CBD vs THC: 7 Key Differences (Effects, Benefits, Legality & More)


Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are two chemical compounds in hemp and marijuana plants.

But how do they differ?

Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t give you a psychoactive ‘high

Moreover, CBD is legal in the UK and other countries, while THC is illegal

But there’s more to it than that.

Let’s explore all the CBD vs THC differences in detail…  

Also Check Out:

  • Want to know more about CBD? Read our in-depth guide on What is CBD.
  • Check out 9 Must-try CBD Drinks — from spring water, coffee, and tea to dry gin and spiced rum, there’s something for everyone!

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Let’s go!

CBD vs THC: What You Need to Know

  CBD THC (Delta 9 THC) 
Extracted from Mostly hemp plants  Marijuana plants 
Chemistry CBD and THC have 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms. However, they’re arranged differently.

As a result, CBD and THC bind to your cannabinoid receptor system (CB1 and CB2 receptors) differently. 

CBD and THC have 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms. However, they’re arranged differently.

As a result, CBD and THC bind to your cannabinoid receptor system (CB1 and CB2 receptors) differently

How they make you feel  CBD makes you feel calm and balanced. THC produces a “high” psychoactive effect. 
Health benefits

 CBD can help with:

  • Anxiety
  • Sleep
  • Inflammation relief
  • Chronic pain relief
  • Migraines
  • Epilepsy seizures
  • PTSD
  • Depression

THC can help with: 

  • Insomnia
  • Nerve pain
  • Nausea
  • Muscle spasticity
  • Low appetite
  • Glaucoma



 Potential side effects (at extremely high doses)
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Low blood pressure
  • Irritability
  • Drowsiness 


  • Anxiety
  • Memory loss
  • Slower reactions
  • Dizziness
  • Red eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased heart rate
Legality The UK: Yes

The US: Yes

The UK: No

The US: Supplements with up to 0.3% THC are legal  

 Shows up on a drugs test?

Could show up if:

  •  Trace amounts of THC are detected (usually present in full spectrum CBD products)
  • A CBD sensitive test is used

Difference #1: What They Are

1. CBD

CBD (cannabidiol) is one of the main compounds in Cannabis sativa plants like hemp and marijuana. 

(Psst… did you know that hemp and marijuana aren’t the same? Learn how they differ!)

CBD is usually extracted from hemp plants since hemp is high in CBD and low in THC.

First discovered in 1940, CBD is increasingly popular for its therapeutic effects, including stress and pain relief. (More on this later.)

2. THC

THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is the other primary cannabinoid in Cannabis sativa. 

It’s extracted from marijuana plants since they have high THC and low CBD content.

THC was first discovered in 1964 and is best known for producing the “high” effect

Difference #2: Chemical Structures  

THC and CBD have the same chemical atoms:

  • 21 carbon atoms, 
  • 30 hydrogen atoms, 
  • 2 oxygen atoms.  

However, the atomic arrangement differs in THC and CBD, giving them different properties.

What’s more?

CBD and THC have a similar chemical structure to your body’s natural endocannabinoids! 

They can bind to your endocannabinoid system (ECS) and stimulate your brain’s neurotransmitters. This allows them to influence your mood, sleep, memory, pain, and stress levels.

Side Note: The endocannabinoid system regulates your body’s immune responses, appetite, sleep, pain control, and other vital functions. 

Difference #3: How They Make You Feel 

According to the World Health Organization, any substance that impacts your mental functions or affects your mood, thoughts, feelings, awareness, or behaviour has a psychoactive effect. 

Both CBD and THC have certain psychoactive properties. 

A. Effects of THC

Only THC results in the so-called ‘high’ effect.

According to the US National Institute on Drug Abuse, THC binds with your brain’s CB1 receptor and CB2 receptor, triggering dopamine release. 

The result?

You may feel anything from euphoria to paranoia (AKA stoned)!

B. Effects of CBD

CBD doesn’t have any intoxicating effect

Instead, it improves your well-being, making you feel balanced and grounded


CBD doesn’t bind to your CB1 receptor and CB2 receptor in the same way as THC. It has much weaker binding properties if taken on its own. 

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Difference #4: Medical Benefits

The health benefits of CBD and THC are still undergoing research.

But preliminary evidence shows they help with various symptoms and conditions.

A. Benefits of THC

B. Benefits of CBD

  • Anxiety: CBD can relieve anxiety symptoms like increased heart rate and stress.
  • Sleep: CBD may improve sleep quality thanks to its anxiety and stress relief abilities.
  • Pain relief: CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties help relieve inflammation (like joint inflammation) and chronic pain.
  • Migraines: CBD could ease the pain depending on the migraine’s nature and symptoms. However, more research is needed to understand the correlation.

