What are the differences between CBD and THC?

In the eternal fight, CBD vs. THC, let's take stock. The cartoon wants the THC be the terrible child of cannabis. The cannabidiol, on the contrary, would be at the origin of the benefits attributed to it. Further research actually proves that, despite having entirely separate effects, differences between CBD and THC are more subtle than it seems.

Cannabinoids, molecules still poorly understood

Le cannabis is at the center of many debates and almost everyone has a clear opinion on its use. Yet it is still poorly known. What we do know is that its molecular structure is complex. At least eighty-five cannabinoids different have already been identified. These are molecules, or more precisely acids, exclusive to the hemp plant. These chemicals are very different from each other act on certain receptors in the human body, causing effects that we know more or less.

Among the most famous cannabinoids, we find of course THC whose full name is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. It is the most common naturally occurring molecule in c. We owe him in particular his psychoactive effect, i.e. hovering. Faced with THC, we generally oppose the CBD, or cannabidiol. Sometimes nicknamed therapeutic cannabis thanks to its calming effects, it is the second most studied cannabinoid after THC.

Having more perspective on larger-scale research will allow better understand the effects and differences between CBD and THC. The extension of the list of countries authorizing the use of cannabis will allow many new studies to see the light of day. In this regard, many eyes are on Canada, the first major Western country to have fully legalized cannabis, and, for medical and recreational use.

CBD vs THC: a molecular difference


No differences between CBD and THC in terms of chemical composition

When we study in detail the molecules of CBD vs THC, we quickly realize that their structure is very close. Their chemical composition is indeed exactly the same. One THC molecule and one CBD molecule each have 21 carbon atoms, 3 hydrogen atoms and two oxygen atoms. The only contradiction, apparently tiny, lies in the arrangement of these atoms among themselves and more particularly the position of a single hydrogen atom. On a human scale, it seems possible to ignore. In fact, the differences caused by the change in position of this atom are immense.

The scientist behind the isolation of the THC molecule is Raphael Mechoulam. A year earlier, in 1963, this Israeli researcher had already succeeded in determine the structure of cannabidiol, then only isolated. Thanks to him and his teams, the differences between CBD and THC could be better understood, especially regarding their respective effects.

The human body has a endocannabinoid system. Identified in the 1990s, it contains two types of receptors: CB-1 and CB-2. The former are present in certain areas of our brain while the others are distributed between our immune system and our nervous system. Because of their molecular difference, THC and CBD do not interact in the same way with these receptors. The differentiation of their effects therefore lies mainly in this small detail.

The different effects between CBD and THC

THC has a psychoactive effect that CBD-min does not have

THC causes the consumer to lose control, which is not the case with CBD

THC therefore gets us high. It is part of the tetrahydrocannabinols, listed as narcotics and therefore strictly prohibited by law. He is the main responsible for what is called recreational cannabis use, which is totally prohibited by French law.

CBD is said to be a sedative and a sedative. Cannabidiol is indeed a cannabinoid whose certain effects are recognized, but still unknown. This lack of scientifically proven data still places it as an outsider whose apparent benefits are not enough to raise it to the rank of conventional medicine. Cannabidiol is however not psychoactive and therefore not listed as narcotic. CBD is therefore authorized in France.

The differences between CBD vs THC are therefore mainly manifested in their effects. However, some studies suggest that the two molecules would be more complementary than expected. CBD thus seems to slow down, and even counteract the effects of THC. Its calming effect would, for example, limit the feeling of anxiety sometimes caused by taking tetrahydrocannabinol THC. These studies, still requiring further study, even seem to demonstrate that CBD limit the feeling of addiction and could, in the right dosage, act as substitute for freeing oneself from the feeling of lack. The differences between cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabinol, instead of opposing them, on the contrary increase their complementarity.

Legal CBD Vs Illegal THC?

CBD and THC no visible differences on the hemp plant

At the level of the hemp plant, there is nothing to assess the differences between CBD and THC

Very strict regulation governs the use of THC. In France, its ban is clear and it appears on a list of the various narcotics. However, no addictive action has been recognized in CBD. Cannabidiol is therefore not a narcotic. It does not make a priori dependent and also does not contain toxic substances. However, as with any other plant, it is necessary to ensure its mode of production to avoid contamination from external chemicals such as pesticides.

To say that THC is illegal and CBD is legal is to take a bit of a short cut. At the legal level, however, there are many differences between CBD and THC. European law actually states that plants with a tetrahydrocannabinol content of less than 0,3% are legal plants. It is these same plants, and only them, that allow the creation of cannabidiol products. Products with a high CBD content sold in France can therefore be considered as cannabis without THC. This is what earns cannabidiol CBD its nickname of legal cannabis. Despite a sometimes vague legal framework, the European Union is increasingly interested in issues related to cannabidiol. She would even think of solutions for develop the cannabis sector. Also, today we find CBD without any trace of THC: Cannabis America.

