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CBD and THC are both cannabinoids, but they can have differing effects on the body. Learn more about the differences in the effects and benefits of CBD vs, THC. THC and CBD both come from cannabis, but they have different effects on the body and mind, and they aren’t always legal. Learn more. The original. The product that started the CBD movement, but more powerful than ever. Packed with CBD, THC, CBN, CBC and other beneficial cannabinoids and terpenes.

CBD vs. THC: What’s the Difference?

Both come from cannabis, but THC is psychoactive and CBD is not

Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.

Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more.

Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.

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Cannabis contains over 113 different chemical compounds known as cannabinoids. Cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are two types of chemical compounds derived from cannabis. In recent years, interest has grown in the potential health effects and benefits of cannabis. Much of this interest has centered on these two cannabinoids.

This interest will likely grow as cannabis and marijuana products become legal in more states. A number of different products have emerged that contain CBD, THC, or both that are designed to alleviate ailments such as stress, anxiety, and insomnia. To understand these products’ side effects and potential benefits, it is important to first understand the differences between CBD and THC.

What Is CBD?

Cannabidiol, usually referred to as CBD, is the second most prevalent chemical compound found in cannabis. First discovered during the 1940s, CBD has recently become more popular as a natural treatment for a range of conditions. It can be derived from hemp or from marijuana. Hemp-derived CBD still contains trace amounts of THC, while marijuana-derived CBD may contain more.

What Is THC?

Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), THC activates the brain’s reward system by signaling the release of the brain chemical dopamine.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in mood and pleasure. By triggering a higher-than-normal release of dopamine, THC causes people to experience feelings of euphoria. THC is often administered by smoking marijuana, but it can also be found as an ingredient in capsules, edibles, and oils.

CBD vs. THC: Key Differences

THC and CBD have an effect on the endocannabinoid system, a system that plays an important role in maintaining homeostasis. 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 some key differences between the two compounds.

Psychoactive (produces a high)

Sourced from marijuana

Non-psychoactive (does not produce a high)

Typically sourced from hemp

CBD vs. THC: Psychoactive Properties

CBD and THC affect different receptors in the brain. Because of this, CBD typically does not have psychoactive effects—in other words, it won’t cause you to get high.

THC, on the other hand, does have psychoactive effects. It is the compound that produces the high that people associate with marijuana.

CBD vs. THC: Chemical Structure

Both CBD and THC have a chemical structure that is similar to the body’s natural endocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids are neurotransmitters that act in the brain.

Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that relay signals between nerve cells in the body. They play an important role in a wide range of functions including sleep, pain, appetite, mood, and the immune system.

CBD and THC have the same molecular structure, but there are differences in how these molecules are arranged that are responsible for the differing effects they have. By mimicking endocannabinoids, they bind with receptors and cause different effects in the body.

CBD vs. THC: Sources

While CBD can come from either hemp or marijuana, it is often derived from hemp in order to avoid the addition of larger amounts of THC. THC, on the other hand, is derived from marijuana.

CBD that comes from marijuana may contain more THC, which may not be ideal for people who are trying to avoid THC. Some CBD products that are produced from cannabis, for example, may contain more THC than the label suggests.

CBD vs. THC: Potential Benefits

While research on the potential health benefits of THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids is still in the early stages, there is evidence that these substances may be helpful for conditions including:

  • Epilepsy
  • Glaucoma
  • Symptoms of HIV/AIDS
  • Pain
  • Opioid dependence
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBD)
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Movement disorders

While CBD and THC often have similar effects and are often used to treat many of the same ailments, there are some differences.

