Molecular formula for cbd oil

CBD vs THC – What are the Main Differences?

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CBD vs. THC? Of the at least 113 cannabinoids that have been isolated to date, these two are undoubtedly the most well-known and, the most well researched. Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are both naturally occurring compounds found in plants in the cannabis genus. Known as phytocannabinoids, these compounds interact with CB1 and CB2 receptors found in the endocannabinoid system present in all mammalian species.

CBD was first isolated in 1940 whilst THC was isolated in 1964 by the preeminent cannabis scientist Raphael Mechoulam. At the most fundamental level, THC and CBD are different because of their differing physiological effects. CBD is non-psychotropic and therefore does not illicit a “high” whereas THC is psychotropic and is the only known cannabis-derived compound to illicit a “high”. Here we look at some of the key differences, and similarities, between CBD and THC.

The structures of THC vs CBD



THC and CBD are just two compounds from a family of around 113 bi- and tri-cyclic compounds found naturally in cannabis. Both CBD and THC share the exact same molecular formula, C21H30O2, containing twenty-one atoms of carbon, thirty of hydrogen and two of oxygen. Their molecular mass is practically identical with THC and CBD having masses of 314.469 g/mol 314.464 g/mol, respectively.


The biosynthesis of THC and CBD in cannabis also follows a very similar pathway. Cannabigerolic acid (CBGA), the precursor to all natural cannabinoids, is cyclized into tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) by THCA and CBDA synthase, respectively. The final products of THC and CBD are formed via decarboxylation of these acidic forms. Structurally, however, there is one important difference. Where THC contains a cyclic ring (see Figure 1), CBD contains a hydroxyl group. It is this seemingly small difference in molecular structure that gives the two compounds entirely different pharmacological properties.

The chemical properties of THC vs CBD

As with many of the cannabinoids, THC and CBD have low solubility in water, but good solubility in most organic solvents, particularly lipids and alcohols. Both THC and CBD are present in cannabis in a mixture of acidic forms, which are readily de-carboxylated and chemically altered upon heating, important when you consider that smoking cannabis is the most common form of consumption. THC is also well known for its ability to bind to glass and plastic. Therefore, THC preparations are typically stored in basic or organic solvents in amber silicate glassware to avoid loss, especially during analytical testing procedures.

The physiological effects of CBD vs THC

Figure 3. Left: THC is a potent partial agonist of CB1. It is this stimulation which leads to the major psychotropic effects of cannabis consumption. Right: CBD is a negative allosteric modulator of CB1 so it changes the shape of the CB1 receptor weakening its ability bind to THC.


CB1 is a G protein-coupled cannabinoid receptor located primarily in the central and peripheral nervous system with a particularly high abundance in the brain. As part of the endocannabinoid system it is activated by the endogenous neurotransmitters, anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol, as well as other naturally occurring compounds including the phytocannabinoids found in cannabis. As a potent partial agonist of CB1, THC stimulates the CB1 receptor leading to the psychotropic effects experienced when consuming cannabis. CBD on the other hand, is classified as a negative allosteric modulator of CB1, meaning it effectively alters the shape of the CB1 receptor. This change makes it more difficult for CB1 agonists, like THC and other endogenous CB1 agonists, to stimulate the receptor. The fact that CBD does not bind to, or stimulate, CB1 is also the reason it does not produce the psychotropic effects associated with THC.

How CBD vs THC interact with each other

Through its interactions with the CB1 receptor, CBD is thought to modulate the psychotropic effects of THC by inhibiting its ability to bind to and stimulate the receptor. Which is why people don’t feel as “high” when using CBD-rich cannabis compared to when they consume products high in THC. CBD is able to reduce some of the negative effects of THC by decreasing anxiety, paranoia and the short-term memory impairment often experienced when consuming cannabis. Evidence suggests that a CBD-rich product with little THC can in fact convey therapeutic benefits without having a euphoric or dysphoric effect.

Despite the evidence of positive interactions between CBD and THC, there is still a big drive for THC and CBD only medicines. In broad terms, this reflects the consensus of the traditional pharmaceutical industry that a drug with a single active ingredient is easier to develop, test, produce, prescribe and regulate. As evidence for the beneficial effects of combining cannabinoids in medicine increases this may change. Particularly with the growth in popularity of the concept of whole plant medicine. In brief, advocates of whole plant medicine argue that cannabis should be used in the most natural form possible as the various cannabinoids and other active compounds in cannabis have a combinatorial effect, also known as the entourage effect.

