Breaking Down Cannabidiol: CBD vs THC

For those new to hemp-based products, there may be a question about CBD vs THC. How are they different? Which one is better for anxiety, inflammation, and sleep? Do all THC products contain CBD? If you’re looking to purchase a quality CBD wellness supplement, will it get you high?

As it turns out, CBD is a lot different from THC. While they both come from the same plant, they do not have the same effects on users.

Let’s break down the differences between CBD vs THC.

Cannabinoids of the Hemp Plant

A tincture of CBD oil

A tincture of CBD oilThe cannabis plant can be a mystery. In it, we find all sorts of different compounds—called cannabinoids—which have different effects on the mind and body. Tetrahydrocannabinol, more commonly known as THC, is the most famous of these cannabinoids.

Each cannabinoid has a different effect. Some have psychoactive components that can temporarily alter your mental state, while others target endocannabinoid receptors throughout your body to produce a relaxing sensation.

Virtually every cannabinoid will be present in every hemp plant without exception—the difference between strains has more to do with which ones are cultivated to stand out. For example, all cannabis plants contain some amount of THC, but only marijuana is cultivated to maximize it. CBD is also present, but hemp plants tend to contain more of it than marijuana plants.

Some cannabinoids, like THC, are psychoactive. They get you high. Others, like CBD, don’t contain those psychoactive components, making them much better candidates for medical purposes. Broad spectrum hemp supplements often contain CBG and CBN as well—two cannabinoids known for their regenerative and antibacterial properties.

What CBD Does

When it comes to wellness supplements, CBD is by far the most common cannabinoid included in products. Why? Because it stimulates the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). This is a network of hormone producers and receptors that can affect many organs throughout the body.

The ECS was only discovered a couple decades ago, and because cannabis is a controlled substance, research on its properties is still in its early stages. In that time, however, scientists have discovered some amazing things about how cannabinoids can help people.

CBD (aka cannabidiol) targets a cytochrome in the brain that triggers the release of enzymes. Without CBD, these enzymes cause the ECS to stop producing hormones after a while. This is a normal and healthy process, but sometimes, allowing those hormones to proliferate a little longer yields some great benefits.

For example, CBD in rats caused them to remain in a state of REM sleep for longer periods. This makes a lot of sense, given what people say about CBD’s ability to help them fall asleep and get a better night’s rest.

Sleep isn’t the only place CBD can help, either. It is known to help regulate peoples’ moods, leading to greater calm and lower levels of anxiety. When serotonin levels are low, people tend to feel worse. By slowing down the body’s enzymatic process that would absorb that serotonin, CBD may be worth exploring as an effective anxiolytic.

CBD also works well in reducing inflammation. More and more people are asking doctors about using CBD as a remedy for chronic joint pain, and the results are looking pretty good. Not only does CBD help to reduce inflammation, but it does not cause any of the psychoactive side effects linked to THC. It’s also known as a safe drug with virtually no risk for addiction.

There’s a lot more research that needs to be done before any consensus will come out of the medical community. Until then, it’s up to you to try it yourself.

THC by Comparison

While CBD is known as a mild analgesic with stress-reducing properties that don’t result in psychoactivity, THC is its much rowdier relative.

Stories abound of people getting high from THC and experiencing various results. Some people aren’t affected much, while others end up glued to their couch and rambling incoherently (only in the worst cases, of course).

While THC doesn’t have the greatest reputation, it also offers its own wellness benefits. One study showed how cannabis users reported lower anxiety and depression levels over time. However, plenty of people have had less than ideal experiences with THC. This potential for cognitive impairment is likely what keeps recreational (and sometimes medicinal) marijuana illegal in many states and countries.

CBD vs THC: How Cannabinoids Work Together

Two women laughing and smiling

Two women laughing and smilingCBD tends to work more on the body while THC affects the brain. In the case of marijuana, they work together to reduce stress and inflammation. But CBD does a lot of this work on its own.

Thanks to 2018’s Farming Bill, hemp is now legal to grow in the US, so long as growers are licensed to do so. This has made it easier than ever for new vendors to obtain CBD products and sell them to those in need.

The good vendors formulate their own products using not just CBD, but also the terpenes of the plant it was extracted from. Today, you can take CBD products formulated as wellness tinctures, daily multivitamins, and even topicals for chronic joint pain.

Do CBD Products Contain THC?

The answer is technically yes. However, laws about hemp require growers to keep THC levels under 0.4%, which as you can probably guess, is a negligible amount.

The best hemp-based supplements contain as much of the plant’s materials and compounds as possible within the law. This means there are other cannabinoids and terpenes that handle other tasks. Some terpenes can reduce stress and inflammation on their own, so combining them with CBD and other cannabinoids can have a much more noticeable effect.

Broad spectrum is the term used for these kinds of products. However, some products contain higher levels of THC, usually called full spectrum. While they still aren’t likely to get you high like marijuana, the psychoactive effects may be more noticeable.

Choosing the Right CBD Supplement

A tincture dropper of CBD oil

A tincture dropper of CBD oilIf you’ve decided that you’d rather take CBD instead of a more THC-heavy product, the next question is where to buy it. As hemp products aren’t heavily regulated in this country, vendors are popping up all over the place with products that vary in quality. It’s important that you buy something that actually works. Otherwise, you won’t get the full effect.

Higher quality products will cost you more, but not that much more. When you consider that cheap products usually don’t work, though, spending the extra money is infinitely more worth it.

Always Buy Organic

While there aren’t many regulations on how CBD products are formulated, organic growing requirements are more strict. If you buy organic products, you can avoid poor quality products that weaken their compounds with synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.

Read the lab reports, too. These documents will tell you about what’s in your supplement, including the amount of cannabinoids, the presence of toxins and pesticides, and other helpful information. The more you know, the more you can be confident about getting a great product.

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