CBD and THC: Understanding the difference and relationships

CBD and THC image

CBD and THC also known as “delta-9 THC” are two of the major cannabinoids found in cannabis and hemp plants. Whether it is hemp-derived or cannabis-derived, both CBD and THC have their unique effects, characteristics, and benefits, but they also have an intricate relationship between them that makes them work effectively in your body when taken together.

While both CBD and THC come from the same source, they exhibit distinct characteristics that lead to different physiological responses in our bodies, nevertheless, many people often get confused about the difference between these two cannabinoids.

So we researched for you and created this article where we’re going to take a closer look at CBD and THC, their relationships, differences, effects, and much more. We’ll also figure out why THC makes you feel high, why CBD doesn’t, and how these two work together and give the most benefits. 

What is CBD?

CBD, short for cannabidiol, is one of the many cannabinoids found in cannabis and hemp plants. Unlike THC, CBD does not make you “high”, instead it offers many therapeutic and wellness benefits like managing chronic pain and inflammation and managing stress, anxiety, and sleep problems.

After the legalisation of hemp-derived CBD in the US, it became a multi-billion dollar industry, and you can also find all kinds of CBD products in the market like CBD oils, gummies, capsules, flowers, pre-rolls, topical roll-ons, beverages, and many more. 

What is THC?

THC or “delta-9 THC”, short for tetrahydrocannabinol, is another primary cannabinoid found in cannabis and hemp plants. THC is the primary psychoactive component of cannabis plants, which means it’s responsible for the “high” feeling that people experience when they use cannabis.

THC works by interacting with specific receptors in the brain and nervous system, leading to altered perceptions, relaxation, and sometimes euphoria. Although like CBD, THC also offers many therapeutic and wellness benefits, like chronic pain and inflammation relief, sleep promotion, 

Nevertheless, cannabis or cannabis-derived THC is illegal in the US, but hemp-derived THC products that contain less than 0.3% of THC have become legal in the US.

CBD vs. THC: What are the differences?

Image shows all the difference between CBD and THC

There are many differences between the cannabinoids CBD and THC, such as:

Chemical structure:

CBD and THC have a similar chemical formula but their chemical structure is different from each other. This variation in structure is a significant factor contributing to their distinct effects on the body.

CBD THC molecular structure

Psychoactive effects:

One of the most notable differences between CBD and THC is their psychoactive effects. THC is psychoactive, meaning it can alter your mind and senses and give you a feeling of being “high” or euphoric. 

On the other hand, CBD is not psychoactive and doesn’t produce any intoxicating effect.

Health and wellness benefits:

CBD has gained attention and popularity for its potential health and wellness benefits, As CBD can exhibit anti-inflammatory, analgesic (pain-relieving), anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing), and antipsychotic properties. Some studies (1, 2, 3) also suggest that CBD can help manage conditions like epilepsy, anxiety disorders, sleep disorders, and chronic pain. 

On the other hand, THC also has potential wellness applications, such as pain relief and appetite stimulation, but its psychoactive effects can limit its use.


The legal status of CBD and THC also varies widely. CBD derived from hemp with very low levels of THC (less than 0.3%) is legal in the US.

While cannabis-derived THC is federally illegal in the US. Nevertheless, hemp-derived THC and its products that abide by the 2018 Farm Bill are currently legal in the US.

Side effects:

THC can cause side effects like impaired memory, increased heart rate, coordination issues, anxiety, paranoia, and munchies, especially at higher doses.

On the other hand, CBD is generally considered to have a much better safety profile with no extreme side effects.

Why does THC get you high and CBD doesn't?

The reason THC gets you high and CBD doesn’t lie in how they interact with specific receptors that are present in the brain and in the nervous system. Now these clusters of receptors present all over your body are called the endocannabinoid system.

Both THC and CBD work by interacting with your body’s endocannabinoid system. However, they interact in different ways and with varying types of CB receptors within this system.

THC has a strong affinity for the CB1 receptors in the brain. When THC binds to these receptors, it influences or activates them. This activation of CB1 receptors in certain parts of the brain is what produces its characteristic effect “high” or euphoric sensation that is often associated with using marijuana.

CBD, on the other hand, has a more complex interaction with the endocannabinoid system. It doesn’t directly bind to CB1 receptors in the same way that THC does. Instead, it can influence these receptors indirectly by modulating their activity and minimizing their agitation. 

CBD can even work to counteract some of the psychoactive effects of THC by altering the way CB1 receptors respond to its binding.

In addition to its interaction with the endocannabinoid system, CBD also interacts with other receptors and pathways in the body that are involved in pain perception, inflammation, and anxiety regulation. These interactions contribute to CBD’s potential therapeutic effects without causing any intoxicating high.

So, in essence, THC gets you high because of its direct interaction with CB1 receptors, which triggers a cascade of neurological responses in your brain and body. CBD, on the other hand, doesn’t strongly bind to these receptors and has a more nuanced effect on various systems, leading to therapeutic benefits without any psychoactive effects.

What is the relationship between CBD and THC?

Coming from the same plant material, CBD and THC have a unique relationship with each other, such as:

The entourage effect:

The relationship between CBD and THC is majorly associated with the “entourage effect.” This theory proposes that the compounds in cannabis or hemp plants like, cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids work together synergistically to produce enhanced effects. 

In other words, CBD and THC will have a more profound effect when used together than when isolated. That’s the reason many people prefer to use full-spectrum CBD products that contain a small amount of THC because they work better than a CBD isolate product.

The alteration of effects:

Interestingly, CBD can actually influence the effects of THC. Research (4) suggests that CBD can moderate or dampen the psychoactive impact of THC by interacting with CB1 receptors in a way that reduces the intensity of the feeling known as “high”.

This interaction between CBD and THC can vary depending on factors like dosage and the ratio of the two cannabinoids present in your system.

CBD's potential to counteract THC's negative effects:

CBD also has the potential to counteract some of the unwanted side effects of THC. For instance, CBD could help mitigate anxiety or paranoia that some individuals experience when consuming high-THC products. This is another example of how CBD’s interaction with the endocannabinoid system can modulate the effects of THC.

In summary, the relationship between CBD and THC is quite complex and dynamic. While they have different effects individually, their interactions can modulate each other’s impact significantly.

Final thoughts

The relationship between CBD and THC is a fascinating subject that continues to captivate researchers and enthusiasts alike. These two cannabinoids, with their distinct effects and potential for synergy, offer a rich landscape for exploring new dimensions of wellness.

As our understanding of these compounds deepens, it becomes increasingly clear that the world of cannabinoids is vast, intricate, and full of untapped potential that many studies are trying to figure out.

Whether consumed separately or together, CBD and THC hold promise for improving the lives of countless individuals seeking relief and improved well-being. As research advances, we can anticipate even more insights into the effects and relationships of CBD and THC.


The information in this article is intended for general use only and may not always be appropriate for everyone’s needs. Your health and wellness are unique to you, so before acting on anything we say, seek personalized advice from a medical professional.

We value the accuracy and editorial integrity of all our articles, and we strive to ensure that the content we publish is accurate and up-to-date to the best of our knowledge.

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