CBD vs THC - what’s the difference?

If you’re researching CBD oils and products in the UK, you’ve probably come across the term THC. And, even if you haven’t, it’s a term that should be aware of when buying CBD. 

But what is THC, and how does it differ from CBD?

The short answer is that THC generates the “high” associated with cannabis, while CBD doesn’t. The long answer requires a little more explanation, which we’re delving into in this week’s CBD blog

What are THC and CBD?

There are over 100 naturally occurring compounds, known as cannabinoids, found in the hemp and cannabis plant. The two most common cannabinoids are THC and CBD. 

THC (known as Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (known as cannabidiol) interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, binding to certain receptors to produce certain effects, and this is where CBD and THC differ. 


THC is a psychoactive compound, which means it typically binds to receptors in the brain and spine (CB1 receptors), making it more likely to alter your perception and thought process. This produces feelings of euphoria, typically associated with recreational cannabis.

The psychoactive effect of THC can also result in other side effects, including increased heart rate, coordination problems, slower reaction times and anxiety. 


CBD is a non-psychoactive compound, which typically binds to receptors in the rest of the body to produce certain wellbeing effects (CB2 receptors).

Since CBD doesn’t usually bind to receptors in the brain or spine, it doesn’t generate the “high” of THC. However, some users may still find CBD relaxing. 

Does CBD oil have THC in it?

CBD doesn’t contain THC, because they are two separate compounds. However, certain CBD products, such as CBD oil, can contain THC too. 

For example, full-spectrum CBD oil contains the plant’s naturally occurring cannabinoids, terpenes and essential oils, including THC. In the UK, the legal trace amount of THC allowed in CBD products (0.2%) isn’t enough to get you high, but, along with the other natural compounds, it can help produce the “entourage effect”. 

What is the entourage effect? The entourage effect is where the hemp plant’s naturally occurring compounds work together to facilitate proper absorption and deliver maximum benefits to the body. Users consuming an incomplete form of the plant (such as CBD isolate) won’t receive the entourage effect; they’ll still experience the benefits of using CBD, but slightly less than when consuming a full-spectrum CBD oil.

If you prefer to avoid THC altogether, you can use CBD broad-spectrum oil or CBD isolate, which contain no trace of THC. 

Are THC and CBD legal in the UK?

CBD is legal to buy, possess and use in the UK; however, THC isn’t. 

In the UK, THC is a controlled substance, meaning it’s illegal to buy, possess or use, with some minor medical exceptions. 

CBD oil and other CBD products can contain a trace amount of THC (less than 0.2%) and be legally sold in the UK. Anything over 0.2% THS is illegal, which is why it’s so important to find a reputable CBD seller with product testing certificates. 

Learn more about what to look for in a CBD seller, in our buyer’s guide to CBD oils in the UK

It’s also important to note that CBD products containing a legal amount of THC can still result in a failed drug test result, even several days or weeks after use. If you’re taking a zero-tolerance drug test, use CBD products that contain no THC, such as broad-spectrum CBD oil or CBD isolate. 

Key takeaway

CBD and THC are both cannabinoids found in the cannabis and hemp plant. However, they affect the human body differently, with THC generating a “high” or euphoric feeling that CBD doesn’t. 

THC is illegal in the UK, except in small traces under 0.2% such as those found in full-spectrum CBD oils. However, if you’d prefer to consume CBD without THC, you can, using board-spectrum CBD oil and CBD isolate.

You can learn more about CBD oils and products in the UK by following our CBD blog, signing up to our newsletter below or getting in touch.  


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