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With the exploding interest in cannabis in the past few years, people are asking more and more questions about the different elements that make up the plant. THC and CBD levels are frequently listed on products, but what do these numbers mean? And how do people know which is the one they want? 

What’s The Difference Between THC And CBD?

THC and CBD are both cannabinoids.

The main differences between them are how they each interact with the body. Based on the different interactions, you will have different experiences. THC noticeably affects the mind whereas CBD, in general, tends to have more pronounced effects on the body. 

Both THC and CBD products can be ingested similarly. THC comes in different forms such as oils, capsules, edibles, tinctures, and smokable products. CBD is also offered as oils, gummies, gels, flower, lotions and supplements.

What Is THC?

Also known as tetrahydrocannabinol, THC produces the psychological effects associated with cannabis. THC often invokes psychotropic or euphoric effects and produces the high that people are familiar with.

THC is found only in the resin created by the glands of the female cannabis plants. 

What Is CBD?

CBD, also known as cannabidiol, is generally accepted as a non-intoxicating cannabis compound. CBD often creates a relaxed and calm feeling but does not often create the same “high” as THC. CBD is the non-psychoactive element of cannabis.

CBD, by many, is considered to be a non-narcotic way to manage pain and reduce inflammation

CBD vs THC Benefits

CBD may have advantages that include:

The exact effects experienced from CBD will differ between individuals based on health and the product ingested. There is further research needed to confirm that CBD can improve all of the above health concerns and issues.

THC may help to:

  • Decrease feelings of pain
  • Improve sleep, diminished insomnia
  • Minimize nausea
  • Improve mood 
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Decrease muscle spasms
  • Improve low appetite

Alongside these benefits, THC may also provide a euphoric high. However, everyone will have a unique experience based on the many factors involved.

CBD has few known side effects but THC is known to cause red eyes, dry mouth, and slow reaction times. That’s why THC is considered an intoxicating substance that can hinder functionality.

Benefits of CBD and THC overlap. A product that offers a balance of CBD and THC may provide the benefits of both elements, but this will depend on the person and the dosage. CBD may block the psychoactive effects of THC so a high may not be experienced with a product that offers an equal amount of each. This may be preferable for sensitive people who do not want to experience a THC high but still want the benefits of cannabinoids.

Where Do THC And CBD Come From?

Both THC and CBD come from the cannabis plant. However, there are certain strains that offer more of one cannabinoid than the other. In general, cannabis plants tend to contain more THC than CBD. CBD is less present in cannabis plants, but with the growing interest in CBD certain cannabis strains have been developed to produce high levels of CBD. CBD flower can contain levels ranging from below 10% – to about 20%. The level that is right for you will depend on your preferences. 

Hemp is a similar plant to cannabis but is instead grown for its fiber. Hemp fiber is a very strong material and is used in the creation of rope, textiles, clothing, and more. Cannabis and hemp are so closely related that they look and smell nearly identical. The difference between the two plants comes down to the amount of THC present in them. Hemp plants do not contain more than 0.3% THC, while cannabis often contains between 5% – 20%.

Certain strains of the cannabis flower are bred to provide high or low concentrations of THC and CBD. Whether you are looking for sativa, indica or a hybrid, it is always important to read the labels on packaging. THC and CBD ratios will help you better determine the potential effects of the product. Your Budtender will be happy to help you find a product that delivers the specific effects you want.

How Are CBD and THC Made?

THC and CBD are collected from harvested cannabis plants. However the effects of THC or CBD are only achieved after the product is smoked or ingested. This is because heat is needed to prepare CBD and it is also needed to make THC psychoactive. In fact, until activated with heat, the beneficial properties of CBD and THC aren’t optimized for experiencing. 

THCA and CBDA are considered to have benefits but are not known to provide highs.

Heat plays an important role in breaking down the molecular structure of cannabis in a process called decarboxylation. In this process, heat is used to convert THCA to THC and CBDA to CBD. THCA in particular has been receiving attention lately as possibly having health benefits such as acting as an anti-inflammatory, improving nausea, lessening pain, improving insomnia, and helping with neurodegenerative diseases. THCA is found in raw cannabis plants as well as living ones. More research needs to be done to determine how THCA can impact people’s health. 