CBD (pure CBD extract, broad spectrum, and full spectrum CBD) can also:

Difference #5: Potential Side Effects

Usually, CBD and THC interact positively with your body. 

But you may experience side effects at extremely high doses.

A. Side Effects of THC

THC could cause:

  • Anxiety
  • Memory loss
  • Slower reactions
  • Dizziness
  • Red eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased heart rate

B. Side Effects of CBD

According to the World Health Organization, CBD is generally a safe substance. 

However, at very high doses (more than 100mg per day), CBD could cause:

  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Low blood pressure
  • Irritability
  • Drowsiness

Important: Consult your doctor before taking CBD or THC, especially if you’re on other medications. 

Difference #6: Legal Aspects

1. In the UK

The UK legalised CBD in 2018. 

You can purchase THC-free CBD products like edibles, CBD gummies, oils, topicals, tinctures, and sprays.

In contrast, THC is considered illegal in the country. 

But doctors could prescribe medicinal cannabis to patients as part of their treatment. 

Read More: Dive into the UK’s CBD law in our detailed guide.

2. In the US

The US also legalised CBD in 2018.

But the federal law categorizes CBD as a Schedule I Drug (drugs with no currently accepted medical use). 

Plus, all CBD products in the US are legally allowed to have up to 0.3% THC content

However, THC and marijuana are included in the U.S. Controlled Substances Act and are considered illegal.

Difference #7: Drug Test Results

Since THC is the main psychoactive compound in marijuana, most drug tests detect it.

CBD may also be detected if you use: 

  • CBD-sensitive tests 
  • A CBD product with trace amounts of THC

Important: Some THC-free CBD products are mislabeled (claiming to be THC-free but containing trace amounts). In this case, you could still test positive.

Only buy from reputable, trustworthy brands that provide detailed third-party lab test reports (think: Love Hemp, Vitality CBD, Provacan!).

Read More: Discover how long CBD stays in your system and what factors affect this.

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4 Other CBD vs THC FAQs

Some commonly asked questions are:

1. Can you combine CBD and THC?

THC and CBD occur together in Cannabis sativa plants. 

You can combine them if:

  • your country/state legalises THC administration.
  • a doctor prescribes medical cannabis (medical marijuana).

When combined, the two compounds lead to the entourage effect

What’s that?

Different cannabinoid compounds (CBD, terpenes, THC, and other cannabinoids) act synergetically in your body. 

They bind better with your body’s CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptor systems to produce a greater effect.

2. Is it possible to distinguish CBD from THC?

Yes, but only through a lab analysis (not by smell or looks).  

High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) and Gas Chromatography (GC) are two popular tests for this purpose. 

3. What is the difference between CBD oil, cannabis oil, and hemp oil?

Here’s how they differ:

  • CBD oil: CBD oil is made from hemp flower buds, stalks, and leaves. Pure CBD (CBD isolate) and broad spectrum CBD oils are legal food supplements in the UK. 

We recommend: Love Hemp 1200mg Orange CBD Oil (£49.99)!

Made from top-quality ingredients, it’s a high-strength CBD oil with a pleasant zesty citrus taste. Perfect if you don’t like the bitter hempy taste of most oils!

  • Hemp oil: Hemp oil is made from hemp plant seeds and DOESN’T contain THC or CBD. Hemp seed oils are legal in the UK.
  • Cannabis oil: Cannabis oil is made from the cannabis flower, leaves, and stems of the plant. These cannabis preparations usually lead to products with high THC levels.

    Remember: the use of cannabis oil is illegal in the UK.

4. What’s the difference between marijuana and hemp?

“Cannabis” refers to the whole plant family. 

Under it, you have different strains like Indica and Sativa, which usually differ based on their CBD and THC ratio.

Hemp generally refers to the cannabis plant with high CBD and low THC content. The hemp plant is also used in manufacturing (for producing paper, clothes, fuel, rope, etc.) 

Marijuana refers to all cannabis plants with lower CBD and higher THC ratio.

CBD: A Natural Supplement for Better Health & Wellness!

CBD and THC offer various health benefits when taken according to your doctor’s advice. 

But remember: 

THC can give you a psychoactive ‘high’. 

It’s also illegal in most countries, including the UK.  

At GreenBox, we only offer top-notch, THC-free CBD products. From CBD gummies and capsules to oils and topicals, shop for the best CBD products worry-free!