Cannabis can be confusing. Or, is hemp confusing? Discovering the difference between cannabis and hemp is just one piece of the puzzle. After that’s sorted, your cannabis-buying journey relies on your understanding of the difference between THC and CBD.
Explaining Cannabis vs. Hemp
First, cannabis is a type of plant. Under that plant type, you’ll find high-THC cannabis (also known as marijuana) and hemp. The cannabis plant also has three types: sativa, indica, and ruderalis.
Hemp will always fall under the sativa classification and high-THC cannabis can be either sativa or indica. The THC content of both hemp and high-THC cannabis is the main difference between the two plant types. In the United States, hemp and hemp products cannot contain more than .3% THC to be considered federally legal.
The demand for CBD products in the United States has been growing rapidly, so that’s what most American companies are cultivating hemp for. Other countries, like China for example, utilize hemp for other things like textiles and concrete made from hemp.
You can make almost anything from hemp. Its seeds, for example, are very nutritious and can be eaten. Like other goods produced from hemp, any food you eat will only have a limited amount of THC -- less than 0.3% as noted previously.
What is the difference between CBD and THC?
Let’s get into the difference between CBD vs. THC, because that’s what you’re here for. Put simply, the biggest difference is that THC is the compound found in cannabis responsible for creating a high-feeling, and high-CBD/low-THC cannabis will not make you feel high.
However, it does go beyond that. THC and CBD are both considered cannabinoids. They have identical molecular structures, 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms, but they are arranged differently and therefore affect the body in different ways. THC and CBD interact with our body’s endocannabinoid system, or ECS.
Despite little chatter in the mainstream medical community, the endocannabinoid system is a vital biological system studied by Harvard, UCLA, and more. Research shows the endocannabinoid system to be a crucial component in maintaining bodily homeostasis, which is more important than you may realize.
The endocannabinoid system is filled with receptors, appropriately-named endocannabinoid receptors, that receive cannabinoids like THC and CBD. Though THC and CBD are the most well-known of all the cannabinoids, they aren’t the only ones in existence. The cannabis and hemp plants contain over 100 known cannabinoids, and researchers don’t discount the idea of more.
There are two different kinds of receptors, CB1 and CB2. These receptors are located throughout the human body and each receptor plays a different role in our physiological processes. You’ll find CB1 receptors to be most densely populated in places like the brain, our spinal cord, and nervous system, while CB2 receptors are prevalent in the vital organs, immune cells, and digestive system. Even the skin contains endocannabinoid receptors, which is why people may experience relief after applying a cannabis-infused topical product.
Does CBD get you high?
When you consume hemp-derived CBD oils like Toast, you won’t get high, as there’s simply not enough THC in hemp-derived CBD products to create a psychotropic effect. Keep in mind: High-THC cannabis strains typically register about 15% THC or more while full spectrum CBD oils contain less than 0.3%.
If you feel a little sleepy after consuming CBD, that’s totally normal. Some people use CBD to help improve sleep, but if that is not your intent, just decrease the dose a bit. Not everyone consumes CBD for better sleep, so take your dosing low and slow until you know exactly the right amount for you. It can take about three weeks for the CBD to build in your endocannabinoid system so you can feel the full effects.
Is THC or CBD right for me?
There are a few things to consider when determining which cannabinoid is best for you including your tolerance, desired outcome, and your state’s laws.
Since CBD is federally legal*, you can access it throughout the majority of the United States, but high-THC cannabis varies state by state. Some states do not even have a medical cannabis or adult-use program, but they have plenty of CBD stores -- whereas states like California can legally sell high-THC cannabis products in recreational dispensaries.
If you do live in a state where high-THC cannabis is legal, first determine your reason for consuming cannabis. A lot of people find THC in combination with CBD works well, but some people prefer hemp-derived CBD only.
THC does have psychoactive properties, which some may enjoy, but it also has other therapeutic properties like relief from temporary anxiety. You should be aware that you may feel euphoria or a high and this type of cannabis should be enjoyed responsibly. There are also many products available with varying ratios of THC to CBD, and you can experiment to see which works best for you. If you are seeking relief or general improved wellness without the high, CBD is the better choice.
* Though CBD is considered federally legal, there are some state-level exemptions, so we advise that you confirm the laws in your state.
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