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Blog 丨 2021.11.15

THC vs CBD : What are the differences for Pain and Anxiety Relief?

How to Choose Whether to Use THC or CBD for Vaping?

There are diverse natural cannabinoid compounds present in marijuana, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). With the increasing legal use of medicinal cannabis and hemp, marijuana users have to weigh their options on using either vaped CBD or THC to relieve pain and anxiety. Although both THC and CBD come from similar sources and interact with the same system in the human body, there are significant differences in individual impact when relieving physical and psychological conditions. The main difference between THC and CBD is the absence of psychoactive effects in CBD, while THC elicits significant euphoric effects in users. As such, THC consumers experience a ‘high’ that offers significant therapeutic effects, while CBD is associated with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant outcomes that lighten pain-causing sources. Therefore, CBD and THC can relieve pain and anxiety at varying levels, and users need to start consumption at low levels to find which product offers the best relief for their individual circumstances.

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(Source: Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News)

What Are THC and CBD? Where Do They Come From?

It is undeniable that marijuana has become a common recreational drug with millions of users globally. Both THC and CBD are natural compounds originating from cannabis plants and have become popular pain and anxiety relievers. Cannabis and the closely related hemp plants contain both CBD and THC and hundreds of other compounds. They differ, however, on the amount of each compound contained, as cannabis contains more THC and less CBD, while the opposite is true for hemp. CBD is commonly derived from hemp rather than cannabis since the higher concentration of hemp makes it more legally and economically efficient for manufacturers. On the other hand, THC is more commonly produced from processing cannabis. However, it is important to note that the chemical structures of THC and CBD, discussed below, remain the same regardless of which plant they come from in the market.

How Are CBD and THC Different Chemically and What Effects Do They Produce?

As chemical compounds, CBD and THC have the same makeup of 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms. As seen in the picture below, the structural arrangements of these atoms are different between the two compounds, which results in different effects upon human consumption. They both communicate with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which scientists view as one of the most important physiological systems involved in regulating human health. The system affects bodily functions and processes like mood, sleep, appetite, memory, and even reproduction. Again, CBD and THC interact with cannabinoid receptors in different ways—most notably, THC binds strongly with the cannabinoid 1 (CB1 receptors) while CBD binds very weakly, if at all, to the CB1 receptors. When THC binds with CB1 receptors, it produces the psychoactive effect of euphoria in the body, which is commonly referred to as a ‘high’. Since CBD lacks this property, consuming CBD on its own does not result in a high, so consumers can enjoy its other benefits without worrying about unwanted psychoactive effects.

How does THC and CBD Solve Anxiety and Pain Relief?

As explained above, although THC and CBD are both cannabinoids, they connect with different neuron receptors in a user's body and brain, and therefore address anxiety and pain in different ways. THC activates cannabinoid receptors such as nerve cells and the immune cells that significantly reduce anxiety and pain sensation. THC’s psychoactive effects, which are lacking in CBD, can also be used for therapeutic purposes. THC induces a feeling of ecstasy that can help users focus less attention on pain and anxiety-causing situations. Besides giving a euphoric feeling, THC affects the mood, attitude, and other mental feelings bringing tranquility to mind and body.

Although CBD does not cause euphoria, it relieves pain by acting as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. It works by interfering with the chemical serotonin and glycine receptors in the brain, relieving underlying pain and anxiety at mild levels. CBD also hits multiple body and brain chemical receptors with a light touch, offering general body and mental calm. In addition, CBD relieves mental anxiety, influencing a user’s perception of pain making them feel more comfortable. Thus, while THC is psychoactive and highly proactive, CBD offers a placebo effect that can help users experience reduced body and mental pain after consuming the drug.

Selecting a product with THC, CBD, or both can elicit significant variation in the level and nature of pain and anxiety relief experienced by the consumer. Medical cannabis is CBD dominant and has little THC; hence a user will not feel excitement when under medication. Therefore, THC produces pain-relieving euphoria and, although CBD does not produce excitement, it provides an overall feeling of body wellbeing.

Are There Any Side Effects to Using CBD and THC?