The medical Uses of CBD vs THC

Medical uses of CBD Medical uses of THC
Anti-seizure Analgesic
Anti-inflammatory Anti-nauseant
Analgesic Appetite stimulant
Anti-tumor effects Reduces glaucoma symptoms
Anti-psychotic Sleep aid
Inflammatory bowel disease Anti-anxiety
Depression Muscular spasticity

The use of cannabis as a medicinal plant dates back thousands of years across cultures around the world. However, due to relatively modern restrictions and regulations, the research into the use of cannabis as a medicine in the modern world has been severely limited. As the legalization and decimalization of cannabis increase around the world, the ability to research its potential uses is opening up.

In October 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) published a pre-review report which provides the most up to date summation of the current and potential clinical uses of CBD. Unequivocal evidence now supports the use of CBD in the treatment for at least some forms of epilepsy including Dravet syndrome, a complex childhood epilepsy disorder that is associated with drug-resistant seizures and a high mortality rate. Other indications are consistent with its neuroprotective, antiepileptic, hypoxia-ischemia, anxiolytic, antipsychotic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-asthmatic, and antitumor properties. These indications are based on limited clinical and pre-clinical evidence as well as swathes of anecdotal evidence. Sufferers of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease as well as multiple sclerosis, psychosis, anxiety, depression, cancer and many more could all benefit from treatment with CBD according to the WHO.

Like CBD, there exists a long list of potential clinical uses of THC. To date, the FDA has approved only two drugs containing THC and a synthetic cannabinoid that emulates the activity of THC. Dronabinol is a gelatine capsule containing THC which is administered orally to treat nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy as well as weight loss and poor appetite in patients with AIDS. Nabilone contains a synthetic version of THC and is approved for the treatment of the nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy when other drugs have not worked. Again, as with CBD, a huge range of scientific and anecdotal evidence supports the use of THC as a medicine. Potential uses include the treatment of neuropathic pain, pain caused by injury or accident, depression, sleep disorders, anxiety and many more.

Editorial Director, Analytical Cannabis

Jack has been working in science publishing since 2015 and has been the editorial lead of Analytical Cannabis since its launch in early 2017. He holds a 1st class BSc in biological sciences from Essex University, where he received the distinguished Eliahou Dangoor Scholarship for his work. He is also a member of ASTM Committee D37 on cannabis and attends a number of annual international cannabis science conferences. Prior to the launch of Analytical Cannabis, Jack worked in editorial for our parent publication, Technology Networks, where he focused on covering developments in cancer research, genomics, and informatics.

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Cannabidiol -CBD- Molecule – The major non-psychoactive component of Cannabis

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a naturally occurring cannabinoid component of cannabis. It is one of at least 113 cannabinoids identified in hemp plants. While delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the major active ingredient, cannabidiol (CBD) can make up about 40% of cannabis extracts depending on the plant. CBD has been studied for many different uses (see below). Depending on the species the ratio of THC: CBD will vary. It is widely accepted that marijuana has two main species: Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa (3). Generally it was considered that pure sativa has a higher ratio of THC:CBD making it more psychoactive. However crossbreeding of indica and sativa strains has led to such a wide variety of hybrid strains that making THC:CBD difficult to associate with either indica or sativa.

As of 2018 in the United States, Food and Drug Administration approval of cannabidiol as a prescription drug called Epidiolex for medical uses has been limited to two rare forms of childhood epilepsy (1) .

CBD does not cause intoxication or euphoria (the “high”) that comes from tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It is THC (and not CBD) that is the primary psychoactive component of marijuana.

