THC and CBD Chemical Makeup

CBD and THC are similar and do belong to the same chemical family, but remain distinct in their chemical structures. In many instances, the two terms are used in a similar context. While the casual reference of 'one will get you high, and the other won't' works to some extent, we want to continue to enhance the definition. Misinterpretation is likely to contribute to mistakes in user consumption.

The marketplace is flooded with CBD related products. With the increase in visibility, there are many questions about product use and how it may affect them both temporarily and long-term. One of the more common concerns being:  Is it going to hurt or harm me in any way, and how is it different than THC?

It is also worth highlighting the possibility of user misperception due to inconsistencies in marketing and labeling standards. This might be especially true with online descriptive practices since the product regulations vary from state to state. The goal, as a reputable manufacturer of CBD products, is to provide our audience with more clarity.

CBD and THC: Do the Differences Matter?

YES! Differences between cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) matter a great deal. Though perception may appear that CBD is mainstream, it is still considered taboo in many ways. It is also essential that industry leaders do their part to help shape the CBD industry fairly and responsibly.

Additionally, many biochemical changes occur within the body following ingestion of CBD or THC. Working towards establishing an open dialogue about what to expect can help users to get more familiar with cannabis/hemp terminology.

Understanding Cannabidiol (CBD)

CBD Leaf

CBD is a compound found in hemp plants currently being used to produce different types of products (such as CBD isolate and full spectrum). CBD, when derived from hemp, is legal under U.S. federal law.

All cannabis plants produce cannabinoids, such as CBD. Unlike its cousin, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the primary psychoactive element in marijuana), CBD is non-psychoactive (or non-intoxicating). While CBD and THC are the most well-known cannabinoids, they represent only two of the many naturally produced cannabinoid molecules derived from hemp plants.

Is CBD referenced in the same drug classification as THC?

In September 2018, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) released an official statement, outlining their removal of "FDA-approved drugs that contain CBD derived from cannabis and no more than 0.1 percent tetrahydrocannabinol [THC]" from the list of Schedule 1 drugs. 

CBD products can fall into either the Schedule I or Schedule V category depending on the ingredients, FDA approval, and perhaps more importantly, where they're being purchased.

Are you considered under the influence after consumption of CBD as you would be alcohol or THC?

CBD doesn't have a substantial effect on cognitive brain activity. It is commonly expressed in the notion it does not produce a euphoric sensation or the "high" associated with marijuana. ii

Why has CBD been gaining so much notoriety?

CBD is the subject of much-advanced research since the full potential of the compound is still unknown. Part of the discovery process in researching the benefits of CBD involves the mechanism of action of specific receptors found throughout the body but centered mostly in the brain.

The endocannabinoid system consists of:

  • Endogenous cannabinoids (endocannabinoids)
  • Cannabinoid receptors
  • Enzymes that synthesize/degrade cannabinoids.

Many of the effects of cannabinoids/endocannabinoids are mediated by two G protein coupled receptors (GPCRs), CB1 and CB2. Though other receptors may be involved, CB1 receptors are present in high levels in the brain. These receptors are responsible for the assimilation of cannabinoid molecules into your system, resulting in the psychoactive and immune responses correlated with marijuana consumption.

Understanding the sophisticated nature of these two receptors in the brain and body is at the helm of many ongoing CBD related clinical trials. Determining the potential of CBD as a viable therapeutic option for various medical conditions is fueling many research paradigms. The goal is to gain a deeper comprehension of CBD on a molecular level. 

A Deep Dive: Exploring the Distinguishing Key Characteristics of CBD from THC

1.) Chemical Structure

CBD and THC have the same chemical formula -- 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and two oxygen atoms. The difference lies in the way the atoms are arranged. This is what gives CBD and THC different chemical properties, and why they affect the body in unique ways.

2.) Plant Sourcing

THC and CBD are found in both marijuana and hemp plants. Marijuana typically contains more THC than hemp (as it has been historically bred for THC), while hemp usually produces higher levels of CBD.


CBD Bud up Close

3.) Brain Chemistry

THC and CBD each affect the brain differently:

During intoxication with THC, brain images revealed increased blood flow in the prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain regulates our internal drive systems: emotions, senses, and taste. The National Institute on Drug Abuse supports the fact that THC relaxes the nerves within this brain region, thereby hindering the ability to focus correctly.

CBD influences similar areas of the brain, such as those receptors associated with memory, pleasure, comfort, and appetite. However, they do not produce any euphoric effects in the brain. This is because CBD does a poor job of activating the CB1 receptors responsible for generating the high feeling. CBD also assists in raising the levels of a naturally occurring cannabinoid in the brain, called anandamide.

Anandamide helps to regulate serotonin and dopamine. While helping to elevate anandamide levels, CBD ultimately increases regulatory action against the neurotransmitters responsible for triggering emotional responses.

Conclusion: The Future for CBD Research

As illustrated, the key differences remain in how the two substances interact within our bodies' molecular framework. We look forward to understanding more about CBD and the contributions it may be able to lend to science. The CBD research landscape is poised for discoveries and opportunities to create even more favorable outcomes.