The cannabis industry has a lingo all of its own, which can be intimidating when discerning which product is right for you.
Cannabis is full of substances called cannabinoids which interact with receptors in your body. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the cannabinoid responsible for the intoxicating effects of cannabis that individuals experience.
Cannabidiol (CBD), on the other hand, does not contribute to intoxication, and may actually soften the effects of the high produced by THC in some instances (2). CBD is a cannabinoid that is building a reputation for having positive effects on many ailments, such as pain, anxiety, and inflammation (4). This makes it a wonderful option for those seeking natural wellness solutions.
“Perfect,” you’re thinking, “I would love to try CBD to ease my [insert relevant ailment here].” But purchasing CBD products may prove to be a little more confusing than one might expect, and it’s easy to get lost in the wave of options that are popping up. Beginning your search for CBD, you will likely see labels like “Hemp CBD” as well as “Cannabis CBD.”
Hemp and medical cannabis are both from the Cannabis Sativa plant, however, the distinction between the two is in the cannabinoid concentrations present in each. To put it simply, cannabis has higher amounts of all of the cannabinoids, while hemp contains a very small amount. Some Cannabis plants are very high in THC, while other plant varieties have very low quantities of the intoxicating cannabinoid. Hemp plants are classified as such because they contain no more than 0.3% THC (3)
Medical cannabis, the plants used to make the Cannabis CBD products you may be considering, are plants with greater THC present in their leaves and flowering heads. To compare, any THC concentration greater than 0.3% bumps the plant out of the industrial hemp classification; medical cannabis may contain quantities as great as 30% THC. This is why you may find hemp products more widely distributed and easily accessible; from a consumer perspective, they are not controlled as highly as medical cannabis products, since hemp cannot be used to create products with an intoxicating property (4).
While CBD levels present do not affect the classification of hemp vs medical cannabis, hemp generally has less CBD in it than its more highly controlled counterpart. This means that it is easier to harvest CBD from medical cannabis than hemp. CBD oil is often produced as a byproduct of hemp, as the plant is typically grown for another purpose.
While reducing waste and working efficiently is noble, CBD extracted as a secondary purpose of the plant is lacking in regulation and therefore may be mingling with pesticides or solvents. Additionally, all cannabis plants absorb toxins from the soil. Since cannabidiol levels are lower in hemp, it requires more plants in order to extract any CBD, increasing the possibility that contaminants or toxins may be present in your finished CBD product (5).
That is going to depend on what you’re looking for. Hemp CBD may be right for you if:
You desire a higher concentration of CBD for medical use
While it can be extracted for independent use, CBD can also compliment THC and other compounds of cannabis quite nicely. That may make medical cannabis a better option for you than hemp. It’s been noted that many of CBD’s positive attributes often shine best in the presence of THC (and vice versa) as part of whole plant medicine. For example, a combination of equal parts CBD and THC has been reported to be very effective in pain relief for many individuals (1). This is something to take into account when deciding which type of CBD best suited for you.
There is a lot to consider when choosing a CBD product, and the beautiful thing is that the variety of options allow you to select something just right for your individual needs. If you have questions about whether or not medical cannabis or cannabis CBD are right for you, it is a good idea to speak with a physician or Patient Educator about your needs. An individual trained on the medical benefits of cannabis can answer your questions and help you navigate the world of medicinal cannabis.