The compound most strongly associated with mmj is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), as this is the primary ingredient that produces the cerebral effect of euphoria, or feeling ‘high,’ that is so established in the public imagination. But this is by no means the only effect that mmj can produce on the mind and the body. There are hundreds of other active ingredients present in some quantity, with one of the most prominent being CBD (cannabidiol).
What are THC and CBD?
THC and CBD are both types of compounds called cannabinoids that occur in the resin of mmj strains, along with many others. Chemically, they are almost identical, though, with some slight atomic rearrangement, that makes all the difference. Like all cannabinoids, they act on the endocannabinoid system in the brain and central nervous system. The endocannabinoid system is related to a wide variety of physiological and cognitive functions including appetite, pain signal processing, and how you feel.
Active Versus Psychoactive
CBD is not particularly psychoactive, but it is active and has very real tangible effects. It is responsible for a vast range of therapeutic properties such as reducing inflammation, controlling chronic pain, reducing anxiety, and easing insomnia. CBD can be crudely thought of as primarily responsible for the heavy-body-sensation effect of mmj, just as THC is thought of as responsible for the racy cerebral effects. In reality, different mmj strains exist on a THC-CBD spectrum, and the two can interact with each other and other cannabinoids to produce a unique effect. CBD can, for example, act to modulate the psychoactive effects of the THC in a given strain. That is why different strains with varying relative concentrations of THC and CBD can have such varying effects.
Which Do I Want?
The answer depends on what you are looking for and how each product affects you personally. Those looking for the therapeutic effects of CBD without the energizing effects of THC may want a CBD-rich indica strain or CBD oil. Or you may find these leave you too sluggish, in which case asking your medical marijuana dispensary for a more evenly balanced strain with more THC might work out better. The difficulty in reducing the difference between THC and CBD to a single statement is that it is the relative proportions of both of these acting together that lead to the ultimate effect, and the extremes of one without the other may not be the best solution for you.