The Difference Between CBD and THC

difference between cbd and thc

By Joe, Owner Drip CBD CO 

Cannabis has been demonized and glorified all around the world. In the past 100 years, marijuana has come out the darkness of prohibition, burst out of obscurity and has landed in countless everyday products. While THC has stolen the show, CBD has propelled cannabis into the mainstream. The two chemical compounds come from the same plant but are viewed in dramatically different ways. The difference between CBD and THC is small on a molecular level, but they interact with our brains in very different ways.

These two cannabinoids, or chemical compounds in cannabis, are the two most famous. There are believed to be over 100 compounds in the cannabis plant. CBD and THC have gained the most attention, however we are still not even close to where we should be in understanding its benefits. 

The ‘high’ associated with THC has suppressed the research and amount of money allocated to discover the medicinal properties of cannabis. This wasn’t done on accident. For years, lobbyists paid politicians to keep cannabis research focused on its potential dangers. All while spreading misinformation and propaganda. It has taken decades to remove this stigma. More on the prohibition of Cannabis HERE.

CBD and THC

The difference Between CBD and THC is small on the molecular level. THC and CBD consist of 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen, and 2 oxygen. The molecular formula for both cannabinoids is C21H30O2. Their mass is almost exactly the same as well. The difference between CBD and THC is in their respected structures. THC has a cyclic ring where CBD contains a hydroxyl group. This small difference in how the chemicals are structured makes a world of difference in the effect they have on our brains.

cbd molecular structure
thc molecular structure

CBD and THC are also created in a similar way. During the life cycle of a cannabis plant, CBGA is formed. The CBGA is then cyclized into THCA or CBDA. All cannabinoids start out as CBGA. Then humans come into the picture. The THCA or CBDA is either extracted using CO2 decarboxylation or it is sold in flower form. When flower is broken up and rolled into a joint, it is up to the consumer to manual decarboxylate to create the final chemical product.

The major difference between CBD and THC happens when the chemicals enter the blood stream. There is a reason THC gets you high and CBD doesn’t. They work on the brain in very different ways.

THC and CBD: The Effects

These chemicals have a pharmacological effect on our bodies because we possess an endocannabinoid system. The ECS consists of neurotransmitters, receptors, and enzymes located in the bodies of all mammals. Pretty cool, right?

Cannabinoids and endocannabinoids, are believed to react with CB1 and CB2 endocannabinoid receptors throughout the body. This G protein-coupled cannabinoid receptor is centralized in nerves mostly in the brain.

CB1 receptors are thought to be stimulated by things like love, good music, a long run, endogenous neurotransmitters (endocannabinoids), and THC. The active ingredient in marijuana gives the user a high, because it can bind directly with these receptors.

CBD’s slightly different molecular structure doesn’t allow it to directly trigger the CB1 receptor. Instead, CBD inhibits an enzyme that slows the production of anandamide. In turn creating a healthy production of the endocannabinoid.

Take Daily, for Months to Promote a Healthy ECS

When you hear suggestions to take CBD daily over an extended period of time to notice the benefits, this is why. When you understand how CBD works in the ECS, it makes sense that it requires frequent use to get results. CBD isn’t like THC. CBD’s journey from the bloodstream to the brain isn’t the direct knockout effect that THC has. This can be discouraging to users. Some want the effects immediately. Unfortunately, CBD takes a bit of discipline and dedication from the user. 

I gave a relative a CBD tincture to try when I was developing my first product. When I asked what they thought, they said ‘yeah, I tried it. I like the taste and smell. Didn’t feel anything though.’ Sadly, this is the story for many that try CBD for the first time. They think that their experience will somehow be a medicinal version of a time they smoked weed.

I wish this were possible and that after taking a full dropper you were overwhelmed with happiness or all your pain went away but it’s not a realistic expectation. CBD takes time. All scientific studies are done over weeks if not months of daily dosing.

Taking CBD Alone

In the beginning days of the CBD boom, isolate was the wave. Everyone wanted pure CBD. Not much was known about CBD by the public at the time and most of the scientific studies were being done with isolates. The tide shifted a few years ago, full spectrum and broad spectrum products have gained popularity because of the idea that the combination of multiple cannabinoids provides more benefits, otherwise known as the entourage effect.

Multiple studies have found that taking CBD alone can cause dosing issues when related to decreasing inflammation. Taking a low dose isn’t enough, a medium dose will deliver benefits, and the effects are decreased in higher doses. These studies show that when taking CBD with THC the benefits rise as the dose increases. Obviously, this makes dosing much easier. Not as much responsibility lies on the user to find that sweet spot.

2019 Colorado Sleep/Anxiety Study

Taking CBD alone has delivered encouraging results in numerous studies. In January of 2019, Scott Shannon, MD published a study in the NCBI pertaining to CBD and anxiety/sleep using over 100 adult HUMAN test subjects who reported having issues with anxiety and/or sleep.

The test subjects were given 25-75mg doses of CBD every day for months.  Doses were adjusted due to a number of variables and some were increased during the duration of the research. The participants were given CBD during the day if they were more concerned with issues relating to anxiety and at night if their sleep disorder was more of an issue.

The first month resulted in anxiety scores lowering in the first month by nearly 80% of the test subjects. 67% reported an improvement in their sleep score. These results are very promising but are just part of the beginning phases of research needed to fully understand CBD and sleep. More clinical trials are needed with larger sample sizes done by an independent party not motivated by money. 

