If you’re interested in the world of cannabis, you’re probably familiar with THC and CBD, the two principal cannabinoids—or “active ingredients”—in the cannabis plant. They’re a major factor in cannabis’ potential to relieve tired and sore muscles, among other common symptoms. And while you might think of them as closely related “cousins,” there are a number of important distinctions.

If you’re thinking of using CBD or THC for acute pain, today’s post is for you. In it, we’ll examine the different ways these two all-natural medicines work with our bodies, and suggest some specific products based on your specific needs and goals.

CBD vs THC: Understanding the Concept of Cannabinoids

The use of cannabis to fight discomfort and muscle soreness has a long history, dating back literally thousands of years. But while our ancestors weren’t aware of the mechanisms of the cannabinoids, the ancient physicians who prescribed cannabis were taking advantage of one of the cannabis plant’s distinct characteristics: Its cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, work in different ways to elicit complementary and powerful medicinal effects. To understand why, it’s important to understand the endocannabinoid system (ECS). While the ECS wasn’t identified in humans until the 1990s, researchers now believe it’s one of the body’s principal regulatory networks.

The ECS relies on natural chemicals called endocannabinoids. While these compounds are produced by the body, they’re similar to those produced by the cannabis plant. The neurotransmitter anandamide, for instance, is in many ways analogous to THC in its euphoric, discomfort easing, and other effects.

In essence, cannabinoids in cannabis are thought to be so effective because they “speak the same language” as the body’s own chemical signals. Some researchers believe that this is a key to understanding why cannabis helps modulate our bodies’ natural responses to soreness and strain.

Let’s dive a bit deeper into the question of which cannabinoid is better for relieving tired muscles and why.