In recent times you might have come across these two terms quite a lot. The reason can be attributed to the flourishing of the cannabis industry. With over 20 US states legalizing the medical use of cannabis, the benefits have somewhat surprised the scientists.
If you are living in the USA and have been prescribed medical marijuana, then you might get to hear the following. “THC and CBD compounds are good for your health and will help in providing relief from the symptoms.” Now, what are these two terms? Are they the two names of the same thing?
Technically speaking, no. While they are often interchangeably used, they are not quite exactly the same. A look into the molecular structure and effects on the body will help clear out the distinction.
So let us first proceed with the chemical composition of these compounds.
Molecular structural difference
It won’t be wrong to classify THC and CBD as twins since both occupy the same chemical makeup. By that we mean, both have 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogens, and 2 oxygen atoms.
So where does the difference lie?
The distinction can be drawn with the arrangement of the atoms. We are talking about a microscopic arrangement here that you may not be able to see with a naked human eye.
In the CBD or Cannabidiol molecule, you find a hydroxide element which is not present in Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Instead what you have is an oxygen element which accounts for the difference between the two compounds.
May not sound that technical but both have contrasting effects on the person’s body.
CBD and THC effects on the body
Any cannabis plant will contain a number of cannabinoids, the most prominent being the CBD and THC compounds. Cannabinoid when enters the body, interacts with the Endocannabinoid System also known as EHC. This system is the basic network of receptors regulating vital functions in our body.
The CB1 receptor of the system has the function of maintaining cognition, mental processes, emotion, memory, and coordination. While the CB2 receptors will most likely be present in the Central Nervous and Immune System. Hence its function is centered around this region.
CB1 and CB2 receptors will interact with Cannabinoids to exhibit a feeling of pain and anxiety relief.
Here, it is important to note how THC and CBD will react differently to the CB1 and CB2 receptors. The difference in the interaction coming about due to the varied molecular structure.
The composition of THC will allow the molecule to directly bond with the CB1 receptor. This generates signals to the brain. As a result, the person will experience psychoactive effects: a feeling of euphoria and relaxation. In the wider scheme of things, “getting high” is a reference towards the psychoactive effects induced. Happens due to the bonding of THC and CB1 receptor.
On the other hand, CBD will not directly bond with the CB1 receptor. The person may get him/herself relieved from bodily pain without experiencing any sort of psychoactive effects. There is no as such mind-altering feeling as that generated by THC.
The legal aspect of THC
For considerably interfering with the mental activity of the brain, THC has been outlawed in many countries around the world. In the USA, however, there is a legal limit the supplier needs to abide by.
What amount of THC is bad for the brain remains yet to be found. Ending on a fortunate note, scientists have argued that unlike other hard drugs, THC itself does not have the ability to be addictive. Suffice to say when combined with CBD, it is considered safe to use.