The difference between THC and CBD - you should know that!

The difference between THC and CBD - you should know that!

Are you one of the first people to associate cannabis with intoxication and marijuana? Then you're actually thinking of THC.

The substance THC - with the long written out name Tetrahydrocannabinol - is responsible for the psychoactive activity of different hemp products. When you get high from marijuana, you owe this state to tetrahydrocannabinol. In the meantime, THC-containing extracts have proved their worth especially in the form of prescription drugs for serious illnesses.

In addition, another ingredient extracted from the hemp plant has attracted a lot of attention in recent times. We are talking about cannabidiol or CBD for short.

For this substance, too, users and scientific studies describe a large number of positive effects on various everyday complaints, such as problems with sleep. Both substances are used in the form of cannabis oils, among others.

How can you tell tetrahydrocannabinol from CBD? Which products can you legally purchase?

Basics about THC and CBD

If we are talking about cannabis oil, the term generally does not say anything about which ingredients the oil contains in which amounts, especially not how high the content of tetrahydrocannabinol is. On the internet you can find some suppliers who sell you cannabis oil and only mean CBD oil.

That has a simple explanation:

Products with a high THC content are subject to the German Narcotics Law. They can only be used by a special doctor's prescription and are also kept by the pharmacist in a special lockable unit. Only products containing cannabidiol are currently considered over-the-counter.

The reason for this is the intoxicating effect and the potential addictive potential of tetrahydrocannabinol. The substance belongs to the family of cannabinoids. This group of substances is found in its natural form predominantly in cannabis plants.

Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

Physical self-production of cannabinoids

In addition, the human organism also produces such substances. We're talking about endocannabinoids here. In the endocannabinoid system, these substances participate in the signal transduction of the cells. For this purpose, they bind to certain places in the organism. These are called receptors.

The endocannabinoids and thus also the cannabinoids have a surface that fits like a key to the surface of the receptors.

By "docking" them, they inhibit the effect of other substances or cause certain effects on cells themselves via their own signals. If you know that these signal transmissions are also about pain or anxiety, for example, you are already on the trail of possible effects of cannabinoids.

Receptors in the endocannabinoid system in the body

Cannabidiol is also a cannabinoid and can interact with the body's endocannabinoid system. However, CBD is obtained from a different type of hemp than products that are rich in THC and can therefore form the basis of an intoxicating effect as in Marijuana.

Cannabis indica - the Indian hemp - stands for extracts with a lot of tetrahydrocannabinol. This may involve shares of 60-80 %. In contrast, cannabis sativa is legally cultivable in the EU if its THC content is less than 0,2 %.

CBD does not have a psychoactive effect and, according to previous findings, has no addictive potential, but it can have a variety of effects on our health. At least user reports and initial scientific studies suggest this.

research approaches

Scientific research on cannabis and cannabinoids has been neglected for some time. This was mainly due to the regulatory evaluation of cannabis extracts containing THC and a certain ostracism of the hemp plant due to the possible association with illegal drugs.

It is only in recent years that researchers have again devoted themselves more intensively to such studies. The medical potential of all cannabinoids researched so far in the approach - this applies equally to THC and CBD - seems too valuable to be dispensed with. In the course of this, many users have discovered cannabidiol oil as an interesting dietary supplement.

Full-spectrum oils are particularly attractive for other reasons.

Effects and potentials

Since all cannabinoids are active in the endocannabinoid system of the human body, we could assume that they all have a similar effect. But as we can see from the marijuana with THC, this is not the case even with a potential intoxication effect.

Cannabidiol does not have this psychoactive effect. In addition, the different cannabinoids do not all respond to identical receptors, resulting in differences in the efficacy profiles.

There are also differences in the production of the various cannabinoids. In pharmacology, isolated substance concentrates are preferred, some of which are standardized in high doses. The isolates are then added, for example, in an oil as a carrier substance to make regular use as convenient as possible.

This type of application proves to be the first choice for many patients because they are not normally used to smoking, such as marijuana. Finally, manufacturers in medicine also work with synthetic cannabinoids, both as regards tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol.

Isolates have the advantage of absolute standardisation, but may be less bioavailable and may have fewer side effects due to their high dosage. Bioavailability is generally the measure of the absorption capacity of certain substances.

As with many other natural substances and micronutrients, cannabis shows a so-called "entourage effect". If cannabinoids are ingested together with substances that correspond to the natural environment of the active substance in the original plant cannabis, then there are indications for increased bioavailability and further positive effects.

