Understanding the difference between hemp and marijuana can be confusing, and even more confusing is understanding the difference between CBD and THC. If you’re new to the world of cannabis and have found the terminology confusing, this guide is for you. It should help you better understand some of the differences in these plants and products.
Hemp and marijuana are, in fact, just different names for the same plant genus called cannabis. Cannabis is a flowering annual herb in the Cannabaceae family that originated in Asia and has been used for centuries for a variety of needs, from industrial to medicinal. There are three main species of plants within this family: cannabis sativa, cannabis indica, and cannabis ruderalis. All three are treated as subspecies of a single species called C. sativa. Cannabis plants produce a group of chemical compounds known as cannabinoids that can produce mental and physical effects when ingested. These cannabinoids are also responsible for deciding if a particular cannabis plant will be called hemp or marijuana.
Hemp is a term that is used to classify the varieties of cannabis that contain 0.3% or less of the cannabinoid called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Hemp has historically been used for its fiber, seeds, oils, and leaves. It’s most commonly used for industrial purposes and products. Hemp is refined into various commercial items like paper, textiles, clothings, biodegradable plastics, paint, insulation, biofuel, food, and animal feed.
Commonly believed to be one of oldest cultivated plants in the world, hemp was such a staple of 17th century America that farmers were mandated to grow it and allowed to use it to pay their taxes. It’s even believed that the early drafts of the Declaration of Independence were created on hemp paper. However, the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 and the popularity of synthetic fibers in the following years saw the industry suffer a decrease in popularity. In 1970 when the Controlled Substances Act categorized marijuana as an illegal drug, hemp was assigned in the same category and cultivation of it was outlawed in the United States. It wasn’t until 2018 when the Agricultural Act removed hemp from that list. This allowed an opportunity for hemp to make a comeback as an industrial crop and opened the doors to create large scale hemp farms across the country.
Marijuana contains more than 0.3% THC, the cannabinoid responsible for the psychotropic and euphoric effects. Marijuana buds come from the dried flowers, leaves, stems, and seeds of the cannabis plant. It’s known for its medicinal and recreational purposes and as a psychoactive drug and has been a highly regulated product since the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act. It became an even more restricted drug after the 1970 Controlled Substances Act categorized it as a Schedule 1 drug. In recent years, many states have slowly loosened their restrictive laws on marijuana use, with many moving from legalized use for medicinal purposes to legal recreational use, with restrictions comparable to alcohol.
Differences Between Hemp and Marijuana
Hemp and marijuana are sometimes referred to as different species of cannabis, which is not correct. The only difference between the hemp and marijuana cannabis plants is the amount of THC found in each plant. Hemp is cultivated for non-drug use while marijuana is celebrated for its THC levels. Since hemp and marijuana come from the same plant, they look and smell the same. The only real difference between the two is the THC levels found within. Simply put, they are the same plant, but certain cannabis plants are cultivated to contain less than 0.3% THC. Those plants are called hemp and will not get you high. Cannabis plants cultivated with more than 0.3% THC are called marijuana and will get you high.
While they are the same plant, over the years selective breeding has altered the physical characteristics of hemp and marijuana. Since marijuana plants are used primarily for their cannabis flower, marijuana plants have been bred to be shorter and bushier, while hemp plants are prized primarily for their fiber which is found in the stalks. Hemp plants are generally bred to be taller and skinnier than marijuana plants.
