CBD and THC: What’s the Difference?
Scientists have identified more than 120 different cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, but the most familiar are THC (delta-9 or delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). These two naturally occurring compounds have distinct properties that make them different from one another.
Although CBD and THC have the same chemical formula (21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and two oxygen atoms), they differ in the way these atoms are arranged. This gives CBD and THC individual chemical characteristics that affect the body differently.
How CBD and THC work in the body
Humans, along with all vertebrates, produce endocannabinoids – neurotransmitters that bind to cannabinoid receptors to help keep internal bodily processes running smoothly. Experts are still determining exactly how the endocannabinoid system works, but research has linked it to processes including pain, mood, appetite, sleep and metabolism.
CBD and THC are examples of exogenous cannabinoids – ones that are not produced by the body but that interact with our cannabinoid receptors, producing certain physiological and psychological effects.
While THC causes a high by binding with cannabinoid receptors, CBD does not cause a high and is thought to interact differently with these receptors, as well as with other elements in the body, in a way that has a therapeutic impact and produces feelings of wellbeing. This is why CBD is used for medical and wellness purposes. It is usually sourced from hemp, which is the name given to varieties of the Cannabis sativa plant that have a higher concentration of CBD and lower levels of THC.
Minor cannabinoids with health benefits
While CBD and THC are the two major cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, there are minor cannabinoids that are also used in wellness and medical products, including CBG and CBN.
CBG (cannabigerol) is a small element of the cannabis plant, at 1-2%, compared with 20-25% for CBD. However, this does not mean it is less valuable. Like CBD, it is believed to have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties.
CBN (cannabinol) was the first cannabinoid to be isolated from the cannabis plant, at the end of the 19th century. As THC oxidises, when exposed to high temperatures and light, it turns into CBN. As with CBD and CBG, CBN does not have any intoxicating effects and can be beneficial in treating some conditions and symptoms, including insomnia.
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