Hemp and CBD are cropping up in just about everything from beauty products to snacks to ointments these days. But as the hype grows, so does the confusion. Are hemp and pot the same thing? Does CBD get you high?
Here’s the lowdown on the difference between marijuana and hemp, and the products made from them.
Hemp vs. Marijuana
Hemp and marijuana technically come from the same plant, Cannabis sativa. The cannabis plant contains some 500 compounds and cannabinoids make up about 100 of them. Two of the most well-known cannabinoids out there: CBD and THC.
Different cannabis plants are bred to contain different amounts of CBD and/or THC. The plants we know as marijuana are bred specifically to contain CBD and/or THC. However, “the form of the cannabis plant we know as hemp is bred to naturally not contain appreciable amounts of THC, which is the psychoactive compound in the plant people are after when they want a high,” explains Leslie Mendoza Temple, M.D., A.B.O.I.M., medical director of NorthShore University HealthSystem’s Integrative Medicine Program. THC-free hemp plants are referred to as ‘industrial hemp.’
What’s Legal (And What Isn’t)
On a federal level, any cannabis that contains more than 0.3 percent THC is illegal. And industrial hemp, which contains less than 0.3 percent THC? Well, it’s complicated.
According to the 2014 Farm Bill, industrial hemp is technically legal nationwide. However, this legality only applies to very specific circumstances, like use in a specific state pilot program or academic research.
From there, though, different states have different policies regarding the various forms of the cannabis plant. In most states that have legalized recreational marijuana (there are eight of them), farmers can get a state license to grow industrial hemp—but it’s not legal to sell the resulting hemp-derived products outside of that state.
So where do many of the American companies who make hemp products get their industrial hemp? Outside of the U.S. However, a bill recently passed in the Senate aims to legalize the farming of industrial hemp in the U.S. across the board.
The various products out there that are made from or contain industrial hemp use two forms of the plant: its oil or its extract. And though they’re produced from the same plant, they’re not the same thing.
Hemp oil, which you may find bottled and in beauty products, is made by pressing the seeds of the hemp plant, explains Janice Newell Bissex, M.S., R.D.N., culinary nutritionist and holistic cannabis practitioner at JannabisWellness.com.
“It’s a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids, and vitamin E,” she says. Think of hemp oil like you’d think of olive oil: a healthy, antioxidant-rich, plant-based fat that can support your healthy diet.
Related: How To Add Hemp To Your Diet
Even in hemp plants bred to be higher in CBD, the cannabinoid isn’t found in the seeds, so hemp oil made from these plants is still more of a salad dressing ingredient than anything else.
You’ll find hemp extract in everything from beauty products to dietary supplements, as it supports healthy skin, immunity, and cardiovascular health. It’s made from the seeds, stalk, and sometimes flowers of the hemp plant, and contains minerals like potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, calcium, and phosphorus, vitamin E, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and antioxidants.
If made specifically from industrial hemp, hemp extract does not contain the cannabinoids CBD and THC, says Bissex. However, it may contain other cannabinoids and plant compounds that interact with our endocannabinoid system, which regulates our brain, immune, and hormone function. Through this system, hemp extract helps modulate our body’s response to stress and promote a sense of well-being. Harness your own endocannabinoid system and reap the benefits with a supplement like one of HempFusion‘s hemp extracts, now available at The Vitamin Shoppe.
One of the cannabis plant’s 100-plus cannabinoids, CBD (cannabidiol) has exploded in popularity lately because of its benefits related to anxiety, muscle spasms, sleep issues, and pain.
CBD also yields potent antioxidant properties, which have been shown to support blood sugar control and may even promote bone health. And since CBD is not psychoactive, it offers this variety of benefits without the high. You’ll find it in the flowers and leaves of cannabis plants bred to contain higher amounts of the cannabinoid.
Most states have legalized the medicinal use of CBD and some healthcare practitioners are now using it to help people with chronic conditions like Crohn’s disease, IBS, and other bowel issues, says Temple.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, CBD (like THC), is still illegal on a federal level. However, personnel have admitted that they’re highly unlikely to go after anyone using CBD for their health.