CBD and THC are the two chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant.
When in the body, CBD and THC interact with cannabinoid receptors to help treat or limit the effects of various conditions. But let us start from the beginning. Cannabis, also known as marijuana, originated in Central Asia but is grown worldwide today. In the United States, it is a controlled substance and is classified as a Schedule I agent (a drug with a high potential for abuse, and no currently accepted medical use). The Cannabis plant produces a resin containing 21-carbon terpenophenolic compounds called cannabinoids, in addition to other compounds found in plants, such as terpenes and flavonoids. The highest concentration of cannabinoids is found in the female flowers of the plant. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main psychoactive cannabinoid but over 100 other cannabinoids have been reported to be present in the plant. Cannabidiol (CBD) does not produce the characteristic altered consciousness associated with Cannabis but is felt to have potential therapeutic effectiveness and has recently been approved in the form of the pharmaceutical Epidiolex for the treatment of refractory seizure disorders in children. Other cannabinoids that are being investigated for potential medical benefits include cannabinol (CBN), cannabigerol (CBG), and tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), although data from human studies are currently unavailable.
Clinical trials conducted on medicinal Cannabis are limited. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved the use of Cannabis as a treatment for any medical condition, although both isolated THC and CBD pharmaceuticals are licensed and approved. To conduct clinical drug research with botanical Cannabis in the United States, researchers must file an Investigational New Drug (IND) application with the FDA, obtain a Schedule I license from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and obtain approval from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
In the 2018 United States Farm Bill, the term hemp is used to describe cultivars of the Cannabis species that contain less than 0.3% THC. Hemp oil or CBD oil are products manufactured from extracts of industrial hemp (i.e., low-THC cannabis cultivars), whereas hemp seed oil is an edible fatty oil that is essentially cannabinoid-free Some products contain other botanical extracts and/or over-the-counter analgesics, and are readily available as oral and topical tinctures or other formulations often advertised for pain management and other purposes. Hemp products containing less than 0.3% of delta-9-THC are not scheduled drugs and could be considered as Farm Bill compliant. Hemp is not a controlled substance; however, CBD is a controlled substance.
The most notable difference between CBD and THC is the lack of psychoactive effects for CBD. THC is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis that produces the high sensation. It can be consumed by smoking cannabis. It’s also available in oils, edibles, tinctures, capsules, and more.
Both interact with your body’s endocannabinoid system, but they have very different effects.
The Chemical structure of CBD and THC
CBD and THC have the exact same molecular structure: 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms. A slight difference in how the atoms are arranged accounts for the differing effects on your body.
Both CBD and THC are chemically similar to your body’s endocannabinoids. This allows them to interact with your cannabinoid receptors.
The interaction affects the release of neurotransmitters in your brain. Neurotransmitters are chemicals responsible for relaying messages between cells and have roles in function of immune system, pain, stress, and sleep.
Source: National Cancer Institute