What is the Difference Between CBD and THC?
In the alphabet soup of modern wellness, CBD and THC are favorite acronyms. Both compounds are a type of cannabinoid—compounds found in cannabis, also known as marijuana (as well as weed, ganja, and in your grandparents’ generation, reefer).
As it turns out, there are over 100 identified cannabinoids, though CBD and THC are by far the most prominent.1 Both compounds are beloved for their myriad potential benefits—but there are some important differences to account for when it comes to their effect on mental and physical well-being.
If you’re curious to learn more about the difference between THC and CBD, we’ll take a deep dive into the CBD vs THC science to learn how they differ, their benefits, and the wellness products where you can find them.
While marijuana has innumerable different aliases, the scientific name for this infamous plant is Cannabis sativa—cannabis, for short.
The cannabis plant has been used in different capacities over the centuries, with varying legal restrictions to its production, use, and even classifications. For example, low-THC cannabis plants are produced as “industrial hemp.”1 Technically speaking, though, marijuana (and its associated monikers) only refer to the parts of cannabis that contain enough THC content to have a psychoactive effect.1
Now that we’re a little more familiar with our terminology, let’s focus on the stars of the show: THC and CBD.
What is THC?
Here’s a tongue twister: THC stands for tetrahydrocannabinol, the compound that brings marijuana its notoriety. THC is responsible for all of those feel-good (or sometimes feel-bad) experiences associated with the recreational drug.
Over the years, the concentration of THC content in marijuana has been markedly increasing, making many users vulnerable to experiencing adverse reactions, including:2
- Altered senses
- Altered perception of time
- Altered mood
Higher doses can even cause hallucinations.4
What is CBD?
Now ready for some CBD facts? Another tongue twister: CBD stands for cannabidiol. This compound doesn’t cause the high associated with marijuana, and it’s federally legal throughout the United States.
Generally, growers and producers derive CBD from the hemp plant, and their products must contain less than 0.3% THC. The CBD they make is added to a wide variety of products, including:6
- Capsules and pills
- Lotions and oils
We’ll discuss some common CBD products later, but it’s worth noting that consumers are no longer limited to hemp-based CBD. Recently, guaranteed THC-free CBD has reached the market to address a common problem in the CBD industry: contamination.
Because the FDA doesn’t regulate whether CBD products contain THC, many can be contaminated with THC or contain more THC than the label indicates. In fact, in 2020 the FDA found that half of the CBD products they tested included THC.4
This is obviously a problem for consumers who don’t want to ingest THC, whether because of health or legal concerns. No matter your reasons, every buyer should feel confident about what they’re putting into their body.
What is a CBD Ratio?
The CBD ratio refers to the proportion of CBD in a product compared with the proportion of THC in that same product.
Scientists have speculated that the presence of CBD might alter THC’s effects, though there isn’t definitive evidence of this yet. Some studies have suggested CBD affects THC; others are inconclusive.5
One thing that’s for certain? The relationship between CBD and THC will continue to be an essential area of study as these compounds become more commercially popular.
Understanding the Endocannabinoid System
Now that we’ve got our acronyms down, let’s examine how these compounds affect the human brain. First, we need to understand the elusive endocannabinoid system—something of a scientific hotspot currently, with extensive research devoted to medicinal cannabis in recent decades.
The endocannabinoid system is a network of chemical signals and cellular receptors woven throughout your body. This system is responsible for some of your most important physical functions, including:6
- Emotional processing
- Immune responses
- Inflammatory responses
- Pain control
Two of the most significant receptors in the endocannabinoid system are the cannabinoid receptors. There are two types:6
- CB1 – The CB1 receptor is found in our brains and regulate other neurotransmitters.
- CB2 – The CB2 receptor is found in immune tissue and regulate the immune system.
The human body naturally produces endocannabinoid molecules, which trigger the cannabinoid receptors. These molecules are structurally similar to the cannabinoids found in the Cannabis sativa plant, which is why they have such potent effects on our brains and bodies.6
How Do CBD and THC Interact with Receptors?
If we were in chemistry class, we’d see that CBD and THC have the same chemical formula—that’s C21H30O2—their chemical structures remain distinct. This means they each bind with different receptors within the endocannabinoid system.7
THC binds to both the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors. CBD, however, has a much weaker affinity for these receptors. Practically, this means we experience each compound differently—most obviously, in the fact that THC makes you “high.”7
So if CBD doesn’t cling to CB1 and CB2, how does it affect the human body?
Scientists suspect that in addition to its complex interactions with the endocannabinoid system, CBD also interacts with two other distinct pathways:8,9
- The opioid system – This system and our natural opioid receptors control pain, as well as behaviors related to rewards and addiction.10
- The serotogenic system – This system and its neurotransmitters regulate a wide variety of processes, from mood to movement.11
Now that we have a better understanding of how CBD and THC work, we can move on to examining how their function could translate to gains for our health.
Benefits of THC
The medical marijuana movement has normalized the idea that THC may have potential benefits for some people. In states where medical marijuana is legal, patients can access it if they have health conditions like:12
- Cancer-induced nausea and vomiting
- Chronic pain
- Crohn’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Muscle spasms
The wide variety of THC applications suggests it may have benefits beyond pure recreation.
