CBD vs THC: what’s the difference?

Both cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are phytocannabinoids. They cause various effects within our bodies as a result of interacting with certain cells, particularly those in our brains.

As cannabinoids, they both have their similarities. For starters, they are the two most abundant cannabinoids that you could find naturally in hemp. On top of this, the various applications they could be used for at a molecular level are quite similar. Such resemblances are so strong that, until recently, the scientific community actually believed they were the same substance.

But this hypothesis has since been proven false. Nowadays, we know that THC is a psychotropic drug controlled by federal authorities, whereas CBD is considered safe and is used legally across the world. However, none of this has stopped a steady stream of misinformation being produced about the two. Time to set the record straight.


Clinical applications: comparing the two

Let’s begin with THC first, as it’s been far more extensively researched than its cannabinoid counterpart.

THC can alter your behaviour and even make you lose control of yourself. This is due to its strongly psychoactive effects, which can have an impact even in small doses. As you can imagine, this makes it rather popular in the form of marijuana.

Of course, that’s not its only potential use. As a moderate-strength analgesic, it can be effective for even the most serious kinds of disease, for instance AIDs or cancer patients while they undergo chemotherapy. As well as that, marijuana can also be very useful for medicinal purposes, especially when professionally prescribed for certain chronic diseases.

Now let’s move on to CBD. Like THC, it interacts with cells to activate cannabinoid receptors, which transmit signals within the body and cause various psychological effects. Although cannabinoids on the whole can produce undesirable effects, there’s no evidence that CBD can. In fact, it can protect against the more derogatory effects of THC.


The scientific view

As you must have guessed by now, it’s more-or-less universally accepted within the scientific community that CBD is safer than THC.

Studies showing correlations between using THC over a long period of time and showing symptoms of particular psychiatric disorders – such as psychosis, schizophrenia and depression – have supported these views. However, we have to be clear that correlation doesn’t always mean causation – the source of the problem may be something else.

On top of that, there’s still a lot of research to be done on CBD and – with early results looking positive already – scientists on the whole are hoping that even more beneficial applications are yet to be found. THC, on the other hand, has probably been checked as thoroughly as modern techniques allow for – although you can never say never on finding new results.

Is there a winner?

It’s easy to see from our lowdown above why someone might come to the conclusion that CBD is the “better” cannabinoid of the two. But that’s not how food supplements and medicines tend to work.

Both of these substances are different, in the effects they have and the way they can promote everyday wellbeing and their potential to treat diseases and illnesses. You can’t accurately label THC as bad, useless or worthless as it’s not necessarily any of these things – as mentioned above, it can have some very potent medical uses.

As well as that, a lot of research is yet to be done on CBD, so there’s still a chance that it could have some adverse long-term side effects, even if such a possibility is admittedly slim. Cannabis has been used for thousands of years without a single associated cause of death, incredible when you compare that to the UK, which last year had over 800 deaths caused by prescription drugs and the USA had in excess of 25,000 deaths caused by LEGAL prescription drugs.

However, even when such mitigations are taken into account, the fact that CBD is considered entirely safe and that THC can be abused in the form of a drug means that the former often gets a better review. This is, in many cases, justified for the reasons stated.

There’s a lot of misinformation spread about both CBD and THC, so it helps to know the facts, or at least professional hypotheses from the scientific community. If you’re interested in learning more about these cannabinoids, then check out our other features here.

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