If you’re a consumer who’s developed an interest in CBD, all the different product names and ingredient lists—hemp oil, CBD oil, cannabis oil, hemp-derived oil—can be extremely confusing. To make matters worse, the terms “hemp” and “cannabis” are often used interchangeably in marketing materials and news articles. So, you may have likely found yourself asking on more than one occasion: Is hemp cannabis?
The simple answer to this question is yes, technically hemp is cannabis. However, the true answer is a bit more complicated.
Understanding the Differences Between Hemp and Cannabis
In general, education about the cannabis plant is lacking due to the fact that so many types of cannabis have been illegal for so long. There are also a lot of misconceptions about the differences between hemp and cannabis, and some of it is simply not true. For example, some people think that hemp is the male cannabis plant without flowers, and that the other cannabis plants, which are known for euphoria-induction and flowering, are female.
Actually, both hemp and cannabis are of the same plant genus: Cannabis and Cannabis sativa. However, there are numerous types of plants that fall into this family genus, some of which are specifically bred for their tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content, and some of which are bred to be grown as hemp without high levels of THC.
The primary differentiator lies in how the plant is cultivated and used. In general terms, when a plant is referred to as “cannabis,” it’s raised and harvested specifically for its high amounts of THC and other compounds. The term “hemp” is used to refer to a type of cannabis plant that contains only trace concentrations of THC. For instance, industrial hemp must have less than 0.3% THC. This specific classification (low THC) is how the majority of people understand what is hemp and what is cannabis.
The Primary Uses for Hemp
You don’t have to do a lot of research to see just how many unique ways hemp is used to create a wide array of consumer products. For many years, hemp was a major crop in the United States because its fibers could be used to make a range of textiles, from paper to fabric. In fact, hemp was one of the most common fibers used for paper for a long time.
Hemp is also used:
- To manufacture health and beauty products. Hemp has natural organic compounds that are good for the skin, such as vitamins, polyunsaturated fatty acids, gamma linoleic acids and more. Hemp seed oil is well-known to help with things like severe dry skin and eczema.
- To create biofuels. Hemp is used to create both biodiesel and ethanol/methanol, which has been a fuel source for many years. Biodiesel is created from oil harvested from hemp seeds, and ethanol/methanol is created by harvesting compounds through a stalk-fermenting process.
- To create food products. Hemp seeds are considered a superfood of sorts because they contain high concentrations of amino acids and healthy fatty acids that can be hard to find. There are studies touting that hemp seeds can help with things like erratic blood sugar levels and high blood pressure. Hemp seed oil is also high in protein that is easy to digest.
Perhaps the most widely recognized use for modern industrial hemp is to harvest and manufacture hemp-based CBD products. Because hemp technically is a cannabis plant, it contains cannabinoids of different types, and cannabidiol (CBD) is one of them. However, industrial hemp contains only trace amounts of one particular cannabinoid that CBD manufacturers typically wish to avoid: THC, which is the component in cannabis plants that causes the psychoactive high feeling that’s associated with marijuana.
The Differences Between Hemp and Cannabis-Derived CBD
There is an ongoing debate about whether CBD harvested from cannabis or hemp is the best, and both have their advantages. For example, it’s suspected that CBD oil with some THC could be more effective because of what’s known as the “entourage effect,” which is a simple way of saying the different cannabinoids may work together more effectively when combined instead of isolated.
Consumers, however, are currently most interested in hemp-derived CBD without THC, because they can safely consume those products without experiencing mind-altering effects, worrying about failing a drug test or staying alert. Therefore, hemp-derived CBD is easily the more popular choice over cannabis-derived CBD. Even though the CBD is technically the same thing regardless of the type of plant it is harvested from, the components that can be present and bound to the CBD can be very different.
Why Knowing the Differences Between Hemp and Cannabis Is Important
The more educated you are about the differences between hemp and cannabis, the more equipped you are to track down the right CBD oils, cannabinoid products and hemp derivatives that are best for you. For example, it’s easy to assume that CBD oil, hemp oil and cannabis oil are all the same or make for similar products when they are actually very different from each other. Once you understand the answer to Is hemp cannabis?, you’ll know how to look at the label of a certain product and understand exactly what you’re getting, what was used in the production of that product, and what the effects of that product will probably be.
At the end of the day, hemp is cannabis, scientifically speaking, but hemp and cannabis are completely different things when it comes to consumer products, how they are manufactured, and even how they are marketed. If you would like to try CBD products that are specifically made from hemp, check out our Curaleaf Hemp product listings.