If you want to truly maximize the positive benefits of using cannabis, it’s important to understand the difference between CBD and THC. While the two cannabinoids have similarities, they work in contrasting, harmonious ways; each producing a particular effect on the human body. In order to tailor your cannabis use to your health, here is a look at the factors that separate THC and CBD. 

The ‘High’

CBD and THC effect on brain

Here is an analogy to help you understand the adaptive high that cannabis produces. Think of it like this; THC works as a painkiller and CBD works like a very strong anti-inflammatory. 

THC Painkillers can often get you high unless they have a job to do. For example, if you give morphine to someone who just broke their leg, you would have a different effect than if you gave it to someone without any injuries. The feeling associated with THC is very much like this. The level of psychotropic and physiological effects it will have, depends on factors such as your current physical state, metabolism, and tolerance.    

CBD CBD does not produce the psychoactive effect associated with THC, but some patients report that it does create a psychological effect. It is typically classified as an analgesic as well. If inflammation is causing you pain, CBD might make a significant difference. However, there are different types of CBD and to find the best one for you, you should follow consumer’s guide to buying CBD.

Neuroreceptor activity

CBD and THC neuroactivity

THC When ingested, THC binds primarily with our CB1 receptor sites, as well as our CB2 receptors. Acting as an agonist, it stimulates neurotransmission, encouraging and producing activity.

CBD – Rather than activate your CB1 and CB2 receptors, CBD acts as an antagonist, blocking their processes. For example, Epilepsy is often caused by overactive neuroreceptors, resulting in seizures. When you introduce the right phytocannabinoids, they will take over and interrupt the effect. 

Noteworthy Point – THC encourages receptor activity while CBD blocks it. So, if you have taken too much THC and are not enjoying the effect, taking CBD may help to block what’s happening. 

Molecule Structure

CBD and THC structure

One of the biggest differences between CBD and THC can be found on a molecular level. Both cannabinoids have 21 carbon, 30 hydrogen, and 2 oxygen atoms but they are arranged in a different way. Chemically, both molecules are similar to a lot of the endocannabinoids our bodies produce naturally. As a result, THC and CBD can act as phytocannabinoids, enabling neurotransmission. 

Cause and effect on emotions


THC – THC causes the release of chemicals within the reward and pleasure centers of the brain and as a result, it can give a sense of calm and euphoria. Depending on the dose, THC can help the brain produce proper levels of dopamine and serotonin. If you take a little more than you need, your receptors might become overstimulated and get you high.

CBD – Acting as an antagonist, CBD blocks the activity of the receptors that respond to stress. Instead of stimulating calming chemicals, CBD blocks physical fight or flight reactions when stress is occurring. This is why CBD doesn’t produce the same feelings as THC and works more as an anti-anxiety agent; it’s a blocker, not a producer. 

Plant Structure


THC – If you want to get some THC in your system, you get it from the resin of a female cannabis plant. However, it’s not that simple; Activated THC (Commonly referred to as delta-9 or delta-8 THC) is only present after the process of decarboxylation. Meaning, you need to get rid of a carbon atom and you can do this by adding heat.

CBD – This cannabinoid can be extracted from both male and female cannabis plants. Growing CBD rich plants can be a tricky business, especially if you are looking to smoke a CBD bud. CBD can degrade faster than THC, making it a bit more finicky when it comes to the flowering cycle. Because of this, growers will usually harvest CBD buds a bit sooner. Often, CBD will be harvested from hemp


CBD and THC dose

CBD – Because CBD works to block your cannabinoid (CB1) receptors, you do not need a huge dose to create a therapeutic effect. In fact, any extra taken is excreted, making huge doses of CBD more of a waste, than a benefit to the body.

THC – When it comes to dosing THC, most operate based on the rule of ‘start low, go slow’. A number of factors will impact the body’s reaction to THC, including metabolism, tolerance and the current state of your health. If you are eating cannabis, the amount of food present within the stomach will have a significant impact on the overall effect and the time it takes for you to feel it. If you eat an edible on an empty stomach, expect it to hit you quickly. Munch that cookie on a full, Thanksgiving dinner style stomach and it might take a while to feel it.


CBD and THC legal

As of Oct. 17, 2018, Canadians can legally:

  • Grow up to 4 plants for personal use
  • Possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis. 

Currently, The Canadian Cannabis Act does not distinguish between CBD and THC but American laws do. In the USA, The Controlled Substances Act states that if there is less than 0.3% of THC within the CBD product, it is exempt from cannabis regulations. As a result, CBD imports from across the border are common throughout Canada.

When it comes to the difference between CBD and THC, was there anything missed that you feel merits mentioning? When choosing between CBD and THC, what factors mean the most to you? Let us know in the comments!


The diverse CB1 and CB2 receptor pharmacology of three plant cannabinoids: Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol, and Δ9-tetrahydrocannabivarin

by R G Pertwee

School of Medical Sciences, Institute of Medical Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK


Cannabinoid Receptors and the Endocannabinoid System: Signaling and Function in the Central Nervous System

by Shenglong Zou and Ujendra Kumar 

Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada


Endocannabinoid Binding to the Cannabinoid Receptors: What Is Known and What Remains Unknown

by Patricia H. Reggio

Center for Drug Discovery, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of North Carolina Greensboro, Greenboro, NC27402 USA


State Medical Marijuana Laws

by The National Conference on State Legislatures