CBC vs CBD: What Are Their Effects, Benefits and Differences

Sophia Delphi May 16, 2022 - 8 min read
Fact Checked
CBC and CBD's chemical structure differences

You know about THC. You probably know about CBD. You may even have heard of CBN.

But what is CBC?

We’re not talking about the government agency that makes recommendations on Covid. That’s the CDC.

We’re not talking about the results of your blood test, but you’re right, a complete blood count is also called a CBC. So is a big Canadian network, the Canadian Broadcasting Company, but that’s not it, either.

CBC is the common abbreviation for cannabichromene, one of the so-called “big six” cannabinoids found in cannabis.

It’s obviously not well-known. But just as CBD became a household name a few years ago, CBC and weed’s other major compounds are beginning to get their time in the sun.

Let’s take a deeper look at CBC. To do that, we’ll compare it to another cannabinoid you’re likely to be more familiar with, CBD.

Cannabinoids That Are Found in Weed

There are more than 100 different cannabinoids in the marijuana plant.

THC is the obvious one. It’s the psychoactive compound that gets you high when you smoke.

Then there are the other five “big six” cannabinoids: CBD, CBN, CBG, CBC, and THCV. Of those five, only THCV has the potential to contribute to psychoactive effects. It’s found in cannabis in such small amounts, though, that it has essentially no effect on users.

All of the “big six” have one surprising thing in common; none of them are present in young cannabis plants. The key cannabinoids in immature cannabis plants are called CBGA and CBGVA. They’re all cannabinoid acids, or precursors, which are eventually converted to other compounds.

During plant growth, enzymes turn some of the CBGA into other cannabinoids: THCA, CBDA, and CBCA. The same happens to CBGVA, some of which become THCVA, CBDVA, and CBCVA.

That still doesn’t sound right; there’s only one of the big six on that list, THCVA. Where do the others come from?

It’s simple. When weed is burned (by smoking), heated (by vaping or dabbing), or decarbed to make edibles, the precursors turn into the cannabinoids we expect to find: THCA becomes THC, CBDA becomes CBD, the remaining CBGA becomes CBG, THCVA becomes THCV — and CBCA becomes CBC. (CBN is different; it’s created as THC ages.)

So after a long, strange trip, we finally have CBC and CBD in weed. Exactly what do they do?

What Exactly Is CBD?

CBD is the second-most common cannabinoid in weed, and as you probably know, it won’t get you high. However, just like CBC and the other components of cannabis, CBD is believed to combine with THC for an “entourage effect” that boosts the effectiveness of the psychoactive cannabinoid.

CBD interacts with the same endocannabinoid system (ECS) receptors in the brain and body that THC binds to. But when it does, it provides medical and health benefits.

The potential benefits of cannabidiol (the full name of CBD) with proper dosage are pretty well-known now because CBD has become a popular supplement throughout America. It still makes sense to summarize them here, though, to make the comparison with CBC easier.

  • CBD is so effective at relieving some types of epileptic seizures that the government has approved a prescription CBD medication to treat them.
  • CBD has potent anti-inflammatory properties, effective against both local inflammation and inflammatory diseases.
  • CBD has been shown to have strong analgesic effects, lessening pain in patients with nerve pain and the serious pain caused by cancer.
  • CBD has been used to help people dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression. It also eases sleep problems that can be caused by stress and anxiety.
  • CBD has antibiotic properties, it may be able to treat neurodegenerative diseases, and it might help slow the growth of tumors.

There’s one other advantage to the use of CBD: it doesn’t produce the types of side effects associated with prescription medications used to treat those illnesses and diseases.

What Is CBC and How Does It Work

Cannabichromene is another non-psychoactive cannabinoid. Even though it’s the third most prevalent cannabinoid in cannabis, it makes up less than one percent of weed’s total mass. That doesn’t make it irrelevant, though.

Like other cannabinoids, CBC interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), which coordinates and controls a number of crucial bodily functions. Many of CBC’s “counterparts” bind to the key CB1 and CB2 ECS receptors in the brain; that’s how THC is able to affect brain function and get you high.

CBC, however, interacts with other elements of the ECS like TRPV1 and TRPA1 receptors. They’re of particular interest because they play a key role in the way we feel pain.

When those receptors are activated, they stimulate the release of a neurotransmitter called anandamide which induces feelings of wellness and happiness. That’s why anandamide is called the “bliss molecule” — and it’s why CBC apparently provides pain relief. CBC (as well as CBD) has been effective at relieving osteoarthritis pain without side effects in animal studies

That’s not all that CBC may be able to do.

What Are the Benefits of CBC

Research into the effects of cannabichromene is still in the early stages, but it’s believed that CBC can provide many health benefits remarkably similar to those provided by CBD.

  • Mood Elevation: One animal study found that CBC was able to relieve stress, a major factor in depressive disorders. CBD had similar results, but the cannabinoids CBN and CBG did not. The researchers say CBC apparently works best when used together with THC and CBD.
  • Antimicrobial: European studies have reported that CBC has strong antibacterial properties, able to fight troublesome microbes like E. coli and staph. That’s similar to the properties of most of the “big six” cannabinoids.
  • Anti-Inflammatory: A study on cannabinoids and acne found that CBC, like CBD, has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and also suppresses the production of the skin oils that cause acne.
  • Neurological Support: An important study discovered that CBC appears to facilitate the growth of cells that encourage brain growth and recovery while preventing neurological deterioration. CBD appears to also help fight neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease.

CBD vs. CBC: Which to Choose?

CBD and CBC seem to be able to help treat many of the same illnesses and medical conditions, which might make it difficult for a consumer to choose between them.

Of course, it hasn’t yet been shown that CBC may be effective at treating epileptic seizures or a few of the other issues that CBD is already used for. In cases like that, the choice is an easy one.

For a number of others like the treatment of pain, anxiety, or inflammation, it could seem like a toss-up between CBD and CBC. There’s one important fact to consider, though: the research on CBD is much more advanced than the studies on CBC.

That means the use of CBD would likely be a better bet at this point — at least until further studies on CBC are conducted and the results are published.


Q: Is it smart to use CBD and CBC together, to increase the chances that at least one would help with my health issues?
A: Well, if you smoke or use weed in another way you’re getting CBC and CBC together naturally, but that’s obviously not what you’re asking. It makes sense to use them together for anxiety or depression, because of the study we cited earlier. But since CBD and CBC work differently in the body, and it seems that the entourage effect allows cannabinoids to be more effective when combined, it could be a good idea to use them together.

Q: Is CBC legal to purchase and use?
A: All of weed’s cannabinoids, with the exception of THC, were made “fair game” by the Farm Law of 2018. It legalized the sale of CBD, CBC, and other non-psychoactive components of the hemp plant as long as they contain less than 0.3% THC. Many CBD retail stores also carry products derived from CBC, and you can find a growing assortment of them sold online.

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