THCA converts to THC in the drying process and completes its journey to THC when heat is applied. During the heating process, the extra carboxyl molecule is removed, allowing the psychoactive effects of THC to be available as well as the effects associated with CBD.

When the newly created THC connects to receptors in our body called CB1 receptors, they stimulate brain cells and cause them to release dopamine. Dopamine is a brain chemical that is associated with pleasure, motivation, etc. and when released in large amounts may create a euphoric high.

This experience is often described as relaxing and may decrease anxiety and nausea. However, the exact outcome of the experience can vary greatly for each person. 

The Endocannabinoid System

How do THC and CBD affect my body? For the health-conscious individual, this is always a prominent question.

THC and CBD affect a certain system within the body called the endocannabinoid system or ECS for short. The ECS is involved with the central and peripheral nervous systems. The endocannabinoid system regulates many processes including appetite, mood, memory, and pain just to name a few. When THC and CBD are introduced to the body, they interact with the endocannabinoid system via the cannabinoid receptors. Yes, our bodies have natural cannabinoid receptors! These receptors are specifically designed to interact with CBD and THC cannabinoids. 

When CBD or THC is introduced to the body, they engage your endocannabinoid system and allow you to experience something unique. CBD and THC have very similar chemical structures but a small difference between the two means a world of difference in how each will affect the body! CBD and THC are both cyclic compounds. This means that the atoms that are in the compounds connect to form a ring. However, CBD has an open ring that contains a hydroxyl and alkene group, while THC instead has a closed ring with an ester group.

This small difference in atom arrangement has a big effect on how the two chemicals interact with your cannabinoid receptors.

THC And The Endocannabinoid System

Our cannabinoid system creates its own receptors, called CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are present throughout the body but are most present in the brain. These CB1 receptors help with coordination, thoughts, pain, emotion, appetite, mood, memories, and other similar functions. THC cannabinoids attach to the receptors very well whereas CBD cannabinoids will not attach to either. THC interacts primarily with CB1 receptors, but can bond to both. THC’s interaction with CB1 receptors is why your pain levels, appetite, mood and memory are so affected when one ingests a THC product. A person may feel munchy, have issues recalling memories or feel very calm when under the influence of THC. 

CB1 receptors’ interaction with mood and brain function is also why a person may experience negative feelings with THC.

CBD And The Endocannabinoid System

Instead of bonding with the CB1 or CB2 receptors, CBD has an indirect effect on them. CBD suppresses the two receptors and instead affects TrpV1 receptors. TrpV1 receptors are also found in the peripheral and central nervous system. These receptors differ from the function of the CB1 and CB2 receptors because they primarily affect the body and play a large part in regulating temperature, inflammation and pain management as well as increases our body’s use of its own naturally made cannabinoids. With CBD products, people often feel calm but not high

Reading Strains

CBD is the second-highest cannabinoid in cannabis products behind THC. THC is often valued at a high percentage in products but CBD is quickly gaining popularity. Many people are interested in learning more about CBD and trying out CBD products. The following ratios are common among products and may help you the next time you are shopping around.

  • High levels of THC with trace levels of CBD: 10-30% THC, often includes CBD but very little of it
  • A Balance of THC and CBD: 5-15% THC and CBD
  • High levels of CBD and low levels of THC: 5-20% CBD and 5% or lower of THC levels

A high concentration of THC typically produces an intoxicating high whereas a high level of CBD can allow you to be clear-headed and find relief from uncomfortable conditions. Higher levels of CBD may be perfect for people who tend to experience the negative effects of THC.


THC and CBD are cannabinoids that have different effects on the body. These effects are based on how they interact with your endocannabinoid system. THC tends to create more of a euphoric head high while CBD is a non-psychoactive element that may decrease inflammation and help regulate pain. You can find products that have high levels of THC, CBD or have a balanced amount of each. Budtenders are a big help in finding products that have the ratios you are interested in. 

Each person is unique and will have their own experience with certain products. The best step is to try out a variety of products that include different CBD/THC ratios to see which ones produce your desired results. 

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