CBD vs THC: Differences and Similarities

by | May 20, 2022 | CBD | 0 comments

Due to the rising popularity of CBD, CBDA, and THC products as supplements, there is more and more conversation about their potential health benefits. Many people who have explored the effects of regular intake of these specifics can testify about their favorable properties.

It is important to remember that, as of now, we have primarily anecdotal evidence about the benefits of supplementing with CBD and cannabis products. Research on this particular topic is still being conducted. We need more data to be conclusive about all the effects of these chemicals and all the benefits they can offer us.

The two cannabis compounds that gained the most interest over the years are CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). They are the most common compounds found in cannabis plants and the most researched too.

CBD and THC are found in the marijuana and hemp plants, but there is more THC in marijuana plants, while hemp plants are rich in CBD. That is the reason why CBD oils and other CBD products do not contain much THC and vice versa.

What are the main similarities and differences between those two compounds? In what instances it might be more advantageous to reach for the CBD product, and when the THC specific can present more benefits?


Main Differences


Although CBD and THC have the exact origin (both compounds come from the cannabis plants), their properties vary in some meaningful ways. This has an impact on how CBD and THC products are viewed from the scientific and medical perspectives as well as under the law.

The key differences that can be specified between CBD and THC are their chemical structure, psychoactive properties, side effects, their legality, and how they can be detected via drug testing.


Chemical Structure of CBD and THC


The chemical structure of these two main cannabis compounds varies only in how the atoms in these substances are arranged. The chemical formula of both CBD and THC is the same: 30 hydrogen atoms, 21 carbon atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms.

The important distinction in their chemical structures is that CBD has two 6-membered rings, while THC has an additional 6-membered ring that is formed via the attachment of carbon and an oxygen atom.

These differences in how the chemical structures of the compounds are built influence the way THC and CBD bind with the human endocannabinoid system receptors.

The two central receptors in the endocannabinoid system are called CB1 and CB2. The CB1 type of receptors is found in the brain as well as in the central nervous system. The CB2 receptors can be located mainly in the body’s immune system and the nervous system (but in much lower concentrations).

THC can bind well with both types of receptors, while CBD has lower compatibility with either of them.


Chemical formula of cbd on the background of hemp leaves


Psychoactive Effects

There is a common belief that THC is a psychoactive chemical, meaning it affects the brain and causes what can be described as feeling “high”, whereas CBD is not psychoactive at all. This is not entirely correct.

Both THC and CBD have psychoactive effects, but only one of them can cause an individual to experience the “high”. THC binds with CB1 receptors, which causes the mentioned “high.” However, CBD has little to no chance of attaching itself to CB1 and CB2 receptors, and therefore, it will not have the same intoxicating effects as THC has.

The interesting process occurs when THC and CBD are consumed simultaneously. In these situations, it is CBD that binds to the receptors and blocks THC from doing so. And that means that an individual will not feel any intoxicating effects of THC that would occur in normal circumstances.

Potential Side Effects

When it comes to the side effects of supplementing with CBD products or medical marijuana, they usually are relatively mild. Of course, every organism can have a different reaction to CBD and THC, so it is always crucial to observe the changes that can be a result of taking such a supplement.

The main side effects of taking CBD are:

  • Diarrhea
  • Tiredness
  • Mood swings
  • Nausea
  • Stomach problems
  • Drowsiness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Liver issues (over the long period of taking CBD)

On the list of THC side effects, there are:

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


There are quite a few differences in federal and state laws regarding CBD and THC products, which makes it difficult for the consumers and researchers to have access to and safely use them. Before purchasing any cannabis-related products, it is crucial to check the state laws and regulations about CBD and THC.

Under federal law, hemp products, like CBD oils, are legal to sell, buy and use if they contain no more than 0.3% THC on a dry weight basis. All cannabis products that contain more than 0,3% THC on a dry weight basis are illegal under federal law.

Whilst federal regulations are pretty clear in the matter, some states have different laws and allow the usage of products containing more THC.

