CBD vs. THC: The Differences You Need to Understand

Whether you’re already using CBD or you’re about to start, it can be useful to understand how it differs from THC. THC and CBD are both molecules found in the cannabis plant, and they belong to the same category of molecules: cannabinoids.

However, there are a couple of key differences between them, not only in terms of their properties but also in terms of legality and side effects. In this article, you’ll learn about the key differences between these two molecules. 

What are CBD and THC?

CBD is a molecule also known as cannabidiol. It’s found in the hemp plant and in certain forms of cannabis. THC is a molecule that can also be found in cannabis, and in a particular form of cannabis called marijuana. Its full name is tetrahydrocannabinol. 

Although the two molecules are vastly different, they have a very similar molecular structure. In fact, they even have the same formula: C21H3O2. But the way their atoms are arranged means that they bind in a completely different way with receptors in our bodies. This gives them very different effects and properties. 

What does CBD feel like? What about THC?

The feelings you get from CBD and THC are completely different. CBD tends to make people feel relaxed in their bodies and less anxious. Apart from that, it can be difficult to notice how it really makes you feel. That’s because CBD is non-psychoactive: it doesn’t change the way your consciousness perceives the world around you. As a result, many people who take CBD for the first time find that it doesn’t feel like anything special.

On the other hand, THC has a very strong effect which you can feel straight away. As a psychoactive molecule, taking it will make you experience the world in a different way. For example, some people feel that it makes them find everything funny. Others find that it makes them more relaxed and more creative. Everyone reacts to THC slightly differently, and for some people, it can even create anxiety and even paranoia. 

Why do people take CBD? Or THC?

If we’re talking about medical cannabis, people tend to take CBD and THC for similar reasons: to relieve pain, anxiety, or inflammation. 

However, THC is better for certain kinds of problems and CBD for others. THC has a more immediate mood-boosting effect, and some people find that it helps them with depression. It also has some great appetite-boosting properties, which makes it ideal for people undergoing chemotherapy, or for people with anorexia.

On the other hand, CBD is safer than THC for people who have anxiety because it doesn’t risk increasing it. CBD is also used to relieve epilepsy, high blood pressure, and sleep disorders. 

In countries or states where cannabis is legal, medical users can find that combining the two is a great way to get the relief that they need. Although they have different properties, CBD and THC can work very well together and it makes sense to try out products that contain a good balance of both. 

What are the side effects of THC and CBD?

Both THC and CBD are considered safe molecules. Compared to synthetic drugs, these plant-derived molecules tend to have far fewer harmful side effects. However, there are still a couple of negative ways in which your body could respond to them. For example, both of them can cause:

  • changes in appetite
  • sleep disturbances
  • changes in mood

In particular, THC is known to cause anxiety in high doses and in certain groups of people. It could also be harmful to people who suffer from any kind of psychosis. Finally, as a psychoactive molecule, it should be completely avoided by children and by pregnant or breastfeeding women. 

CBD could cause nausea for some people, especially when taken through the mouth in the form of an oil or capsule. It can also cause lethargy, making you feel sleepy throughout the day.

For both of these molecules, the side effects vary a lot depending on the person. However, CBD does tend to be considered as safer because it doesn’t risk triggering anxiety or psychosis. 

Are THC and CBD legal? 

One of the biggest differences between THC and CBD is their legal status. CBD is legal on a federal level in the United States, even though it isn’t currently approved by the FDA. On the other hand, THC is only legal in a handful of states. In the vast majority of countries in the rest of the world, CBD is legal, but not THC. So if you’re thinking of taking THC or a combination of CBD and THC, check your local laws to make sure you are acting in full legality.


The two cousin molecules, CBD and THC, are not as similar as they first appear. As well as having different effects, they have different side effects and vastly different legal statuses. We hope that this article has shed some light on their differences. They may look very similar, but they are definitely not to be confused!

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