Cannabis has been an ally of humankind virtually since the beginning of time. Many years ago, the plant was used to provide fiber for cordage and cloth, the seeds were eaten for nutrition, and the leaves, roots, and flowers were used for ritual and healing. The fact is, our ancestors discovered uses for every part of the cannabis plant.
In recent years, CBD has become the shining star of cannabis. Whether it’s CBD oil, CBD-infused gummy bears, CBD face cream, CBD lotion, CBD coffee or one of many other CBD-infused products, the compound is popping up everywhere. While the 2018 Farm Bill legalized the cultivation of hemp and consequently hemp-derived CBD, the regulation of CBD products and customer education is lagging behind. One area that may be especially confusing is the difference between CBD products that are made from cannabis and those that are produced from hemp.
For many people, it may even come as a surprise to hear that there is a difference between cannabis-derived CBD and hemp-derived CBD, and yes it does matter – and not only for legal reasons. Let’s take a closer look at what the difference is between cannabis and industrial hemp, and why it matters.
Understanding the Harvesting Process
First off, it’s important to understand that while there is a difference between cannabis-derived CBD and hemp-derived CBD, at the end of the day, CBD is CBD. It doesn’t matter where you source the CBD from; the cannabinoid molecule remains the same. Say for instance you have two bottles of CBD oil; one sourced from hemp and the other from cannabis. The CBD molecules in each bottle will be the same. However, everything surrounding the CBD – the resins, terpenes, and other cannabinoids – are what make all the difference.
Cannabis and hemp are actually two different parts of the same plant. Cannabis includes the flowers or buds which are typically referred to as marijuana. The cannabis flower has been used for both medicinal and recreational purposes for many years. It contains both THC and CBD, along with around 100 other cannabinoids.
Hemp refers to the stalks, stems, and seeds of the plant, and are harvested for industrial purposes, like making rope and fabrics. Legally, hemp must contain no more than 0.3% THC. Therefore smoking, vaping, ingesting, or using hemp in any other way, doesn’t create any psychoactive effects.
The Major Differences Between Hemp and Cannabis
First off, the term “hemp” commonly refers to the commercial/industrial use of the cannabis seeds and stalks for foods, paper, textiles, body care products, detergents, plastics, and more. The term marijuana refers to the recreational and medicinal use of the cannabis flowers. Industrial hemp only contains about 0.3-1.5% THC, while marijuana contains between 5-10% or more of THC.
Hemp and marijuana are two different varieties of the cannabis plant. Hemp is a cannabis sativa variety, and marijuana is a cannabis indica variation, and the two have developed a rather intense rivalry within the industry.
Marijuana advocates claim that hemp doesn’t yield the same medicinal quality because CBD hemp products lack major cannabinoids, like THC. While hemp is rich in CBD, many marijuana advocates believe that it’s not the same because, in order for CBD to reach its full potential, it needs the presence of THC and other cannabinoids to create a synergistic action that is known as the entourage effect.
They have a valid point. The entourage effect has been extensively researched over the last few years, and many studies have reported that CBD is more effective when combined together with other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. CBD products that are classified as being full-spectrum are those which have been made with the entourage effect in mind, and thus contain CBD, along with various other compounds.
Furthermore, hemp only contains about 3-5% CBD and requires a large part of the plant to produce a small amount of hemp CBD oil. This heightens the risk of products containing other contaminants. Cannabis, on the other hand, contains between 18-20% CBD and is often balanced with THC to enhance the entourage effect.
What About Medicinal Value?
While hemp itself does have many industrial applications – in clothing, shampoos, nutrition, building materials, makeup, and more – it doesn’t have that many medicinal benefits. This is because of its incredibly low concentration of CBD and its inability to include THC.
On the contrary, CBD that has been extracted from cannabis is created with the purpose of yielding maximum medical benefits. Whether that’s a balance of THC and CBD or a formula of pure CBD, these products have been found to treat a variety of medical conditions. These include chronic pain, anxiety, depression, inflammation, and skin conditions like dermatitis and psoriasis, among other things.
Reliability and Regulation
Another important factor to consider is the reliability and regulation of each. Licensed producers who sell cannabis products are subject to inspections and regulations by the FDA. Since these products need to be tested before they are sold, you can trust that all the information on the labelling is correct.
However, hemp isn’t federally regulated, and therefore many hemp-derived CBD products are sold in unregulated health food stores, storefronts, and even convenience stores. This means that it’s difficult to know when you are getting a high-quality, safe, clean product. Knowing the growing conditions of the soil, extractions methods used, and overall environment, are crucial when buying any type of CBD product. You want to make sure that the product doesn’t contain any unwanted toxins.
Also, as we discussed above, the hemp plant contains far less CBD than the cannabis plant, which means that a significant number of hemp plants are needed to make CBD products. This increases the risk of contamination.
Furthermore, unless the hemp-derived CBD product has been tested by a third-party, there’s no way of telling how much CBD is actually in the product. These are some of the things that you need to consider when buying hemp-based products.
Final Thoughts on CBD Extracted from Cannabis or Industrial Hemp
Although there is no definitive answer, at this stage in CBD research, it appears as though CBD is most effective when combined with other cannabinoids – and not used as an isolated compound. In other words, CBD that is derived from cannabis is more powerful than CBD that is derived from industrial hemp.
However, this doesn’t mean that we should right hemp off altogether. Hemp is absolutely necessary to create more earth-friendly, sustainable alternatives to every day, such as gasoline and paper, which both cause severe damage to the environment. It’s just in the realm of medicinal value that CBD extracted from cannabis is thought to be more beneficial.