Learning the language of THC and CBD

The language used today to discuss cannabis is rooted in two realms: the realm of THC and the realm of CBD. The former is tetrahydrocannabinol, a compound that has been identified as the psychoactive component of the plant; the latter is cannabidiol, a compound currently associated with the healing properties of the plant. CBD has even been shown to counteract the psychoactive effects of THC.

Israeli research scientist Raphael Mechoulam, who discovered these compounds, described THC as an oil and CBD as “nicely crystally.” In a tradition that dates back for centuries, cannabis plants are bred to have different concentrations of these compounds in different proportions. 

As the conversation around cannabis develops, it is useful to understand the different names. The generic name for the plant is cannabis. In common parlance, the psychoactive plant is marijuana and the industrial plant is hemp—the distinctions being the proportions of the various compounds,...

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