CBD vs. THC: Benefits, Side-Effects, Differences, & Legalities Explained


CBD and THC (also known as delta 9 THC), are the cannabinoids found in cannabis and hemp plants. While cannabis plants contain an abundance of THC and limited CBD, the hemp plant contains an abundance of CBD and THC both.

While, both compounds have similar chemical structures and they both interact with our body’s endocannabinoid systems in different ways, so their effects are completely different.

In this article, we will explain everything you need to know about CBD and THC.

What is CBD?

CBD, short for “cannabidiol” is a non-intoxicating compound that has immense therapeutic potential. 

When we intake CBD, it interacts with our body’s endocannabinoid system, which then activates neurotransmitter (chemical messenger) systems in the brain, body, and immune system. This includes working on serotonin, vanilloid, and probably dozens of other types of receptors to change chemical messages in the brain and body and influence everything from stress to inflammation and immune function.

However, CBD seems to work even better for some when taken alongside a small amount of THC, likely due to the synergy of the other cannabinoids and the entourage effect. Just like eating a whole carrot is better for you than taking a beta-carotene supplement.

What is THC?

THC, short for “Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol” is a psychoactive compound that when ingested causes the feeling of altered senses, commonly known as “high”. 

People consume cannabis and get high because of the THC.

When we intake THC, it also interacts with our body’s endocannabinoid system and particularly activates CB1 and CB2 receptors in our brain and body. The ‘high’ feeling, in particular, comes from the effects of THC at the CB1 receptor in brain areas such as the pleasure centers, balance centers, and memory centers (hippocampus).

However, THC not only causes “high” but recent evidence suggests that there are significant medical properties associated with it too. 

What are the benefits of CBD and THC?

There are many medical properties associated with both CBD and THC. Moreover, unlike THC, CBD is a non-psychoactive compound that offers many therapeutic effects and hence has a wider audience base.

CBD’s benefits include:

CBD is also known to counteract THC intoxications and side effects.

THC’s benefits include:

  • pain relief 
  • anti-inflammatory 
  • Brain protection from toxins 
  • muscle relaxant 
  • anti-nausea
  • appetite stimulant
  • helps with PTSD (dampens the fear response)
  • sleep promotion
  • calming/relaxing (in smaller doses, usually with CBD)
  • antioxidant

According to a study, THC is also known to cause anti-tumor effects, Although more research is needed to say anything for certain.

What are the side effects of CBD and THC?

The side effects of CBD are pretty rare, minimal, and well-tolerated. It mostly happens when CBD interacts with other medications a person is taking. According to WHO, CBD is a safe compound with no potential risk of abuse or overdose.

However, THC does have a potential for abuse when taken in large quantities, although, the side effects of THC are temporary and bound to pass with time.

A person can experience side effects of THC like:

  • Dehydration
  • Dry eyes
  • Paranoia & anxiety
  • Poor motor skills
  • Slower response time
  • Sleepiness
  • Increased appetite

Neither THC nor CBD can be fatal in any condition but an extreme dose of THC may cause temporary discomfort, especially in people under the age of 18.

It is always advised to consult your doctor before using THC or CBD.

What is the difference between CBD and THC?

CBD and THC both are very similar cannabinoids, but there are certain differences you should be aware of, like:

  • THC causes “high”, While CBD doesn’t.
  • THC-based products are widely used for their psychoactive benefits, While CBD use is more inclined towards its therapeutic benefits.
  • CBD and THC both have similar molecular formulas (2 oxygen molecules, 30 hydrogen molecules, and 21 carbon molecules) but their atomic arrangements are different.
CBD THC molecular structure
  • Both CBD and THC interact with our body’s endocannabinoid system in distinct ways that can affect your mood and physiology. For example, CBD has anti-anxiety effects and many people use CBD for this purpose. However, THC in extreme dosages can cause anxious feelings.
  • CBD alone is a federally legal substance in the US. While THC isn’t.
  • CBD is largely decriminalized. Nearly every U.S. state allows CBD products to be sold, with some inherent rules and regulations. But fewer than a dozen states have legalized the recreational use of THC and THC-dominant products.

Do CBD and THC show up in a drug test?

Drug tests are not designed to detect CBD. Rather, it detects THC.

A cannabis drug test screening is designed to detect THC in the system but certain CBD products like full spectrum CBD may show up in a drug test screening even if it contains even a legal amount of THC (less than 0.3%).

If you are using CBD and concerned about a drug test screening, then use broad-spectrum and CBD-isolate products, they do not contain THC in them. Avoid Full Spectrum CBD products.

How to consume CBD and THC?

THC can be consumed in many forms:

  • Cannabis or THC-rich hemp flowers can be smoked or vaped.
  • Delta-9 THC edibles, including THC chocolates, gummies, and cookies can be eaten.
  • There is a wide range of Other THC products like concentrates, oils, tinctures, topicals, capsules, and beverages. 

CBD can also be consumed in many forms:

  • CBD flowers can be smoked or Vaped.
  • CBD oil and tinctures can be consumed orally.
  • You can eat CBD edibles in the form of gummies, chocolates, candies, and mints.
  • CBD also comes in the form of capsules, creams, lotions, concentrates, coffee, and tea.

In conclusion

Both CBD and THC are cannabinoids found in cannabis or hemp plants that offer a number of medical benefits. While THC is a psychoactive compound that causes “high”, CBD doesn’t.

Both CBD and THC can provide significant health and wellness benefits; but unlike THC, CBD does not make a person feel stoned. That’s because CBD and THC act in different ways on different receptors in the brain and body.

Many people use CBD for its medical benefits, While THC is mostly used due to its psychoactive properties. While CBD is a federally legal compound, THC isn’t. 

CBD and THC are both considered safe, there is still a possibility of side effects when consumed with other medication, It is advised to consult a healthcare professional before using them in any form.


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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