Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are both chemical compounds commonly found in cannabis plants. However, how they interact with your endocannabinoid system (ECS) produces slightly different effects. Both can be used for their potential therapeutic benefits. Still, when broaching the subject of medicinal cannabis products with your doctor, it’s important to understand the key differences between CBD and THC, and how they might be incorporated into your treatment plan. Little Green Pharma (LGP) is committed to providing high-quality medicinal cannabis products that make a world of difference to patients. We also offer valuable resources to prescribers and pharmacists so you can make informed decisions about patient care.

What effects does CBD have on the body?

CBD affects your body by interacting with receptors in your ECS. This system helps control some vital life functions, which may impact factors such as sleep, stress, pain, and more. When CBD is ingested, inhaled, or taken by other methods, it enters your bloodstream and stimulates the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors in your ECS. This is thought to make them react in a way that affects your body’s regulatory functions. It is believed that CBD supports ECS functions, helping maintain homeostasis. The defining quality of CBD is that it does not strongly bind to the CB1 receptor as THC does. This means CBD won’t produce a psychoactive response commonly associated with cannabis medicines.

What effects does THC have on the body?

THC interacts with your body in a similar way to CBD, by interacting with CB1 and CB2 receptors. However, THC strongly binds to CB1 receptors. CB1 receptors are located primarily in the brain and central nervous system and stimulate neurons in your brain’s reward system. This triggers a large release of dopamine, causing the ‘high’ we often hear people talk about in regard to cannabis. THC also has the ability to alter the function of your hippocampus, potentially affecting your memory, thinking, and physical movements. The temporary effects it can have on your brain are the main reason why it is illegal to drive in Australia with THC in your system. It is also why THC is listed as a banned substance in many workplace drug policies. Potential effects of THC on the body also include altered sense of time, mood changes, and difficulty with problem-solving. If you need to drive regularly or operate machinery for work or daily activities, it’s a good idea to bring this up with your doctor. They can walk you through suitable treatment options.

Which products is CBD used for?

CBD can be used in a range of medicinal products to produce potential therapeutic benefits. It may come in forms such as oils, creams, tinctures, capsules, and more. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has released a list of unapproved cannabis goods that are not listed on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG). CBD products on this list are separated into several categories. Category one includes CBD medicines containing at least 98% cannabidiol, with other cannabinoids making up 2% or less of the total cannabinoid content. Products in this category must also not contain other active ingredients. Category two CBD products are made up of at least 60% CBD and less than 98%. In this category, CBD products may contain certain levels of THC. These are also referred to as CBD-dominant cannabis products. Category three products, or ‘balanced’ medicinal cannabis, contain at least 40% CBD and less than 60%. These products may also contain THC. It’s worth mentioning that even category-one CBD products could carry trace amounts of THC, which may show up during drug testing. If you need to drive regularly or perform work tasks, discuss treatment options with your doctor to find a solution that aligns with your work and travel requirements.

Which products are THC used for?

There is a range of unapproved THC products like oil vapes, lozenges, crystals, and flowers that are available to patients with prescriptions. The TGA also provides a list of unapproved THC products for medical practitioners if they are unsure of which products would best suit their patients. Unapproved THC products are separated into categories four and five. Category four products are known as THC-dominant medicines, containing anywhere from 60% to 98% THC. Category five cannabis products contain 98% or more THC. Your doctor should be aware of all the medical options and discuss this with you during an appointment. Before prescribing a product with THC, your doctor will take into account your medical history and current condition to assess whether THC products are a suitable treatment. In some cases, doctors may refuse to prescribe a medicine containing THC if the patient is drug dependent or a child due to the potentially addictive nature of the medicine.

What are the key differences between CBD and THC?

The key difference between CBD and THC is that CBD is not psychoactive. This is due to differences in their chemical structure. While both molecules contain 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms and two oxygen atoms, they are not arranged in the same way. THC’s chemical structure includes a cyclic ring, whereas CBD has a hydroxyl group in the same place. This is thought to significantly influence how each compound interacts with the ECS.

Their extraction processes may also differ depending on what kind of product is being made. To extract CBD, a professional would typically use a centrifuge or other ethanol-based extraction equipment and a rising and falling solvent film or rotary evaporator. Distillation and crystallisation equipment would also be required, along with temperature control units. THC, on the other hand, is usually a hydrocarbon-based method that utilises vacuum ovens during the extraction process. There may also be allowances with time, temperature, and pressure. 

When considering medicinal cannabis products, it’s important to ensure that these are quality, reliable medicines. Little Green Pharma is dedicated to providing affordable medicinal cannabis products that meet Australia’s stringent standards and are made in accordance with Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). We’ve also teamed up with health insurer HIF to help reduce costs for medicinal cannabis treatments.

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