cbd vs thc




With the increasing legal availability of cannabis-based products in new jurisdictions, notably in the US due to increased legalisation at state level, and in Canada, the Cannabis market has exploded in recent years with a particular interest in CBD products. With the UK CBD market set to reach a valuation of £1bn and CBD oil being lauded as ‘a miracle cure-all’ product, it might be hard to find consistent information on this crucial phytocannabinoid amid the hype. In this article we’ll set out a beginner’s guide to the major properties of CBD and THC, the main phytocannabinoid constituents of cannabis, so you can discern the facts from the advertising fiction.


THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the most prevalent psychoactive cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. It generally constitutes between 12 and 20 percent of the dried content in some strains of cannabis and up to 25 to 30 percent in more potent varieties.

THC is most well-known as the compound that creates the high typically associated with recreational cannabis use. This high is created when THC binds to CB1 and CB2 receptors (CB receptors are G protein-coupled bio-receptors located throughout the body, particularly in central and peripheral nervous system and the immune system), where it is a partial agonist of these receptors.

THC behaves similarly to the body’s own endocannabinoids, anandamide and 2-AG, as their pharmacology is quite similar despite the structure being quite different. Yet, THC also interacts with other neurotransmitter systems in the body including, for instance, the opioids systems and the 5HT1A receptors. THC’s effect on the body is therefore not purely through the endocannabinoid system alone.

THC is known to have many medicinal properties and uses. Specifically, we know it:

  • Has analgesic properties
  • Is anti-inflammatory
  • Is a muscle relaxant
  • Has anti-nausea effects
  • Is anti-oxidant

The known psychoactive side effects of THC including disorientation,euphoria, paranoia and hallucinations. However, it should be noted that relatively few medical conditions require THC over and above CBD, so patients will often start on a CBD-rich or balanced product rather than a high THC one. The typical recommendations of medical professionals to ‘start-low and go slow’ with THC dosing also reduces the risk of any adverse side effects.


CBD works by binding to the endocannabinoid system, with its mode of action being largely through activating other neurotransmitter systems, for example the adenosine, serotonin and vanilloid receptors.

CBD is most well-known for its anti-anxiety and anticonvulsant qualities. For example, CBD is the only constituent of GW Pharma’s Epidiolex – a 99.9 percent pure CBD product licensed in the US for the treatment of childhood-resistant epilepsy.

Aside from these popularised anti-anxiety effects, CBD is also believed to have:

  • Some anti-cancer effects (in vitro and in vivo preclinical studies only)
  • Analgesic properties
  • Neuroprotective qualities

It isn’t hard to understand the increasing popularity of CBD products considering that one of CBD’s most useful characteristics is that it tends to counteract the psychoactive effects often associated with THC. Due to these properties, the production of non-psychoactive medicines containing both THC and CBD is viable. Ever-evolving research on CBD has particularly helped to alleviate a lot of concerns surrounding medical Cannabis’ more concerning psychoactive associations in recent years as it is now understood that a relatively small amount of THC can be cancelled out with a relatively large amount of CBD.

However, despite this promising balancing effect, in each case the THC/CBD ratio of each medicine must be clearly understood, particularly as manufacturers tend to produce several CBD/THC varieties.

Got any more questions about CBD or THC? Write to us in the comments section below.

Further investigation and research into cannabis use (both recreational and medical) is thoroughly encouraged by The Academy, particularly through the use of our own online coursesevidence base and whitepapers. Specific information on THC and CBD, their qualities and risks can be found in our free introductory course.

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