Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) both come from the cannabis plant, but one chemical is far more notorious than the other. THC, through marijuana, is the most widely used illicit drug in the world, and while it has been legalized for medical purposes in 38 U.S. states (and for recreational purposes in 19 of them) it remains federally illegal under the Controlled Substances Act. The stigma associated with THC, unfortunately, spread over to CBD when its market share began to rise, leading to massive customer confusion. Thirty-eight percent of U.S. consumers are entirely unfamiliar with CBD, and out of those who are aware of it, only 47% have actively researched it. Consumers unfamiliar with CBD regularly mistake it for THC, and this misconception in turn limits the number of people that might benefit from this supplement.
So which is right for you: CBD or THC?
Let’s compare the two to find out.
Legality and Availability of CBD and THC
The legality and availability of THC varies drastically depending on where you’re located. Currently, 38 U.S. states have legalized it for medical purposes and 19 for recreational purposes. The age restrictions and medical conditions that qualify for purchase differ by state, but all THC products must be purchased at licensed dispensaries, and customers in non-recreational states must receive permission from a doctor to use THC products. Just a reminder that THC remains federally illegal under the Controlled Substances Act as of 2022, and traveling across state lines with THC products (even between states where it is legal) is risky. Ask your doctor about the medical marijuana laws in your state for more relevant information.
Fortunately, CBD is legal in all 50 U.S. states. While initially grouped with THC under the Marihuana Tax Law and Controlled Substances Act, the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp products containing <0.3% THC nationwide. CBD has become more popular and widely available by the day: $239 million worth of CBD products were sold in 2018. Unlike THC, CBD products can easily be found at health and wellness stores, farmers’ markets, and online.
Extraction: How Do CBD Products Limit THC?
The limit for THC found within CBD products is <0.3%. Considering the small percentage, how exactly do you go about separating THC from CBD? The answer: very carefully. Muddy Boot Botanicals utilizes the Supercritical Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and Ethanol methods of extraction.
Supercritical carbon dioxide extraction is common method to extract CBD because of its effectiveness in producing a pure, clean, and safe product. Specific fluctuations is pressure and temperature cause CO2 molecules to reach a supercritical state in which they act as both a liquid and a gas. In this state, they can be easily manipulated to bond to certain molecules chosen by the producer, which then allows them to be separated from the plant and placed in a collection jar.
Ethanol extraction works in a similar way to the CO2 method but doesn’t require constant shifts in temperature. It can be performed at varying temperatures during extraction that in turn produces different effects. Cold extraction freezes water, fats, lipids, and other unwanted materials so that they don’t dissolve into the ethanol. Warm extraction is considered an easier process, but requires that these unwanted materials be removed from the ethanol later, otherwise ending up in the final product.
After the raw oil is extracted, it is then further refined through processes such as ‘winterization’, ‘distillation’, and ‘isomerization’. The purpose is to create specific end-products that are tailored for use in the formulation of finished goods. The primary one of these is winterization, where raw oil is combined with alcohol and then placed in sub-zero temperatures until the mixture is cloudy. The cloudiness indicates that the mixture has separated, with the unwanted materials frozen on top. The mixture is then filtered and the alcohol is removed from the clean oil. Winterized CBD then moves to process where it can be formulated and distilled for a variety of products.
Effects and Medical Uses of CBD and THC
Both CBD and THC are cannabinoids that affect the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system, present in nearly all animals, contains receptors throughout the central nervous system. Plant-based phytocannabinoids like CBD and THC work by mimicking endocannabinoids (cannabinoids naturally produced by the body), producing a wide range of possible effects.
The most significant difference between CBD and THC is that THC is psychoactive, mimicking anandamide (a natural brain chemical) to bind to the ECS’s CB1 receptors and produce changes in mood and cognition. While 38 U.S. states allow doctors to prescribe THC products for medical purposes, you may still experience a “high” while using them. As a result, you should never drive a vehicle or operate heavy machinery while using THC.
Nevertheless, researchers are studying how THC may help treat or slightly improve symptoms of a variety of medical issues. The greatest amounts of evidence for the medical uses of THC include:
- Chronic pain
- Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting
- Patient-reported symptoms of multiple sclerosis spasticity (tight muscles)
CBD, on the other hand, will not get you high. While THC binds to the CB1 receptor, CBD does not directly bind to any cannabinoid receptor. In fact, CBD is a CB1 agonist and may block the intoxicating effects of THC and other cannabinoids. It is primarily used for health and wellness purposes, including:
- Chronic pain
- Balancing mood
- Some types of seizures
Both CBD and THC have potential side effects, and these include:
- Increased heart rate
- Coordination problems
- Dry mouth
- Red eyes
- Slower reaction times
- Memory loss
- Changes in appetite
- Weight loss
Always ask your doctor before using CBD or THC.
Why Not Both?: The Entourage Effect
Combining multiple cannabinoids together may result in more potent effects than consuming them separately. This is known as the entourage effect, and when properly used, it may boost the health benefits of both CBD and THC. Even in states where THC is illegal, you can still take advantage of the entourage effect by using full-spectrum CBD extracts and products (such as Muddy Boot CBD body butter). These products contain trace (non-psychoactive) amounts of THC (<0.3%) and other cannabinoids, which may interact with the CBD and increase its effects. This must be done carefully to ensure that the effects are not too powerful. Always ask your doctor before combining cannabinoids.
Conclusion: Which is Right for Me?
Ultimately, deciding between the use of THC or CBD comes down to the biggest factors that affect your lifestyle. Both cannabinoids have substantial research indicating that they play a significant role in treating pain and inflammation. Additionally, THC has shown positive signs of relieving gastrointestinal problems and nausea, while CBD is generally regarded as an effective treatment for alleviating stress and anxiety by altering serotonin levels in the brain. It is highly recommended that you consult with your doctor about the benefits and risks of each before trying.
Looking for CBD?
Muddy Boot Botanicals uses only the highest-quality ingredients (including Oregon-grown hemp) to restore balance to your daily routine. Whether you are pampering your skin with CBD bar soaps and lotions or going to bed with CBD sleep gummies, Muddy Boot products are a safe, natural, and effective way of unlocking the full potential of CBD.
About the Authors
Marco Mosqueda and Sarah Vilcnik are both students at the University of Central Florida with a focus in technical writing. Learn more about Marco at https://www.linkedin.com/in/marco-mosqueda-214b261b6/ and see Sarah’s portfolio at https://skvilcnik.wixsite.com/portfolio.