CBD vs THC: Differences, Benefits, and the Entourage Effect

Cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are two of the most common cannabinoids found in the cannabis sativa plant. As more states continue to legalize the use of marijuana and cannabis products, there is much more talk about CBD and THC. Let’s look at the key differences between these two compounds.


Despite originating from the same plant, there are many unique differences in their chemical makeup, how they affect the body, and the way governments perceive them legally.

CBD vs THC Infographic

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol is a non-psychoactive chemical compound extracted from cannabis. It is typically derived from hemp (cannabis plants that contain less than 0.3% of THC). It can be extracted from marijuana, too, a species that contains higher levels of THC. A common usage of CBD is ingesting CBD sleep gummies.

What is THC?

Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol is the major psychoactive compound in cannabis. Most commonly used from the marijuana plant, THC signals a release of dopamine in the body, causing the euphoric, psychoactive feelings associated with “getting high.” Recently, beverages like THC drinks are on the rise.

Are THC and CBD legal?

The federal legal status of CBD and THC depends on whether the products that contain them are compliant with the 2018 Farm Bill. If a product contains less than 0.3% of hemp-derived THC, it is considered legal on a federal level in the US. Our Delta 9 edibles are legal, and so are our edibles that contain CBD, as they are made in compliance with the Farm Bill.

Is CBD Legal?

Hemp-derived CBD is currently legal at the federal level after the 2018 Farm Bill was enacted. It excludes hemp from the legal definition of marijuana, which was originally defined in the Controlled Substances Act. CBD derived from marijuana is governed by the same laws as THC from marijuana.

Is THC Legal?

Cannabis and marijuana laws are ever-evolving, so it’s no wonder many of our customers are confused about Delta 9 THC legality.

Fortunately, under the 2018 Farm Bill, Delta 9 THC is federally legal when derived from hemp and if the product in question has less than 0.3% of THC by dry weight. However, THC produced from marijuana is not, except in cases of recreational and medical marijuana use in select states.

More and more states are legalizing the recreational use of THC, meaning that depending on your state, you may be able to buy and consume THC if you are 21 or older. There are currently 19 states that have legalized recreational and medical cannabis use, and 17 that have medical cannabis laws but don’t allow recreational use.

nama’s products, like our Delta 9 THC gummies, meet federal laws as articulated in the 2018 Farm Bill, and are legal in all states with the exception of Kansas and Idaho. They’re 100% vegan with non-GMO hemp with lab-tested formulas made with real fruit.

The Chemical Structure of CBD vs. THC

CBD and THC have the same molecular formula, C21H30O2 (21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and two oxygen atoms). However, the constituent atoms have a slightly different configuration between the two compounds.

CBD vs THC chamical structure
Image credit: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3736954/

Since they have different chemical properties, the way they bind with the receptors in our bodies differs. CBD may even reduce the potency of THC by reducing the ability of THC to bind to CB1 receptors in the brain.

CBD, THC, and the Endocannabinoid System

The body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) is an “essential and mysterious” (Harvard Medical School) neurotransmitter network that “is critical for almost every aspect of our moment-to-moment functioning.”

The ECS helps regulate and control many bodily functions, including:

  • Pain
  • Inflammation
  • Immune response
  • Eating
  • Sleep
  • Learning
  • Memory
  • Emotions
  • Temperature control

So, the ECS is fairly important. It consists of 2 primary interacting components:

1. Chemical signals—neurotransmitters—known as endocannabinoids

2. Receptors that “dock” with or interpret the endocannabinoids—these are intracellular protein molecules capable of triggering a cascade of chemical events within a cell

Think of it like this: our bodies produce specific signals that carry messages, but they need receptors to interpret the signals and catalyze specific changes. This dynamic is true for any of the many neurotransmitters at work in our bodies—dopamine and serotonin being two of the most commonly understood—and it is certainly true of the lesser-known endocannabinoid system.

Our endocannabinoid system has two primary types of cannabinoid receptors that scientists have classified:

1. CB1R, usually termed CB1, is encoded by the gene CNR1 and is built from 472 amino acids in humans

2. CB2R, usually termed CB2, is encoded by the gene CNR2 and is built from 360 amino acids in humans.

Both receptor types are “coupled through G-proteins, both positively to mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and negatively to adenylate cyclase,” according to Dr. Tomislav Meštrović, MD, Ph.D.

CB1 and CB2 share only 44% to 48% of their protein structure in common, are found in different bodily tissues, and have quite different mechanisms of signaling.

In other words, the two receptors are very different from one another, both in structure and function.

Understanding CB1 and CB2 Receptors

Research is still ongoing to fully understand the functions of CB1 and CB2 receptors, but here’s what we know to date.

