CBD vs. THC: Differences, Benefits, and Effects Explained | Simple Beginner’s Guide

CBD vs. THC Explained

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CBD vs. THC: Differences, Benefits, and Effects Explained

You may be wondering: what exactly makes infamous THC so different from well-loved CBD? We’re answering that question and more for you today with this dive into all the biggest misconceptions surrounding THC, CBD, and the plants they come from. 

Ready for a CBD vs THC showdown? Check out this guide to everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the country’s two favorite natural substances.

Cannabinoids 101

“Cannabinoid” is the name for a natural compound that acts on your body’s endocannabinoid system. Receptors (called CB1 and CB2) make up this system and they help regulate a ton of your body’s normal functions.


Cannabinoids come in two categories: endocannabinoids (made in your body) and phytocannabinoids (made by plants).


Endocannabinoids are cannabinoids found inside your body. These include 2-AG and Anandamide (AEA). Humans, mammals, and all other vertebrates (animals with backbones) produce these compounds all the time and use them to influence the functions we mentioned above. 


Phytocannabinoids are cannabinoids found in plants. Known phytocannabinoids include CBD, THC, and others like CBN (Cannabinol), CBC (Cannabichromene), and CBG (Cannabigerol). The thing to remember, though, is that each phytocannabinoid offers unique benefits.

Hemp, Marijuana, and Cannabis Explained

Hemp and marijuana are two different varieties (cultivars) of the cannabis plant. Picture it like lemons and oranges both being citrus plants. 

Here’s another example: the different kinds of apples you find at the supermarket are cultivars of a single type of apple called Malus domestica. Agricultural scientists breed Granny Smith apples for their sour flavor and Honeycrisp apples for their sweet taste. These two apple cultivars may look and taste different, but they come from the same parent plant and yup, they’re obviously both apples and therefore both apple cultivars.


Similarly, hemp and marijuana are two cannabis cultivars. Marijuana produces high levels of THC and low concentrations of CBD. Meanwhile, hemp expresses low amounts of THC and moderate volumes of CBD. Jupiter CBD products, for example, are made only from hemp plants, which makes them legal nationwide. 

Marijuana and hemp may look different, smell different, and produce different volumes of phytocannabinoids, but they share the same parent plant– cannabis. Pretty simple, right?

CBD Overview

CBD comes from the industrial hemp plant. If you remember, hemp is a descendant of the cannabis plant. It produces low levels of THC and high levels of CBD. 

According to the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp with less than 0.3% THC is legal. That’s why you can buy Jupiter CBD Drops legally and without prescription.

THC Overview

THC is typically sourced from marijuana. Unlike CBD, THC-containing marijuana is illegal in most states. 

In the few states where recreational (non-medical) marijuana is legal, people smoke it, dab it, vape it, and more. 

To learn more about the legal status of THC in the US, see our section on Legality below. 


Despite coming from the same parent plant (cannabis), CBD and THC sure do have a ton of differences. We explore some of them below. 

Psychoactive Compounds 

If something is a psychoactive compound, that means it makes you feel “high.” THC is one such psychoactive compound. And that’s why marijuana (which contains a lot of THC) causes a “high” when smoked or ingested.

Unlike THC, pure CBD is always non-psychoactive. And that means hemp-derived CBD won’t make you feel high. 


As of the time of writing, THC is still illegal on a federal level while CBD is legal nationwide.

The WHO recently dubbed CBD as safe and non-toxic to humans.  But THC is different. 

That’s because THC causes euphoria (a high) and does have the potential for abuse. 

THC is legal for recreational and medical use in 14 states across America. An additional 21 states have approved the use of medical marijuana for some diseases and disorders. But any CBD product with more than 0.3% THC is illegal in all other states. 

Did you know two-thirds of adults in the US support marijuana legalization? This may come as a surprise if you know about Tetra-hydrocannabinol’s (THC’s) reputation. Then again, you might see it as inevitable with the recent rise in popularity of the already-legal Cannabidiol (CBD).  

Benefits and Effects

As we’ve mentioned before, each phytocannabinoid offers different benefits. While it’s tough to make any conclusions about the medical uses of marijuana or hemp, here’s what preliminary research suggests. 

CBD has the potential to benefit stress, sleep, and overall well-being. 

Since THC is still illegal in most states, there isn’t as much research on it as there is on CBD. 

Chemical Structure 

The molecular makeup of THC and CBD are identical. Both molecules contain 21 atoms of Carbon, 30 atoms of Hydrogen, and 2 atoms of Oxygen. The difference between the two (and the reason why they act differently on your body) is the way those atoms are arranged. 

Side Effects

While most studies recognize CBD as safe for human consumption, some people report mild side effects. These include tiredness, appetite reduction, and even weight loss. 

But some studies suggest that any undesired effects from commercially-available CBD may stem from illegal concentrations of THC (>0.3% THC). That’s because unlike CBD, THC can have pretty ugly side effects for some people.

THC and CBD are also known to interact with some prescription medications. Be sure to chat with your physician before you decide to include either in your daily routine. 


CBD and THC are both phytocannabinoids, but that’s where their similarities end. The legal status of CBD alone makes it more desirable than marijuana products for many people. 


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