Since the explosion of the hemp derived CBD market, plenty of people are wondering what the difference is between marijuana and hemp. To make it even more complicated, people are asking what the difference is between THC and CBD. The two compounds are similar, and come from similar roots, but they aren’t exactly alike.
THC is found in the cannabis plant and so is CBD, but in different levels. When people say cannabis, they’re usually referring to marijuana, which contains higher levels of THC. However, hemp is also a part of the cannabis family. You might wonder if THC vs. CBD is better, or vice versa. Let's first look at each compound.
What is THC?
You’ll find THC in marijuana, but we really shouldn’t call it that. The term “marijuana” has racist roots, associated with the Mexican immigrants in the 1900s who legally came to America and were then targeted by the American government for consuming cannabis. The term is meant to represent negative connotations associated with Mexicans and cannabis consumption, so we should ditch the name “marijuana” and call it high-THC cannabis or something similar.
Moving on, high-THC cannabis is what most of us think of when we think of the word “cannabis”. Until America began legalizing cannabis, we bought it in the parking lot of 7/11 down the street. Nobody was testing the product before selling it to you, so it was all “high-THC cannabis”.
THC is a powerful compound; it’s known as a phytocannabinoid. There are over 100 known phytocannabinoids, and they interact with our body’s endocannabinoid system. You’ll find phytocannabinoids in the cannabis plant. The endocannabinoid system is a bodily system every human being has. It’s made up of various receptors and these receptors are designed to receive cannabinoids like THC, CBD, CBG, CBC, and more.
There are two receptors that scientists have discovered so far: the CB1 and CB2 receptors. THC interacts with the CB1 receptor, the cannabinoid fits it perfectly. You’ll find CB1 receptors primarily in places like the brain stem, the spinal cord, and the nervous system. This is why THC affects motor function, because there are cannabinoid receptors in the brain! Interestingly enough, there are no cannabinoid receptors in the portion of the brain that causes opioid overdoses. Therefore, experts consider a fatal cannabis overdose to be logistically impossible.
What is CBD?
CBD is also a cannabinoid and when people mention “CBD”, they’re typically talking about CBD derived from hemp. Per U.S. federal law, hemp must contain less than 0.3% THC to be manufactured into CBD products. Crops testing higher than 0.3% THC will be discarded and destroyed, unable to be used for any other product. CBD is popular for this reason: the low amount of THC won’t get you high. In 2018, the American federal government removed hemp from the DEA’s Schedule I Substances list. Until this unprecedented move, hemp was considered a controlled substance and listed alongside drugs like meth and heroin. It was viewed as having no medicinal value and highly addictive. Believe it or not, marijuana, or high-THC cannabis, is still on the Schedule I Substances list today, despite over half the country employing a medical cannabis program.
Hemp’s low THC content is ideal for people who can’t consume THC or simply don’t want to. Hemp looks exactly like marijuana, you wouldn’t know the difference just by looking at it unless you took it to a testing lab. If you’re nervous about high-THC cannabis, you can buy hemp-derived CBD flower and still utilize our build-a-bong service at VITAE Glass! Hemp-derived CBD flower won’t get you high, but it has been known to make people feel sleepy. This is good though, because it’s one of the reasons people consume CBD - to help sleep. But if you’re using it during the day and feel too tired for comfort, try microdosing instead.
CBD also interacts with the endocannabinoid system, but not like THC does. CBD doesn’t bind to either receptor, but it does closely interact with our CB2 receptors. CBD acts mainly by reducing inflammation in different parts of the body.
The endocannabinoid system
The endocannabinoid system is unique, and we’ve barely scratched the surface. In addition to receiving phytocannabinoids like THC and CBD, the endocannabinoid system produces cannabinoids of its own called, wait for it - endocannabinoids. This proves the relationship between cannabinoids and our bodies, and thankfully cannabis can provide that seeing as it's jam-packed with cannabinoids. Researchers are still working to understand this complex system, but they know it’s crucial for regulating our body and maintaining homeostasis.
Prominent universities like UCLA even have entire research initiatives dedicated to studying the endocannabinoid system. The university says scientists used to believe endocannabinoid receptors only existed in the brain and nerves, but now know it’s on the skin, fat tissue, immune cells, gastrointestinal tract, and vital organs like our liver and pancreas, heart, kidney.
THC vs. CBD
You can’t really compare THC vs. CBD and arrive at a “better” choice. It simply depends on your personal preferences. Like we mentioned above, some people don’t want to consume high amounts of THC. In that case, it would make sense that they choose hemp-derived CBD vs. THC. Remember, hemp is not THC free. Especially if you smoke it! The only time you’ll see a true THC-free CBD product is an isolate or broad-spectrum extraction, you won’t get that with the whole bud. However, because the THC content is so low, you won’t experience a high like high-THC cannabis causes. So, let’s make this easy:
- CBD isolate: contains CBD alone, no THC or other compounds
- Broad-spectrum CBD extract: contains no THC, but will contain other compounds like terpenes (keep reading to learn more about them)
- Full-spectrum CBD extract: contains all of the cannabinoids, including a trace amount of THC, and terpenes
What is THC good for?
THC isn’t just for getting high, so if you’re able to consume it, consider doing so. THC on its own has been shown to have some powerful health benefits. But combined with CBD, it’s been shown to be even better! Preliminary research suggests cannabinoids, like CBD, work better when they’re combined with THC and other plant compounds. This idea is known as the entourage effect. This is why so many hemp-derived CBD companies suggest full-spectrum extracts over broad-spectrum or isolate, because evidence points to it working so much better than CBD alone.
Just a disclaimer: we do not claim cannabis can cure or treat any disease and here at VITAE Glass, we aren’t advocating or discouraging certain products. The FDA hasn’t approved cannabis to cure or treat any disease, so more research still needs to be conducted, but the evidence we do have is revolutionary. And there’s quite a bit of it! Research shows THC might help with:
- Reducing nausea and boosting appetite
- Minimizing chronic pain
- Tremors, some people with Parkinson’s see great success with CBD
What do I use CBD for?
The effects of THC and CBD tend to crossover and target some of the same conditions, so these are not extensive lists by any means. CBD is thought to help:
- Improve sleep
- Reduce stress
- Mental health conditions like depression
- Ease chronic pain like migraines
- Soothe digestive inflammation
What are terpenes?
Terpenes are so important and we haven’t even introduced them yet! Terpenes are one of the other plant compounds we were referencing above, and they are responsible for giving cannabis its flavor and scent. Like cannabinoids, they are also thought to hold medicinal value. You can also find terpenes in other aromatic plants like lavender, basil, rosemary, and others. Some of the most common terpenes include:
- Limonene (abundant in citrus peels)
- Linalool (prominent in lavender)
- Myrcene (found in lemongrass)
- Beta-caryophyllene (abundant in oregano)
When you consume CBD or high-THC cannabis flower, you’ll receive these potent terpenes. They also contribute to the entourage effect and in fact, beta-caryophyllene is the only terpene that interacts with the endocannabinoid system like a cannabinoid would! The terpene is a perfect match for our CB2 receptors.
When choosing between CBD or marijuana products, the most important thing is to take it slow. Even if you’ve been a longtime consumer, different products can affect different people in different ways. Take it slow until you’re certain of your dose and alway monitor your body’s response to cannabis.
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All of VITAE Glass’ products are suitable for both hemp-derived CBD flower and high-THC flower or marijuana. Build a custom bong here and your perfect match.