CBD vs THC – What is the Difference?

Both CBD and THC are usually lumped together in the same group when it comes to discussing what differentiates both compounds. Here we discuss what CBD is and how it varies from THC, and why it's important to understand the differences between these two cannabinoids.

21 July 2022

  • CBD Guides
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What is CBD?

CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a molecule found in cannabis. It plays a large role in the endocannabinoid system (ECS) to maintain the body’s natural balance, and doesn’t affect your cognitive function. The cannabis plant predominantly takes two forms – hemp, and marijuana. Hemp is highly saturated in CBD, so is usually where CBD is distilled from, whereas marijuana predominantly contains THC.

What is THC?

Tetrahydrocannabinol, more commonly known as THC, is the psychoactive compound found in marijuana. In a nutshell, this is the compound that gives you the “high” sensation when it’s ingested by the body. THC alters your mood – when ingested, it activates the receptors in the brain that release a higher-than-usual level of dopamine, often causing a feeling of euphoria. A lot of times THC and CBD are mistaken for being the same thing, as they are both cannabinoids predominantly found in the same plant. However, they affect different receptors in the body, and carry out different functions.

CBD Vs THC: Fundamental Differences

Although similar in molecular structure, both THC and CBD differ significantly in how they affect the body and mind. The main difference between CBD and THC is that  THC produces a high, CBD does not. Both target different receptors in the brain, and due to that key fact, CBD does not have psychoactive effects.

While being separate compounds, both structures influence the endocannabinoid system – a complex system within the body that include processes such as memory, mood and appetite. Research is still being carried out to try and understand it more, but it does show that both compounds act differently within the process.

Scientific process

CBD starts off its journey in the hemp plant.

Extraction

The hemp plant has all the goodness and cannabinoids extracted via a process such as supercritical CO2 or cryo-ethanol to form a crude oil distillate.

Winterization

This crude product then has its fats and other plant substances like chlorophyll removed by “winterization” (basically making it cold so they solidify and can be separated) to improve the taste.

Solvent removal

Once winterization is complete, any remaining solvents e.g. ethanol are completely removed for safety. Solvents are perfectly safe in a lab but not in a finished product!

Decarboxylation

Decarboxylation is a fancy name for changing CBDA, the main component of crude distillate, into CBD by heating to a specific temperature At this point in the distillation process the product extracted is full-spectrum (all cannabinoids are present, including THC).

 

The CBD Spectrums & Strengths:

The full spectrum oily distillate is then remediated, by separating the THC out and leaving in the minor cannabinoids. This form is considered broad-spectrum CBD.

The next distillation process can be done in different ways. The process of creating the broad-spec CBD can be repeated, by removing more of the THC, in turn it then creates narrow-spec CBD.

The other way to process broad-spec CBD the CBD is by isolating all the minor cannabinoids AND the THC, creating a powder substance called CBD isolate. This is usually around 99% CBD.

As much as it may seem a complex, when the process is broken down it’s a lot easier to digest.

Legalities

Overall CBD is legal to use in the UK, but the amount of THC must not be greater than 1mg per container of any CBD product. The THC levels in hemp are usually already around 0.3% or lower from the start, and is further distilled to create creating a CBD isolate. When this isolate is incorporated into CBD products, such as oils, the percentage of THC is even lower due to the addition of the other ingredients within the specific product, such as the oils and extracts added.

All Green Stem products have 0.0% THC levels or less, with batch tests for every product, and a certificate of analysis attached to every product to confirm the correct amount of CBD levels are present in the product you receive.

We hope this article has let find out a bit more about CBD and how it differs from THC. If you are looking to start your CBD journey and are unsure on how to begin, have a look at our other articles on CBD, including our beginners guide – perfect for those not quite sure where to start.