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CBD Vs Cannabis Sativa: Understanding the Differences

You may have heard of CBD and, in relation to it, cannabis sativa and want to understand the differences between the two. As you navigate the world of cannabinoids, it becomes crucial to distinguish between CBD and cannabis sativa to make informed choices about your well-being.

In this guide, we explore the differences between CBD and cannabis sativa and why these mustn’t be confused with each other. If you’re already in the know and just want to learn more, you might be ready to take a look at our premium CBD products, hand-selected by us at The CBD Flower Shop.

What is cannabis sativa?

Cannabis sativa is a widely known and cultivated plant species that’s commonly used for its psychoactive properties. The cannabis plant, which includes both sativa and indica varieties, contains various chemical compounds called cannabinoids. Two of the most well-known cannabinoids found in cannabis are CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). While THC is known for producing the mind-altering effects often linked with marijuana use, CBD is not psychoactive and has attracted interest for its possible health advantages.

Sativa plants are one of the two main types of cannabis, the other being indica. Sativa plants are known for their tall and slender structure, narrow leaves and longer flowering time compared to indica plants. They’re typically grown in warmer climates and have been traditionally used for their uplifting and energising effects.

Cannabis sativa can produce both marijuana and hemp. The distinction between marijuana and hemp is based on the THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) content, the compound responsible for psychoactive effects. Hemp, which is used to produce most CBD products, contains very low levels of THC.

What is CBD?

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a chemical compound found in the cannabis sativa plant. Unlike its counterpart, THC, CBD does not cause psychoactive effects. CBD can be extracted from both cannabis sativa and cannabis indica plants, but it is most commonly derived from hemp, a variety of cannabis sativa with low levels of THC.

To better understand the origins and benefits of CBD, let’s take a closer look at the chemical compounds found in cannabis sativa and cannabis indica.

Cannabis SativaCannabis Indica
CBD ContentHighHigh
THC ContentLowHigh
Medical UsesAnti-inflammatory, analgesicMuscle relaxation, insomnia relief
Plant StructureTaller, thinner leavesShorter, bushier leaves

CBD offers a wide range of potential health benefits. It has been studied for its potential to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and alleviate anxiety and depression. Additionally, CBD has shown promise in treating epilepsy and other neurological disorders. Its antioxidant and neuroprotective properties may also contribute to its potential in combating ageing-related conditions.

The key differences between CBD and cannabis sativa

The differences between CBD and cannabis sativa lie in their nature and components:

Source: CBD is a single compound isolated from the cannabis plant, while cannabis sativa broadly refers to the whole plant, which can contain hundreds of different cannabinoids, including THC and CBD.

Psychoactive effects: Cannabis sativa, depending on its THC content, can have psychoactive effects. In contrast, CBD does not have psychoactive properties and is sought after for its potential therapeutic benefits [link to blog guide when live] without intoxication.

Legality: In many jurisdictions, the legal status of cannabis sativa and CBD differs significantly. Hemp-derived CBD with low THC levels is legal in more places than cannabis with high THC content.

Uses: Cannabis sativa can be used for a variety of purposes, including recreational and medicinal, depending on its THC content. CBD is used primarily for its potential health benefits, such as reducing anxiety, pain relief, and improving sleep quality, without the psychoactive effects of THC.

In essence, CBD is a single component that can be derived from the cannabis sativa plant, particularly from its hemp variety, which is cultivated to produce high CBD and low THC content.

Psychoactive effects: CBD and THC in cannabis sativa

CBD and THC are the two primary compounds found in cannabis sativa, each with distinct psychoactive effects. Here are some key points to help you differentiate between the psychoactive effects of CBD and THC in cannabis sativa:


Non-psychoactive: CBD doesn’t produce the intoxicating effects commonly associated with cannabis use.

Calming and relaxing: CBD is often used to promote a sense of calmness and relaxation, making it suitable for managing anxiety and stress.

Potential therapeutic benefits: Studies suggest that CBD may have anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and neuroprotective properties, making it useful in the treatment of conditions such as chronic pain and epilepsy.


Psychoactive: THC is the compound responsible for the euphoric high experienced with cannabis use.

Increased sensory perception: THC can enhance sensory experiences, making colours appear more vibrant and sound more intense.

Potential therapeutic benefits: THC may help with pain relief, appetite stimulation, and nausea reduction.

CBD plant growing outside
Hand holding a hemp leaf

Potential health benefits of CBD

CBD products have shown promise in managing pain and inflammation. Research suggests that CBD can interact with receptors in the body’s endocannabinoid system, which regulates pain perception. This interaction may help alleviate chronic pain and reduce inflammation.

