Your Guide To Understanding The Differences Between CBD, Hemp and Cannabis

Confused? We help break it down for you.

differences between hemp, cannabis and CBD

You could say that the Western world is in the midst of a cannabis revolution. As more research comes to light, we’re starting to understand that the cannabis plant can actually offer a host of health and medicinal benefits if used correctly. There’s talk of legalising cannabis for the treatment of chronic pain, incorporating hemp into your daily diet and adopting a cannabis-infused beauty regime going up against the negative impacts associated with marijuana as a recreational drug—so there’s no wonder everyone’s confused. Need help making sense of it all? Here’s your easy-to-digest guide on the differences between CBD, hemp and cannabis.

cannabis oil
Image: Unplash

The cannabis plant

Cannabinoids are the compounds found in the cannabis plant—and while there are legal differences between the ways that cannabis and its derivatives are marketed and talked about, know that they all contain cannabinoids.

Cannabinoid is a name that describes a group of similar compounds that are found in the body, which  interact with a larger regulatory system in the body called the endocannabinoid system. This system is responsible for the how the side effects of cannabis impact the body and is home to cannabinoid receptors. These receptors, CB1 and CB2 are the reason that cannabis can be so healing for the body, yet also intoxicating if the derivative contains THC (the psychoactive component in cannabis that provides the ‘high’ effect).

Phew, still with us?

Psychoactive vs non-psychoactive

The fundamental difference between cannabis and its legalised derivatives (hemp and CBD) is the fact that cannabis is psychoactive, whereas its cousins aren’t. It is important to know that while hemp foods are derived from the seed of the [marijuana] plant, hemp seeds contain only a very small amount (<0.5%) of the psychoactive element THC, so they aren’t going to affect/alter your state of mind in any way.

THC binds to CB1 receptors in the body, which are housed primarily within the nervous system and the brain—which, whaddya know, explains why certain amounts of THC gets you feeling high. CBD however, has ‘little binding affinity’ for either of the two cannabinoid receptors and interacts with the body in an entirely different way—hence the use of it for medicinal and therapeutic purposes such as the treatment of anxiety.

How CBD differs from hemp

Put simply, hemp oil is extracted from the whole cannabis plant and contains a variety of cannabinoids, including CBD. CBD, on the other hand, is just cannabidiol; a cannabinoid compound—and it’s available on its own and is thought to be a super-effective natural anti-inflammatory. 

hemp foods
Image: iStock

Different uses

We all know that cannabis is usually represented as something that people use recreationally in social situations, however, it can also be used for spiritual reasons or for pain management. CBD on the other hand, thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, can be used for the majority of chronic health problems—as inflammation tends to be at the root. Autoimmune conditions, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, hormonal imbalances and digestive issues can all be addressed with the use of CBD—most commonly in the form of a CBD oil (although CBD-infused foods, gummies and juices are all hitting the wellness scene too).

Hemp, on the other hand, is a superfood with clout and is one of the very few plant foods that contain all essential amino acids—making it a complete protein highly recommended by nutritionists as part of a healthy diet. Hemp also contains zinc, iron, copper, magnesium, and manganese that are all required for the body to function properly, alongside the perfect balance of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids. Hemp oil (which inherently contains CBD) is used for the treatment of epilepsy, anxiety, Alzheimers and chronic pain.

Where is it legal?

CBD oil is legal in the US but not yet in Australia. As of November 2017, hemp was legalized as a food product in Australia and available in different forms such as seeds and powder. To read more about the legalization of hemp in Australia and its many health benefits, click here.

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