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What is the Difference Between CBD and THC?

Cannabinoids are chemical compounds that occur naturally in the cannabis plant. Though over 100 cannabinoids have been identified, THC and CBD are found in the highest concentration.

For years, most cannabis was bred for a high THC content, partially because of demand, but also due to a lack of understanding of the plant. Once the medicinal benefits of cannabidiol (CBD) were realized, everything changed. The difference between CBD and THC is significant, but together they can be a therapeutic powerhouse. These days, most patients are likely to find the greatest relief from a combination of both cannabinoids.

As global research efforts increase, we are slowly beginning to uncover the vast benefits of various cannabinoids like CBN, CBG, and CBC. Today, THC and CBD products continue to reign supreme due to their known therapeutic properties and the natural ability of the human body to reap those benefits.



THC is a cannabinoid that imparts a psychoactive effect. This is primarily due to the way it interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system. First isolated in 1964 by Israeli chemist Raphael Mechoulam, international studies have illustrated significant medicinal benefits of the cannabinoid.

Though it can be intoxicating, the effects of cannabis typically don’t last more than a few hours. The short-term effects of THC have been described as mood elevating, relaxing, sedative, hunger-inducing, pain relieving, memory impairment and drowsiness. Some prospective patients wonder – is THC bad for you? No, THC is not toxic to the human body, but you still need to be careful about how much you consume. Too much can result in negative side effects, like increased heart rate, dizziness, dry mouth, red eyes and paranoia.

THC can help patients combat insomnia, letting them fall asleep more easily. Studies have shown that the cannabinoid can also reduce rapid eye movement during sleep. The REM cycle is when vivid dreams occur, so higher THC strains can potentially reduce PTSD-related nightmares.

Studies have shown that it also has strong antiemetic properties. Patients struggling with eating disorders or lack of appetite and nausea stemming from chemotherapy can use it to help ease their nausea and increase hunger.

THC contains strong analgesic properties which make the cannabinoid useful for treating chronic pain. Though the research is limited, several animal studies have shown that the cannabinoid inhibits the growth of amyloid plaque, the protein that causes multiple neurodegenerative disorders.


CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that does not impart a mental high. This is because of how it modulates the endocannabinoid system. Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t bind directly with our cannabinoid receptors. Rather, it modifies the receptors’ ability to bind to cannabinoids. Because of this, CBD can also enhance the human body’s natural levels of endocannabinoids.

Does CBD enhance a high? CBD actually lessens THC’s intoxicating effect when consumed in tandem. A lot of patients value this phenomenon because they can still access medical benefits without strong psychoactivity. Further research is needed to determine whether CBD works better with or without THC, but many patients like to experiment to find the optimal CBD:THC ratio for their treatment. Some of the reported effects are relaxation, sedation, anti-anxiety, inflammation, pain reduction and spasm reduction. Too much CBD typically only results in side effects like sleepiness and brain fog.

Anti-inflammation and anti-epileptic are some of the studied therapeutic properties. Patients dealing with inflammation from gastrointestinal conditions, like Crohn’s disease, often find relief from indica strains due to the levels of anti-inflammatory cannabidiol. The powerful anti-epileptic properties of high CBD products can benefit people who have seizure disorders and muscle spasticity from multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. It also has anxiolytic-like properties that can help alleviate symptoms stemming from Generalized Anxiety Disorder and PTSD.


CBD is powerful on its own, but a little bit of THC may amplify its therapeutic benefits. For years, THC potency was the focus of breeders. So much so that in the 2000s, CBD was nearly bred out of cannabis strains in the United States. Luckily, a handful of CBD crusaders and organizations (looking at you Project CBD!) worked with farms and breeders to protect the few cultivars that had significant CBD content, bringing them back from the brink of extinction. These past few years, CBD has gone from an obscure chemical compound to a mainstream wellness trend.

Many new patients, especially those who want to avoid any psychoactive effects, can be wary of THC. The extensive coverage of the medical benefits of CBD has led many people to believe that CBD is the therapeutic compound while THC is the recreational component of cannabis. This dichotomy can be detrimental to how people approach medical marijuana. Here at The Botanist, we believe in whole plant cannabis therapeutics.

While there are some cases where just CBD or THC may be necessary, in general, the majority of patients get greater relief from whole plant medicine. Whole plant medicine refers to the complex, natural combination of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. When they all work together to create an entourage effect, they amplify the plant’s benefits.

A growing body of research shows that the entourage effect is the most effective way to use medical marijuana. In 2010, researchers studied a group of cancer patients with intractable cancer-related pain. The patients who consumed a combined THC and CBD medicine found that their relief was greater than when they consumed a pure THC extract. When different compounds interact together, they create a synergistic effect that often results in a more powerful therapeutic experience for the patient.


Understanding ratios will empower you to self-medicate more effectively. With medical marijuana treatments, a ratio refers to the amount of CBD and THC content that is in any given product. Certain symptoms might benefit from a balanced ratio, whereas others may require a really high dose of CBD. Additionally, a patient’s needs may change throughout the day. Ratios offer both flexibility and greater control over how you medicate.

Some individuals don’t benefit from THC’s intoxicating effects, but others might need it to achieve any sense of relief. CBD counteracts the mental high that THC imparts, so ratios are an ideal way to tailor your medication to your condition and needs.


The ideal CBD:THC ratio depends on the individual’s physiology, cannabis tolerance, and medical condition. Ideally, your goal should be to consume precise, reliable doses of CBD-rich cannabis products with a limited amount of THC. The amount should enhance your experience, but it shouldn’t cross the threshold of discomfort.

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to medicating with cannabis. You’re likely going to need to experiment a bit to learn what ratios work best for whatever symptoms you’re dealing with. Each patient has a different sensitivity to THC. This determines what kind of ratio and dosage will work for your symptoms. Start low and slow. With ratios, begin experimenting with a high CBD product, like a 20:1 or 10:1 ratio. Once you see how you react, try out a more even ratio like a 3:1, 2:1 or even 1:1.

So, what cannabis products have different CBD:THC ratios? Pretty much all of them! Depending on your state’s regulations, you should be able to find flower, concentrates, edibles, tinctures and topicals in a variety of ratios. Certain ratios, like 2:1 or 1:1, are more common. However, as ratios become more popular, we’re seeing more options hit the market.


A few years ago it would have been very challenging to find CBD-dominant flower. Though the market is still dominated by high THC strains, more breeders are cultivating CBD-dominant strains. Harlequin and Cannatonic are two of the most well-known high CBD strains. A sativa-dominant hybrid, Harlequin typically has a 5:2 CBD:THC ratio that offers a sense of relief that imparts a subtle euphoria and clear mind. Depending on the breeder, Cannatonic can range from a 5:2 ratio to a more balanced 1:1. If you need an even more CBD-dominant strain, try ACDC. A classic strain with a 20:1 CBD:THC ratio, ACDC has one of the highest CBD contents in flower.

If you’re looking for treatment for chronic pain, nausea, anxiety or insomnia, many patients find that a strain with a 1:1 ratio provides relief. Pennywise, Canna-tsu and Sweet and Sour Widow all usually have a balanced 1:1 ratio.


Whether you’re consuming one or the other, it’s crucial to understand the difference between CBD and THC. Both cannabinoids have impressive medical benefits, but it’s also important to explore how a CBD:THC ratio can result in a stronger sense of relief when used together. The combined effects of THC and CBD can help patients cope with many different conditions.

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