THC and CBD, What’s the Difference?

As the stigma associated with cannabis slowly fades away, many consumers are showing an interest in learning more about the herb and its effects. Cannabis plants produce special chemicals known as cannabinoids. To date, more than 100 cannabinoids have been identified. But two of them, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are of particular interest because of their ability to affect the human body in many different ways. But what’s the difference between THC and CBD? First, a little background on cannabinoids in general is in order.

The Endocannabinoid System

All vertebrates including humans and even some invertebrates have an endocannabinoid system (ECS), a physiological network that helps regulate many different body functions. The ECS allows for communication between organ systems and promotes a state of homeostasis in the organism.

Cannabinoids produced by the body are also part of the ECS and are known as endocannabinoids or endogenous cannabinoids. They interact with cannabinoid receptors located in many different tissues and locations. The receptors then help regulate cellular functions.

Because cannabinoid receptors are located throughout the body, they can be introduced into the system in many different ways. Traditional flower forms of cannabis for smoking or vaporizing are available in strains bred to maximize THC or CBD, or to provide a balanced ratio of both. That same range of choice is also available in other cannabis products. Concentrates, including vape pen cartridges, can provide the same quick dose as smoking without the unhealthful byproducts of combustion.

Cannabis edibles including tinctures and capsules can supply cannabinoids to the whole system with a more gradual onset of effects. And topical products such as lotions and salves can provide THC, CBD, or both directly at the site of pain or inflammation. Topicals, even with high amounts of THC, generally do not induce a “high” except in the most sensitive people. They are also unlikely to cause a positive result in a drug screening test.


Because the cannabinoids in cannabis are chemically very similar to endocannabinoids, they can also stimulate the ECS. THC closely resembles the endocannabinoid anandamide, known as the bliss molecule. The word’s Sanskrit root, ananda, actually means “joy, bliss, or happiness.” Most runners are very familiar with anandamide—it’s the chemical released during running that causes a blast of dopamine responsible for the “runner’s high.”

THC’s similarity to anandamide causes the same effect in the brain. It’s the psychoactive element most responsible for the buzz or high caused by cannabis. But THC has many other physiological effects as well, some of which can be used therapeutically for a myriad of health conditions.

THC has anti-inflammatory properties, can stimulate the appetite, ease digestive disorders, promote sleep, relieve pain, and elevate mood. Some studies suggest that THC even has the ability to shrink tumors, making it a powerful cancer fighter.


Like THC, cannabidiol is an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever and may have anti-cancer properties. CBD also shows great promise as a treatment for epilepsy and degenerative neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. But it doesn’t get you high, and that’s a big difference between THC and CBD. Because it has no psychoactive properties, CBD is legal in many states that do not allow THC products. It also means CBD can be useful when the effects of THC are not desirable.

Another interesting attribute of CBD is its capacity to lessen the psychoactive effects of THC. This fact can be useful for those new to cannabis or even experienced users trying a new product, edibles for example. By having a CBD water on-hand, the quick dose can help bring down someone who realizes they’ve had a bit too much.

Manufacturers have two different sources of CBD to choose from for their products. CBD can be obtained from strains of cannabis traditionally known as marijuana, and it can also be extracted from industrial hemp. Strictly speaking, the CBD itself is the same chemical. But some experienced users believe CBD sourced from hemp is inferior because it doesn’t have as many of the other cannabinoids present in medicinal and recreational strains of cannabis. These other cannabinoids including THC, CBG, CBN, and others may provide a synergistic or “entourage” effect that improves the efficacy of CBD.

Learn More on a Cannabis Tour

Unfortunately, the prohibition of cannabis has made it very difficult for researchers to study the effects of cannabis. This has made the sharing of first-hand knowledge a prime method of understanding cannabis. And a West Coast Cannabis Tours (WCCT) activity or tour is an excellent opportunity to enjoy a fun, educational experience while appreciating the sense of community surrounding cannabis.

The WCCT custom limo buses are a comfortable and inviting “420-friendly” atmosphere that encourages conversation and making new friends. WCCT tour guides and fellow passengers will be eager to share their knowledge and experience with various forms and strains of cannabis.

With a recreational cannabis dispensary as a stop on every West Coast Cannabis Tours trip, guests have an opportunity to learn even more about THC and CBD. Experienced budtenders are happy to answer questions and help customers select the right product for their needs. Book your experience with West Coast Cannabis Tours now!

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