What Is CBD: Hemp, Cannabis, and Cannabinoids Explained

When a new health trend becomes popular, a peculiar thing often happens: people get excited, but misinformation accumulates throughout the internet, causing confusion. There’s no better example than with the explosion of popularity of hemp-based products, especially pertaining to CBD.

A 2020 study found that 33 percent of Americans have used CBD products. However, 26 percent think that CBD is the same as marijuana, and over 50 percent think CBD will show up on a drug test. Both are these are incorrect common misconceptions!

This article will demystify cannabis-related terminology in simple terms and cover the following common questions:

To sort out the confusion, let’s take a step back and first discuss the difference between hemp and marijuana, commonly referred to as cannabis.

Hemp vs Marijuana (cannabis): What Is the Difference?

Hemp and marijuana are two varieties of the same plant: Cannabis sativa. It only adds to the confusion that marijuana is also called cannabis! Hemp and cannabis are most notably distinguished by their legal status – based on that fact that one is psychoactive (cannabis gets you high) and the other – hemp – does not get you high. The basis for this difference is the phytochemical composition of the plants – namely differences in the amounts of compounds called cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are unique to the plant species Cannabis sativa, and help the plants during growth by protecting them from bacteria, fungi, and UV damage.

There are over one hundred cannabinoids, but the two most abundant and well known are CBD and THC.

THC is responsible for the “high” sensation and is the predominant cannabinoid within cannabis (marijuana). CBD on the other hand is non-psychoactive and is the predominant cannabinoid within hemp. Part of the confusion is that since hemp and cannabis are technically the same plant, they both produce THC and CBD – but the amount of each is what differentiates hemp from marijuana.

To create a defined distinction and to legalize hemp due to the many applications and lack of psychoactivity, the 2018 Farm Bill was passed. This made hemp, and all parts, federally legal in the United States. This has opened the doors for scientists to research hemp’s potential health benefits. The Farm Bill defined hemp as having less than 0.3 percent THC. For comparison, cannabis typically has 10-20 percent THC, which is about 30-60x as much as hemp. Since hemp has so little THC, it doesn’t impart the psychoactive effects that cannabis does.

To recap: 

CBD products for pain relief

Will I Get High or Fail a Drug Test From CBD?

Short answer: No.

Part of the confusion is that oversight in hemp farming, or low-quality manufacturing protocols, could result in undisclosed levels of THC appearing in consumer products. Recall, hemp does contain extremely low levels of THC.

Some plants illegitimately sold as hemp might contain greater than 0.3 percent THC, (this would technically classify them as marijuana) – so using these “hot” plants (hot referring to higher than 0.3% THC) as biomass might lead to a ‘hot’ product with undisclosed THC.

Similarly, a poor-quality extract might concentrate the low levels of THC found within hemp, and when included in a formulation, could result in a product that contains undisclosed levels of THC. So, while you can’t get high from CBD, and won’t fail a drug test due to CBD, it is possible that buying low-quality products from suspicious sources could lead to unexpected exposure to THC.

Three Types of Hemp Extracts

The flowers, leaves, and stems of hemp contain cannabinoids, and are typically used to make extracts containing desirable cannabinoids and CBD. Hemp seeds, however, do not contain cannabinoids – an important point to remember when considering products for purchase.

There are generally three types of extracts used within products, which refer to the extent of processing and purification:

3 Types Of Hemp Extracts_Enrichual

Full-spectrum Extract:

Full-spectrum captures “the full plant,” and hence contains most of the various phytochemicals within hemp. Full-spectrum extracts capture the full array of cannabinoids including CBD, and the low levels of naturally occurring THC. Full-spectrum extracts also typically include terpenes, flavonoids, and possibly chlorophyll. For this reason, these extracts have a characteristic aroma and may have a greenish hue.

Broad-spectrum Extract:

Broad-spectrum hemp extracts are essentially a further purified full-spectrum extract. It contains most of the cannabinoids, including the naturally occurring CBD, but has the terpenes and chlorophyll removed, for a clean, low-aroma ingredient It’s called “broad-spectrum” because it contains the broad range of cannabinoids found within hemp. Sometimes, broad-spectrum extracts undergo an additional processing step to further reduce the already-low levels of THC.

CBD-isolate

CBD isolate is pure CBD. This is made by removing other cannabinoids from broad-spectrum extracts, leaving only pure, ‘isolated’ CBD.

As hemp-based products become more mainstream and readily available, having science-backed information will help consumers make educated decisions on how to incorporate these products into their routine.

The Many Uses of Hemp

Hemp is one of the oldest domesticated crops known to man. It has been used for more than 10,000 years, producing a wide variety of products:

Cosmetics: The oils found within hemp seeds moisturization and emollient properties that are beneficial to the skin and hair. Some popular hemp-derived skincare and cosmetic products include skin moisturizers, facial serums, and soaps.

CBD oil for relaxation

Food: Hemp seeds are a great source of nutrients – namely fiber, protein, and beneficial fats. Hemp food products include cooking oils, granola, flour, hemp milk, and hemp protein.

Clothing: Hemp fibers have been long used in the creation of clothing and textiles. Although cotton and synthetic fibers have become more popular materials for clothing in the modern era, hemp is a more environmentally sound option: it requires only half the amount of water compared to cotton to produce an equivalent amount of fiber.

Industrial materials: Hemp fiber is widely used in industrial applications because it’s one of the strongest natural fibers. Additionally, modern hemp building materials like Hempcrete are lightweight, waterproof, fireproof, self-insulating, and resistant to pests.

John Heiss

John HeissPhD – Sr. Director of Worldwide Product Marketing Innovation

Dr. John Heiss is one of the scientists behind Herbalife24, a line of high-end sports nutrition products. He is responsible for setting the strategy for sports nutrition and developing a portfolio of products based on the latest science. He earned his PhD from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in biological chemistry. As a former category 2 competitive cyclist, Heiss has a keen understanding of the nutritional needs of endurance athletes.