Chemical and Physical Properties of the Cannabidiol (CBD) Molecule

Cannabidiol is insoluble in water but soluble in organic solvents such as pentane or hexane. At room temperature, it is a colorless crystalline solid. In strongly basic media and the presence of air, it is oxidized to a quinone. Under acidic conditions it cyclizes to THC (2). The synthesis of cannabidiol has been accomplished by several research groups.(2, 2b)

Pharmacological Profile and Mechanism of action – CBD

Although THC and endocannibnoids (produced in the body) activate the CB1 and CB2 receptors (G protein-coupled receptors), CBD does not directly stimulate these receptors. CBD instead displays an unexpectedly high potency as an ‘antagonist’ of CB1/CB2 receptor in CB1- and CB2-expressing cells, the manner with which it interacts with CB2 receptors providing a possible explanation for its ability to inhibit evoked immune cell migration.(3) Acting as an antagonist for CB1/CB2 suggests that CBD can block some of the psychoactive action of THC (4). However, because of multiple mechanism of CBD there are some circumstances where CBD may actually enhance the effects of the THC (see reference 4).

CBD has a broad pharmacological profile, including interactions with several receptors known to regulate fear and anxiety-related behaviors, specifically the cannabinoid type 1 receptor (CB1R), the serotonin 5-HT1A receptor, and the transient receptor potential (TRP) vanilloid type 1 (TRPV1) receptor. (Ref 5 – review article- see also references 11, 12, 19, 21 within review article). By activating the TRPV-1 receptor, cannabidiol plays a role in the mediation of body temperature, pain perception and inflammation [6]

CBD not only elicits effects within the central nervous system (7), but also within the cardiovascular system. The activation of adenosine receptors by CBD gives the anti-anxiety and anti-inflammatory effects of cannabidiol. Adenosine receptors are also involved in the release of dopamine and glutamate, two neurotransmitters that play major roles inside the body. (8)

GPR55 is another G protein-coupled receptor (like CB1 and CB2) which CBD acts on. CBD is a GPR55 antagonist, as University of Aberdeen scientist Ruth Ross disclosed at the 2010 conference of the International Cannabinoid Research Society in Lund, Sweden. By blocking GPR55 signaling, CBD may act to decrease both bone reabsorption and cancer cell proliferation.By blocking GPR55 signaling, CBD may act to decrease both bone reabsorption and cancer cell proliferation. (9)

Treatment with purified cannabidiol (CBD) appears to counteract the development of experimental multiple sclerosis (MS), by targeting the PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway similar to effects found with other cannabinoids. (10)

CBD is being studied in a disorder called dystonia. Early research suggests that taking cannabidiol daily for 6 weeks might improve dystonia by 20% to 50% in some people. But higher quality research is needed to confirm this.– See -Open label evaluation of cannabidiol in dystonic movement disorders.

CBD in combination with Ah 9-delta-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) been shown to be effective for improving pain, muscle-tightness, and urination frequency in people with MS. (12)

CBD being studied as an antipsychotic “. Results show the ability of CBD to counteract psychotic symptoms and cognitive impairment associated with cannabis use as well as with acute THC administration. In addition, CBD may lower the risk for developing psychosis that is related to cannabis use. These effects are possibly mediated by opposite effects of CBD and THC on brain activity patterns in key regions implicated in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia, such as the striatum, hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. The first small-scale clinical studies with CBD treatment of patients with psychotic symptoms further confirm the potential of CBD as an effective, safe and well-tolerated antipsychotic compound, although large randomised clinical trials will be needed before this novel therapy can be introduced into clinical practice. ” read more –A systematic review of the antipsychotic properties of cannabidiol in humans. See also –Cannabis extract helps reset brain function in psychosis– Summary: “Researchers have found that a single dose of the cannabis extract cannabidiol can help reduce brain function abnormalities seen in people with psychosis. Results provide the first evidence of how cannabidiol acts in the brain to reduce psychotic symptoms.”

Cannabidiol normalises positive symptom-like behaviours in (Amphetamine) kAMPH-sensitised rats– “The AMPH-sensitisation protocol leads to the induction of a permanent hyper-dopaminergic state in limbic regions and is characterised by a behavioural phenotype that is clinically relevant to the positive symptoms of schizophrenia . “

Cannabidiol activates the mTOR signaling cascade–. ” Importantly, all the prophylactic effects of CBD on schizophrenia-like behaviours in AMPH-sensitised rats were inhibited by co-administration with the mTOR inhibitor, Torin2, and the p70s6k inhibitor, PF4708671. These neuromolecular findings led to the conclusion that a potential antipsychotic mechanism of action of CBD involves activation of the mTOR signaling cascade. ” Read more –A new antipsychotic mechanism of action for cannabidiol –August 8, 2016 by Anand Gururajan.