THC vs THCA vs CBD | The Cannabis Questions Answered

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What's the difference between THC vs THCA vs CBD? Is medical marijuana really beneficial? Where is it legal? And most of all, is it safe?

The world's most arguably divisive hemp plant has been blazing a trail in the medical field and law offices. Continue reading to find out why.

RELATED: 3 Ways CBD Can Help Increase Your Sports Performance

THC vs THCA vs CBD | Your Guide to Marijuana

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What is Cannabis?

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Cannabis sativa is plant species. When you breed the same plant differently, you get two different types of plants—hemp and marijuana. Yes, they are separate species.

The primary difference between hemp and marijuana is their tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content. Hemp plants contain only 0.3% THC content, while marijuana has as much as 5% on average.

Here are some other phytocannabinoids found in the Cannabis sativa plant:

  1. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
  2. TCH acid (THCA)
  3. Cannabidiol (CBD)
  4. CBD acid (CBDA)
  5. Cannabigerol (CBG)
  6. Cannabigerolic acid (CBGA)
  7. Cannabichromene (CBC)
  8. Cannabichromenloc acid (CBCA)
  9. Cannabichromevarin (CBCV)
  10. Cannabichromevarinolic acid (CBCVA)
  11. Cannabidvarin (CBDV)
  12. Cannabidivarin (CBDV)
  13. Cannabidivarinolic acid (CBDVA)
  14. Cannabinol (CBN)

The ones you've likely read up on are THC vs THCA vs CBD. However, the primary reason for the popularity of marijuana is THC and CBD.

But what are they exactly?

What Are The Differences Between THC vs TCHA vs CBD?

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What is THCA?


THCA is the original form of THC.

It comes with its own host of unproven health benefits but is generally known to be harmless. It's a non-psychoactive compound, meaning it won't make you high.

But THCA only comes under fire, ironically, when you expose it to heat.

What is THC?

THC is derived from THCA. And while THCA is not psychoactive, THC is.

THCA, when exposed to heat, converts to THC. THC is the cannabis compound that can make you feel high.

How? The structure of THC is very similar to anandamide, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in:

  • thinking
  • memory
  • pleasure
  • concentration
  • coordination
  • movement
  • sensory
  • time perception

Their identical structure allows them to stick to cannabinoid receptors in your brain. As a result, they can disturb normal brain function like those mentioned. And while THC attaches to your receptors, that's when you feel like you're high.

THC also affects other parts of your brain that control your focus, memories, ability to think, ability to perform tasks, move, react, and maintain balance. These include your:

  • hippocampus
  • orbitofrontal cortex
  • cerebellum
  • basal ganglia

To date, the FDA has approved only two THC-containing drugs to treat anorexia in AIDS patients. These are Marinol and Syndros.

THC usually comes from marijuana plants, which naturally have higher THC concentrations compared to hemp. However, marijuana contains both THC and CBD.

What is CBD?

CBD, on the other hand, is a different compound also found in a cannabis plant. This cannabis compound influences your mind, but nothing similar to a high. More on this later.

In summary, the primary difference between THC and CBD is that only the former is psychoactive. And it is this difference that politicians and healthcare providers are pushing to learn more about cannabis products.

CBD is typically extracted from hemp, which has lower doses of THC.

To date, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved only one CBD-containing drug. It is Epidiolex, which may treat seizures from Lennox-Gasstaut syndrome or Dravet syndrome.

Now that we know the footnotes on THC vs THCA vs CBD, let's discuss how to get it.

In What Forms Do THC vs THCA vs CBD Come In?

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If you're interested in buying cannabis products, they're available in many forms. Whichever you take will depend on your preference.

You can take CBD in:

  • oils
  • salves
  • gels
  • supplements
  • gummies

You can take THC in:

  • oils
  • tinctures
  • capsules
  • edibles
  • joints

How do I know if I'm getting a good product?

The problem is you can't. Cannabis products are a great source of income for companies looking to take advantage of the hype.

Many studies found that brands mislabel their products, containing either too-low doses of CBD (what you need in medical marijuana) and too-high concentrations of THC.

But if you're in the market, look for a brand that has:

  • Current Good Manufacturing Processes (CGMP) certification
  • third party testers
  • third party adverse reports

Most of all, ask your doctor for their recommendations.

RELATED: Don McLaughlin: CBD and Benefits For Men Over 40 [PODCAST]

What Are The Health Benefits of TCH vs THCA vs CBD?

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Keep in mind that aside from the FDA-approved drugs, avoid self-treating with THC or CBD products.

Let's wait for long-term clinical studies before we subscribe to cannabis products.

Remember that products on the market right now may not be advertising truthfully. It's hard to know what's in your products.

Here are some health benefits THC may have:

  • improved appetite
  • pain relief
  • improvement in tic severity
  • improved symptoms in multiple sclerosis

Here are some health benefits CBD may have:

  • anti-inflammatory properties
  • pain relief
  • reduced anxiety
  • control epilepsy
  • early treatment of glaucoma
  • improvements in symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease
  • improved spasticity in multiple sclerosis patients

Are They Safe?

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Here are some risks and side effects associated with marijuana:

  • liver injury
  • negatively react with other drugs
  • male reproductive toxicity
  • drowsiness
  • diarrhea
  • lack of appetite
  • irritability
  • agitation

Other side effects from taking CBD include:

  • dry mouth
  • diarrhea
  • reduced appetite
  • drowsiness
  • fatigue

Studies show that marijuana is especially dangerous to teenagers. It could impair proper brain development, which may translate to lower IQs in their adult years. And researchers found that negative effects of heavy or long-term use are more strongly associated with drug use in teenagers.

These include:

  • addiction
  • poor educational outcome
  • cognitive impairment
  • lower life satisfaction and achievement

Are they addictive?

Studies show that THC can be addictive, and this may not be limited to marijuana use.

THC may stimulate your brain's reward system, releasing dopamine into your system. But the problem is your brain releases more dopamine than normal. And this could train your brain to keep doing whatever it is that releases dopamine.

Scientists believe that this is what makes marijuana potentially addictive.

In the case of CBD, the World Health Organization (WHO) seems to think not. However, note that this applies only to CBD not combined with other cannabis compounds.

In fact, some studies are looking into CBD as a means to curb addictive behaviors.

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The federal law dictates that cannabis products cannot contain more than 0.3% of THC concentration.

But each state has its own stand on marijuana legalization.

Below are the states that have legalized marijuana:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Washington DC

The FDA regulates cannabis products whether they come from hemp or marijuana.

Check out this video to learn more about your doctor's verdict on CBD:

The case for THCA, CBD, and THC is still open.

The very fact that many states are legalizing marijuana use shows that it's becoming more and more acceptable. But this does not sway the FDA and their official stance on medical marijuana.

The goal of this article is to clarify some important points about cannabis. It isn't meant to alarm you but rather to make you more aware of what we're dealing with.

If you're reading this article because you're considering medical marijuana to treat your ailment, whether the benefits outweigh the risks depends on you and your doctor.

But before you explore how THC, THCA, or CBD is for you, make sure it's legal in your state.

Above all, consult with your doctor before taking any supplements—topical, ingested, or smoked.

What's your stance on hemp or marijuana?

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