Hemp and CBD: what’s the link?
Hemp is best known as a fiber crop, and more recently as one of the so-called ‘superfoods’ that contains complete proteins, omega 3s, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. These days, it’s hitting the news as rich source of CBD. Hemp and CBD seem to have almost become synonymous with one another. What’s all the fuss about?
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Is hemp and CBD medical marijuana?
Much of the attention hemp and CBD are getting is being sensationalized by the press as ‘medical marijuana’. But is this strictly accurate? Sensation sells newspapers, and talking about medical marijuana, particularly when it is being given to children, makes for a news item that will sell papers, gain passionate support and equally passionate criticism, and get hits on news websites
It all comes down to cannabinoids
While it is true that hemp is botanically so close to marijuana as to be visually indistinguishable from it, hemp and marijuana are, and always have been, two distinct crops. The difference lies in the cannabinoids they contain, and no recreational marijuana user is ever going to get a kick out of smoking or eating hemp.
That’s because the hemp plant doesn’t contain the ingredient that produces a high, and anyone who knows a bit about counter-culture will know that this ingredient is THC. CBD, on the other hand, has no such effect. Hemp growers often have their crops checked to make sure they are not producing a high-THC variety, while marijuana growers generally aim for the lowest CBD content possible, making room for a higher concentration of THC instead.
So while it would be accurate to call hemp ‘medicinal Cannabis’ owing to its botanical classification in the genus Cannabis, it would be wrong to call it ‘medical marijuana’, or at least, very misleading.
How much CBD does marijuana contain and how much THC does hemp have?
Think of a plant as being a vessel that holds different types of molecules. In this case, the molecules are cannabinoids. It can only hold so many before the vessel is full. So if you are breeding a plant to contain a lot of THC, it will have very little CBD.
Hemp works the other way around. It has only the tiniest amounts of THC – not enough to affect you, and not enough to show up on a drug test. Instead, it is full of CBD. As a result, it cannot make you high.
What do we know about CBD?
We know that it won’t make you stoned. We also know that while it does not interact directly with cannabinoid receptors in the nervous system in the same way that THC does, it stimulates the body’s production of endocannabinoids, which in turn, react on these receptors.
This ‘endocannabinoid system’ in the human body is still being studied, and has only been discovered relatively recently, but it is known to affect the metabolism and the immune system as well as the nervous system, reducing inflammation and helping to create balance.
It is believed that if our bodies do not produce sufficient endocannabinoids, we can easily become ill, and that by ingesting phytocannabinoids (cannabinoids from plants such as hemp), the natural balance in our bodies can be restored.
As a result, a lot of research attention has been given to CBD, often with highly publicised findings that indicate a wide range of potential benefits to be gained from using hemp and CBD form hemp.
Healthy or not?
While many drugs, and even health supplements like vitamin A can result in overdoses or side-effects, no real side-effects have been noticed in CBD. If CBD proves to be effective in even half the possible applications currently in the research process, we will have an extremely useful, wide-spectrum drug that has none of the risks or side-effect trade-offs found when prescribing most medicines.
What we do have to be cautious of is the origin of any plant extracts we buy, as well as the methods used to create these extracts. An uncertified plant extract could contain THC instead of CBD, and backyard extraction methods pose contamination risks. CBD and hemp can be very healthy, provided that extracts from hemp are created in a proper laboratory and are thoroughly tested for pesticide and fungal contamination.
Author: Andrea Durrheim
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