CBD has taken the health industry by storm as numerous retail companies have begun infusing just about any product imaginable with this natural compound. CBD hit its Google search peak in mid-2019, doubling its popularity in only nine months as CBD users continue to tout its benefits. With the surge of new CBD products available, consumers find themselves asking what exactly is CBD and how can it benefit me?
The Cannabis plant is loaded with over 80 active chemical compounds, with cannabinoids and tetrahydrocannabinol being the most well-known. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound that is most highly debated, is responsible for the psychotropic effects associated with marijuana, a plant variety of cannabis. Cannabinoids (CBD) are the compounds that contain the health properties associated with cannabis and are heavily concentrated in the hemp variety. Although most plants in the world contain some percentage of CBD, hemp has continued to be the primary source for extraction especially after the 2018 Farm Bill was passed, which made it legal to extract CBD from hemp in the US.
Hemp vs. Cannabis vs. Marijuana
There are a lot of different plant terms used concerning CBD, and it can be extremely difficult trying to keep them all straight. Although the words ‘hemp,’ ‘cannabis,’ and ‘marijuana’ are often used interchangeably in CBD literature, they are slightly different from one another. Once you learn the breakdown of the Cannabaceae family, it makes it easier to understand the different plant varieties and their purposes, so let’s shine some light on the situation and do a quick rundown of the taxonomy of cannabis.
According to an article posted by CBD Web, the taxonomy of cannabis is as follows:
- Kingdom Plantae (Plants)
- Subkingdom Tracheobionta (Vascular plants)
- Superdivision Spermatophyta (Seed plants)
- Division Magnoliophyta (Flowering plants)
- Class Magnoliopsida (Dicotyledons)
- Subclass Hamamelididae
- Order Urticales
- Family Cannabaceae (Hemp family)
- Genus Cannabis L.
- Species Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, Cannabis hybrid
Simply put, hemp and marijuana are different varieties of either Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, or Cannabis hybrid, and vary in THC concentration. Hemp does not contain more than 0.3% THC while marijuana can contain up to 40% THC. Because consumers cannot get high off 0.3% THC, growing hemp is legal in all states thanks to the implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill.
There are three different species of cannabis, all of which vary in THC and CBD percentages, and are often grown in different parts of the world. They also tend to have different flavor profiles and vary in size, color, and texture.
Cannabis sativa is found primarily in dry, hot climates such as Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central America. This species requires a massive amount of sunlight. Because Cannabis sativa is known for its energizing traits, it is usually consumed in the morning or afternoon. There is often a higher percentage of THC than CBD in this species.
Native to India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Turkey, the Cannabis indica plant has adapted to in harsh, dry, and turbulent climate. Cannabis indica typically contains more CBD than THC and is known for its relaxing effects. This strain is ideal for treating nausea and sleeplessness.
Lastly, Cannabis hybrid is just as it sounds: it’s a cross-breeding of indica and sativa. These species can be cross bred to fit a particular CBD or THC ratio, or for customized benefits. They are typically classified as sativa-dominant (sativa-dom), indica-dominant (indica-dom), or balanced.
History of Cannabis and CBD
Using cannabis and CBD is nothing new, in fact, evidence of cannabis has been dated back thousands of years. From as far back as researchers can find, cannabis has been used in healing ceremonies, religious ceremonies, and recreational activities ever since its discovery. Cannabis, also known as hemp or marijuana depending on the THC content, has been a medicinal staple for generations and was likely used as herbal medicine starting in Asia around 500 BC.
Cannabis in America has been dated back to early colonists who grew hemp mainly for rope and textiles, as did tribes in Africa and also in European colonies. Before politics and racial factors led to the criminalization of marijuana in the 20th century, certain colonies were actually required to grow cannabis because of its many uses. These cannabis crops, which became mainstream in the 1600s in areas such as Virginia, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, were most likely hemp crops since they reportedly contained low levels of THC and also high levels of CBD.
In the 1830s, Irish doctor Sir Willian Brooke O’Shaughnessy discovered a correlation between cannabis extracts and relief from stomach pain, and by the end of the 1800s, cannabis extracts were sold in clinics and pharmacies throughout the US and Europe to provide aid to those with stomach pain, nausea, and other ailments.
Cannabis Growth for CBD Production
Understanding how cannabis is grown and produced is key to understanding how THC and CBD are created, extracted, and used. For those of you who are fascinated with the botany of cannabis, we’re breaking down the different stages of growth, all of which play a key part in CBD production.
Depending on the reason as to why cannabis is being grown, picking the seed is the most important part of the process. There are dozens of commonly known strains of cannabis, each having a slightly different chemical makeup. Certain strains of cannabis contain only trace levels of THC, resulting in a high concentration of CBD, which is ideal for CBD extraction. Some of the top strains of hemp grown for CBD production include ACDC, Remedy, and Sour Tsunami.