Cannabinoids are the chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant. There are at least 113 different cannabinoids within cannabis, but the most commonly extracted are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). While these two compounds are the most well known, there is ongoing research exploring the benefits of other cannabinoids including tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), tetrahydrocannabivarian (THCV), cannabigerol (CBG), cannabichromene (CBC), cannabinol (CBN), and cannabicyclol (CBL). While all 113 cannabinoids have varied effects, it is CBD and THC that are most frequently used because they are found in the highest concentrations. These are also the cannabinoids that determine the difference between a hemp plant and a marijuana plant.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the 113 identified cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. When these compounds are extracted from the cannabis plant, CBD is the most prominent cannabinoid in the extraction. It produces no psychoactive results and is used primarily for therapeutic purposes. CBD is currently undergoing a lot of scientific research for its abilities to provide its users with relaxing, pain relieving, and anti-anxiety benefits. Since CBD doesn’t have euphoric effects like THC, it is a safe option for those who don’t enjoy feeling intoxicated or who cannot because of legal restrictions.
Currently there is only one FDA-approved CBD medication that’s used for the treatment of certain types of epilepsy, but different varieties of CBD are available over-the-counter and are popular with users for what they believe to be beneficial properties that help treat their ailments.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is another one of the 113 cannabinoids extracted from the cannabis plant. THC is the primary cannabinoid that accounts for the psychoactive properties of marijuana. It attaches to cannabinoid receptors that are concentrated in areas of the brain, stimulating the cells in the brain to release dopamine, which creates the feeling of euphoria.
Differences Between CBD and THC
Both CBD and THC can be extracted from a marijuana plant, however a hemp plant will not have THC compounds and will only produce CBD. CBD and THC have the same molecular structure of 21 carbon atoms, 30 hydrogen atoms, and 2 oxygen atoms. The difference in how those atoms are arranged, however, is what accounts for the different effects on the body. Both CBD and THC are similar to the endocannabinoids our bodies create naturally, giving them the ability to interact with our cannabinoid receptors more easily. The interactions that happen affect the release of neurotransmitters in our brains. These neurotransmitters are responsible for relaying messages between cells about things like pain, stress, and relaxation. THC only binds with the cannabinoid 1 (CB1) receptors in the brain, which is why it produces a feeling of being high. CBD binds very weakly, and sometimes not at all, to the CB1 receptors. CBD can actually interfere with the binding of THC to the CB1 receptors, causing the feelings of euphoria to be lessened.
THC is only extracted from marijuana plants, but CBD can come from either marijuana or hemp. Generally CBD with less than 0.3% THC is derived from hemp plants since CBD can be extracted directly from hemp without needing to remove the THC, a necessary step if the CBD comes from a marijuana plant.
Why it’s Important to Know the Difference
Knowing the difference between the plant varieties and compounds within them is not only helpful when researching which product would work best for you, it’s also important if you live in a state where marijuana is not yet legal. Federally, marijuana and THC are still considered illegal. There are currently only a handful of states that have legalized marijuana for recreational or medicinal use. Thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp and CBD are now legal federally, however some states have added their own restrictions on these substances. Certain states have made it illegal to possess hemp flowers or certain types of CBD. Make sure to check your state laws before purchasing any cannabis product.
The popularity of cannabis is on the rise, and is often very confusing for those who are new to the world of hemp and marijuana. This can make it very intimidating when someone is looking for answers to questions about what could work for them. We hope this guide was helpful in differentiating these terms.
Pain and pain relief have been tied to human history for centuries. It hasn’t always been a harmonious union, and there have been failures along the way, but humans have continued to strive for a better way to manage their pain.
How do our bodies manage pain? By using the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a cell-signaling process in the human body that regulates different processes, including mood, appetite, and pain levels. This system is made up of molecules that are produced as needed, receptors that bind the molecules, and enzymes that break down the molecules once they are no longer needed. While experts are still researching how exactly CBD interacts with the ECS system, it does suggest that CBD has a beneficial effect on pain. Because CBD doesn’t bind to the ECS receptors, it is believed this allows it to have more of an effect on the body, speeding up the process of homeostasis after pain is introduced .
CBD for Chronic Pain
In the United States, 23% of all adults have arthritis, a staggering statistic that means more than 54 million people struggle with this painful disease . An inflammation of a single joint or several, arthritis can cause debilitating pain to its victims. It’s most commonly seen in people over the age of 65, but has been known to develop in people in any age group . This means you will see questions related to arthritis in a very diverse group of people.
