March 8, 2019

If you’re confused on the difference between CBD and THC, you’re not alone. After all, both cannabis-based compounds have nearly the exact same chemical makeup and both also have gained quite a bit of attention in the last few years. But the effects of CBD versus THC are fairly different. While THC is a psychoactive compound that’s only legal in certain parts of the country, hemp-based CBD actually counteracts THC’s mind-altering effects and is legal nationwide. Here’s a closer look at how CBD and THC compare.

What Is CBD?

Cannabidiol, aka CBD, is a compound found in the hemp plant. Because it doesn’t contain THC and is therefore not psychoactive, the extract is often used for its therapeutic benefits, including helping to relieve symptoms of anxiety and chronic pain, and soothing skin irritation. CBD is typically extracted from hemp through a solvent like CO2. This process involves equipment in order to use CO2 under high pressure so the solvent can isolate and collect the essential oils from the plant’s stalks and seeds. Later, the solvent is removed and a carrier oil (like hemp seed) is added.

Benefits of CBD

As for the proven medical benefits of CBD, research is still underway. But what we do know is that CBD can alter pain perception. How? It attaches to serotonin and adenosine receptors in the brain, which can then release dopamine and alter how pain is registered by the brain. This is why CBD is sometimes used to relieve chronic pain, manage depression, and encourage more restful sleep.

There’s also some research that suggests CBD might help relieve symptoms associated with anxiety. One 2011 study of 24 people with social anxiety found that the group that received CBD showed less anxiety and cognitive impairment than the group given a placebo.

Types of CBD Products

From edibles and capsules to tinctures and skin care products, here are some of the most popular forms of CBD:

  • Oils
  • Tinctures (concentrated herbal extracts that typically contain less CBD than oils)
  • Gummies
  • Balms (for topical use)
  • Crystals that are formulated to dissolve into water or beverages
  • Sprays
  • Capsules
  • Vape liquids (Note: These should not be confused with CBD oils, which are not formulated to be vaporized)
  • Dog treats (yep, CBD can be used for pups, too!)


Here’s the lowdown on this holistic hemp-based compound.

Is CBD legal?

Hemp-derived CBD is legal in all 50 U.S. states (thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, which allows licensed farmers nationwide to grow industrial hemp more freely). However, marijuana-derived CBD is not legal federally. Marijuana is a different species of the cannabis plant entirely and includes psychoactive THC.

Does CBD show up on a drug test?

It’s unlikely that CBD will have any effect on a drug test as it can be metabolized by the body, unlike THC, which drug tests traditionally screen for. However, it’s worth noting that some CBD oils contain trace amounts of THC that, though unlikely, could be picked up by an especially sensitive drug test.

Do you get high from CBD?

No. Because CBD doesn’t contain THC, it’s a non-psychoactive form of cannabis.

How long does CBD take to work?

The time it takes to feel the effects of CBD is dependent on a variety of factors: the usage method, the quality of the CBD, your body weight, your metabolic rate, and composition of the particular CBD product you’re using. With these factors in mind, the time it takes for CBD (whether applied topically, ingested, or inhaled) to enter your bloodstream is anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour.

CBD Products

Experience the calming benefits of CBD with these coveted favorites.

Thrive Market Hemp Extract

Sagely Naturals CBD + Stress Blend Tranquility Capsules

This blend of CBD oil from premium hemp along with ashwagandha, magnolia bark, and lavender encourages a balanced mood and helps you feel more zen.

Charlotte’s Web Full Strength Olive Oil Hemp Extract

Taken orally or added to your smoothie, coffee, or salad, this olive oil–flavored CBD oil boasts more than 80 phytocannabinoids and other beneficial plant compounds to help you power through your day.

Irwin Naturals CBD + Joint Health

Loosen up and put a little spring in your step with these joint-lubricating softgels that deliver 30 milligrams of CBD, plus glucosamine and chondroitin, to soothe and support achy bones.

Thrive Market Full Spectrum Hemp Extract Tincture

For those needing a higher dosage of CBD, our full spectrum, 600-milligram extract is grown in Kentucky without the use of pesticides and is naturally nourished with rainwater. It’s also derived entirely from the whole hemp flower, where the highest concentrations of phytocannabinoids are found.

Recipes With CBD

Need a soothing sip? Try these CBD-infused drink recipes.

Sparkling Rose Water and Hemp Elixir

Flavored with real rose petals and a hint of cinnamon, this elegant and refreshing tonic would be welcome at any cocktail hour.

CBD Bloody Mary

This stress-diffusing, non-alcoholic take on the classic brunch cocktail is bloody wonderful thanks to tomato paste, tangy spices, apple cider vinegar, and hemp extract tincture.

CBD Matcha Tonic

You’ll have no problem drinking your greens with this refreshing elixir of ceremonial matcha tea, coconut water, CBD extract tincture, cucumber, and basil poured over ice.

What Is THC?

THC stands for tetrahydrocannabinol—a species of the cannabis plant that differs from hemp—is a psychoactive, crystalline compound found in the marijuana plant. It alters brain communication by mimicking anandamide, a chemical that occurs naturally in the brain, and attaching to neurons. In doing so, THC can affect sensory perception and make you feel high.

Benefits of THC

While often debated for its medicinal and recreational uses, THC has been linked to a variety of health benefits. While research is still speculative, THC has been shown to help relieve symptoms like vomiting in chemotherapy patients, help stimulate appetites in patients with low body weight, and help alleviates symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

Types of THC Products

Present in marijuana-based products, THC can be found in the following forms:

  • Edibles (including candy, gummies, and baked goods)
  • Tinctures
  • Vape oils
  • Capsules


Let’s review some FAQs on THC.

Is THC legal?

No, not in all 50 U.S. states. As it currently stands, 10 states (and Washington, DC) have legalized marijuana for recreational use for adults over 21. And a total of 33 states have legalized medical marijuana.

Does THC show up on a drug test?

Yes. Depending on the amount used, THC is likely to show up on a urine-, blood-, or saliva-based drug test if it was used within the last 30 days. THC may also show up on a hair drug analysis for up to 90 days after use.

How long does THC stay in your system?

The time it takes for the body to clear out traces of THC varies according to an individual’s metabolic rate, the dosage, and the method of consumption. However, THC typically remains in bodily fluids for one to 30 days after use, and can be detected in hair for several months after use.

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Jillian Gordon


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