In some states, it is perfectly legal to use medical marijuana, which contains THC. In 2021, nineteen states had laws permitting adult recreational and medical marijuana usage. Eleven states allowed the usage of products with a low percentage of CBD or THC. In three states, there is a complete ban on any cannabis specifics.

Advertising and selling CBD products as medically beneficial with a promise of health improvement is illegal in all states.

Drug Testing

It is also relevant to know if CBD and THC can be detected via a drug test. Although there are no tests for detecting CBD in one’s system, as most tests are designed to detect THC, there are some instances when CBD can also be tested.

Similarly, a drug test can still show positive results for THC even if an individual was only exposed to CBD products (as they can contain up to 0,3% of THC). To avoid such risks, it is best to choose CBD isolate products that do not contain THC.


Key Similarities


CBD and THC share many similarities, too, as both compounds have the same chemical structure and can be found in the herbs of the cannabis plant family. What are some of these similarities?


Medical Benefits

There are a lot of discussions and research being done on the medical benefits of CBD and THC. The researchers look for the answers to how exactly cannabis compounds interact with the human body and how these interactions can be used to our advantage.

There are a number of studies that showcase the potential of CBD in mitigating conditions like inflammation, chronic pain, anxiety, and insomnia. There are also studies being done on how CBD can be beneficial in treating cancer.

Medicinal marijuana is used to adress many severe symptoms and conditions (Alzheimer’s, ALS, cancer, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, seizures, to name a few) as well as to minimize the pain levels during treatments for cancer and in palliative care.

Of course, both CBD products and medicinal marijuana are applied as supplements, and in the second case, under the complete control of a doctor. At this moment, all beneficial properties of the compounds are mostly yet to be proven by science.


How CBD and THC Can Be Ingested?


There are several different types of products with CBD or THC, which means there are various ways in which an individual can ingest or apply CBD or THC. The most common methods include:

  • Consuming or applying oils and extracts from the cannabis plants
  • Edibles, like gummies, tablets, etc.
  • Smoking dried cannabis flower
  • Vaping via a vape pen

a person holding cbd gummies on his hand

Does CBD Have THC?


As mentioned in this article, CBD products can contain very small amounts of THC. THC levels are legally required not to be higher than 0.3%. Supplementing with CBD oils and other specifics will not cause anyone to feel “high,” but it is enough to result in a positive drug test.

It is also important to remember that CBD products are not FDA-approved. There is little control over what producers state on their packaging and how it relates to what exactly are the properties and composition of the CBD products. In practice, it leads to situations where an individual has little control over how much CBD they take.

The best practice is to always purchase the products from trusted retailers, and in case of any concerns, contact a medical proffesional.


THC vs CBD: Final Thoughts


There are some significant differences between CBD and THC. They differ in terms of their chemical structure, the ways both compounds interact with the human endocannabinoid system, their side effects, and how they are viewed by law.

CBD and THC share some similarities, too, such as the potential benefits in addressing symptoms like pain, epilepsy, or seizures. Although there is a long way to go before there will be medications based on these cannabis compounds, research shows significant potential for CBD and THC in medical use.



The statements expressed on this website are purely opinion of the author and not factual. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Any products referenced on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. It’s highly suggested to consult with your medical professional prior to any use of the products referenced on this website. This website and author specifically disclaim any liability in connection with the products contained on the website.


Michael Lagnese

Michael Lagnese is the co-founder and CEO of Mojave Rx - a consumer-focused CBD brand specializing in creating high potency products to support athletic performance, physical rehabilitation, and muscle recovery. Outside of his professional endeavors, Michael is also passionate about his personal growth journey. Exercise, meditation, reading, journaling, and continued education are all of the utmost importance and, in his opinion, the key to becoming a more effective leader. Above all, Michael is passionate about making a positive difference in people’s lives, and through Mojave Rx and their top-quality products, he hopes to continue on this journey for many years to come.