CBD is often used to alleviate symptoms associated with:

  • Anxiety
  • Inflammation
  • Migraines
  • Seizures

THC, which may be administered as medical marijuana, may be used to alleviate symptoms of a number of conditions. It may be helpful for conditions such as:

  • Glaucoma
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea; it may help alleviate nausea caused by cancer treatment
  • Pain associated with conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, and migraine headaches
  • Poor appetite; including appetite problems caused by cancer treatment
  • Tremors

CBD vs. THC for Pain Relief

Both CBD and THC can both be beneficial for pain relief. Because THC has psychoactive effects, it may produce more immediate pain relief. However, CBD can help reduce inflammation, which is useful for long-term effectiveness. Some evidence suggests that taking both CBD and THC may provide the greatest pain relief. In one study, people who took a combination of CBD and THC experienced greater pain relief than those who took THC alone.

FDA-Approved Medications

While cannabis itself has not been FDA approved to treat any condition, there are a few drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that contain CBD or THC.  

  • Epidiolex contains CBD and has been approved to treat seizures associated with two severe types of epilepsy—Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome
  • Marinol and Syndros are drugs that contain dronabinol, a synthetic THC. These drugs are used to treat nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy during cancer treatment.
  • Cesamet contains nabilone, a synthetic substance that is similar to THC. This drug is used to treat weight loss and appetite problems associated with chemotherapy and HIV/AIDS.

CBD vs. THC: Side Effects

Some research suggests that CBD and THC are generally safe and result in few side effects.

However, while these substances appear safe, that does not necessarily mean that you won’t experience some unwanted effects. Some adverse effects that have been reported include:

  • Changes in mood and appetite
  • Drowsiness
  • Feelings of anxiety or other mood changes
  • Nausea and dizziness
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THC use may also result in unpleasant side effects such as increased heart rate, dry mouth, and memory loss.

Marijuana itself can have a number of short-term and long-term adverse effects, including impaired short-term memory, altered judgment, and impaired coordination. Research also suggests that marijuana can alter brain development and may lead to cognitive impairment.

NIDA 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.

Legality of CBD and THC

When choosing CBD or THC products, it is also important to consider their legality. Both marijuana and THC are included in the U.S. Controlled Substances Act, which means that they are not legal under federal law.

As of July 2020, 33 states and Washington, D.C. have enacted policies allowing medical marijuana and products containing THC to be prescribed by a doctor. Some states also allow recreational use of marijuana and THC-containing products.

Although CBD in certain forms is legal in most states, the specifics of the legality of any THC or CBD product can vary from one state to the next. Several states have also approved the use of marijuana and THC for recreational purposes.

Because the laws regarding the use of cannabis and cannabis products are rapidly changing, you should always check your state’s laws before using products containing CBD or THC.

How to Take CBD and THC

Both THC and CBD can be consumed in a number of different forms. THC may be consumed as marijuana by smoking, but a number of other cannabis products are also available including:

  • Oils
  • Tinctures
  • Sprays
  • Vape products
  • Edibles including gummies and chocolates
  • Beverages containing marijuana oil

Like THC, CBD can also be consumed in a number of different forms. CBD oils can be formulated for vaping, although there have been recent concerns about the health dangers posed by vaping.

It can also be added to lotions and salves to apply to skin. It is important to note that the effects of these topical products will be localized since they are not being ingested.

CBD can also be taken orally as a tincture, oil, capsule, or spray. Edible CBD products are also popular and include gummies, candies, and beverages.

When choosing CBD products, it is also important to consider its formulation. Isolate products contain only CBD. Broad-spectrum products contain other cannabinoids with the exception of THC, while full-spectrum CBD products contain CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids.

Which One Should You Take?

The product you choose may depend on the effects you are trying to achieve. If you are trying to reduce stress or sleep better, for example, CBD may provide benefits without the negative side effects associated with THC. THC might be a better choice for symptoms or conditions for which the substance has demonstrated benefits, such as tremors or poor appetite.

The Entourage Effect

Some research suggests that the potential therapeutic effects of THC and CBD tend to be greater when the two cannabinoids are taken together at the same time. This phenomenon is known as the entourage effect.