I want to see more and more of these studies but I clearly have a conflict in interest since I have a CBD and terpenene formulated Sleep Blend oil available on this website. It would be inappropriate for me to fund research done to prove the benefits of my own product. This is happening all too often in our industry. 

When comparing benefits of an isolate vs. a full plant extract, things get murky. You need to consider the benefit, subject, and the type of full plant extract. We are dealing with a complicated issue without enough research to back up claims, to say one is better than the other isn’t so simple. 

CBD and THC Together

When you look at the studies that ‘prove’ the entourage effect, THC always has a major presence. To my knowledge, researchers have not used a hemp derived extract to measure the effects of CBD and THC together on a test subject. The studies always have a significant amount of THC, far above the allowed 0.3% in the US and the 0.2% for the UK.

Artist using CBD and THC

I am absolutely an advocate for the entourage effect. When I use marijuana, I always take one of the CBD and terpene blends available on this platform. I find that the introduction of CBD when my brain is on THC helps with the negative side-effects. I am mostly concerned with overeating and paranoia while on THC. Researchers believe that the CBD suppress the ‘munchies’ and the anxiety caused by smoking marijuana. 

The problem with other CBD companies using the entourage effect as a reason for their ridiculous prices for a ML of full spectrum or (even worse) broad spectrum, is that we don’t have studies that back up this claim. Trace amounts of THC haven’t proven to deliver an increase of benefits or combat the bell-shaped curve of benefits proven to be associated with isolate CBD use.

There is evidence that the combination of THC and CBD in beneficial. I’m an advocate of this cannabinoid synergy. But the only ‘full spectrum’ extract that is supported by the science is exclusively available at marijuana dispensaries, not at a CBD store, and not online. The type of full plant extract needs to be derived from marijuana.

2015 Jerusalem Study

scientists testing cbd and thc

The most famous study used by full and broad spectrum retailers to justify their high price tags was done in 2015 by Israeli scientists called, Overcoming the Bell-Shaped Dose-Response of Cannabidiol by Using Cannabis Extract Enriched in Cannabidiol. This study looks at a CBD isolate vs. a full plant extract containing 2.2% THC. Both decreased the swelling in rat paws. The isolate produced positive results; however the study showed a decrease in benefits as the dose increased while the full plant extract delivered better results as the dose was increased. 

CBD companies selling hemp extract online probably shouldn’t be pointing to this study to prove the relationship between CBD and THC in their products. They especially shouldn’t be using it to justify $80 full spectrum oil. At best they need to deliver more context. To use this study to justify a broad spectrum oil is unethical.

We don’t understand why the effects of isolate CBD decrease with an increase in dosage. More research is needed to understand how CBD can be used to benefit people with a number different issues.

Benefits of CBD and THC Together

I imagine that an oil with 0.3% THC along with a substantial dose of CBD will perform better than an isolate with the same CBD potency. However, there isn’t science to back this claim. Like I’ve said, I completely believe in the entourage effect. Where I disagree with other online CBD retailers is the price. I don’t think that the increase in price is equal to the increase in benefits provided by the full spectrum oil.

While the idea that the users needs to find the correct dose, enough to get benefits and not too much to decrease the effects, seems like a difficult task, I don’t believe this to be true. Most studies use 25-75mg doses. This is easily achieved with a 1000mg CBD tincture ranging from 75% of a ml dropper of oil to two full droppers. Any CBD retailer is going to tell you that you need to start small and work your way up to the dose that’s right for you, eventually finding the right amount for your individual needs.

For these reasons, I’ve developed a CBD isolate product with added terpenes to deliver an increase of benefits, while keeping the price down. As a CBD and marijuana user, I believe the best way to achieve the entourage effect is to smoke small amounts of marijuana and take CBD through an extract. When my oils are used in this process, you are also getting a healthy dose of terpenes with their own benefits. The terpenes I use are specific to the type of experience you would want from an indica, sativa, or sleep blend.

difference between cbd and thc

Taming THC

Taking CBD to lower the negative side-effects such as paranoia, dry mouth, and an increase in appetite (I feel this is a negative side-effect because I have no problem eating enough food, others could obviously be in a different situation). The difference between CBD and THC as well as their relationship together is further discussed in world famous cannabis researcher and neuroscientist, Dr. Ethan Russo’s paper, Taming THC. I’ve done a breakdown of this article in another blog post. If you’ve read anything on this website, you may get the feeling that I’m a huge fan of his ideas and understanding of the current cannabis market.

Understanding the difference between CBD and THC is crucial to finding the right cannabis product for your needs. Hopefully you have a better idea of why CBD and THC work differently on our brains and the ECS.

I truly believe that my products are the best way to take CBD oil if you are at all concerned about wasting your money or can’t take THC. Broad spectrum oils, in my opinion, aren’t worth the price. Trace amounts of THC may deliver benefits worth double or triple the price of my CBD and terpene blends but I don’t think there has been science to back up this claim. 

sleep blend cbd oil

1000 MG CBD

terpenes

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Cannabis synergy with natural sleep aids

Our sleep blend is the perfect bed time CBD oil. Terpenes alpha-pinene, linalool, delta 3 carnene, citral and limonene along with 1000mg of CBD delivered in hemp seed oil achieves cannabis synergy at a reasonable price.

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