What Is The Difference Between CBD and THC?

What Is The Difference Between CBD and THC?


People are often confused by the difference between CBD and THC.  They also frequently ask what it means when some strains of cannabis plant are higher or lower in CBD content, and how higher CBD strains work in comparison to high THC strains for different medical conditions. 

Historically, recreational users tend to go for strains of marijuana with higher THC content.  Studies show that cannabis strains with higher CBD content are often better suited for medical use, as the euphoric effects and the negative side effects of fatigue, paranoia and hunger are much less common in strains that have a high CBD content. 


What’s the difference between THC and CBD?

THC and CBD are both cannabinoids derived from the marijuana plant; however, they are different in many ways that may influence what your doctor will prescribe for you.

CBD, also known as cannabidiol, is non-psychogenic (meaning it does not make you feel high or disassociated in any way).  It is a mild anxiolytic when used by itself.  When combined with THC (in a tincture or within the plant itself) it works synergistically with the THC to alleviate anxiety, pain, nausea, and insomnia.  CBD also binds cells within the immune system, which is where it is thought to exert its effect on decreasing inflammation and improving immunity in general.  Finally, CBD alters the way ions flow in and out of neurons, which can smooth and slow down neural firing - aberrant firing of the nerves that control pain impulses underlies most issues of somatic and neuropathic pain. 


Finally, CBD can act to decrease the potency of THC when it is mixed with THC in a tincture (or in a high CBD strain plant of marijuana).  The theory is that CBD competes for binding sites within the nervous system.  Since CBD does not make you feel high, it decreases the potency of the THC, which in turn can decrease unwanted side effects of paranoia. 

These are a few of the reasons that many cannabis physicians prefer to prescribe products with a mix of CBD and THC are great for first-time consumers.

This does not mean that CBD, by itself, cannot offer an effect.  Higher doses of CBD often produce a profoundly relaxing experience. Like stepping out of a hot tub, your body may feel tingly and relaxed, and your brain may be clear.


What are the Medical Benefits of CBD?

The list of conditions CBD may help with is continuing to grow as more and more consumers are trying it. More research is needed to better understand the efficacy and range of CBD’s benefits, but it’s popularly used to manage the following symptoms and conditions:


Though clinical and anecdotal evidence suggests CBD can manage different conditions, it is most well known for its ability to alleviate treatment-resistant epilepsy.

CBD has no lethal dose or known serious side effects. The idea of using cannabis-derived compounds for pediatric conditions remains a touchy subject in a culture where cannabis has been stigmatized. 

Although THC is best known for its mind-altering euphoria, it too has important medical benefits. There’s some overlap in what CBD and THC can treat, but THC is particularly effective in relieving nausea, appetite loss, insomnia, among other symptoms. Many patients find that a balance of CBD and THC offers the best symptom relief as the two work together synergistically.


What are some examples of high CBD cannabis strains?

CBD is typically the second-most abundant cannabinoid in cannabis, but this isn’t always the case. A strain may deliver CBD and THC in the following ratios:


High CBD strains tend to deliver very clear-headed, functional effects without the euphoric high associated with high-THC strains. They’re typically preferred by consumers who are extremely sensitive to the side effects of THC such as paranoia, dizziness, and anxiety.   


A high-CBD strain would also be a great choice for someone needing to medicate throughout the day to control pain, inflammation, anxiety, or other chronic conditions.

Balanced CBD/THC strains will be a little more euphoric than CBD-dominant strains, though they’re much less likely to induce anxiety, paranoia, and other negative side effects.  Strains like these tend to be the most effective for pain relief, and they’re also well-suited for THC-sensitive consumers who’d like a mellow buzz.


CBD strains can be consumed just as you would THC strains. You can smoke or vape CBD-rich flower, eat a CBD-infused edible, swallow a CBD oil capsule, apply a CBD lotion, or use a CBD tincture sublingually. Hemp products also contain CBD, though it is a less efficient source and lacks the beneficial chemical diversity of cannabis-derived CBD products. 


At Compassionate Telemedicine, we frequently start our patients on a 1:1 tincture that is equal parts CBD and THC to introduce them to cannabis medication without worrying about negative side effects.

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Dr. Allison Kendrick

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