While the CBD from hemp and the CBD from cannabis have the identical molecular structure, there are significant differences between the two products; the resin content, safety considerations, the lack of regulations and effectiveness of the products. In this article, I will explain what you need to know to make an informed decision when you purchase CBD products.
Both hemp and cannabis plants can produce CBD. Hemp contains 0.3% THC or less while cannabis contains up to 30% THC. Industrial hemp plants are very different than the cannabis plants being cultivated for the medical market.
The plants are taller than cannabis, with skinny leaves which are concentrated towards the top of the plant. There are very few branches beneath the upper portion of the plant. They are grown outside and harvested by machine. They are planted closely together, approximately 4” apart and the growing cycle lasts for 108-120 days. There are different varieties that are grown in different climates. Some do well in arid climates, while others need much more water to thrive. Hemp is grown to maximize the size of the plants and their output.
The plants have broad leaves, are bushy and have dense buds. They are grown indoors in a climate controlled environment for temperature, humidity and exposure to light. They are planted as much as 6 ft apart with a growth cycle of 60-90 days. Cultivators use female plants to maximize the production of flower buds. Every stage of growth as well as the harvesting, drying and curing of the plants are controlled.
Here is an interesting fact of which I was not aware. When the 2018 Farm Bill was passed, I was under the impression that all CBD products became legal. Not exactly. Hemp-derived CBD is federally legal as long as it contains 0.3% THC or less. It was removed from the Controlled Substance Act of 1970 (CSA) as a Schedule 1 drug. However, cannabis-derived CBD is still illegal and is still on the CSA as a Schedule 1 drug, regardless of the percentage of THC it contains.
How To Choose A CBD Product
Hemp-derived CBD Oil
Hemp is a phytoremedial plant that can be used to clean up the contaminants and pollutants from the soil. It absorbs heavy metals, chemicals and CO2 from the soil. While this is great for the environment, it is a problem if the hemp is grown in contaminated soil and then used to make CBD products such as food, drinks, and beauty and skin care products.
If you plan to ingest hemp-derived CBD products, make sure the hemp is grown without chemicals and pollutants and certified through 3rd party testing. The potency of the product should be clearly displayed on the label. At the moment, there is no FDA regulation for labeling CBD products. Without 3rd party testing, the consumer has no idea if the contents match the label information. Hemp-derived CBD products are sold in stores and online in all 50 states.
Cultivators are crafting hemp varieties with higher concentrations of CBD; 12-20%. These include Cherry Charlotte, Cobbler and Berry Blossom.
Isolate vs Full-Spectrum CBD Oil
A CBD isolate contains only the CBD molecule and nothing else.
Full-spectrum CBD contains not only CBD, but also flavonoids, terpenes and other cannabinoids such as CBC, CBG, CBN and THC. Some products even contain CBDa, THCa and CBDva.
Cannabis-derived CBD Oil
One of the most critical differences between the two is the resin content. Cannabis plants contain large amounts of resin which is found predominantly on the trichomes of the buds and less so on the leaves. This means that there is a higher percentage of CBD in cannabis than in hemp which contains much lower levels of resin. In order to extract a comparable amount of CBD from hemp as from cannabis, many more hemp plants are required.
According to Dr. Herve Damas, director of Grassroots Herbals, a company that makes CBD products, and a physician who uses CBD to treat professional athletes:
When you use a cannabis-derived CBD oil, you get the added benefit of a more diverse and customized terpene profile. Terpenes have many important therapeutic properties. CBD products extracted from cannabis plants also contain levels of THC that exceed 0.3%. This enhances the “Entourage Effect.”
However, Dr. Damas reported that he treat patients with both hemp and cannabis CBD products and that he cannot conclude that one is more effective than the other. He does agree that the addition of even a small amount of THC in both hemp and cannabis CBD products provides more benefits than those products with no THC.
A meta-analysis paper, Potential Clinical Benefits of CBD-Rich Cannabis Extracts Over Purified CBD in Treatment-Resistant Epilepsy: Observational Data Meta-Analysis, appeared in Frontiers in Neurology, in September, 2018.
The paper described the analysis of observational clinical studies on the treatment of epilepsy using CBD-based products. It was written by Dr. Fabricio Pamplona, Lorenzo Rolim da Silva and Ana Carolina Coan.
The results of the studies suggested that patients experienced more benefits using CBD-rich cannabis extracts over CBD isolates. Dr. Pamplona also pointed out that, for some patients, lower doses of the full-spectrum CBD oil were required to achieve the same benefits as higher doses of CBD isolates. Patients also experienced few side effects with the full-spectrum CBD oil.
There is no one-size-fits-all cannabinoid therapy as each individual responds to cannabis in a unique way based on many factors. Experimenting with both hemp-derived and cannabis-derived CBD oils, using different THC and CBD percentages, may lead to finding the right products for your needs.
Always start low and increase the dosage gradually until you experience the desired effects.
medium.com, Hemp 101: Everything You Need To Know, Aaron Cadena, Sept. 3, 2018
medium.com, Hemp vs Marijuana: The Difference Explained (2019 Update), Aaron Cadena, Sept. 10, 2019
weedmaps.com, The Difference Between Hemp-Derived CB vs Marijuana-Derived CBD, Reviewed by Dr. Adie Rae, Sept. 24, 2019