In addition to pain management, CBD has been studied for its potential benefits in reducing anxiety and improving mental health. Some studies indicate that CBD can help reduce symptoms of anxiety disorders, such as social anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). CBD may also have antipsychotic properties and could be beneficial for individuals with schizophrenia.

It is important to note that while CBD products have potential health benefits, more research is needed to fully understand their efficacy and safety. Additionally, cannabis sativa, which contains THC, may have different health effects and potential risks. It’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional before using any CBD or cannabis sativa products for medical purposes.

What are the laws around CBD and cannabis sativa?

The laws surrounding CBD and cannabis sativa vary significantly across different countries and states, reflecting diverse legal frameworks for cannabis products, hemp, and substances derived from them. Here is a general overview, but it’s crucial to check specific local regulations as they can change and vary widely:


In many places, CBD derived from hemp (with THC levels below a certain threshold, commonly 0.2%) is legal. This legality often requires that the CBD be produced, labelled, and sold in compliance with regulatory standards concerning purity and THC content. CBD products are regulated differently depending on the country and sometimes within regions of a country. They can be classified under various categories like supplements, prescription medications, or even controlled substances if they do not meet specific criteria. Some countries allow CBD for medicinal purposes under prescription, particularly when it’s used to treat conditions like epilepsy or chronic pain.

Cannabis sativa:

Marijuana: Generally, cannabis sativa strains with high THC content (marijuana) are subject to stricter regulations due to their psychoactive effects. In some countries and U.S. states, recreational use is legal; in others, it’s allowed only for medicinal purposes. However, it remains illegal under federal law in the United States and in many countries worldwide.

Hemp: Hemp (cannabis sativa with low THC content) is legal in many places for industrial and commercial purposes, including the production of CBD products. The cultivation of hemp often requires specific licences, and the products derived from it must meet legal standards for THC content.

For both CBD and cannabis sativa products, compliance with local regulations concerning cultivation, production, marketing, and sales is critical. The legal landscape is highly variable internationally, with some countries adopting a more permissive approach to cannabis and its derivatives while others maintain strict prohibitions.

Given the complexity and the rapid evolution of laws in this area, it’s essential to consult up-to-date local regulations or legal counsel to understand the specific legal context of CBD and cannabis sativa in your location.

Future trends of CBD and cannabis sativa

The future of CBD and cannabis sativa is poised for continued growth and innovation. As the demand for complementary and integrative health approaches increases, CBD products are expected to significantly meet those needs.

Expansion of product offerings: As more research is conducted on the potential benefits of CBD and the cannabis sativa plant, we can expect to see a wider range of products hit the market. From edibles and beverages to skincare, the possibilities are endless.

Advancements in cultivation techniques: As the demand for CBD and cannabis products rises, growers are likely to explore new cultivation techniques to increase yield and potency. This could involve the use of advanced technologies, such as vertical farming and hydroponics, to optimise plant growth and maximise cannabinoid production.

Integration of CBD in mainstream industries: CBD has already entered various industries, including beauty, wellness, and even sports. In the future, we can anticipate further integration of CBD into mainstream products, such as cosmetics, dietary supplements, and pharmaceuticals. This integration will provide consumers with more accessible and convenient options for incorporating CBD into their daily lives.

Regulatory advancements: We can expect to see improvements in regulatory frameworks surrounding CBD and cannabis sativa products. This will help ensure consumer safety, standardise products and increase transparency in labelling and marketing practices.

With these future trends, the CBD industry is poised to have an even greater impact on health and wellness, offering consumers a wider choice of products.

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Frequently asked questions

No, cannabis sativa isn’t the only type of cannabis plant. There are actually three main types: cannabis sativa, cannabis indica, and cannabis ruderalis. Each type has different characteristics and properties. Cannabis sativa is known for its uplifting and energising effects, while cannabis indica is more relaxing and sedating. Cannabis ruderalis is a lesser-known type that’s often used for its auto-flowering properties.

Firstly, CBD is non-psychoactive, meaning it won’t get you high like THC. Secondly, CBD has been shown to have potential therapeutic benefits, such as reducing inflammation and relieving pain. CBD is also legal in many places where THC is not.

Yes, there can be some potential side effects. Although CBD is typically well-received, certain individuals might encounter side effects like tiredness, dry mouth, or alterations in hunger. It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before using CBD to understand the potential risks and benefits.

When it comes to consuming CBD, there are various methods available. You can choose to ingest CBD through oral capsules, tinctures, or edibles. Alternatively, you can opt for inhalation methods like vaping. Topical applications such as creams and lotions can be used for localised relief. Understanding these different consumption methods is important and choosing the one that suits your preferences and needs.

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