By Molly McCarthy
THC and CBD are the most well known cannabinoids that come from the Cannabis plant. They have many similarities in their health benefits and chemical make-ups, but affect the body in different ways. THC will give the user a high, while CBD will not.
Different Chemical Make-ups
The chemical make-ups of both THC and CBD include 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms, but there is a slight difference in the arrangement of atoms that makes all the difference.
Different Impacts on Endocannabinoid System
THC and CBD both act upon the body’s endocannabinoid system, but in different ways. THC can bind directly to cannabinoid receptors in the endocannabinoid system, while CBD impacts them indirectly without binding to them.
The endocannabinoid system is made up of CB1 and CB2 receptors throughout the body. CB1 receptors exist in the brain and nervous system, so they affect things like memory, cognition, mood, and emotion. CB2 receptors exist throughout the immune and digestive systems and mostly deal with inflammation and pain.
While CBD does not bind directly to these receptors like THC does, it impacts them by enhancing and inhibiting the binding action of different receptors. It has been shown to activate 5-HT1A serotonin receptors (which help with anxiety) and TRPV1 vanillin receptors (which help with pain and inflammation). On the other hand, CBD deactivates the GPR55 receptor, therefore helping to decrease bone reabsorption and cancer cell proliferation.
CBD also acts as a reuptake inhibitor for the body’s naturally produced endocannabinoid, anandamide. It blocks the breakdown of anandamide by the FAAH enzyme, therefore increasing the body’s levels of anandamide.