1. Introduction To The Cannabis Plant:
When you hear the word “cannabis” what first comes to mind? If it’s a mental image of teenagers smoking pot in the parking lot before an IMAX movie, you’re definitely not alone. Cannabis has a reputation that’s proven hard to shake and many people are still skeptical of its medicinal value, or question whether it has any value at all. There are a ton of myths out there about cannabis, creating the perfect storm of misinformation and confusion.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that the perfect antidote to this chaos is simply getting your facts straight. If you’re curious to know more about cannabis—or even just test your current knowledge—you’ve come to the right place.
The basics of cannabis
Cannabis sativa is the technical name given to the cannabis plant, an herbaceous flowering plant indigenous to eastern Asia that’s in the same family as hops and hackberries. Many people don’t realize this, but both hemp and marijuana are Cannabis sativa. Yes, you heard that correctly—hemp and marijuana are two versions of the same plant! There are some key legal and chemical differences between the two, but they are both cannabis. Thinking otherwise is one of the most common misconceptions about cannabis.
Intro to cannabinoids
Hemp and marijuana might be the same plant, but as mentioned before, there are some important differences to familiarize yourself with. This mostly has to do with the compounds, called cannabinoids, found within them. You’ve probably heard of CBD and THC; they’re the two most abundant cannabinoids found in cannabis. CBD is short for cannabidiol, a compound that’s become famous in recent years for its anti-inflammatory, anti-seizure, and anti-anxiety properties. Tetrahydrocannabinol is the full name for THC, the compound in cannabis that’s responsible for its intoxicating effects. THC has many known health benefits, including helping with nausea, stimulating appetite, and decreasing pain. Despite legal hurdles and a lot of paperwork, cannabinoids are being studied as treatments for an extremely wide variety of conditions. So are these cannabinoids found in hemp or marijuana? Many people think hemp contains CBD and marijuana contains THC, but it’s not quite that simple.
Hemp versus marijuana
Legally speaking, hemp is defined as a Cannabis sativa plant with less than 0.03% THC. Practically speaking, the hemp plant has historically been grown for industrial purposes. This means that it’s tall, stalky, and can be used to make paper, textiles, soaps, and even fuel (just to name a few). In fact, according to one source, over 25,000 products can be made from hemp. Contrary to popular belief, hemp isn’t typically high in cannabinoids like CBD because its flowering portions, which produce cannabinoids, are typically very limited.
Marijuana, by contrast, is more medicinal and has been used for its health benefits for thousands of years. It has large, rich flowering portions that are chock full of cannabinoids, with each strain and plant containing a unique ratio of CBD to THC. These ratios can vary widely, from more than 30:1 CBD to THC all the way to plants that are more than 25% THC by dry weight, which ends up being close to a 50:1 ratio of THC to CBD.
Now that we have the basic differences between hemp and marijuana down, you should know the the line between marijuana and hemp is getting blurrier by the day. Growers have been able to breed medicinal cannabis plants to be very high in CBD but low in THC. So low, in fact, that they legally qualify as hemp and we can all legally take advantage of the CBD that can be extracted from them.
So what’s the take home? The cannabis plant is extremely versatile, with a huge variety of uses and applications, and the difference between hemp and marijuana can be difficult to pin down.
2. Different Types of CBD Oil / CBD Oil Buyer's Guide:
Looking to buy CBD oil or a CBD-based product? It’s important to know that you’ll have a lot to choose from—and that not all of those options are created equal. As a consumer, it’s crucial to be able to sort through the different types of CBD and pick the right one for you. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, but don’t! Just keep reading for what you need to know about each.
You’ll notice that some products are labeled “full-spectrum.” This means the product contains more than just CBD, typically including some small amount of THC, other cannabinoids like CBN and CBG, and terpenes and essential oils. But do you really want this extra stuff in your CBD oil? It might seem counterintuitive, but yes. According to a concept called the “entourage effect,” all the ingredients in the plant work together to increase CBD’s safety and efficacy, especially when compared to a CBD isolate.
You’ll often find products—especially edibles and topical products— with the words “CBD isolate” on them. This means they contain the CBD compound alone, which has been isolated from the terpenes and other cannabinoids. Isolating the compound in this way typically means you need a higher dose of CBD to get the same effects, leading to safety concerns and medication interactions. Because of this, CBD isolate is not typically recommended for everyday consumers. But that doesn’t mean it’s totally devoid in value! In fact, there’s an FDA-approved drug that’s made from 99% pure oral CBD extract.
If you see a product labeled “broad-spectrum” it means it’s full-spectrum but all of the THC has been taken out. Hemp-based full-spectrum products will have very low levels of THC (less than 0.3%, to be exact) already, but some people want to avoid THC entirely. If you fall under this category, opting for a broad-spectrum product is a great option.
Cannabis oil is a very general term, referring to any oil that’s been made from the cannabis plant (which as we know can be hemp or marijuana). When used on labels without any more specifics, this can be very confusing for consumers. Typically, a hemp-based CBD oil will be labeled “hemp extract” or “CBD oil” instead of cannabis oil. Products that you find at a dispensary in states with medical or recreational marijuana laws will label their high-CBD products “cannabis oil”—and they might contain intoxicating levels of THC. Make sure you do your research before buying.
Hemp seed oil
Don’t stop reading now because this last one’s important: Hemp seed oil and CBD oil are not the same. Mistaking one for the other is a common mistake—one that you don’t want to make! Hemp seed oil is extracted from the seeds of the hemp plant (Yes, the same ones you sprinkle on your yogurt and smoothies!), which are virtually devoid in cannabinoids. Hemp seed oil is still a healthy ingredient, containing beneficial antioxidants, amino acids, and omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, but it doesn’t have any CBD.
