CBD oil & THC oil: What’s the Difference?

CBD oil & THC oil: What’s the Difference?

THC and CBD

THC and CBD are both molecules extracted from cannabis. These molecules are known as cannabinoids, a type of compound that was first discovered in the cannabis plant that can be integrated with the human body. However, while CBD and THC are both cannabinoids, they are both used for distinct purposes and their legal status often differs.

THC Meaning and CBD

THC is used in reference to delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, another compound that can be found in hemp and cannabis. The tetrahydrocannabinol part is where we get the initialism ‘THC’. There are other forms of THC, such as delta 8 THC, which is less potent that delta 9. However, THC is used as a general term, which helps keep things simple.

CBD stands for cannabidiol, an ingredient that has exploded in popularity during the last few years and is commonly used in supplements including CBD oils, balms and edibles. According to Global Market Insights, the CBD market will be worth over $1bn by 2027 because of increasing sales in major retail outlets and improving regulation.

Table showing the difference between THC and CBD

THC vs. CBD

The major difference in purpose between CBD and THC is the desired effect. The easy way to think about it is THC is responsible for getting people high whereas CBD will not get you high in any dose.

People will largely use pure THC recreationally for a high that can be sustained throughout the day as an alternative to smoking cannabis.

THC Effects:

  • A “high” (euphoria or relaxation)
  • Heightened or distorted senses (colours and sound etc.)
  • Reduced reaction times
  • Impaired coordination
  • Increased heart rate
  • Memory loss
  • Anxiety/paranoia

Pure CBD, however, has no psychotropic properties and is never used to get high. Psychotropic simply means that the chemical affects the mind in an intoxicating way; check out our article on the difference between psychotropic and psychoactive for more information.

The side effects of THC, such as memory loss and impaired coordination do not apply to pure CBD. According to the NHS, pure CBD products “do not carry [the] unknown risks linked with THC”.

Both chemicals can be used in similar products, aside from just raw cannabis. You can find THC in products such as THC oils, THC e liquid or THC vape oils and THC capsules/pills. Many of these products are illegal, because of their intoxicating effects.

We can find CBD in similar products such as CBD oils, vape juices and tablets. These are legal in far more regions, providing their THC level is below a certain threshold.

CBD oils and hemp leaf

THC Oil vs CBD Oil

THC oil is best known for inducing the effects typically associated with cannabis: the “stoned” effect, and paranoia. By contrast, CBD has been shown to not induce those effects.

CBD oil will not get you high. If you’ve done your research into CBD, then make sure you look for oils that highlight how much CBD is in each bottle. Our advice would be to avoid searching for terms like ‘cannabis oil’ or ‘hemp oil’ since it only confuses matters.

Admittedly, CBD is popular currently, so it’s likely that if someone refers to a cannabis or hemp oil, they’re talking about a CBD product. However, there’s another end of the spectrum that often comes under the banner of cannabis oil: THC oil, which most people will not be looking for.

Is THC Oil Legal in the UK?

THC oil is not legal in the UK and you won’t find it for sale legally. CBD is legal as long as retailers sell it according to MHRA regulations, which means CBD products cannot contain above a certain level of THC. Most countries limit the amount of THC in the hemp extract used for CBD oils to 0.3% (in the UK it’s 0.2%). If you’re concerned about THC content, make sure you look for CBD oils with a guarantee of 0.0% THC.

Does CBD contain THC?

Technically speaking, CBD cannot contain THC as they are completely separate molecules. CBD oils, balms and other products however may contain THC. CBD oils sold in the UK however, should not contain any THC if they are sold legally. For example, Vitality CBD guarantees 0.0% THC in all CBD products. Independent lab reports confirm this; you can even view these CBD lab reports online.

Is cannabis oil CBD or THC?

Cannabis oil or hemp oil is not necessarily the same as CBD oil or THC oil. Since cannabis and hemp oil is a blanket term for all oils derived from the cannabis plant, it could describe many byproducts. There are hemp-derived oils, marijuana-derived oils, hemp seed oils, THC oils and CBD oils.

Graphic showing differences between hemp and marijuana.

CBD and THC: Hemp vs. marijuana

While both CBD and THC are extracted from cannabis, the type of cannabis used can help in obtaining the desired compound in greater quantities.

Cannabis itself just refers to the overall plant family. It’s a genus, in much the same way as Eucalyptus and Rhododendron, meaning it covers a large spread of different strains and species. The two primary species are sativa and indica, but the most important differentiating factor for users comes down to the individual strain.

The key difference between strains of cannabis from a user perspective is the balance of two chemicals: CBD and THC. 

From a consumer perspective, this is what matters most when discussing different cannabis strains. The easiest distinction is to split strains between hemp and marijuana. Hemp covers any plants grown specifically for industrial purposes, e.g. rope, paper, clothing and biofuel.

In contrast, marijuana is the terminology used for plants grown for purely recreational purposes. Explore our article on growing hemp and cannabis for more information on cultivating this fascinating plant.

Hemp plant close-up

The crucial difference beyond intended use is the divide in CBD and THC levels. Since THC is the main psychotropic ingredient in cannabis, plants grown under the marijuana banner will have high THC levels. Conversely, because CBD isn’t psychotropic, you’ll find it in high levels in hemp plants, which simultaneously have low THC levels.

It makes sense then that THC oil is predominantly harvested from the recreational strains, while CBD products are largely extracted from industrial hemp. Both compounds are then subject to further processes that ensure the levels of either cannabinoid are adjusted accordingly, but you can chart the journey of each oil right back to how the plants were bred.

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