Taking CBD along with THC has also been shown to help reduce some of the unwanted effects that THC may have. For example, one study suggests that CBD may potentially reduce some of the negative cognitive effects of regular cannabis use.

For example, people who use cannabis, particularly when it has high THC levels, may have a greater risk of experiencing psychiatric symptoms such as paranoia, anxiety, and psychosis. Studies have found, however, that CBD may help mitigate these effects.

One study found that CBD helped block some of the potential psychiatric effects of THC. The authors of the study suggest that such findings have important implications for the use of cannabis products. People who are prone to unwanted side effects, for example, may be able to still gain the potential health benefits by sticking to products that are low in THC and higher in CBD content.

It is also important to remember that CBD and THC work in a number of different areas of the brain, and researchers do not yet fully understand the effects that these cannabinoids have, either alone or in conjunction with one another.

Some evidence suggests that the combined effects of CBD and THC may be dependent on dose. A 2019 study, for example, found that low doses of CBD actually played a role in amplifying the psychoactive effects of THC, while high doses of CBD reduced THC’s effects.  

Drug Testing CBD or THC

Because THC is the main psychoactive substance in marijuana, it can be detected on most standard drug tests. CBD may be detectable as well, but many drug tests are not designed to look for cannabidiol.

However, many CBD products do contain trace amounts of THC. While these amounts are small, they may still be detectable if you are consuming large quantities of CBD or if the products you are using contain more THC than the packaging label claims.

Research has found, for example, that as many as 70% of CBD products are mislabeled and contain significantly more THC than labels suggest. Because of the lack of regulation of these products, it is difficult to know exactly how much THC you are actually getting.

There is no way to tell between THC and CBD based on appearance, smell, taste, or texture. Purchasing products from reputable manufacturers and retailers may help ensure that you are getting the type of product you want.

Both THC and CBD are stored in body fat, which means that both can potentially be detected on drug tests for some time after you have stopped using them.

Before You Take CBD or THC

THC and CBD may also have an effect on some health conditions and can interact with certain medications, so you should always use caution before taking these products. These substances might impact how medications are metabolized by your body. They can also heighten feelings of anxiety in some cases.

Before choosing a THC or CBD product, it is important to check your state laws to ensure that these products are legal where you live. Federal law mandates that hemp-derived CBD products should contain less than 0.3% THC, but even those trace amounts are still illegal in some states.

A Word From Verywell

Both THC and CBD may have a number of benefits, but you should always talk to your doctor first before you try any products containing these cannabinoids. Both CBD and THC hold promise for alleviating symptoms and even treating some medical and mental health conditions, but research in this area is still relatively new and further investigation is needed.

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Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Cannabis (marijuana) and cannabinoids: what you need to know.

Perry D, Ton J, Allan GM. Evidence for THC versus CBD in cannabinoids. Can Fam Physician. 2018;64(7):519. PMID: 30002029; PMCID: PMC6042662.

Volkow ND, Baler RD, Compton WM, Weiss SR. Adverse health effects of marijuana use. N Engl J Med. 2014;370(23):2219-2227. doi:10.1056/NEJMra1402309

Morgan CJ, Schafer G, Freeman TP, Curran HV. Impact of cannabidiol on the acute memory and psychotomimetic effects of smoked cannabis: naturalistic study: naturalistic study [corrected] [published correction appears in Br J Psychiatry. 2010 Nov;197:416]. Br J Psychiatry. 2010;197(4):285-290. doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.110.077503

Bonn-miller MO, Loflin MJE, Thomas BF, Marcu JP, Hyke T, Vandrey R. Labeling accuracy of cannabidiol extracts sold online. JAMA. 2017;318(17):1708-1709. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.11909

CBD vs. THC: What’s the Difference?

You’re probably hearing a lot about cannabis and marijuana products as they become legal in more and more states. Two natural compounds are getting the most attention: CBD and THC.