3. Your Guide To Extraction Methods & Testing
If you’re looking to buy a CBD-infused product, you might wonder how, exactly, the CBD gets in there. Understandable! This part of the process is called extraction—AKA, how the cannabinoids are separated from the raw plant material.
Extraction Methods 101
There are quite a few ways to safely and effectively do this, including using ethanol as a solvent or using oil extraction with olive oil. There’s also a method called CO2 extraction, which exposes the plant material to high-pressure, low-temperature CO2 gas that isolates the cannabinoids and preserves them in the oil. Each extraction method will produce a unique product with a specific smell and taste.
There are also some extraction methods you’ll want to avoid completely, including those that utilize butane or hexane as solvents. These solvents do a good job extracting the cannabinoids but can leave a residue behind that’s not healthy to digest or put on your skin.
Lab Testing 101
Solvent residue is one good reason to look for a product that’s been lab tested by a third-party, ISO-certified lab. This sounds fancy but just means the final product has been evaluated by an independent lab that’s following specific procedures. They’ll test for potency and purity to make sure your product contains the amount of CBD that’s stated on the label.
Even more importantly, they’ll test for the presence of contaminants such as heavy metals, pesticides, microbes, and solvent residue. This is important because hemp is a “bioaccumulator,” which means it absorbs chemical waste and heavy metals from the soil. In fact, it does this so well that it’s sometimes planted to detox plots of land that have been contaminated. In other words, it’s very important that the quality of the soil where your hemp is grown is monitored and that the final product is tested.
4. How To Use CBD For Beauty & Skincare
CBD is quickly gaining fame in the beauty world, and for good reason! The compound has demonstrated potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, hot commodities when it comes to skincare for their ability to decrease redness, puffiness, and premature aging and cellular damage. Preliminary research has also shown that topical CBD products could help combat inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema, and allergic dermatitis. There’s also some evidence to suggest that CBD could help balance the skin’s oil production.
Just like the benefits of CBD in the body, CBD’s skin supporting properties seem almost endless. And they just might be! A review published in Dermatology Online Journal stated: “…we found that cannabinoid products have the potential to treat a variety of skin conditions, including acne vulgaris, allergic contact dermatitis, asteatotic dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, hidradenitis suppurativa, Kaposi sarcoma, pruritus, psoriasis, skin cancer, and the cutaneous manifestations of systemic sclerosis.” Keep in mind that for each of these potential applications, there are varying degrees of scientific evidence and much of it is pre-clinical, meaning it hasn’t actually been tried on humans in a controlled setting yet.
When buying a topical product, look for one that contains a significant dose of CBD. Many brands have added only one or two grams of CBD per serving. And while there are no “official” dosage recommendations for CBD, this amount of CBD feels more like an afterthought than a therapeutic dose. As a general rule, look for a product with at least 5 mg/ml, which is about 30 mg of CBD per ounce.
5. All Your CBD Questions—Answered:
CBD’s popularity is growing by the minute. This is great news for decreasing stigma increasing access to safe cannabis-based therapies. It also means people are asking questions—and rightfully so! Here are some of the most common questions about CBD, answered.
Is CBD psychoactive?
The short answer to this question is no. The long answer is that CBD is psychoactive, but not in the way you might think. The true definition of psychoactive is “affecting the mind or behavior” and since CBD exhibits anti-anxiety properties and has other effects on the brain, it cannot technically be described as non-psychoactive. Many CBD experts prefer labeling CBD “non-intoxicating” instead. If you’re using CBD topically, intoxication is not a concern since it will not deliver significant amounts of cannabinoids to the bloodstream.
Is CBD (really) legal?
There’s no arguing with the fact that CBD is widely available; you can find it online, in stores, and even in restaurants. But is it really legal? CBD falls into a legal grey area and its status seems to be constantly in flux. Thanks to the most recent version of the Farm Bill, which made the hemp crop legal and officially defined it as Cannabis sativa with less than 0.3% THC, the industry has been able to take a large step forward. There is, however, still confusion over how to regulate CBD products, especially those taken internally for health purposes. It could change in the future but as of now, there’s been no significant interference with buying, possessing, and selling CBD products across the country.
Is the CBD industry regulated?
The CBD industry is brand new and that means regulations are close to non-existent. That said, the FDA is keeping an eye on CBD companies to make sure they’re not making unfounded claims and periodically testing products to make sure they contain what they say they contain. When they find a violation, they write a warning letter to the company, which is then made public. Of course, the FDA isn’t able to test all the thousands of products on the market, so as a consumer, it’s important to find a company that’s going above and beyond in terms of quality. Look for a company that is being transparent about their sourcing, extraction method, and lab testing procedures right on their website.
Glossary of Terms:
THC: Tetrahydrocannabinol, one of the many cannabinoid compounds found in the cannabis plant. THC is the principal intoxicating constituent of cannabis.
CBD: Cannabidiol, one of the many compounds found in the cannabis plant. Used primarily for its anti-seizure, anti-anxiety, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Terpenes: Aromatic oils that affect the flavor and smell of cannabis varieties and act synergistically with other cannabinoid compounds to produce health benefits.
Cannabinoids: A group of over 100 compounds found in the cannabis plant.
Psychoactive: Having an effect on the brain and behavior. Often used to describe cannabis with higher levels of THC that produce intoxicating effects.
Extraction: The first step to separate the cannabinoids and other compounds from the raw plant material.