CBD vs THC vs Delta 9

CBD vs THC vs Delta 9

Researching CBD may lead you to wonder about the differences between CBD vs THC vs Delta 9. Read here for more information about these three phytocannabinoids.

There’s a lot of confusion around cannabinoids, cannabis derivatives, and how they all go into (or don’t go into) CBD products. From legal questions to those of benefits, safety, and efficacy, the questions about CBD vs THC vs Delta 9 are what we’ll address today in a quick overview and comparison.

What Are CBD vs THC vs Delta 9?

We’ll explain:


  • What each of these are
  • Similar effects uses, and differences
  • Why that matters to you


CBD vs THC vs Delta 9: What Are They?

Much of what we know today about THC and CBD stems from anecdotal evidence from users and from research on these components, kicked off by Israeli scientist Raphael Mechoulam. Mechoulam first began working in the 1960s to discover what component of marijuana gets people high. His research led to the isolation and identification of many different phytochemicals found in cannabis.

The Cannabis sativa plant has over 110 different kinds of phytocannabinoids, many of which mimic our body’s own endocannabinoids. The idea behind using phytocannabinoids (cannabinoids sourced from plants) is to supplement or fill in the gaps where own endocannabinoids may fall short.

Phytocannabinoids, like our body’s endocannabinoids, plug into CB1 and CB2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system, your bodily system that helps to regulate homeostasis and modulate internal balances. These receptors are found throughout the body, in our tissues and organs, including the skin.

Of these cannabinoids, two are most abundant: cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). These are sourced from Cannabis sativa plants, but usually from different breeds of the plant.

What Is CBD?

CBD, cannabidiol, is most known for health and wellness applications. The flowers of the cannabis plants or industrial hemp plants secrete molecules called trichomes, which contain various compounds like flavonoids, terpenes, and different types of phytocannabinoids, one of which is CBD.

This phytochemical profile varies depending on the strain of Cannabis sativa plant, which can be grown selectively for plants that are heavy CBD producers. The main concern you should have here is to choose a source for your CBD products that is USA-grown and/or organic.

FYI: cbdMD uses a Superior Broad Spectrum hemp extract, drawn from non-GMO hemp grown right here in the United States and carefully formulated and tested to include only the best cannabinoids and terpenes.

For some people who are particularly sensitive to THC, a CBD-rich product without the added THC is likely best. CBD can offer you this array of benefits (and maybe more!):


  • Promotes relaxation
  • Helps promote a sense of calm
  • Improves mood
  • Reduces minor discomfort
  • Improves sleep
  • Supports recovery following strenuous exercise


Marijuana plant and leaves


What Is THC?

You’ve likely heard of THC or tetrahydrocannabinol. Yes, this is the component in marijuana that creates a psychogenic “high” feeling. For its inclusion in CBD products, however, the amount is federally regulated to less than 0.3 percent, which is much too low to produce psychoactive effects, though some have reported feelings of calm or relaxation. This allows you the benefits of THC without the unwanted effects of euphoria associated with marijuana.

Because of the relationship between cannabis use and pain management, you can now see legal dispensaries in some states for medical marijuana. While the THC included in CBD products does help contribute some health benefits, it is far less potent than what you would find in medical marijuana.

CBD users often report that the products with THC included, called full spectrum, offer an even greater sense of calm and more sound sleep. Some athletes report that the formulas with THC in them are more helpful with their post workout recovery.

While THC is known for its relaxing effects, be aware that for some people with sensitivity to THC, it may exacerbate feelings of nervousness. For these people, we recommend using a CBD formulation labeled broad spectrum.

What Is Delta 9?

Delta 9 is actually THC. To be more specific, it’s a double-bond isomer of THC, which means that it’s molecularly very similar, but slight variations of the placements of the double bonds create different versions of THC, each with slightly different effects. It is made by heating inactive THCa molecules to form Delta 9 THC.

Delta-9 is one of the more popular varieties of THC because it is thought to have more potent relaxing effects. Delta 9 THC is legal on a federal level as long as it stays under the 0.3 percent allowed by the 2018 Farm Bill, signed by former President Trump.

CBD Products (with or without THC)

Because these compounds have similar effects, similar molecular structure, and work with the endocannabinoid system within your body, they can be used in various combinations in CBD products. The mild (and sometimes noticeable) differences create an effect that seems to work better when used in combination.

Related: The Complete Guide to How CBD Oil Is Made

Interestingly, we are still unsure about all of the exact benefits that CBD, THC, and Delta 9 THC have on the human body and each of its complex systems, including the mind. When you are trying to choose between CBD vs THC vs Delta 9, we recommend speaking with your doctor who knows your medical profile, and for you to research individual cannabinoids and other botanicals or chemical ingredients that may be in a particular CBD formula you want to use.

Using CBD, THC, or Delta 9 THC

Using any of the compounds CBD or THC or Delta-9 THC can be done in a few different ways, with oral ingestion and topical applications being the most popular:


  • Oral ingestion
  • Inhalation (vaping)
  • Absorption through a mucous membrane (usually under the tongue)
  • Topical application


Because of the reputation of THC, however, many people are reluctant to try CBD products. To them we reiterate that CBD will not and cannot get you high. It is a non-psychoactive component of cannabis. CBD products with only CBD and terpenes and flavonoids will not produce a marijuana-like reaction in the body – so rest assured, new CBD users, that you are not using the same thing as marijuana when you consume a CBD product.

That being said, because some CBD products do contain THC, you need to be aware that the levels are demonstrably low and products are frequently tested to be sure those levels do not exceed 0.3 percent. In fact, each batch made is tested to be sure these levels are compliant with federal law. If you see alarming raids of CBD shops – it is likely because they have been caught selling a product that is not federally or state compliant.

Note: At cbdMD we test every single batch of product to ensure our compliance with federal law. You can find COAs posted right on our website. We use non-biased, independent third party testing laboratories that are ISO-certified.


Glass container labeled THC and a glass container labeled CBD next to each other with a dropper of cannabis oil above it


Because the levels of THC, including Delta 9 and Delta 8, are so markedly low within any legal CBD product, you can expect those feelings of calmness, that extra support for sleep, and possibly some other effects, but not any type of high feeling that cannabis users may be familiar with.

Because of this, several things are happening:


  • Some cannabis users are switching from illegal marijuana use to using legal CBD products with THC in them.
  • CBD use has extended beyond cannabis users and into the everyday lives and kitchens and purses and daily routines of many people worldwide – from athletes to grandmothers to college kids and preachers.
  • CBD is now a welcomed option for many people who look for a more natural way to feel more balance in their bodies and minds.
  • States, agencies, and organizations (like most recently the NFL), are reviewing their stances on CBD products, seeking more research and some are becoming less regulated in terms of CBD use, while some are still reluctant to approve THC or certain strains of THC (like the World’s Anti-Doping Association, WADA, which removed CBD from the list as recently as 2018).


To Learn More

We hope this information about CBD vs THC vs Delta 9 makes it a little easier for you to shop and research CBD products so you can find what works best for you. For more information, follow our blog which covers diverse topics such as cannabis derivatives, CBD skin care, CBD for pets, using CBD for post workout recovery, or how to get the sleep of your dreams using CBD.