The customers approaching your company with arthritis are likely coming from more traditional types of treatment, some of those treatments may have troubling side effects making them less than desirable as a treatment for arthritis pain. Remind these customers that CBD might offer an option for pain management without the dangerous side effects tied to prescription drugs.
Researchers have been studying the benefits of CBD on arthritis pain and the results are positive. Their studies have shown that CBD actually helps reduce inflammatory pain by changing the way pain receptors react to stimuli . It also works to reduce joint inflammation and protect the nerves .
Lower back pain is the leading cause of disability around the world . It is expected that 80% of the population will experience back pain at some point in the future . With so many suffering from back pain, expect that your company will get questions about pain management and CBD for back pain.
Hot and cold packs continue to be an effective treatment, but often the pain is more severe and medication is needed. Depending on the severity of the pain, this can be a dangerous world to wander into. Your customers may already know the dangers of opioids for pain, especially back pain, but there’s a chance they won’t know all the risks associated with them versus the benefits of using CBD. Prescription opioids are addictive, and as many as 1 in 4 patients have reported struggling with prescription opioid addiction .
Instead of taking dangerous drugs, many patients are turning to CBD for pain management. CBD does not appear to have dangerous side effects and in clinical research has been effective at managing inflammatory pain . Researchers have also discovered that combining CBD with prescription pain medication may help cut down on the required drug dosage, risk of dependency, and harmful side effects from the prescription medication . As always, remind your customers to check with their doctors before combining CBD with any medications or starting any new treatment plan.
Chronic neuropathic pain comes from damaged nerves. The treatment for nerve pain is different than that for tissue pain. However CBD could be a beneficial treatment option for both, including localized nerve trauma and widespread nerve damage .
Neuropathic pain is one of the most difficult to treat, so your customers might be especially frustrated by the time they reach out to you. It should relieve them to hear that research studies have revealed cannabis and CBD to be effective for those patients who have not responded well to pharmaceutical treatments .
While there are some studies about how CBD can actually help shrink cancerous melanoma , most cancer patients turn to CBD to help manage the pain related to cancer and its treatment. Chemotherapy can cause vomiting, lack of appetite, and pain. These side effects all may be reduced or controlled by cannabinoids such as CBD .
As with other types of treatment for pain, studies have found that CBD may be used effectively alone or in combination with opioids to heighten their usefulness and reduce the required dosage needed to get the benefits . Again, remind any customers looking to begin a new treatment plan or add CBD to an existing plan to talk to their doctor first.
CBD for Other Types of Pain
Just as CBD has been found to be effective at reducing chronic pain, it also may be effective in easing musculoskeletal pain from exercise . Many people turn to anti-inflammatory drugs like Ibuprofen after a sports injury, but those drugs can have side effects such as renal damage and increased risk of heart attack and stroke after prolonged use . CBD has not been found to have those side effects and may be just as effective at easing pain related to sports injuries.
If your customers are athletes and concerned about how CBD is perceived in the competitive field of athletics, you can remind them that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) removed CBD from their lists of prohibited substances in 2018.
Besides its anti-inflammatory benefits, it is believed CBD’s analgesic effect makes it useful for sore or tired muscles. It may help relax the muscles to immediately ease discomfort. Added to the natural pain relief of CBD products, many people say they feel relief in sore or overworked muscles .
Many athletes like to use CBD before and after a workout, believing this helps ease their muscles into and out of anaerobic mode. Combined with proper stretching and massage, some notice a discernible difference in recovery .
Skin is the body’s largest organ and comes with the risk of pain. Almost 40 million people in the United States have some form of psoriasis or eczema  . While incurable, there are treatments available to those who suffer. Because of its anti-inflammatory benefits and natural pain relief it offers, CBD has become popular as an option for people who suffer from these painful skin conditions .