Germination and Seedlings
Germination occurs after a short period of dormancy when a spore or seed once it is introduced to moisture and a plant’s life begins. Once seeds are planted in soil with proper light, good airflow, and ideal water conditions, seeds begin to sprout and grow within 5-10 days. Germination is followed by the seedling stage which lasts two to three weeks. Leaf growth begins with two embryonic leaves, then the vibrant green plant quickly grows another six leaves.
Vegetative and Flowering Stages
With thoughtful watering and nutrient-dense soil, the plant develops rapidly in the vegetative stage, which can last from 3 to 16 weeks. The flowering stage follows and is the most vital stage of growth. During this 11-week time frame, male plants are weeded out before they can fertilize the females. If the females are fertilized, the plant is practically useless, so making sure all the males are removed is incredibly important.
The levels of THC found in cannabis are determined by the growth pattern of the plant in this stage. Cannabis in its beginning stages of growth has only trace amounts of THC, while plants that are grown to full maturity result in high levels of THC. The key to growing CBD-rich hemp is to harvest the plant before the amount of THC surpasses 0.3%. If a plant exceeds that amount of THC, the entire crop becomes unusable for CBD production.
Cannabis CBD & Terpenes
Terpenes are compounds found in plants that are responsible for giving them their unique aromas. They are also responsible for a plant’s therapeutic benefits. Much like CBD and THC, terpenes bind to endocannabinoid receptors found in the body and the brain and add immense therapeutic benefits when used in conjuncture with other cannabinoids. This is known as an entourage effect and is the reason most seasoned CBD users prefer Full Spectrum or Full Extract CBD over THC-free types like Broad Spectrum and Isolate. When CBD is stripped of THC, all the beneficial terpenes are also removed, so although Broad Spectrum and Isolate CBD are still good, there just isn’t the same level of healing once the terpenes are gone.
The cool thing about creating CBD formulations is chemists can add terpenes from hemp and other plants to create a unique product. Depending on what terpenes are added, CBD products can be tailored to treat specific ailments more effectively. While one terpene may encourage muscle relaxation, which is ideal for pain creams, others may promote increased energy or improved focus. Terpenes can even change the flavor profiles in CBD oils and edibles, and when done correctly, can eliminate the need for added flavoring. Understanding exactly how terpenes work has been a slow process; however, there is no denying they provide immense benefits when added to CBD.
Potential Benefits of Cannabis CBD
The process of growing and harvesting hemp plants for CBD is challenging and time-consuming, but the benefits of CBD touted by millions of users and the holistic community are worth the effort. Because CBD is a fairly new discovery in the medical health arena, there has not been a lot of scientific studies to prove its healing abilities. Despite that lack of proof, people continue to use CBD because of its rumored ability to relieve the following ailments:
- Muscle tension
- Menstrual cramps
- Smoking addiction
- Skin aging
In 2018, a medication containing high levels of CBD was approved by the FDA to treat certain types of epilepsy. Receiving FDA approval for Epidiolex led many to believe this would finally open the door for more research into the benefits and uses of CBD, yet delays in the process have brought studies and clinical trials to a halt as the FDA goes back and forth, trying to determine whether or not CBD should be fully legalized in the US. Even with the delays, CBD continues to line the shelves of health food stores across the country. The amount of CBD products in circulation is expanding daily and the public is pushing for more search into the compound.
Many holistic physicians and chiropractors are recommending CBD as a natural alternative to prescription drugs since the research that has been done on CBD has shown to have fewer side effects than its competition. Minor side effects including nausea, fatigue, and irritability, are often preferred over potentially major side effects associated with certain medications, especially among the senior citizen community. Shamans across the country are receiving flocks of retirees suffering from symptoms such as Fibromyalgia, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, and general stiffness and pain with the desire to relieve these ailments using holistic methods. And because many experience tremendous results using CBD, repeat customers are on the rise.
Cannabis CBD Regulations
The FDA does not currently regulate the purity and safety of dietary supplements, which most CBD products are marketed as, which has caused an issue regarding the potency and integrity of CBD so finding manufacturers that have Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) certificates is the next best thing. GMP is a system that ensures products are produced consistently in a clean facility that is controlled according to strict quality standards. Very few CBD manufacturers receive GMP certificates due to the complexity and rigid conformity to the process, but it is becoming more and more important to purchase CBD products that are made in these facilities. Why? Because there is no other way to be sure the product you purchased was made in a clean, reliable facility. If the manufacturer isn’t certified and if there is no Certificate of Analysis (COA) issued for that product by a third-party lab (which is required for manufacturers that have GMP certificates), there’s no way of knowing if the CBD type or potency is accurate, nor what harmful contaminants may be in that product such as heavy metals and pesticides.
Although there is more research that is needed before deeming CBD as ‘safe,’ doctors across the world continue to recommend CBD to patients who are requesting a natural alternative to support their health and wellness. The CBD industry is growing, and with that, more people are taking the opportunity to give CBD a try for themselves.
Just like any other drug or health supplement, CBD should be scrutinized before purchasing. Researching retail companies, reviewing labels, and requesting to view COAs are the best ways consumers can protect themselves from purchasing CBD products that lack credibility, potency, and purity.