In addition to CBD and THC, cannabis contains some 100 other substances, not all of which have yet been fully covered and researched.

CBD from Cannabis does not mean Marijuana

The entourage effect in the full spectrum

However, it is already known that the many substances work together and that synergetic effects result. This can also be seen in full-spectrum oils, as you may know from CBD oils. Cannabidiol, for example, has a precursor - CBDA - which, when combined, can increase the uptake of cannabidiol.

However, the overall effects of the many substances on each other have hardly been researched. However, the existence of an entourage effect in cannabis has already been proven.

Due to the entourage effect, THC-containing and CBD-containing extracts are also often combined in the purely medical-therapeutic field. This is often referred to as THC oil, which also contains CBD.

Experts now talk about "sufficient indications" and come to the conclusion that the therapeutic scope of the combinations of both substances seems to be even broader than for products with only one active substance.

Possibly the substances also balance each other out in their effect.

The different fields of application

Due to the already described occupation of different receptors, tetrahydrocannabinol and CBD actually have different active focuses. Tetrahydrocannabinol is mainly active in certain areas, whereby cannabidiol is partly used for others.

That's how it compares:

Tetrahydrocannabinol and Cannabidiol


  • nausea and vomiting                                              
  • spastic paralysis and movement disorders
  • autoimmune diseases
  • psychiatric symptoms                                      
  • Withdrawal in case of substance dependence 
  • glaucoma


Cannabinoids are health-promoting substances

The regulatory situation - a comparison

The psychoactivity of THC requires a different regulatory regime than that of cannabinoids, which produce neither intoxication nor addiction.

For this reason, the regulatory area is split up, as the following overview shows:



subject to the German Narcotics Act (BTMG)
is not subject to the BTMG
is strictly prescription only  is currently also available as a functional food supplement for private users as a health product
limited to purely medical-therapeutic treatment of diseases contains less than 0.2 % THC

For you, this means that products with a higher content of tetrahydrocannabinol can only be legally obtained with a special BTM prescription from your doctor. Marijuana, on the other hand, cannot be purchased legally - it is considered an illegal drug.

On the other hand, you can currently buy CBD oil for free, for example online. However, even these over-the-counter products are not free of regulations that have nothing to do with the proportion of intoxicating substances.

On the one hand, CBD is also included as a drug on a corresponding list in the Medicines Act. The demarcation to drugs remains therefore also with the now over the counter, not psychoactive products a topic.

The prevailing view among authorities and courts is currently clearly moving in one direction when it comes to classifying cannabis oils in the various regulatory product categories:

Mostly they recognize only full spectrum oils as food and therefore as food supplements. On the other hand, isolates which are subsequently added to an oil, settle in the pharmaceutical sector.

This is partly due to the fact that isolated active substances are typical for drugs. On the other hand, ingredients in food are usually consumed in corresponding natural articles - in a whole and complete product.

On the other hand, it is also common today to process food and add ingredients in isolation, as we see it with additives in convenience foods. Therefore, the official distinction is not easy to understand.

As we have described above, natural substances in combination with other substances can also have many advantages outside the official evaluation - keyword entourage effect. Here the assessment by the authorities and the assessment of the product quality by experts come to the same result.

In general, the cultivation of hemp plants is controlled. Classical marijuana plants with high THC contents are undesirable in Europe.

Hemp is not only the basis of CBD oil and drugs with a significant amount of THC. Hemp oil is also made from the seeds of the plant and textiles and ropes from the fibres.

Due to the still unclear legal situation, the sale of certain hemp products is also strongly regulated. Products containing significant amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol are sold exclusively by pharmacies strictly on the basis of the BTMG.

But that's less important to you right now. As long as you are not aiming for the "illegal high" ofmarijuana and Co., the over-the-counter CBD oils for private use are probably your first choice.


It is possible that with increasing knowledge about the various cannabinoids other product types will establish themselves.

Changes to the existing provisions are also not excluded. At the moment, CBD oil could offer you many opportunities to support your health without having to fear intoxication and addiction as with THC in Marijuana.

Cannabis and products derived from it are and will remain highly interesting, but remain legally controversial among many people and institutions.

Note: In this article we report on prescription cannabis, prescription CBD or over-the-counter or legal CBD. This Article does not make any proposal as to the possible purpose of the proposal and is for information and education purposes only. Promises of healing and benefits are excluded.