At least since the hippie era, plant names like cannabis, marijuana or hemp have been mainly associated with one term: Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC for short. It is mostly known for its intoxicating effect.
However, the cannabis plant has a lot more to offer, for instance the powerful component cannabidiol, also known as CBD. In order to understand the difference between THC and CBD, we must have a look at the different terms circulating around the popular plant.
Cannabis, marijuana and hemp - a definition
The difference is easy to explain. Cannabis is the latin name of a plant species. This type of plant (cannabis) has two subcategories: Hemp and marijuana.
Both are clearly distinguished by their ingredients.
Hemp usually contains 20% of CBD (cannabidiol) or even more and 0.3% or even less THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). Therefore it is cultivated as so-called "useful hemp" or "industrial hemp" and is mainly used for the production of hemp cosmetics, food or clothing.
Marijuana on the other hand usually contains around 10% of CBD and more than 20% of THC.
The Chemical Structure of CBD and THC
CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) are both classified as cannabinoids. These cannabinoids are the active ingredients of the cannabis plant. More than 110 different cannabinoids have been found already.
THC has been the most researched substance among them so far. This is why some people are more familiar with the term than with the names of other unknown cannabinoids, such as:
Cannabinol (CBN), Cannabigerol (CBG), Cannabichromene (CBC), Cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) or Cannabidivarin (CBDV).
The difference between the cannabinoids is only microscopically small. Between THC and CBD, the difference lies in just one single atom that has a major influence on the molecular structure. Even if the difference is small - it has a serious impact on the effects of both plant components.
The most important difference between CBD and THC
THC has a psychoactive effect due to its chemical composition and causes a state of intoxication.
CBD on the other hand has a different effect on our receptors and is therefore not psychoactive. Both act via our body's own receptors within the endocannabinoid system.
If you are hoping for a “high” feeling when consuming CBD, you will be waiting in vain. Cannabidiol relaxes, but does not make you high - contrary to its big brother THC.
If one had to describe the effect of CBD in one sentence, it would probably be:
The moment you get out of the warm bathtub and step into your cozy bathrobe. That is why CBD is not only available in the form of oils, but also as wellness products. At New Garden Lab you can find a selection of CBD bath balls, bath salts, massage oils and much more for your home spa. Balms and lotions with CBD are also ideal for athletes as they can stimulate muscle regeneration and thus counteract muscle soreness and tension.
Legality - CBD vs. THC
The legality of cannabinoids varies from country to country. We therefore only refer to the current situation in Germany and Europe.
When it comes to THC and marijuana, the legal situation in Germany was quite clear until 2017: marijuana is illegal.
In 2017 it was then permitted to use marijuana for the purely medical-therapeutic treatment of diseases. For this purpose, medical marijuana is cultivated under the strictest conditions in Europe. However, it is by no means easy to obtain a prescription. Marijuana and especially the psychoactive substance THC is strictly prescription-only. THC is only prescribed after serious consideration and examination by trained doctors.
CBD on the other hand is free for sale and completely legal. Since it is extracted from industrial hemp plants with low THC content, there is no psychoactive effect. According to the EU regulations, freely marketable products may not contain more than 0.02 % of THC.
Full spectrum CBD products also contain other ingredients of the hemp plant besides CBD and a THC content of less than 0.02%. CBD isolates on the other hand are completely free of THC and contain only isolated cannabidiol and a carrier oil. You can find more information about the different CBD spectra in our blog article "CBD full spectrum vs. broad spectrum vs. CBD isolate".
The Advantages - CBD vs. THC
Even if one of the two ingredients is intoxicating, both have their own advantages. It is clear that the freely available CBD has a huge advantage: It's legal.
Therefore CBD, used in the form of a CBD oil for example, promises more benefits for human health while remaining fully legal. The opposite is true of the disadvantages.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the most researched of all cannabinoids. It causes the body to release dopamine. This in turn leads to a feeling of euphoria and general well-being. It induces a state of intoxication and thus has a psychoactive effect.
In the case of serious illnesses, it can be used therapeutically and can be helpful as a prescription. Therapies with THC have been successful in the past for autoimmune diseases, to increase appetite and for sleep problems. The use of the drug has also been successful in patients with movement disorders.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is currently under active investigation as the second cannabinoid to emerge from its shadowy existence. A whole range of health benefits have been scientifically confirmed several times. The biggest advantage is the relaxing effect without intoxication. Some studies even show that CBD can counteract the intoxication effect.
CBD is also particularly popular with smokers who want to switch from nicotine to a healthier way of relaxed inhalation. With a vaporizer and a suitable CBD oil cartridge, the CBD contained in the product is vaporized. Vaporizing is much healthier than smoking, as it does not contain tobacco, tar or nicotine. In addition, the burning process releases dangerous pollutants, which is not the case with "vaping".
The Disadvantages - CBD vs. THC
The biggest advantage of CBD is also the biggest disadvantage of THC: its legality. Although the use of marijuana is widespread in our society and legal in many countries, the uncontrolled use can have some serious disadvantages.
THC has a psychoactive effect. This affects the sensory perception and the sense of time. Externally, consumption causes reddened eyes and a dry mouth. It can lead to memory loss or even amnesia. Many users report a feeling of lethargy after frequent consumption.
Excessive use of marijuana with a high THC concentration results in a certain addictive potential - although it is always emphasized that it is lower compared to other drugs. However, if used often or even daily, THC can trigger schizophrenia and lead to paranoia, panic attacks or depression.
The disadvantages of CBD are what makes the cannabinoid so interesting for medicine. It simply only has few side effects and disadvantages. At least no serious ones have been found so far after intensive research.
CBD does not cause a state of intoxication. And that is clearly the biggest advantage.
Even if some research results still have to follow: There are only a few users who have reported dry mouth, short-term drowsiness or low eye pressure. The use of CBD products can initially lead to irregularities in digestion. However, there are no disadvantages that are permanent or that would have a negative effect on health.
Due to its many positive effects on the human body, the active ingredient CBD offers not only a wide range of applications in the health and wellness sector, but also many more advantages than THC.
You are curious and want to learn more about CBD? In our blog article "Starting out with CBD - A Beginner’s Guide" you will find all important information about effects, dosage and product selection.
Note: The medical effects of CBD (cannabidiol) mentioned in this blog article refer to controlled clinical trials and pharmaceutical CBD. New Garden Lab makes no suggestion for the possible purpose and leaves any healing and utility promises to the pharmacists.
⇒ Disclaimer and general information on medical topics