Your clients may also approach you with questions about acne and how CBD can help. While most people think of acne as a cosmetic issue, it can actually be a very painful condition, especially if someone is suffering from cystic acne. Current research indicates that CBD may help reduce the formation of sebum in sebaceous tissue, therefore reducing the likelihood of acne or the severity of an outbreak .
If your customers have a history of skin conditions, it’s likely they have been prescribed strong topical creams or steroids for treatment at some point. Neither of these are good long term solutions. Steroids have severe side effects, including hemorrhages, scars, and prematurely aged skin .
Is CBD Right for You
Your customers know their bodies better than anyone else and know what is right for them. As a relatively new treatment still being researched, CBD has been making excellent progress as an alternative treatment. It has offered relief to people who had previously given up hope or those who have histories or aversions to the often chaotic world of prescription drugs. CBD may help your customers and their pain, and they will be thankful for any knowledge about CBD you can pass on to them.
They may approach you nervous and excited about the possibility of CBD, so treat each customer individually and listen to their questions and concerns. Find out which type of CBD would be right for them. Some may prefer a tincture, while others might prefer to smoke or use a salve. If you have personal experience with a product, share it with them. They will be thankful for your honesty and insight.
Finally, you should always remind them to check with their doctor before taking CBD.
Researchers have been studying CBD for years, with each new study providing exciting possibilities for the enrichment of our lives. Current research shows CBD oil may be able to help reduce inflammation, restrict the growth of cancer cells, improve sleep quality, promote bone growth, inhibit the growth of bacteria, relieve pain, treat fungal infections, reduce muscle spasms, reduce seizures, relieve nausea and vomiting, reduce blood sugar levels, treat psoriasis, and calm anxiety and stress . From one special plant comes a natural treatment for conditions that have plagued us for centuries. How does one obtain these benefits, though? There are a number of options out there and each option has different formulas available. So which one is right for you? Let’s discuss the difference between two of the most popular options: full and broad spectrum CBD oil.
Extracting CBD means extracting all the cannabinoids available in the hemp plant. Along with CBD, this includes CBDA, CBG, CBGA, CBC, CBCA, THCA, THCV, and other terpenes and flavonoids. This does mean that trace amounts of THC are also extracted in the process, but the amount that can be extracted is limited to 0.3%, which is not enough to activate any of the psychoactive risks in most people. If the THC in the extraction exceeds that level, the CBD is considered illegal in some states.
CBD can be extracted using a few different methods. One of the most common is CO2 extraction, which uses carbon dioxide under high pressure and low temperature to maintain the purity of the oil. Another extraction method uses a similar process, but instead of CO2, it uses food grade ethanol to create the oil. This oil is generally used in vape pen cartridges or other similar products. Extracting with ethanol can destroy some of the plant waxes, which could potentially mean the loss of some beneficial compounds in CBD oil.
In both processes, the plant will come in contact with a reactant, causing the hair on the plant to open. Inside these hairs (called trichomes) are cannabinoids. Once the cannabinoids are released, their molecules will bind to the carbon and later be distilled to remove any solid plant material.
After the extraction process, the CBD can be refined further to only include certain cannabinoids or plant parts. This involves removing the solvents and leaving only the cannabinoids, terpenes, and phytochemicals. Once these compounds are able to be identified, specialists can select which ones to remove to finalize the product. This process of refining is what determines if the CBD will be considered full spectrum or broad spectrum. When all of the cannabinoids, terpenes and essential oils naturally found in the plant are included, the CBD is considered full spectrum. Broad spectrum CBD occurs when all of the same cannabinoids and essential oils are left in the extract, but the THC is completely removed.
Full Spectrum CBD
Sometimes referred to as “whole plant CBD’, full spectrum is the extraction process that includes the entire hemp plant, including the leaf, stalk, and seeds. After extraction and refinement, full spectrum CBD contains all naturally present cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and fatty acids. Full spectrum CBD also contains trace amounts of THC.
