiol (CBD) continues to grow, so does the availability of different products. A factor that often confuses people is whether the CBD in the products comes from hemp or cannabis. The short answer is that they derive from different varieties of the Cannabis Sativa plant.
The confusion surrounding hemp CBD vs. cannabis CBD relates to the plant’s classification, name, and makeup.
Basically, hemp plants generally contain more CBD, and cannabis plants contain more tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a compound that causes the ‘high’ that people associate with cannabis use.
Keep reading to learn more about the differences between hemp CBD and cannabis CBD.
Is CBD legal? Hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3% THC are legal federally but still illegal under some state laws. Cannabis-derived CBD products, on the other hand, are illegal federally but legal under some state laws. Check local legislation, especially when traveling. Also, keep in mind that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have not approved nonprescription CBD products, which may be inaccurately labeled.
Share on Pinterest Hemp and cannabis contain different amounts of CBD and THC.
Public interest in and the availability of CBD have grown due to its promising health benefits. People use CBD to help with a wide variety of physical and mental issues, including pain, nausea, addiction, and depression.
Although scientific studies have not confirmed CBD’s usefulness for all these conditions, available evidence suggests that CBD works with the endocannabinoid system, which is a signaling network.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is non-intoxicating and one of the more than 540 phytochemicals found in the Cannabis sativa (C. sativa) plant. THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is the compound that gets people “high.” It is the difference between THC levels found in hemp and cannabis that has caused so many legal complications.
Hemp is a specific variety of C. sativa. People have grown hemp for hundreds of years, using it to make rope, clothes, sails, food, and much more. Industrial hemp has an equally long history in the United States – Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the country, grew it himself.
The 2018 Farm Bill considers C. sativa plants with less than 0.3 percent THC as hemp or industrial hemp. Producers can grow it legally across most of the U.S., subject to strict regulations, and excluding three states.
Hemp plants do contain THC but at very low levels. However, certain types of processed hemp, such as tinctures, gummies, or capsules, can still cause euphoria.
In most cases, manufacturers use the leaves and flowers of the hemp plant to make CBD products.
For more information and resources on CBD and CBD products, please visit our dedicated hub.
There are three standard varieties of cannabis plants: C. indica, C. sativa, and C. ruderalis. There is also a range of hybrid plants that are a mix of these three strains. These cannabis plants contain much higher and varying levels of THC than hemp plants.
Besides containing more THC, these plants also tend to contain less CBD than hemp plants, and the difference has become steadily more pronounced.
A 2016 analysis found that the average potency of cannabis plants rose from about 4% in 1995 to 12% in 2014. Average CBD levels decreased from 0.28% in 2001 to less than 0.15% in 2014.
Cannabis and hemp plants contain both CBD and THC along with more than 540 other substances. The main difference between the two plants is the amount of each compound they contain.
Cannabis contains more THC, and less CBD. Hemp contains more CBD and less THC.
Most importantly, the benefits of CBD do not change whether it is cannabis-derived CBD or hemp-derived CBD. Common side effects, such as an upset stomach, feeling tired, or feeling on edge, remain the same. This is because the chemical make-up of CBD does not depend on which plant it comes from.
However, the amount of CBD available for extraction does depend on the source. Hemp plants contain far more CBD, making them the more lucrative option for manufacturers and the option with the least potential legal ramifications.
The main difference between hemp CBD and cannabis CBD is their legal status. According to the 2018 Farm Bill, products made from plants that meet the legal standards of hemp are legal across most of the USA, except three states.
Products made from plants that have higher levels of THC are not legal under this statute. However, it is important to note that all CBD products must have less than 0.3% THC, so even those made from cannabis-derived CBD should contain less than this amount.
The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) consider any CBD products containing more than 0.3% THC as a Schedule I drug in states where the recreational use of cannabis is not legal.
CBD is attracting considerable public interest because of its promise in treating various physical and mental health issues, even though there is no scientific evidence to prove these health claims.
Hemp and cannabis are two different varieties of the C. sativa plant with hemp containing more CBD and minimal THC.
Most CBD products are made from hemp plants as they contain far more CBD and almost no THC, which is the compound that creates the ‘high.’
Individuals considering using CBD for physical or mental challenges should inform their doctors to make sure it does not interact with any medications they may be taking.
The main difference between hemp CBD and cannabis CBD is legal standing.
The confusion surrounding hemp CBD vs. cannabis CBD relates to the plant's classification, name, and makeup. Learn more.