Common THC Products
There are a wide variety of ways to consume THC if you live in a state where it’s legal. That said, THC is most commonly consumed two ways:2
- Smoking – People will often smoke or vape the dried marijuana plant or more potent marijuana extract. Smoking causes THC’s psychoactive effect to occur more quickly.
- Eating – Both the marijuana plant and its extract can be added to foods and drinks. Often, they will be added to sweets like cookies and candy.
As we highlighted when we discussed the CBD ratio, products containing THC may also contain CBD with a specific ratio for each compound. Whichever compound you choose to ingest (or not to ingest), it’s important to purchase from a credible source whose formulas you can trust.
The Benefits of CBD
The applications of CBD for improving well-being have been widely reported (no surprise there, considering the various systems of the body it interacts with). Some of the most touted potential benefits include:13
- Improved sleep
- Supported mood
- Feelings of calm and stress-relief
- Reduced soreness or pain
In essence, CBD may be a simple and holistic way to supplement your daily wellness routine and help you feel happier and healthier. If you’re interested in exploring for yourself, there is a wealth of information available about all uses - the tie between CBD and inflammation, details about CBD and sleep, how to use CBD for pain, and more.
Common CBD Products
On the shelves today, you’ll most commonly find CBD in the form of:
- Capsules and pills
- Lotions and oils
Your personal health goals and profile will dictate which CBD product you opt for, but let’s take a look at some viable options:
- CBD Oil – CBD oil without THC is the straightforward option to deliver all of the compound's benefits right under your tongue.
- CBD Night Oil – CBD sleep products like a night oil commonly combine CBD with melatonin for the ultimate sleeping-soundly, stress-relieving dynamic duo.
- CBD Gummies – CBD gummies bring you all the health benefits of CBD in a yummy candy package. Plus, they’re perfect for an on-the-go, busy lifestyle.
- CBD Immunity Shot – Wheatgrass shots are out—CBD shots are in. This CBD immune booster shot combines CBD with vitamins B6, B5, D, C, and zinc for an optimal immune-boosting blend.
The Scoop on Alternatively Sourced CBD
The four CBD options we’ve highlighted are guaranteed THC-free because they’re not derived from cannabis—they’re sourced from orange peels.
How? Get ready to have your mind blown:
- When you pick up an orange, the first thing you’ll likely notice besides its vibrant color is its delightful citrusy smell. The compounds responsible for that scent are called terpenes.
- Scientists have found over 30,000 terpenes—but they don’t just make oranges smell nice. They’re also responsible for the smell of pine, cinnamon, and cloves. And 400 of those known terpenes are found in cannabis plants.14
- In cannabis, terpenes affect both the flavor and scent of the plant. They can also work synergistically with THC and CBD on the body’s cannabinoid receptors.14
At Peels, we use a proprietary technology known as Cyclic Terpene Assembly (CTA) to transform the botanical terpenes from orange peels into THC-free CBD.15 And as a result, we’re proud to offer the purest CBD on the planet.
Find Wellness CBD Products Built On Trust with Peels
Whether you want to sleep better or feel less achy after your daily gym session, CBD could be the addition to your daily routine that helps you achieve your wellness goals. When you feel good, it’s not just easier to build the life you want to live— life tastes even sweeter.
Safety, efficacy, accessibility—that’s our promise. Whether our creamsicle-flavored gummies or a doze-supporting Night Oil, browse Peels for certified THC-free products that are sure to bring a citrusy smile to your face.
- National Center For Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Cannabis (Marijuana) and Cannabinoids: What You Need To Know. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/cannabis-marijuana-and-cannabinoids-what-you-need-to-know
- National Insitute on Drug Abuse. Cannabis (Marijuana) DrugFacts. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/cannabis-marijuana
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CBD: What You Need to Know. https://www.cdc.gov/marijuana/featured-topics/CBD.html
- Bon appetit. This CBD Oil Made From Orange Peels Goes With Me Everywhere. https://www.bonappetit.com/story/peels-cbd-oil
- Forbes. CBD Doesn't Reduce THC Effects, Cannabis Study Finds.https://www.forbes.com/sites/dariosabaghi/2022/11/28/cbd-doesnt-reduce-thc-effects-cannabis-study-finds/?sh=530e1a5d1d97
- Harvard Health Publishing.The endocannabinoid system: Essential and mysterious. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/the-endocannabinoid-system-essential-and-mysterious-202108112569
- Forbes. CBD vs. THC: What’s The Difference? https://www.forbes.com/health/body/cbd-vs-thc/
- National Library of Medicine. The endocannabinoid system, cannabis, and cannabidiol: Implications in urology and men's health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8221009/
- National Library of Medicine. The Endocannabinoid System and Cannabidiol's Promise for the Treatment of Substance Use Disorder. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6390812/
- Science Daily. How does the opioid system control pain, reward and addictive behavior? https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071014163647.htm
- Stanford. Stanford scientists paint nuanced picture of brain system regulating moods, movements. https://news.stanford.edu/2018/08/23/new-map-brains-serotonin-system/
- Mayo Clinic. Medical marijuana.https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/medical-marijuana/art-20137855
- Cleveland Clinic. CBD Oil — Are the Benefits Claimed Too Good To Be True? https://health.clevelandclinic.org/cbd-oil-benefits/
- Peels. What Are The Different Types Of Terpenes?https://peels.com/blogs/news/list-of-terpenes
- Peels. The Science Behind Our CBD Oil. https://peels.com/pages/science