CBD, hemp and marijuana - what’s what

This is a writing sample from Scripted writer India Bottomley

Most people are aware of the reported benefits of taking CBD for a range of health conditions from epilepsy to chronic pain, but are put off by misconceptions surrounding the link between CBD, cannabis and marijuana. This article will allow you to have a clearer idea of what each of these terms mean, why they are associated, and why CBD is not something to be afraid of.

Definitions

To start off, let's clear up some common misconceptions thanks to the following definitions. They should help you to see just how CBD is a completely separate entity to other cannabis products that are renowned for their psychoactive effects.

Cannabis : a tall herb native to Asia. It has many varieties, some of which are high in THC whilst others have high levels of CBD.

CBD : shorthand for cannabidiol, a non intoxicating compound found in both cannabis and hemp plants.

Hemp : an Asian herb that is cultivated for its tough fibers and edible seeds that can be transformed into oil. It is often cultivated because of its high levels of CBD and very low levels of THC.

Marijuana : psychoactive dried flower buds from the female cannabis plant.

THC : abbreviation of tetrahydrocannabinol, one of two physiologically active compounds from cannabis resin, one of which (delta-9-THC) is the chief intoxicant in marijuana and is used medicinally.

Are hemp and marijuana one and the same?

Whilst they have long been grouped together in the same category, hemp and marijuana are in fact not at all the same thing. Hemp and marijuana have very different compositions and uses, with marijuana having a reputation for being used as a recreational psychoactive substance, its cousin hemp has fallen into its shadow. Hemp is in fact used for a wide range of applications that marijuana would not be suitable for at all, notably the production of high quality CBD. Hemp is also used to make health supplements, skincare, clothing and other textiles, but is known for having over 25,000 possible uses. Hemp is not psychoactive and contains under 0.3% THC compared to 5%-35% for marijuana. It is also an easy and eco-friendly crop to grow, unlike marijuana that has to be cultivated in very specific conditions that require large amounts of energy.

So, how are they different?

Their chemical makeup is different specifically when it comes to the amounts of THC contained in each of them. Marijuana generally contains between 5% and 20% THC so can be relatively potent depending on the strain. In contrast, hemp contains a maximum of 0.3% THC and has no noticeable psychoactive effects on those who consume it. The amount of THC that can be present in hemp products is closely regulated so consumers can rest assured they will not experience a 'high' when taking it. In practical terms, marijuana and hemp also look very different: marijuana has broad leaves and tight buds, whilst hemp is typically a tall bush that has skinny leaves that grow around the top of the plant. Hemp is also grown in a more environmentally friendly way, it is a hardy plant that does not need any specific conditions to thrive, unlike marijuana that needs a very specific climate in order to grow and as a result uses a lot of energy in its production.

Why are hemp and marijuana associated?

The links between hemp and marijuana date back President Nixon's so-called 'War on Drugs' that introduced the Substances Act of 1970. It outlawed hemp as well as marijuana, even though the effects of the former are nothing like the psychoactive side effects of marijuana. The move understandably led to a massive drop in the production of hemp, but also led to a lot of misconception about the plant. In March 2018 Sen. Mitch McConnell introduced a bill to legalize industrial hemp production, removing the plant from the controlled substances list and making it available to grow on an agricultural scale again. Whilst both marijuana and hemp are varieties of cannabis sativa, hemp is a safe plant to consume and its byproducts cannot make those who take them high.

What are the benefits of hemp?

Hemp contains high concentrations of CBD, which has been proven to have a wide range of health benefits. Its fibers can also be used to make fabric and other products in an eco-friendly way. The plant is growing in popularity on a rapid basis because more and more people are understanding how CBD can improve their health and wellbeing. From improved sleep to better mood and less anxiety, the benefits of CBD are many. CBD interacts with receptors in the body that regulate many systems, including pain and inflammation. Those who suffer with arthritis and other conditions that cause chronic pain have reported that taking a CBD supplement reduces their levels of pain and inflammation and as a result leads to a better quality of life. Hemp oil has also been found to improve the mood of those who take CBD by working with the body's endocannabinoids, that are essential for maintaining good mental health. It has also been found to have properties that could combat the multiplication of cancerous cells and has even been found to kill cervical cancer cells completely.

Are there any risks associated with hemp oil and CBD?

Hemp oil and CBD are considered as generally safe for consumption, but patients should always check with their physician before taking any kind of dietary supplement. The most common side effect of taking CBD is some tiredness when initially starting the treatment. These effects can actually be beneficial in aiding with sleep, but patients may want to take the supplement at night so that it doesn't interfere with daily life. It can also cause some gastrointestinal symptoms for some people, but again these should pass once the treatment has been taken for a few weeks. One of the main concerns with CBD is its potential to interact with certain medications, including epilepsy medication which is why it's important to check with your doctor or specialist before taking any supplements. But still, CBD is a safe supplement for most people and its effects have the ability to improve patients' lives for the better in a wide variety of ways.

In summary

Whilst hemp and marijuana have been classified together since the 1970s, they are in fact two very different plants. The main differentiating factor is the very low levels of psychoactive THC in hemp compared to marijuana, which makes it a safe source of CBD. Hemp is an eco-friendly crop and can be used for a wide variety of products, including CBD oil that is used in CBD capsules and CBD creams, as well therapeutic oil. Hemp oil is growing in popularity as people understand the benefits of CBD for a wide range of health conditions and as cannabis is legalized across many states - even though CBD itself is widely legal regardless.

Written by:

India Bottomley
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