CBD, the latest buzzword in the health and wellness industry, has found its way into everything from ice cream to acne treatments. It’s been touted for health benefits ranging from relaxation and pain relief to hair growth and skin brightening. While studies have shown that CBD provides effective pain-relief for chronic pain with minimal side effects the hype might outpace the chemical’s benefits.
CBD, short for cannabidiol, is the non-psychoactive compound in cannabis. When derived from cannabis, CBD can’t get you high but it’s still sold at dispensaries and available with a medical rec in 13 states.
But cannabis isn’t the only source for CBD. Enter hemp. Hemp is actually a species of Cannabis sativa L but contains less resin that marijuana plants. According to the Controlled Substance Act of 1970, resin content is the benchmark by which these very similar plants are classified. Plants which contain more resin have higher THC content as well as higher CBD content. Hemp also has uses a side from CBD – its seeds can be eaten (hemp hearts), its fibers can be made into clothes, paint and many other products.
CBD, even when derived from hemp, can contain a small amount of THC. The 2018 Farm Bill legalized CBD derived from hemp and set standards for CBD content in products. To meet federal standards, CBD produced from hemp must be no more than 0.3 percent THC by dry weight in the U.S., it’s only 0.2 percent in other countries.
How does a bottle of CBD-derived from cannabis differ from a bottle of CBD-derived from hemp? Packaging and price aside, the cannabis-derived CBD may be provide more therapeutic effects (“work better”) thanks to something called the Entourage Effect.
The Entourage Effect refers to the idea that “inactive” ingredients in CBD help make the CBD more effective. The synergy of other compounds in cannabis like terpenes and flavonoids may help make CBD more effective. This holistic approach to medicine is nothing new to alternative medicine where compounds are mixed, taken together and timed to create harmony in the body.
Critical research on the differences between cannabis-CBD and hemp-CBD is currently lacking. According to an article on Live Science, a recent study suggested that THC; not CBD is responsible for cannabis’ health benefits. The study was funded by the University of New Mexico Medical Cannabis Research Fund and included 3,000 how took cannabis to relieve medical symptoms. Participants self-reported that cannabis with higher THC provided more relief and that CBD were not linked with symptom relief. Luckily, there are promising CBD-research studies underway.
Before buying into the CBD hype, it’s worth noting that CBD products are still largely unregulated – they may contain more or less than noted on package labels. According to a 2015 published in JAMA, more than half of CBD products purchased in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle contained less CBD than indicated on the label. Until more regulations are in place, take CBD at your own discretion.