What Is the Difference Between THC, CBD, and the Cannabis Plant?

Updated on January 12, 2019
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I am not a doctor. All facts are objective information I have obtained from credible sources.

The Differences

The primary differences between CBD, THC, and regular cannabis can be seen in the reason(s) people might take the drug and the impacts on the human body. CBD is primarily a medically introduced drug, used to help patients struggling with various conditions that may hinder their quality of life. THC is responsible for what is called a "high." Cannabis (more commonly known as marijuana or weed) is the physical plant the CBD and THC oils come from.



Cannabidiol—also known as CBD—is an oil that is extracted from the cannabis plant. Unlike THC, this oil does not give the effect of feeling "stoned" or "high." (2)

Pros and Cons

Pros: CBD oil has many beneficial properties such as "relief from inflammation, pain, anxiety, psychosis, seizures, spasms, and other conditions without disconcerting feelings of lethargy or dysphoria"(1). In many recent case studies, doctors are starting to administer CBD oil(s) to their patients suffering from epilepsy. In a recent survey, 21% of men affected by epilepsy admitted to using cannabis and 24% of those men claimed it had improved their quality of life and lessened the impacts of their condition(2).

Cons: While there have been many case studies surrounding the topic of CBD oils for medical use, the results of these studies are often inconclusive and show that there are many other variables that may impact the benefits of CBD in patients. Additionally, CBD is classified as a physically non-addictive drug, but people who have used CBD oils reported a noticeable mental craving for the drug.


Tetrahydrocannabinol or TCH is the main chemical in the cannabis plant responsible for most of the plant's psychological impacts. (3)

Pros and Cons

Pros: THC activates the cells in the brain so that they release a natural drug called dopamine; giving the user a feeling of euphoria or relaxation. Paired with terpenes (compounds that produce flavor and fragrance in plants), any possible negative impacts of the drug such as anxiety or hallucinations can be reduced(3).

Cons: If not used or paired with the proper terpenes, THC can increase anxiety, tachycardia, and short-term memory loss. According to the NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), using THC can trigger a relapse in schizophrenic symptoms. A case study by the University of Montreal in 2016 shows that "[Marijuana]Smokers that start around age 14 do worse on some cognitive tests than non-smokers"(3).

These are the two molecular structures for THC and CBD.
These are the two molecular structures for THC and CBD. | Source

The Cannabis Plant

Cannabis is the physical plant from which the THC and CBD oils come from. The most recognizable feature of the cannabis plant is its fan-like leaves. The plant uses these leaves to help take in sunlight to perform photosynthesis. Other parts of the plant include (4):

  • Pistils: The hair on the buds that help you identify the female plants.
  • Trichomes: Resin gland found on the trichomes and calyx.
  • Calyx: Tiny tear-drop clusters around the bud to protect the pistils.
  • Cola: The flowering site of a female plant.

Why Is It so Controversial?

After understanding just exactly what the substances are, the question still remains: why is marijuana use such a politically heated topic? The primary reason is that the US is almost evenly divided; 59% for and 41% against legalization. The people who favor marijuana (THC and CBD) say they believe the benefits of the plant outweigh the negative impacts in our society. The people who oppose the legalization believe that the drug is either harmful to individuals, holds potential for addiction, or is a "gateway" to harder drugs (5). Many people have their own views on this heated discussion. More importantly, we need to gather all the facts before making a judgment. I hope this article allowed you to see both sides of the story, so you can be better educated on the subject at hand.


  1. “What Is CBD?” Project CBD: Medical Marijuana & Cannabinoid Science, 2019, www.projectcbd.org/about/what-cbd.
  2. Gross DW, Hamm J, Ashworth NL, Quigley DNeurology. 2004 Jun 8; 62(11):2095-7.
  3. Bradford, Alina. “What Is THC?” LiveScience, Purch, 18 May 2017, www.livescience.com/24553-what-is-thc.html.
  4. Writer, Staff. “The Anatomy of a Cannabis PLant – Cannabis Wikipedia.” Cannabis Wikipedia, 16 July 2018, cannabiswikipedia.com/research/the-anatomy-of-a-cannabis-plant/.
  5. Ghose, Tia. “Is Marijuana Good Medicine or Dangerous? Poll Reveals What the US Thinks.” LiveScience, Purch, 14 Apr. 2015, www.livescience.com/50484-why-americans-oppose-marijuana.html.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


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    • Guckenberger profile image

      Alexander James Guckenberger 

      18 months ago from Maryland, United States of America

      This is very well researched. :)

    • AdamMason113 profile image

      Adam Mason 

      18 months ago from Melbourne, Australia

      I like this article. It has everything you need to know to make an informed decision. I used to grow it and use it myself. Still do every now and then. It also takes about 2-3 weeks to be completely expelled from the body. If you have a good attitude while taking cannabis I highly recommend it for anxiety but you want a strain High in CBD. I love THC but CBD is definitely all you need to treat anxiety related problems. I'm not sure what THC is used for. Will need to look further into it.


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