Do you have a biological sibling? While you and your brother or sister might come from the same set of parents you are both distinct – and different– individuals. This might be a helpful way to think about the difference between CBD and THC. Both cannabinoids may come from the same plant, cannabis sativa, but are not at all the same.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is the second most prevalent chemical compound found in the cannabis plant. It’s extracted from the hemp plant and has been used medicinally, industrially and recreationally for thousands of years. It is non-psychoactive, meaning, it won’t alter your mind or get you high.
Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the main chemical compound found in cannabis. It too has been used for thousands of years for healing purposes. In 2019, archeologists in Beijing confirmed that mourners burned cannabis for its intoxicating fumes on a remote mountain plateau in Central Asia some 2500 years ago. Unlike CBD, THC is psychoactive meaning it will produce mind-altering effects.
THC and CBD both affect the endocannabinoid system, a system that plays an important role in maintaining homeostasis, or a state of balance among all essential body systems. Researchers are still working to understand the ins and outs of this complex system, but they do know that it is associated with processes including memory, appetite, sleep, mood, and fertility.
While THC and CBD share similarities, there are key differences in how they will make you feel and what they are typically recommended for.
CBD is often used to alleviate symptoms associated with:
THC, which may be prescribed as medical marijuana, may be helpful for conditions including:
Both CBD and THC can both be very beneficial for pain relief. Because THC has psychoactive effects, it may produce more immediate pain relief but can also impair thinking and judgment. CBD can help reduce inflammation, which is useful for long-term effectiveness, and won’t disrupt mental functioning. Some evidence, however, suggests that taking both CBD and THC may provide the greatest pain relief when dosed correctly..
CBD and THC both are generally safe when used at recommended dosages. However, that does not necessarily mean that you won’t experience potentially unwanted effects including changes in mood and appetite, drowsiness, dizziness, feelings of anxiety and other mood changes.
It is also important to consider the potential, or your personal propensity for dependence and addiction when taking products containing CBD and THC. Because CBD does not possess intoxicating properties, it does not have the potential to cause addiction. THC, on the other hand, attaches to the endocannabinoid receptors that are linked to the brain’s reward system. This can produce feelings of pleasure and euphoria, as well as create the potential for dependence and addiction.
Moreover, regular THC usage can have several detrimental short-term and long-term effects, including impaired short-term memory, altered judgment, and impaired coordination. The National Institute on Drug Abuse also notes that THC alters how the hippocampus and orbitofrontal cortex function. These areas of the brain are important in the formation of new memories and the ability to shift attention from one thing to the next. This not only affects a person’s ability to learn and form new memories, but it also makes it difficult for people to perform difficult tasks.
The best strain of cannabis for you will depend on the effects you are trying to achieve, and the availability of these products in your state based on their legal status. If you are trying to reduce stress or sleep better, for example, CBD may provide benefits without the negative side effects associated with THC.
It’s important also to consider the possible side effects and interactions with other drugs you take and consult your doctor before using either if you have any questions. Whether you’re trying CBD or THC for the first time, it’s always best to start “low and slow” and take it from there!
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