We are therefore at the beginning of the discovery of the possibilities offered by cannabinoids. Scientific research continues to provide answers as to their effects. Legalization of cannabis in certain countries, especially in Canada which authorizes CBD and THC, should enable science to make significant advances in cannabis research.

An interest in combining CBD and THC?

Rather than constantly evoking the match CBD Vs. THC, it can on the contrary be interesting to consider them together, for their specific and complementary properties. But, in this case, would considering the combination of the two cannabinoids rather aim to allow THC toincrease CBD benefits or cannabidiol from limit the disadvantages of THC ? Potentially both.

THC to maximize the effects of CBD

If you are interested in cannabis and its derivatives, you may have already heard of the entourage effect. Not yet fully understood, it nevertheless seems to infer thata cannabinoid alone is not as effective as a cannabinoid in its natural environment. Thus, CBD alone would have less broad and pronounced effects than when accompanied by the other terpenes, flavonoids and cannabinoids present in hemp. This logically includes THC. By combining CBD and THC, the potential for effects would thus be greater than by consuming only one CBD isolate. However, as we mentioned above, THC is far from having only beneficial effects on the body. Which brings us to our second question.

CBD to limit the disadvantages of THC

On another scale, if THC can potentially encourage the action of CBD, the latter also seems to be able to compensate for some unwanted effects of THC. Specifically, some studies suggest a certain ability of CBD to inhibit or in any case reduce the action of THC on the body, in particular its psychoactive effects and its addictive nature. It is for this reason, among other things, that CBD is often recommended to those who want stop smoking cannabis.

Far from encouraging the consumption of THC, the entourage effect and the complementarity of the two cannabinoids, however, encourage Rethinking the CBD Vs. THC Debate, a debate that will perhaps emerge in the public sphere when considering medical cannabis in France.

To conclude: CBD Vs. THC




Origin Cannabis sativa Cannabis sativa
Legal in France Yes No
Maximum authorized rate 100% (concentrates) 0,3%
psychoactive No Yes
Addictive No Yes
Chemical formula C21H30O2 C21H30O2
Main effects Relaxation, muscle relaxation, stress reduction, reduction of certain pains High, euphoria, relaxation, hunger, anxiety, short-term memory impairment
Main products CBD oil, resins and pollens, CBD e-liquids, CBD flowers, CBD infusions Weed, hashish
Main uses Local application, oral intake, spraying, infusion Gaskets, kitchen
Wanted by screening tests (saliva, blood, urine). No Yes

THC Vs. CBD: Common Questions

Is it possible to distinguish CBD cannabis from marijuana with the naked eye?

It is very difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish CBD hemp from THC cannabis from the black market with the naked eye. If a head that is not neither withered nor moldy and offers to nice sticky trichomes is usually a sign of quality weed, it doesn't say much about its THC or CBD content. In case of doubt, it is necessary to carry out an analysis of at least one sample of the product.

Do THC and CBD smell the same?

Quality cannabis should smell good. This floral, fruity or sweet smell depending on the variety is however above all the work of terpenes and flavonoids. However, these are not specific to cannabis and are found in most plant species (fruits, vegetables, flowers, etc.). Finally, THC and CBD have no particular smell. It is therefore impossible to recognize them on the nose.

Are THC and CBD the only two cannabis molecules causing effects on humans?

No and far from it. THC and CBD are just two cannabinoids among more than a hundred. If some of them are well known as the CBG (cannabigerol), the CBC (cannabichromene) or the CBN (cannabinol), many others are yet to be discovered and studied. However, THC and CBD remain by far the best known and most present in cannabis in its natural state. The others are present in more or less anecdotal quantities, which explains why they are (much) less talked about and why they are also less present on the market. Not to mention that not all of them have effects as interesting as those of cannabidiol.

How to separate THC from CBD?

THC and CBD are two cannabinoids naturally produced by hemp. They are therefore ultimately only molecules that must be extracted in order to be able to isolate them and enjoy them independently. There are several techniques for extract THC and CBD of a cannabis plant. CO extraction2 is often preferred because it is cleaner than extraction using solvents and retains the properties of cannabinoids better than oil extraction. To ensure that products containing tetrahydrocannabinol are not sold, European law requires the use of plants that do not contain not more than 0,2% THC. There is then no need to separate THC from CBD anymore.

Do cannabis medicines contain THC or CBD?

Potentially both. There are indeed drugs containing cannabidiol, others containing THC and some combining the two molecules to take advantage of their combined effects. Therapeutic cannabis is not authorized in France, three different treatments using cannabinoids have however already been approved: Sativex (containing CBD and THC and used against multiple sclerosis), Epidiolex (oral CBD solution againstepilepsy) and Marinol (based on Dronabinol, against neuropathic pain).