CB1 Receptor

CB1 is known as the “central receptor” and is involved in the well-known psychoactive effects of THC. They also serve to modulate brain function and can trigger analgesic (pain relieving) effects). CB1 receptors are predominantly found in the following:

  • Brain tissue
  • Musculoskeletal tissue
  • Adipocytes (fat cells)
  • Hepatocytes (liver cells)

CB2 Receptor

The “peripheral” receptor, CB2, is not implicated in psychoactive effects, but rather serves to modulate inflammation and the immune system, and may also play a role in controlling the central nervous system. They are concentrated predominantly in the gastrointestinal tract and throughout the immune system. Though there are some CB2 receptors in the brain, they are far less dense than the brain’s population of CB1 receptors.

CB2 receptors seem to play a significant role in brain health and recovery from brain injury. They are “up-regulated during the activation of microglia following brain injury,” (Ashton and Glass, “The Cannabinoid CB2 Receptor as a Target for Inflammation-Dependent Neurodegeneration”). This seems to indicate that cannabinoids—whether from cannabis or produced by the body’s own endocannabinoid system—may “protect against excitotoxic damage during the acute stage of injury.”

How Does CBD Affect the Body?

Cannabidiol does not seem to bind significantly to either CB1 or CB2 receptors, but appears to impact the endocannabinoid system more indirectly. The literature agrees that CBD does not bind to CB1, but there is some disagreement surrounding the level of its affinity for CB2, with some sources suggesting it binds weakly to CB2, and other sources indicating it does not bind with CB2 at all.

Instead of directly binding with CB1 and CB2 receptors, CBD “is capable of antagonizing” —down-modulating— “them in the presence of THC.” In other words, when CBD and THC are taken together, CBD regulates how THC interacts with CB1 and CB2 receptors (Vuckovic, et all, “Cannabinoids and Pain”).

Some scientists hypothesize that CBD affects a yet-to-be-discovered endocannabinoid receptor, which could explain its effects on the endocannabinoid system.

CBD also improves the safety and tolerability of Delta 9 THC “by reducing the likelihood of psychoactive effects” and other adverse effects of THC such as tachycardia (increased heart rate), sedation, and anxiety.

How Does THC Affect the Body?

Unlike CBD, THC binds to CB1 and CB2 receptors. As reported in the British Journal of Pharmacology by Pertree, et al, it is a partial agonist of CB1 and CB2 receptors, meaning that it activates them.

Delta 9 THC Effects on CB1

When Delta 9 THC binds with CB1 receptors, it inhibits adenylate cyclase. This inhibition is responsible for the psychotropic effects of THC. These effects include:

  • changes in mood
  • changes in consciousness
  • memory processing changes
  • motor control changes
  • changes in appetite

Delta 9’s partial agonism of CB1 receptors also has broader therapeutic implications that warrant further research. Effects can include:

  • Analgesic
  • Anticonvulsant
  • Antiemetic

Delta 9 THC Effects on CB2

The effects of Delta 9 THC on CB2 receptors is less-understood than those of CB1. One study suggests a beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system during stressful conditions via CB2 activation.

The Psychoactive Properties of CBD and THC

When consumed, THC attaches to the two types of cannabinoid receptors we have in the endocannabinoid system that cause the "high" effect many people associate with cannabis. With CBD, it more so “aggravates” the endocannabinoid system when combined with small dosages that are naturally in a hemp or marijuana plant.

CBD does not does not produce the same feelings of euphoria as Delta 9 THC. Broad spectrum CBD gummies are popular on the market because they are extractions that aim to remove as much THC as possible while keeping the CBD experience intact.

Ways to Consume CBD and THC

There are many ways to ingest CBD and THC. Marijuana is most commonly associated with being smoked in a joint or a pipe, though consumers are now being introduced to a variety of cannabis products that fit the needs of their lifestyle.

This includes oils and tinctures, edibles and beverages, and vape products. CBD is also being integrated into topical products and lotions, and can be found in the form of CBD capsules as well.

THC and CBD can be consumed separately or together.  Full spectrum products, such as nama’s Delta 9 edibles, combine both compounds, allowing consumers to benefit from the wellness properties of both THC and CBD in a healthier way. To learn more about combining THC and CBD, check out our full spectrum and broad spectrum CBD comparison.

CBD and THC Edibles

Edibles are the best way to consume CBD and THC. They are delicious, easy to dose, and simple to use. When buying edibles, it’s important to shop from reputable companies that test their products in a third-party lab and use high-quality ingredients.

We offer gummies with THC, as well as CBD gummies, that are fully vegan, thoroughly tested, and made from premium hemp extract.

CBD and THC Tinctures

Tinctures and oils that contain hemp compounds—such as CBD oils, THC oils, and CBN oils—are quite popular. However, they can be difficult to dose, especially for beginners, so you can accidentally take more than desired. For this reason, edibles are a much better choice if you’re new to CBD and THC. Plus, high-quality edibles are much more delicious than tinctures.

