THC vs CBD: What is the difference?

Last Updated on July 8, 2021 by Maxwell Harris

Hardly any other topic has recently attracted as much attention as medical cannabis and its ingredients THC and CBD. But what substances are THC and CBD, how they work, how does THC differ from CBD and why are CBD and THC not the same? The following article deals with this problem and provides answers to these questions.

What is the difference between THC and CBD?

Although THC and CBD occur in the same plant (cannabis),  they have fundamentally different pharmacological properties. THC is especially euphoric, psychotropic, anti-emetic and pain-relieving, while CBD has antispasmodic, anti-epileptic, neuroprotective and antioxidant properties. Therapeutically, both have been used in medicine, particularly in recent years.

Cannabis strains containing THC are subject to medical prescription and the Narcotics Ordinance, while CBD can be obtained over the counter from CBD (web) shops.

Let’s talk about cannabis

Both substances, CBD and THC, are formed by a plant that has been used medicinally for thousands of years. The hemp (cannabis Sativa) is an annual herbaceous plant and forms the two active ingredients THC and CBD. Both substances belong to the class of cannabinoids, substances that bind to the so-called cannabinoid receptors in the body. According to the current state of knowledge, there are two of them, the CB1 receptor and the CB2 receptor (CB stands for cannabinoid). The body itself also forms connections that are able to bind to these receptors and trigger a physiological effect. THC and CBD are not produced by humans themselves, but can nevertheless interact with these receptors and trigger a pharmacological effect.

In order to extract THC and CBD, the inflorescences of the female plants must first be harvested. Different concentrations of THC can be contained in different hemp varieties. The amount of THC or CBD is of course not always exactly the same, but with the respective THC/ CBD varieties, it is still possible to predict exactly how the ratio of CBD and THC to each other is.

What is Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC?

THC is probably one of the best known chemical compounds worldwide and was first synthesized in pure form in 1964. Depending on the dosage, THC has a more or less strong psychotropic, antiemetic, analgesic and euphoric effect in the human body. This has not only been known since the first synthesis of THC in 1964 but has been used for centuries. Tetrahydrocannabinol is a highly lipophilic substance and can easily be obtained in large quantities from suitable plant material using organic and only weakly polar solvents. Purification and separation of the solvent from the THC gives 100% pure THC. The rapidly increasing amount of data available on the compound through pharmacological examinations and studies allow it to be used in medicine. The main indications are nausea, vomiting and cachexia in cancer, for which many studies currently exist. THC is also used for spastic pain in the context of multiple sclerosis, for loss of appetite for HIV / AIDS patients, and for chronic and neuropathic pain conditions. The doses chosen are usually very low and the psychoactive effects are practically non-existent. However, the response to the compound can be very different from individual to individual. Some people will be more sensitive to THC and would feel the psychoactive effect even using a very small amount of THC.

Side effects of THC

The side effects of THC observed so far are mostly dose-dependent and include general weakness, palpitations, rapid heartbeat and vasodilation with a drop in blood pressure. The psychoactive effect can manifest itself in the form of nervousness, confusion, hallucinations, abnormal thinking and euphoria. All in all, the dependency potential for the above-mentioned indications is classified as low. In the case of addiction, withdrawal symptoms may occur if THC is not taken.

What is cannabidiol or CBD?

CBD has been very popular for some time. Numerous CBD shops have opened in many countries and advertise the success of CBD. Like THC, CBD is a very lipophilic compound and, like almost all cannabinoids, can be extracted from plants with organic solvents. The difference between CBD and THC is that CBD has no psychotropic effects. The well-known effect of CBD is mainly anti-epileptic, neuroprotective and antioxidative. CBD is approved in a very high dosage for rare forms of epilepsy in childhood. The amounts of CBD contained in CBD oil are many times lower. The often advertised areas of application of CBD have not been scientifically proven and lack a solid foundation. Nevertheless, CBD can be effective in many diseases, from falling asleep to irritable bowel syndrome and effectively alleviating the symptoms of the patient. A big advantage is the complete lack of psychoactive effects of CBD compared to THC. No such side effects were observed even in higher amounts. On the contrary, CBD even seems to block the psychoactive effects of THC, as studies on mixed products show. While CBD was initially available in pharmacies, the reclassification of EU CBD as “novel food” led to a ban on selling CBD oil by pharmacies. As a result, CBD shops have taken on this task and are selling CBD with great success.

Side effects of CBD

Common side effects of CBD are drowsiness and dizziness. Cbd can cause discomfort, diarrhoea and loss of appetite, especially at the beginning of the intake. In higher doses, such as those used in the anti-epileptic Epidiolex, these side effects of CBD were also registered, as well as vomiting and fever. The mutual effect between CBD and hepatic CYP enzymes, which have an important role in the breakdown of numerous drugs, is less well known to date. This blockage by CBD affects the two CYP enzymes CYP2C9 and CYP2C19. The effect of the drugs can be increased by CBD and possibly lead to increased side effects. In such cases, taking CBD under medical supervision is recommended.


Both THC and CBD belong to the cannabinoid group. Cannabinoids are secondary plant ingredients that are formed in special hemp varieties and are also obtained from them. Cannabis contains more than 100 cannabinoids, but the most important are THC and CBD. Both are used in medicine and to heal or alleviate diseases, but only THC has addictive potential and is subject to the Narcotics Ordinance.

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