Because all the cannabinoids, terpenes, and essential oils are working together in full spectrum CBD, something called the Entourage Effect occurs. The Entourage Effect means hundreds of compounds in the plant all work together synergistically to amplify the combined therapeutic benefits more than any one compound could do on its own. Research has shown that removing even one of these compounds may reduce the effectiveness of the CBD .
Pros of Full Spectrum CBD
Full spectrum CBD is popular for its health and restorative needs, especially when compared to isolate CBD, which has removed all other cannabinoids and left only the CBD, therefore disrupting the Entourage Effect and dulling the product’s potency. Because of the included THC, it may be especially effective in the treatment of eating disorders, pain management, PTSD and other severe forms of anxiety, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s .
Cons of Full Spectrum CBD
Since THC is present in full spectrum CBD, it could mean that if taken in large enough quantities or for long enough, THC may build up in the system and show up on drug tests . Full spectrum CBD is also known to have a strong odor and flavor. While these are naturally occurring odors and flavors, some people with sensitivities might find them unpleasant.
Best Uses for Full Spectrum CBD
Some treatment recommendations might include taking CBD with a specific ratio of THC. In those cases, full spectrum is the best choice. The included THC may mean full spectrum is a great option for those seeking treatment of more severe or painful medical conditions that CBD formulas with fewer compounds may not be powerful enough to help. Finally, if cannabis is legal in a particular state, it might be someone’s preference to have a product that includes THC since there are no legal complications.
Note About Full Spectrum CBD
While many full spectrum products are derived from hemp plants, in states where recreational cannabis is legal, it can be extracted from a marijuana plant. If you live in a state where cannabis is legal, either option shouldn’t be an issue for you. However, if you live in a state where cannabis is not legal recreationally and you happen to purchase full spectrum CBD from a marijuana plant extract, you could run into issues getting it to your state. Always read the label to find out the plant source.
Broad Spectrum CBD
While broad spectrum CBD contains all the same beneficial cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and fatty acids, it lacks the THC. During the extraction process THC is either removed from the full spectrum product or sometimes a CBD isolate will be combined with other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids that have also been isolated during a separate extraction process. Because it contains the same compounds as full spectrum, broad spectrum CBD still includes the beneficial Entourage Effect. Even though THC has been removed, all the other compounds are still combined in the oil and working together synergistically.
Pros of Broad Spectrum CBD
Broad spectrum CBD offers the full benefits of full spectrum, but without the trace amounts of THC in the full spectrum formula, removing the risk of potentially having a positive result on a drug test.
Cons of Broad Spectrum CBD
Like full spectrum, it does have a strong natural odor and flavor which some more sensitive people may find offensive or difficult to manage.
Best Uses for Broad Spectrum CBD
Broad spectrum may be a great solution for those looking for the full benefits of full spectrum CBD, but without the added THC. It may provide the same therapeutic benefits as full spectrum CBD for the management of stress, anxiety, pain, sleep, and a multitude of other issues. There may be new CBD users or those just beginning their research of cannabis products who are nervous to try a product containing THC. Broad spectrum CBD can be a safe and effective introduction to the world of CBD.
Which is Right for You?
Simply put, if you prefer the THC compound and live in a state where THC is legal, full spectrum may be the right choice for you. If you have a severe condition you’re trying to treat and want to start with the oil containing the most cannabinoids, give full spectrum a try. However, if you don’t have a particularly severe condition and the idea of trace amounts of THC causes you concern, perhaps because you work for the federal government and can’t risk a positive drug test, start with broad spectrum and see how that works for you.
Additionally, keep in mind that the first product you use may not work the way you like, but there are other options available that may work better with your physiology. Just like any other CBD treatment option, you should always consult your doctor before adding it to your treatment plan or into your daily routine.