Smoking CBD and THC

Smoking is a common way of consuming CBD and THC, and many people are used to this method. Unfortunately, due to the many negative effects of smoked cannabis (and smoking in general), this form of taking THC and CBD is the least healthy option. High-quality, vegan gummies with CBD and THC are a much healthier way to get the many benefits of these two compounds.

CBD and THC Drinks

Drinks with CBD and THC are becoming more widely used in recent years. They are the optimal way to consume hemp compounds in social situations and can be a great replacement for alcohol.

nama CBD offers THC drinks infused with premium hemp THC and CBD. Our drinks with THC are legal on a federal level, as they contain less than 0.3% of hemp-derived THC by dry weight.

Medical Benefits of CBD and THC

Both CBD and THC have been found to be beneficial in treating numerous medical conditions. In 2018, the FDA approved Epidolex, a prescription medication containing CBD, to treat a rare form of childhood epilepsy.

As of now, no other CBD-based prescriptions have been FDA-approved, but it’s a step in the right direction toward incorporating cannabis into mainstream medical practices and exploring the many potential health effects of this compound.

CBD and THC are most frequently known to treat things like chronic pain, stress, and sleep, but each of them has strengths in the way they react to the body to alleviate certain symptoms. Additionally, they can work together to manage systems even more effectively, depending on what issue you’re dealing with.

Health Benefits of CBD

CBD has been used to help the effects of various conditions such as:

  • migraines
  • inflammation
  • mental health conditions
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • arthritis
  • multiple sclerosis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • diabetes

Health Benefits of THC

THC has been authorized for medicinal use by many states to help ease any unwanted effects of:

  • multiple sclerosis
  • nerve pain
  • Parkinson’s disease tremors
  • glaucoma
  • insomnia
  • poor appetite
  • nausea

CBD vs THC for Pain

THC binds with receptors, altering your body’s perception of pain. CBD helps reduce inflammation, allowing pain relief from conditions like arthritis and other related ailments.

Choosing THC or CBD for pain relief varies based on the type of pain or the treatment of a specific condition. Since CBD tends to curtail the unwanted side effects of THC potency, some people choose CBD products for a smoother experience.

People going through cancer treatment have most often used THC. Patients with PTSD or ALS may choose to mix both to manage the multiple symptoms associated with these issues.

CBD vs THC for Anxiety

People have generally used either substance to help reduce anxiety and alleviate symptoms of health conditions related to anxiety (such as social anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorders, and panic attacks).

According to the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, it’s important to know that while CBD eases anxiety symptoms at all tested doses, THC can ease symptoms of anxiety when administered in low doses only. With higher doses, THC can have the opposite effect and exacerbate symptoms of anxiety and stress disorders.

This may be due to THC overstimulating your amygdala, which regulates your response to fear, anxiety, and stress.THC has been found to cause heightened feelings of anxiety and paranoia when overconsumed. Pure CBD should not induce anxiety, as it is a non-intoxicating compound.

Both compounds have helped users cope with anxiety. Deciding which substance to use can vary based on the person. If you already have higher levels of anxiety, THC could possibly worsen it at high doses. CBD does not have the same psychoactive effects as THC and instead has anxiety-relieving effects.

nama CBD products contain micro doses of THC. So long as you take the recommended dosage (one gummy), you shouldn’t risk taking too much and exacerbating your symptoms when taking our edibles.

CBD vs THC for Sleep

While the benefits of CBD for sleep are mentioned more often, THC can be incredibly beneficial in treating sleep issues as well. CBD helps you relax and fall asleep at any dose and THC will do so when taken in low doses.

High doses of THC can make you feel energized and unable to fall asleep. Our sleep gummies contain CBD, a low dose of THC, and melatonin—a triple threat for sleep issues that will certainly help you fall asleep.

CBD vs THC for Nausea

The beneficial effects of marijuana on nausea relief come from both THC and CBD. These compounds both bind to CB1 receptors and alleviate nausea through them. CBD and THC are equally effective in relieving nausea and increasing appetite, which is why they’re often used by cancer patients with appetite issues that are a frequent side effect of chemotherapy.

Side Effects of CBD and THC

Thankfully, neither CBD nor THC compounds have proved fatal after overconsumption. Even though both could be considered safe when used properly, CBD has been proven to have more mild side effects than THC would.

A high amount of THC can cause temporary side effects, such as:

  • dry mouth
  • red eyes
  • increased anxiety
  • memory loss
  • increased heart rate
  • slower response times
  • coordination problems
  • paranoia

Potential side effects of CBD include:

  • fatigue
  • appetite changes
  • lower blood pressure
  • dizziness
  • diarrhea
  • upset stomach, nausea, and vomiting

It is important to disclose the consumption of any cannabis products with a health care professional so you can make better-informed decisions with your care and take proper precautions when either self-medicating or using it recreationally.

