Even if you’re a new consumer of cannabis, you likely have heard of THC and CBD. But for some, cannabis’ alphabet soup of ingredients can be confusing. Here are a few things to know about these two important acronyms.
What are THC and CBD?
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the two most abundant chemical compounds, called cannabinoids, found in the cannabis plants of hemp and marijuana. High levels of CBD are found primarily in hemp. Conversely, THC levels are usually higher in marijuana. While the molecular makeup of THC and CBD (1,2) are similar—21 hydrogen atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms and two oxygen atoms—their molecular structures are not.
Effects of THC and CBD
THC and CBD’s differing structures result in significantly different effects. The two cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system’s CB1 and CB2 receptors, which are responsible for many pathological functions. THC binds well with the CB1 receptor in the brain, which produces feelings of euphoria and why marijuana consumers feel “high.” CBD does not bind well with the CB1 receptor and is thus not psychoactive. In fact, THC is the only psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis.
Both THC and CBD have been studied extensively for their potential health benefits, and many results confirm or suggest the cannabinoids may be beneficial in aiding a number of ailments.
Health Benefits of THC
Medicinal use of marijuana has been studied for decades now, dating back to the 1970s. A lot of research, especially earlier scientific study, has focused on THC’s potential to alleviate chemotherapy side effects in cancer patients and health issues facing those living with HIV/AIDS. A study published in Current Oncology asserts “Cannabis is useful in combatting anorexia, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, pain, insomnia, and depression.” Studies of HIV/AIDS patients medicating with THC have focused on similar complications, specifically poor appetite, nausea and pain. Further research suggested THC is beneficial for anyone to alleviate nausea, improve appetite, promote sleep, and soothe pain.
Health Benefits of CBD
Scientific exploration of CBD is much more recent than that of THC, though research suggests it could be beneficial in treating many health issues. Studies have found it may aid in reducing inflammation, alleviating anxiety, and relieving pain. It also may aid in promoting sleep.
Where Is It Legal?
Since 1996, 32 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws legalizing medical marijuana. Ten of those states and D.C. also enacted laws legalizing recreational use of marijuana. While THC is thusfar not legal in every state, CBD is. A federal law confirmed this in 2018 when the Farm Bill was passed, legalizing hemp on the federal level.