Cannabis is a plant that makes a thick substance full of compounds called cannabinoids. There are more than 100 of these chemicals in cannabis. They cause drug-like reactions in your body.

CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) are the most common cannabinoids found in cannabis products.

THC and CBD are in both marijuana and hemp. Marijuana contains much more THC than hemp, while hemp has a lot of CBD.

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. That gives CBD and THC different chemical properties, and they affect your body differently.

Both CBD and THC work with receptors that release neurotransmitters in your brain. They can affect things like pain, mood, sleep, and memory.

How CBD and THC Affect the Body

THC is the main psychoactive compound in marijuana. It’s what makes people feel “high.”

We have two types of cannabinoid receptors in our bodies. THC binds with receptors — mostly in the brain — that control pain, mood, and other feelings. That’s why THC can make you feel euphoric and give you that so-called high.

CBD doesn’t cause that high. Instead, it’s thought to work with other elements in the body linked to feelings of well-being.

Medical Benefits

People take CBD products to help with everything from arthritis and Crohn’s disease to diabetes and multiple sclerosis. Some say it helps with anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain. So far, there’s little evidence that CBD helps with any of these.

The FDA has approved one CBD-based drug. Epidiolex is a treatment for several severe forms of rare childhood epilepsy.

CBD is a hot topic for researchers. The National Institutes of Health clinical trials database shows more than 160 trials involving CBD that are either active or recruiting.

Some states authorize the use of THC as part of medical marijuana, THC may help ease things like:

Side Effects

  • Problems with concentration
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Balance
  • Memory loss

Side effects from CBD can include:

  • Nausea
  • Upset stomach
  • Tiredness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Crankiness
  • Drowsiness

CBD can also change the way some medicines work. Talk with your doctor about it.

What’s Legal?

Laws are changing all the time on cannabis. Many states allow medical marijuana, containing THC, for several uses, but it is still illegal under federal law. Some states have made recreational marijuana with THC legal for personal use. But it’s also illegal under U.S. law.

As part of the Farm Bill in December 2018, Congress legalized hemp. But there are still rules about where and how you can sell products that contain CBD. You can’t sell some across state lines, for example. All CBD products are illegal if they’re sold with the promise of medical benefits.

Check your state’s laws before buying products with CBD or THC.

Show Sources

National Cancer Institute: “Cannabis and Cannabinoids (PDQ) — Patient Version.”

Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience: “Cannabis, cannabinoids, and health.”

Echo Connection: “4 Differences Between CBD and THC,” “What Are the Differences Between CBD and THC?”

American Council on Science and Health: “CBD And THC – The Only Difference Is One Chemical Bond.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Answers to the top questions about cannabis extract,” “Medical marijuana.”

FDA: “FDA approves first drug comprised of an active ingredient derived from marijuana to treat rare, severe forms of epilepsy.”

U.S. National Library of Medicine ClinicalTrials.gov: “CBD.”

UW Health: “Do You Vomit When You Smoke Pot? Here’s Why.”

Alcohol and Drug Foundation: “Medical cannabis.”

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: “Marijuana and Cannabinoids.”

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CBD Oil is a tried-and-true product that combines a CBD extract with some type of carrier oil. The best CBD oils contain a full spectrum CBD extract — and a clean, healthy carrier oil. CBD oil is known for its ability to activate your body’s endocannabinoid system, leading to inner balance in the process!

At five™ we believe that nature knows best, which is why we use a full spectrum CBD extract in all of our CBD products. This type of CBD features its namesake compound alongside cannabinoids like THC, terpenes like guaiol, and hundreds of other active ingredients. You won’t find any broad spectrum CBD or CBD isolate here.

Full spectrum CBD oil is defined as CBD oil that contains a full spectrum of hemp’s best compounds. Full spectrum CBD oil contains THC, CBD, other cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and more. Our full spectrum CBD oil meets an even higher standard: its CBD:trace cannabinoid ratio is 5:1.