Cannabinoids are stored in your body’s fat and may show up on tests up to weeks after consumption. Depending on the drug test being taken, CBD may or may not be detected. Most standard tests look for THC or related chemicals. It should be noted that some products may claim they are THC-free despite containing trace amounts.

Safely consuming cannabis products in a way that works for you could potentially be a great asset to various elements of your health. However, gaining knowledge about what you’re consuming or applying to your body will ensure you’re meeting your body’s needs productively. Do your research about all products before you consider which is best for you.

The Entourage Effect: How CBD and THC Work Together

Taking CBD and THC together creates an entourage effect, which makes the health benefits of each compound more pronounced.

Essentially, the entourage effect created when taking THC and CBD together is the result of these compounds working in synergy with one another to create uniquely beneficial effects.

With this in mind, we have formulated CBD gummies that use a full-spectrum extract. A nama full-spectrum gummy contains THC and other cannabinoids (such as CBN and CBG), in addition to CBD, making it the perfect choice if you’d like to experience the entourage effect yourself.

Buy the Best CBD and THC Edibles Sold Online

The health news and research regarding the benefits of CBD and THC show that these compounds have many benefits and no long-term side effects. When shopping for CBD and THC edibles online, it’s important to shop from a reputable company, such as nama CBD.

We offer a wide array of vegan CBD and Delta 9 THC edibles, as well as THC drinks. Additionally, we offer gummies with Delta 8 THC and gummies infused with CBN, a minor cannabinoid that also provides impressive benefits.

For more information on Delta 8 THC and how it differs from Delta 9 THC, check out our detailed Delta 8 and Delta 9 comparison.

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FAQ on CBD and THC

What’s better for pain: CBD or THC?

CBD has been known to lower inflammation, a key cause of many aches and pains. It works to relieve pain at the source. THC, however, is known to alter the mind’s perception of pain. So, it depends on the type of relief you’re seeking. Combining the two with a THC-to-CBD ratio that works together may be the most effective use of the two compounds.

What’s the difference between THC and CBD edibles?

THC has psychoactive properties, but CBD does not. Many users report that using CBD feels less intrusive than consuming THC because it has milder effects.

How can you tell THC from CBD?

CBD and THC have a different chemical structure from one another, but the average person won’t have the ability to analyze the individual molecules of each compound. Most people will rely on manufacturers to tell them how much CBD or THC is in a product. Post-consumption, users will feel a difference between the two cannabinoids because THC will cause more euphoria—and, at higher doses, psychoactive effects.  

What does CBD do to you?

CBD affects your endocannabinoid receptor activity, working to relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression, reduce inflammation, and relieve pain.

How long does 500mg of CBD stay in your system?

CBD does not stay in the system as long as THC does, but it depends on how much you’re consuming, for how long, and the general make-up of your body physically and medically. Generally, CBD can stay in the system for up to two weeks after usage. This can vary depending on how the lab tests are done. Two weeks in a urine sample could be up to a month through hair follicles.

Why does CBD make me so sleepy?

CBD is one of many compounds that have naturally relaxing properties, which is why you may get sleepy when taking it. Other compounds that can make you sleepy include melatonin and THC (when taken in low doses). Due to the relaxing effects of CBD, we decided to include it in our sleep gummies infused with melatonin.

How much CBD is enough to relax?

To get the relaxing properties of CBD, you should take anywhere from 10 to 100 milligrams per day, depending on how severe your anxiety is and how used you are to the effects of CBD. If you’re new to CBD, start with a low dosage (10-20 milligrams per day), and work your way up as needed.

Is CBD a drug?

CBD is technically a drug, but it does not cause the effects you would expect from a drug. This compound does not cause a high (THC does). Instead, CBD will relax you, alleviate pain, and help you fall asleep, which is why it’s become a staple in complementary and integrative health care.

nama CBD FDA & Legal Disclaimer

This information is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Our products are not a replacement for prescription sleep medicine and should not be used for medical purposes, as they have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice or any statements of the status of any laws. Any information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only, and are not intended to be relied upon for any purpose.

Readers of this website should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter including informed decisions on what products are, or are not, legal to sell, possess, or consume. No reader, user, or browser of this site should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information on this site without first seeking legal advice from their own counsel in the relevant jurisdiction.

Only your individual attorney can provide assurances that the information contained herein – and your interpretation of it – is applicable or accurate for your particular situation. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader, user, or browser, and website authors, contributors, contributing law firms, or committee members and their respective employers.


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