We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here’s our process.
Healthline only shows you brands and products that we stand behind.Our team thoroughly researches and evaluates the recommendations we make on our site. To establish that the product manufacturers addressed safety and efficacy standards, we:
- Evaluate ingredients and composition: Do they have the potential to cause harm?
- Fact-check all health claims: Do they align with the current body of scientific evidence?
- Assess the brand: Does it operate with integrity and adhere to industry best practices?
CBD and THC are both found in cannabis plants, but they interact with your body differently.
As the legal use of hemp and other cannabis products grows in the United States, consumers are becoming more curious about their options. This includes cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), two natural compounds found in plants of the Cannabis genus.
Both compounds interact with your body’s endocannabinoid system, but they have very different effects.
Read on to learn more about these compounds. While they may have a lot in common, some key differences determine how to use them.
Here is a high level summary of the major differences between CBD and THC:
|is legal||it depends (see below)||it depends (see below)|
|produces a high||no||yes|
|interacts with endocannabinoid system||yes||yes|
|has side effects||some||psychoactive side effects|
|shows on drug test||possibly||yes|
|helps with insomnia||yes||yes|
|helps with psychosis||yes||no|
|is used for various other conditions||yes||yes|
Is CBD Legal? Hemp-derived CBD products (with less than 0.3 percent THC) are legal on the federal level, but are still illegal under some state laws. Marijuana-derived CBD products are illegal on the federal level, but are legal under some state laws. Check your state’s laws and those of anywhere you travel. Keep in mind that nonprescription CBD products are not FDA-approved, and may be inaccurately labeled.
CBD can be extracted from hemp or cannabis. Hemp and cannabis come from the Cannabis sativa plant.
CBD does not produce the “high” sensation associated with cannabis.
THC is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis that produces a “high” sensation. It can be consumed by smoking cannabis. It’s also available in oils, edibles, tinctures, capsules, and more.
CBD and THC have the same molecular structure:
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.
Despite their similar chemical structures, CBD and THC do not have the same psychoactive effects. CBD is psychoactive, just not in the same manner as THC. It does not produce the high associated with THC.
THC binds with the cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptors in the brain, producing a high or a sense of euphoria. This high
In the United States, cannabis-related laws are evolving regularly. Technically, CBD is still considered a Schedule I drug under federal law.
Hemp has been removed from the Controlled Substances Act, but the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) still classify CBD as a Schedule I drug.
Another 10 states allow access to limited amounts of low THC cannabis or CBD oil.
The cannabis may need to be recommended by a licensed physician. Certain states also allow licensed physicians and advanced practice registered nurses to recommend cannabis.
In addition, 21 states, as well as D.C., Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands, have legalized the recreational use of cannabis. In these states, you should be able to buy CBD.
Before you try to buy products with CBD or THC, it’s important to research your state’s laws.
If you possess cannabis-related products in a state where they’re illegal or don’t have a medical prescription in states where the products are legal for medical treatment, you could face legal penalties.
CBD and THC have many of the same medical benefits. They can provide relief from several of the same conditions. However, CBD doesn’t cause the euphoric effects that occur with THC. Some people may prefer to use CBD because of the lack of this side effect.
In June 2018, the
More research is needed to determine whether CBD can effectively treat these conditions and others.
Nabilone (Cesamet) is FDA approved for treating chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.
THC is often used to help with issues like pain or insomnia.
Is THC more effective than CBD for pain?
Unlike THC, CBD binds very weakly, if at all, to CB1 receptors. CBD needs THC to bind to the CB1 receptor and, in turn, can help reduce some of the unwanted psychoactive effects of THC, such as euphoria or sedation.
That said, there’s not a lot of data that compares the effectiveness of CBD and THC in terms of treating pain. In
We also know from various studies that people who do notice a more immediate improvement in symptoms related to pain after taking cannabis tend to use products that contain more THC than CBD.
This is consistent with
CBD is typically well tolerated, even in large doses. Any side effects of CBD are
THC can cause both temporary side effects and long-term negative psychiatric effects. These side effects are part of the compound’s psychoactive properties.
Neither compound is fatal.
Long-term cannabis use can
However, there’s currently no conclusive evidence that using cannabis causes psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia.
Cannabinoids like THC and CBD are stored in the body’s fat. They
Not every drug test can detect CBD, but CBD-sensitive tests are available. Most standard drug tests look for chemicals related to THC, so THC or cannabis use might appear on a screening.
Likewise, hemp can produce some THC in addition to CBD, so a test could be positive for THC even if you haven’t used it.
Products that claim to be THC-free may not actually be free of THC, so if you’re getting a drug test, avoid any CBD or THC products.
Learn more about how CBD could show up on a drug test.
CBD and THC both have medical benefits. They’re also both considered safe, but consider the possible side effects and interactions with other drugs you take. Talk with your doctor or a qualified cannabis or CBD clinician before use if you have any questions.
Want to learn more about CBD? Click here for more product reviews, recipes, and research-based articles about CBD from Healthline.