Yes. Terpenes contribute to the entourage effect and make CBD even stronger. Some terpenes even bind to endocannabinoid receptors.

Cannabinoids are compounds found almost exclusively in cannabis/hemp. They get their name from their ability to activate your body’s endocannabinoid system. CBD is the most prevalent cannabinoid in hemp, but it’s far from the only one.

Yes. Studies from Israel have conclusively shown that the small amounts of THC and other trace cannabinoids present in full spectrum CBD oil make it far stronger. Trace cannabinoids also make full spectrum CBD easier to dose.

No, it is not. Because the plant grows with a miniscule amount of THC (.3% or less). While this is considered a non-psychoactive amount, the plant cannabinoid is still present.

The choice of spectrum is personal and based upon what the consumer prefers. Some have found that they prefer the synergistic way that the cannabinoids work together in a full spectrum product. Others have found their desired results with an isolate product. It is good to try different spectrums to see which yields the most positive results for you.

Because there is a scant amount of THC within the plant extract, it can metabolize in your system to where it is enough to cause a positive result on a urine test. You can contact the lab directly should you like to know exactly what is being tested for and if a full spectrum cbd product is allowed.

Terpenes are compounds that contribute to the note or scent of flowering and fruiting plants throughout the world. Anyone who has enjoyed aromatherapy blends with scents like Lavender have enjoyed a plant’s terpenes. In the hemp plant, these terpenes work with the other cannabinoids, synergistically, to compound the potential benefits.

Between the inner balance, the increased calm, and the improved sleep, it’s hard to know where to start! Full Spectrum CBD is known to activate various parts of the body’s endocannabinoid system, leading to an impressively long list of possible health benefits. Our customers say our Full Spectrum CBD Oil worked for them when products from other brands did not.

For reasons that are still being uncovered by science, CBD works best when it’s used in tandem with tiny amounts of THC. It’s thought that this CBD + THC combo activates the entourage effect, a phenomenon that refers to hemp’s compound + compound synergy, better than anything else. The end result? A CBD product you can actually feel.

THC also has benefits of its own. It binds directly to CB1 receptors within the brain, leading directly to reduced stress and natural upliftment. THC may also be especially helpful for those who want to stave off chronic pain.

No! While large amounts of THC can indeed get you high, our Full Spectrum CBD Oil contains only trace amounts of THC — 0.3% by product weight, to be exact. This isn’t nearly enough THC to get you high.

Very unlikely. Large amounts of THC may cause side effects like dry mouth or anxiety, but once again, our CBD Oil doesn’t contain nearly enough THC to trigger these unwanted effects.

You bet! All of our CBD + THC products, including our Full Spectrum CBD + THC Oil, are completely legal. That’s because they don’t contain more than the 0.3% THC permitted by Federal law.

That depends on several factors, including your age, weight, health status, and health goals. Long story short…CBD affects different people differently!

That being said, we recommend starting off with one full dropper of CBD oil per day. (Consider taking this daily dose in the evening if you’re experiencing sleep problems.) If you’re not getting the results you’re looking for within a few days, feel free to slowly up your dose.

Not quite. While these three hemp-derived cannabinoids are closely related — scientists call them “isomers” — they vary in several ways. Delta-8 and delta-10 tend to be a little milder than delta-9. They also bind slightly differently to endocannabinoid receptors, leading to slightly different physiological effects.

No. Our Full Spectrum CBD Oil isn’t designed for vaping. Its MCT oil base is healthy to ingest, but it can become harmful if vaporized.

CBD oil was the very first CBD product to hit the shelves, and it continues to be one of the most popular products on the market today. As a result, it’s pretty dang popular!

You can find CBD oil at health food stores, grocery stores, head shops, dispensaries, and other locations. You may even be able to find it at some gas stations (not that we’re recommending that or anything). But buying online is usually the best way to go when it comes to finding affordable CBD products from trustworthy CBD companies.

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