THC and CBD form effective pain and anxiety relievers since they have relatively side effects. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that CBD is safe in large quantities. Scientists have found that the side effects of CBD are minimal, and they include nausea, fatigue, and irritability. The only possible side effect is upon interaction with other medications an individual could be consuming. However, users associate THC with numerous temporary side effects such as red eyes, drowsiness, lethargy, dry mouth, slower than average response period, memory loss, increased heart rate, imbalance, and a feeling of euphoria. It is important to note that teenagers using THC might experience adverse psychiatric effects since their brain is still growing. In addition, researchers claim that regular and high doses of THC can predispose a user to schizophrenia. THC has stronger effects than CBD, but when taken in appropriate dosages, both CBD and THC do not have dangerous, let alone fatal, side effects.

Are THC and CBD both Legal?

The legality of THC and CBD differ significantly across different regions. In the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agencies classify CBD as a Schedule I drug, but the Controlled Substance Act (CSA) has eliminated hemp from the list of illegal marijuana substances. CSA has legalized cannabis-derived substances with THC concentrations below 0.3 percent. Hence, contrary to the large number of THC products legally sold in OTC in various states in the US, products primarily containing CBD are now extensively accessible in different forms. However, it should be noted that 33 states in the US have implemented and passed medicinal-cannabis laws, making medical cannabis with high amounts of THC legal. Besides, various states have made THC and recreational cannabis legal, and in such states, a person can easily purchase CBD products. Therefore, possessing cannabis-related products in the states where they are considered illegal or not possessing a medical prescription in states where medicinal cannabis is legal can lead to legal penalties. In addition, recreational marijuana is currently legalized in eleven states in the US. That said, the Food Drug Administration has not yet legalized THC consumption, and it is still categorized as illegal under US law. For these reasons, THC and CBD users must observe individual-state laws concerning marijuana use to achieve a more holistic vaping lifestyle.

Which Conditions Do THC and CBD Work Best For You?

Largely, CBD and THC compounds have the potential to ease pain and anxiety with almost similar outcomes. When a person is experiencing anxiety or pain, they might wonder which is better between THC and CBD. More than half of persons with pain and anxiety-related conditions have tried CBD, THC, or raw marijuana to stimulate faster effects. Holland also suggests that cannabis users can use either THC or CBD to treat other disorders such as nausea, insomnia, anxiety, and pain. However, there are significant variations in that most users typically consume CBD to alleviate seizures, depression, inflammation, migraines, psychosis, and bowel inflammation, among other conditions. On the other hand, THC is commonly used in treating glaucoma, insomnia, low appetite, and muscle plasticity. For these reasons, both THC and CBD have multiple, diverse but complementary effects in ensuring the body and mental wellbeing.

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(Source: The Collegian)

THC or CBD? Your Decision! 

Overall, both THC and CBD are naturally occurring cannabinoids present in marijuana. Although both products treat near similar psychological and body conditions, THC is characterized by an intense feeling of high while CBD elicits placebo outcomes. There is no definitive answer for the better pain reliever between CBD and THC, but THC produces more intense and long-lasting relief. THC has superior effects on how the body and mind perceive anxiety and pain, while CBD offers mild and anti-inflammatory relief at the source of the condition. Therefore, a combination of THC and CBD would show the most promising relief from pain and anxiety. However, THC is not an option for everyone since it is illegal in some states, and some medicinal users do not want the psychoactive effects. In this case, CBD can offer much-needed pain and anxiety relief.


(1)Fletcher, Jenna. "CBD vs. THC: Differences, Benefits, and Effects." Medical and Health Information, 2019, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325871.

(2)Gammon, Doris G., et al. "CBD Products that Resemble Tobacco Products Enter Traditional Retail Outlets." Tobacco Control, vol. 30, no. 2, 2020, pp. 237-238. http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2019-055452

(3)Holland, Kimberly. "What’s the Difference between CBD vs. THC?" Healthline, 20 July 2020, www.healthline.com/health/cbd-vs-thc.

(4)Joni, Sweet. "THC Vs. CBD for Pain Relief: What’s Better?" CreakyJoints, 4 Nov. 2019, creakyjoints.org/alternative-medicine/thc-vs-cbd-for-pain-relief/.

(5)Singh, Devina, and Steven Lippmann. "Vaping Medical Marijuana." Postgraduate Medicine, vol. 130, no. 2, 2017, pp. 1-10. https://doi.org/10.1080/00325481.2018.1413281