Many people ask “what is the difference between CBD and THC” and “how does each affect you”?
The topic has gained a ton of steam because of all the breakthroughs surrounding CBD oil. Medical science has uncovered incredible information behind how CBD acts on the body. The research fuels new types of therapies and products, which are becoming more popular every day.
At the same time, this research has revealed key THC and CBD differences. For example, THC has a mind-altering, hallucinogen effect, while CBD doesn’t. CBD can’t get you high at all, in fact. The only thing you’ll feel is maybe a bit more relaxed.
THC and CBD affect the mind and body differently because they are completely different molecules.
What is the difference between CBD and THC, exactly? And why does one work so differently than the other?
Why does THC in Weed Affect Our Brain?
We’re going to get a bit technical here, but don’t worry. You can actually break down the science behind how weed affects your brain into a few simple concepts…
Here’s the first concept to consider: chemicals like THC and CBD can only affect our mind if there are parts of our brain it can “latch” onto.
Neuroscientists call these parts of our brain “receptors”. Receptors are structures made of protein that hang out on the membrane of our cells.
All of our cells have receptors. Our body develops certain chemicals that can “activate” them, triggering a cell response. Histamine particles, for instance, can tell our cells to swell up when we’re having an allergic reaction.
As you might have guessed, weed is chock full of neurotransmitting chemicals that interact with specific receptors.
These chemicals include THC, CBD, terpenes, and hundreds of other different cannabinoids. THC and CBD chemical differences cause each to affect our receptors in different ways. We’ll get deeper into that in just a moment.
Other drugs have neurotransmitting chemicals and specific receptors, too. However, the thing about marijuana is that we have waaaaay more compatible receptors in our body than researchers ever expected to find. Even research papers put it this way, saying: “Cannabinoid receptors turned out to be far more abundant in the brain than any other type of neurotransmitter receptor.”
Scientists call this huge ecosystem of receptors the “endocannabinoid system.” This connection, between our brains and cannabis cannabinoids (such as THC) is why the plant affects us.
Cannabis and Our Endocannabinoid System
Our endocannabinoid system didn’t evolve just so we could enjoy pot. Marijuana just happens to have really similar chemicals in it. This coincidence likely explains humans’ attachment to cannabis for over 12,000 years.
What our endocannabinoid system does is pretty extensive. The functions it controls include:
Because it has so many different effects, biologists think that the endocannabinoid system is actually meant to regulate a ton of other body and mind responses.
Our cells produce natural endocannabinoid chemicals on their own. They bind to CB1 receptors, triggering a related response. In turn, they can regulate other neurotransmitting chemicals and bodily functions.
But marijuana’s chemicals have an interesting effect on the same CB1 receptors. THC, in particular, triggers a flood of chemicals all at once, activating several different responses.
How Do THC and CBD Affect the Mind?
When you smoke or vape weed, cannabinoid particles get absorbed into your bloodstream through your lungs, just like oxygen does. The cannabinoid particles then travel through your blood to your brain.
Both THC and CBD cross through the blood-brain barrier. That means they can have an effect not just on our body responses. They also affect our thought processes and subjective experience — how we “feel” and sense things.
So what is the difference between CBD and THC when it comes to how they affect our brain’s CB1 receptors? Simple!
THC is an agonist to CB1 receptors.
This fact means that THC fits in the receptors, like a plug fits into an electrical socket. Also like a plug, THC lets a flow of electrical “juice” in. In this case, the juice is other neurotransmitters.
These neurotransmitters trigger a bunch of responses, including:
- Distorted sense of space and time
- Subjective memory distortion (you remember things “hazily”)
- Boosted energy
- A sense of stimulated thought and creativity
- Sometimes jitteriness, anxiety or paranoia
- Enhanced experience of senses, especially taste
- Dry mouth
CBD is an antagonist to CB1 receptors.
CBD doesn’t just fail to trigger the responses to THC listed above. It shuts many of them down.
Think about them like a safety plug cap, like in the picture below. These covers are only a partial fit, and they block up the outlet from being fed “juice.”
This fact means that CBD can lower some of THC’s reactions. CBD also has a few unique properties that work alongside THC rather than just counteracting it.
In particular, CBD can:
- Lower our anxiety
- Lessen the sense of depression
- Relieve chronic pain
- Make it easier to sleep
- Melt away stress
- Reduce inflammation
- Prevent/reduce seizures
- Relax and sooth muscle spasms
- Dilate blood vessels, improving blood flow
THC and CBD Differences Change the Way Weed Affects You
What is the difference between CBD and THC when it comes to the weed strain you smoke?
Since CBD works against many of the effects of THC, a low THC:CBD ratio creates a strain of weed that doesn’t have a huge “perky” or “heady” effect. Most indica marijuana strains are like this.
You can also find pure CBD oil and concentrates. These products have no psychoactive effects, making them appealing to people who want CBD oil benefits but don’t want to get high.
Now that you know all about THC and CBD differences, you can be a smarter consumer! Choose your weed strains and cannabis products wisely knowing how each molecule affects you.