CBD vs THC: How Are They Different?

When it comes to cannabis, there are two acronyms that you can expect to hear again and again: THC and CBD.  Most people are relatively familiar with THC because of its reputation at the cannabinoid that gets you high. 

But what about CBD? What’s the difference between CBD and THC—and is CBD the same thing as weed? Help! 

Firstly, know that there is a vast difference between CBD and THC, and that no, CBD is not the same thing as weed or marjuana (though those terms do refer to the same plant!). Here, we dive into exactly what you need to know about CBD vs THC, so you can make the most informed decision when it comes to incorporating the benefits of cannabis into your daily routine. 


What is CBD?

CBD, otherwise known as Cannabidiol, is a naturally-occurring compound in cannabis plants (including hemp and marijuana) called a cannabinoid. Although CBD was discovered in the 1940s, it wasn’t until the 1980s that pioneering Israeli Researcher, Raphael Mechoulam, began to study its therapeutic effects. In a small pilot study, he gave patients with epilepsy CBD and the results were promising. Half of the subjects remained seizure-free for the duration of the study. 

CBD’s seizure-reducing effect would eventually catapult the cannabinoid into the public’s imagination when Dr. Sanjay Gupta featured the case study of Charlotte Figi in his CNN documentary ‘Weed.’ At the same time, hundreds of preclinical trials were taking place across the world, examining CBD’s therapeutic potential for various conditions. Charlotte had a severe and untreatable form of epilepsy that saw her having hundreds of seizures a day. It was only when her parents gave their daughter CBD oil that Charlotte’s seizures reduced to almost zero and the little girl could begin a normal life. This publicity — and hemp-derived CBD’s legalization in 2018 — has led to a surge in popularity of products that contain high amounts of CBD, with low (and in some cases no) THC. 

What Is THC?

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, as it’s known in the science world, is the most common cannabinoid in marijuana (it exists in naturally low levels in hemp). In 1964, Mechoulam isolated and synthesized THC from Lebanese hashish and experimented with research subjects to study its effects. He observed that the psychoactive effect experienced varied according to the person, which is still true. In general, THC is known for its psychotropic effect that often produces feelings of euphoria and sleepiness, and an increased appetite — all things that are associated with feeling “high” or “stoned.” It’s also become the subject of research into related medical conditions. 

Cannabis vs Hemp

In understanding the difference between THC and CBD, it is also important to understand the cannabis family. It’s a little confusing to say that cannabis and hemp are essentially the same plant, but it’s true. Cannabis refers to a family of plants that contains hemp and marijuana, among others. So instead of being concerned about the difference between cannabis and hemp, it is more important to understand the difference between hemp and marijuana. 

The biggest difference lies in their structures and compounds. Marijuana is shorter with a greater abundance of resinous flowers, while hemp is tall with fibrous stalks and less buds. Although scientifically both plants are classified as ‘Cannabis Sativa,’ the hemp plant contains no more than 0.3% THC, but contains an abundance of CBD. That’s why most CBD oil on the market is extracted from hemp and not marijuana. Hemp’s structure has also earned it popularity for being an extra durable source of fiber, perfect for rope, clothing, sails, and paper.

Are the Effects of THC and CBD Different? 

Mechoulam and his team were also responsible for the discovery of the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a vast network of cell receptor sites in the brain, nervous system and immune system that works to create homeostasis in our bodies and minds. It’s involved in maintaining functions like sleep, appetite, and mood and is activated by chemicals, similar to neurotransmitters, called endocannabinoids. 

CBD and THC have different effects on the body once consumed. Like we discussed above, THC is an active cannabinoid that produces the classic high feeling (along with many other therapeutic effects) while CBD is a compound that influences mood, sleep and other symptoms. In general, CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system in a totally different way to THC. Instead of activating the receptors directly, it blocks the enzyme that breaks down anandamide, one of the main endocannabinoids. 

Learn more about how the endocannabinoid system

Are CBD and THC Legal?

According to the Controlled Substances Act, THC is considered a Schedule I substance, making it illegal on a federal level. It has, however, been legalized for both medical and recreational use on a state-by-state basis. Cannabis that contains more than 0.3% THC is also federally illegal. However, hemp-derived CBD is considered federally legal under the 2018 Farm Bill which regulated the production of hemp in the United States. That’s why it’s now widely available.

The bottom line? CBD is generally not considered a controlled substance, is safe to take in relatively high doses, and is non-addictive. 

Does CBD Show Up On A Drug Test?

CBD extracted from hemp oil contains no more than 0.3% THC, but you could fail a drug test for THC — especially if it is consumed regularly. Because most drug tests are looking for traces of THC, using a product that is THC-free (like SHEbd’s broad-spectrum hemp products) should keep you from failing a drug test. However, not all drug tests are created equal, and some also test for other cannabinoids found in full spectrum CBD oils.   The good news is that legally, you may ask at the testing facility which cannabinoids they are looking for. If you feel uncomfortable enquiring, this can be done anonymously. That said, most tests do not detect the presence of CBD.

At SHEbd, we have tried to eliminate any chance of failing a drug test through taking our CBD oil products. Using advanced engineering, we have developed our own proprietary techniques to extract all traces of THC from our CBD oils, while keeping the other key cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids intact. How do we do it? After extracting the full spectrum phytocannabinoid-rich oil (PCR) from hemp flowers and leaves, we filter out any unwanted impurities. Next, the oil is run through a unique chromatography media removing any traces of THC. This allows you to feel confident that they are buying a CBD oil with no psychoactive, hidden extras.

Interested in learning more about our THC-free CBD products? Take our quiz to decide which one is best for you.