by Dr. Bill Rawls
What’s the difference between CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) from the cannabis plant? For starters, THC causes a euphoric feeling, while CBD does not. Join Dr. Bill Rawls as he explains how differently these two plant compounds affect the endocannabinoid system, which helps maintain homeostasis in the body. Get a complete guide to CBD here »
Question: What’s the difference between CBD and THC?
Hello, this is Dr. Bill Rawls. Question: What’s the difference between CBD and THC?
Now, here we’re talking about that plant that’s so much in the news right now: Cannabis. You’re hearing a lot about it — many states have approved both recreational and medicinal marijuana. But a recent Farm Bill has approved the sale of CBD from hemp in all states, so it’s legal everywhere now.
But there is a bit of difference between CBD and THC. They’re both coming from the plant cannabis sativa, the same plant. But there are different varieties of the cannabis plant.
On one end of the spectrum, you’ve got recreational marijuana that has very high levels of THC. At the other end of the spectrum, with hemp, you’ve got virtually no THC, and it’s very robust with CBD. That makes those two varieties of the plant extremely different. (And of course, there are varieties in the middle that have both.)
THC acts very differently in the body than CBD, and it all goes to how it’s affecting a system in our body called the endocannabinoid system. This system is really important, because it oversees endorphins and neurotransmitters and the immune system, so it’s affecting a lot of things in the brain and the body.
When you take cannabis that has THC, it’s affecting those neurotransmitters in the body. The main endocannabinoid in the body is one called anandamide. [Endocannabinoids are a type of neurotransmitter that bind to cannabis receptors.]
If you’ve got good levels of anandamide, you feel well and everything in your body is working well. So when you take THC from marijuana, the THC binds to anandamide receptors very, very tightly, so you get an exaggerated response. You get euphoria; you get high.
CBD, though, binds very differently. It doesn’t bind as tightly as anandamide, so you’ve got an effect that’s a little bit like anandamide, but it’s having the effect of boosting the receptors in the body, which naturally boosts your levels of anandamide.
With THC, you’re binding to that receptor very tightly, and that can suppress the receptors and suppress your normal anandamide. You have a tendency to get habituated to it, and you have to have the THC to get the same effect that you would have with your normal anandamide levels.
With CBD, you’re doing the opposite. You’re boosting your natural anandamide and boosting anandamide receptors, so you don’t have to worry about habituation. It’s very different between the two, a really, really important difference.
It’s interesting that people who are habituated to marijuana can actually resolve that habituation using CBD, because these are really two very, very different substances in the same plant. Medicinally, I think we’re going to find that the most useful aspect of the plant is the varieties that are producing more CBD, and lower ends of the spectrum of THC.