The Science Behind CBD and THC: How Do They Work in the Body?

Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are two of the most well-known compounds found in the cannabis plant. While THC is known for its psychoactive effects, CBD has gained significant attention for its potential therapeutic benefits. In this article, we will explore the science behind CBD and THC and how they interact with the human body.

CBD: A Non-Intoxicating Compound

CBD is a non-intoxicating compound, meaning it does not produce the "high" typically associated with cannabis use. It interacts with the body's endocannabinoid system (ECS), a complex network of receptors and molecules responsible for maintaining homeostasis in the body.

When you consume CBD, it interacts with two primary receptors, known as CB1 and CB2 receptors. While CB1 receptors are mainly found in the brain and central nervous system, CB2 receptors are predominantly located in the immune system and peripheral tissues.

The activation of CB1 receptors by THC is what creates the psychoactive effects, but CBD has a low affinity for these receptors. Instead, CBD interacts with CB2 receptors, influencing immune responses and reducing inflammation.

THC: The Psychoactive Compound

Unlike CBD, THC is psychoactive and produces the euphoric sensation commonly associated with marijuana use. When THC is consumed, it binds directly to CB1 receptors in the brain, leading to various physiological and psychological effects.

Once THC enters the bloodstream, it crosses the blood-brain barrier and interacts with the CB1 receptors located in the hippocampus, basal ganglia, and cerebellum. This interaction results in the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward.

THC's psychoactive effects can vary depending on the strain and dosage, and it may also cause short-term memory impairment, increased heart rate, and dry mouth. These effects are due to its interaction with CB1 receptors located in different areas of the brain.

The Entourage Effect

Both CBD and THC, along with other compounds found in the cannabis plant, work together synergistically in what is known as the "entourage effect." This concept suggests that the combined effects of all the compounds in cannabis are more significant than those of each compound individually.

For example, CBD can potentially mitigate the intoxicating effects of THC by counteracting its binding affinity to CB1 receptors. Additionally, certain terpenes found in cannabis, such as myrcene and limonene, may enhance the effects of CBD and THC by improving their absorption into the bloodstream.

The entourage effect highlights the importance of using full-spectrum CBD products that contain a wide range of cannabinoids and terpenes, as they may provide enhanced therapeutic benefits.

Medical Benefits of CBD

Research indicates that CBD may offer various potential health benefits. It has shown promise in the treatment of conditions such as epilepsy, anxiety disorders, chronic pain, and inflammation.

One of the most well-known CBD-based medications is Epidiolex, an FDA-approved drug for reducing seizures associated with rare forms of epilepsy. Studies have also suggested that CBD has anxiolytic properties, meaning it could potentially alleviate symptoms of anxiety and promote relaxation.

Furthermore, CBD has been researched for its potential anti-inflammatory effects, which may offer relief to individuals suffering from chronic pain, arthritis, and autoimmune conditions.

THC's Therapeutic Potential

While THC is predominantly known for its psychoactive effects, it also possesses therapeutic potential. Medical cannabis containing THC is often prescribed to individuals with debilitating conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, and chronic pain.

THC can help alleviate nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, improve appetite in cancer patients, and reduce muscle spasms and pain in individuals with multiple sclerosis. It can also act as a bronchodilator, making it potentially useful for conditions such as asthma.

However, the psychoactive effects of THC may limit its use for some individuals due to impairment and potential addiction concerns. Strains with lower THC content or THC:CBD ratios are often recommended for those seeking the therapeutic benefits of cannabis without the intense psychoactive effects.

Legal Considerations in Texas

When discussing CBD and THC, it is crucial to consider the legal landscape surrounding cannabis, as it can vary from state to state. In Texas, the use of THC is restricted to medical purposes, while CBD derived from hemp is legal under certain conditions.

In 2015, the Compassionate Use Act was enacted in Texas, allowing low-THC cannabis oil for the treatment of epilepsy. Patients with qualifying conditions can access THC-containing products with a prescription from a registered physician.

On the other hand, hemp-derived CBD with less than 0.3% THC is legal in Texas and can be purchased without a prescription. These CBD products are widely available and can be found in various forms, including oils, capsules, topicals, and edibles.


The science behind CBD and THC reveals their distinct effects on the human body. CBD interacts with CB2 receptors, influencing the immune system and reducing inflammation, while THC binds directly to CB1 receptors in the brain, producing psychoactive effects.

Both compounds, along with other components found in cannabis, work together to create the entourage effect, enhancing the therapeutic potential of the plant. CBD has shown promise in various medical applications, while THC is primarily used for its analgesic, anti-emetic, and muscle-relaxant properties.

Understanding the science behind CBD and THC is essential for individuals seeking to make informed decisions about their cannabis use and explore potential health benefits.