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CBD Oil vs THC: Important Differences Between These Potent Ingredients

The passing of a 2018 Farm Act may have made hemp and hemp-derived products a legal crop to grow and harvest in the United States, but it also has raised a lot of questions about its relation to marijuana and the products derived from both these plants. These questions are very legitimate in nature, and are important to research in order to better understand how they differ, their legality, and what benefits are available to you.

The oils derived from the cannabis plant family are distinct in their use and can be highly useful as an addition to your daily regime when properly used.  If you have noticed the increase in CBD marketing in many of your favorite stores and brands, and wonder about the differences between CBD oil and THC, this article helps break it down.

Treats a wide spectrum of disorders Treats a wide spectrum of disorders
Safe to use with few side effects (if any) Psychoactive, mind-altering side effects
Readily available Must have a prescription or live in a state that has legalized it
Does not disrupt your day Cannot drive impaired when using it

  • Legal to use
  • Safe with little to no side effects
  • Benefits a wide variety of conditions


  • May not taste great
  • Not federally regulated for quality

  • Benefits a wide variety of side effects
  • Legal for medical and recreational use in specific US states


  • Psychoactive properties can create severe side effects
  • Not federally legal in the US
  • Highly controlled


Cannabinoids are a highly active ingredient found in both marijuana and hemp plants. When Cannabidiol (CBD) oil is extracted from these plants it becomes a consumable substance that is used in a wide variety of supplemental products due to its high immune and anti-inflammatory properties. It is almost always blended with a carrier oil, such as fractionated coconut oil, and may also include essential oils for flavoring and added benefits.

To take CBD oil you can place it directly in your mouth to hold under your tongue (and thus take advantage of the sublingual gland for immediate entry to your bloodstream) with a dropper or spray, as an ingredient in an edible food, mixed with favorite foods, vaped, or even applied topically in creams, bath salts, and lotions. The plant can also be smoked as you would a cigarette.

Psychoactive Components

There is less than 0.3% of THC found in the hemp plant and marijuana derived CBD. THC is the ingredient responsible for psychoactive brain responses (explained further below). This is why THC is not as readily available for legal purchase and has very strict possession and use laws associated with it where it is.

CBD creates a different response in the brain when used that allows you to take advantage of how it works without your brain also responding to these effects in an altered state. Your own body is full of cannabinoid receptors due to naturally occurring endocannabinoids responsible for relaying messages between cells in reference to pain, stress, immune responses, and even sleep. When you use CBD it triggers the release of neurotransmitters in your brain which results in a cannabinoid response. This enhances these passing messages within your own body to help soothe pain, calm stress, increase immunity, and promote relaxation.

Chemical Structure

CBD has the exact same molecular structure as THC, but the atoms are arranged differently. This slight difference has huge consequences, namely in that it does not create any mind-altering side-effects or high commonly associated with the THC ingredient. But this also means that both products are highly effective in providing the same types of beneficial effects described above.


The difference in chemical structure between CBD and THC keeps CBD from binding to the receptors in the brain that causes the psychoactive high, allowing it to be a legal substance that is unregulated and approved for a consumer (18 and over) use throughout North America. Not all US states are approved for legal sale due to local law regulations, but possession, ordering and sending through the main, and travel in those states are legal. Stay on top of any changing CBD laws to see if anything affects your local area.


CBD has a long list of benefits and is actively studied in a variety of situations to better understand just how helpful it may be. Some of the most popular uses include pain management, and aide to stress and anxiety disorders, a sleep aid, epileptic seizure control, inflammation reduction, and as a helpmate to depression, focus, and concentration issues – to name a few.  It also is commonly used for the same reason with many pets and has been found to be highly effective with reducing destructive, separation anxiety issues in dogs.

Side Effects

The side effects of CBD are few and fairly minor overall. The oil is deemed a safe oil and those who may experience side effects most likely already have sensitivities to other over the counter anti-inflammatories such as aspirin or ibuprofen. Reports of nausea, restlessness, or trouble focusing are the most reported.

It can interact with other medication, especially blood pressure medications, and any use should be seen under the care of a healthcare provider. If you have doubts or worries about using it, always speak with your doctor in advance.

There is also the possibility you may test positive for a drug test when using it. Although the low amounts of THC that may be present do not interact with your system, drug tests, especially highly sensitive ones, cannot distinguish between THC amounts. Try to always purchase third-party tested oils that provide chemical breakdown results to consumers if this is a concern.



Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the chemical name for the other main cannabinoid that provides the same sort of beneficial results as CBD. It is extracted from the marijuana plant only as THC is not found in hemp plants in any usable amounts. How CBD oil vs THC oil is used is fairly similar in nature; you can take it as a blend orally, as an edible, applied topically, baked into favorite foods, vaped, or smoked.

Psychoactive Components

The atom placements of THC (described below) is what is responsible for the psychoactive response your body experiences when using THC. The cannabinoid receptor (CB1) in the brain is what readily accepts the cannabinoid THC, creating a euphoric high and altered mindset associated with marijuana.

Chemical Structure

As mentioned, the molecular structure of THC and CBD are exact, but the placement of the atoms is what influences which cannabinoid receptors it binds to in the body. This is why an altered mind set occurs as described above. THC binding to the respect that causes the high can also be disrupted when it is used in conjunction with CBD, allowing more to be available for binding to other receptors for a possible increase in beneficial results.


THC is a controlled substance, and under US federal law is illegal. However, there are many cannabis related laws surrounding medical use that vary from state to state, as well as the recreational use of the drug. It is important to understand which states allow the use as well as their specific regulations since it is not legal to travel from state to state with it.


Not only does THC have the same benefits of CBD, it also is commonly used to help ease the pain of cancer related treatments, glaucoma, settle nausea, and help with muscle spasticity.

Side Effects

The problem with THC resides with the side effects caused by the psychoactive properties. Whereas CBD is tolerated even in large doses with little to no side effects, THC can produce an increase in heart rate, dry mouth, dry and red eyes, memory loss, slower reaction times, coordination problems- all associated with the ‘high’ that is created.

This obviously leaves people with an impairment while they are actively using which can disrupt a daily schedule of work and other responsibilities. Studies have also concluded that the effect on developing brains in particular can be profound, with an increase in psychiatric disorders, in particular schizophrenia, being a major concern. It also may have long-term negative psychiatric effects on regular users.


Although both CBD and THC produce many of the same benefits, they have some incredibly important differences in both how and where they are used. CBD is legal and safe to use in a variety of forms, whereas THC produces some serious side effects that has deemed it a controlled substance even where it is legal to use. Very strict laws surrounding both medical and recreational use due to the impairment the psychoactive properties it contains creates.