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Do You Know What’s in Your CBD?

"Recent changes in federal laws have set the CBD market skyrocketing, especially what are known as “hemp-derived” CBD products."


CBD, or cannabidiol, is everywhere. You can find it your local health foods market, salon, and even pet stores. Recent changes in federal laws have set the CBD market skyrocketing, especially what are known as “hemp-derived” CBD products. But what does that mean? What separates hemp-derived CBD from other types of CBD?

Hemp or Marijuana—what’s the difference?

To begin, let’s get a better understanding of the cannabis plant’s biology. Cannabis is a species of flowering plant that was first cultivated by humans thousands of years ago. The two primary biological types of cannabis are cannabis sativa and cannabis indica. These two types of plant exist in vastly different parts of the world, each with its own physical traits. (Quick note: The words sativa and indica can be used in two different contexts. What we are talking about here is the biology of the plant. This is not the same as the terms used in cannabis culture.)

Cannabis sativa is what most people refer to as hemp. It’s an incredibly versatile plant that can be used to create everything from rope to textiles to flour. Cannabis sativa is generally high in CBD, the non-psychoactive cannabinoid, and low in THC. According to federal law, hemp must contain less than 0.3% THC.

Cannabis indica is commonly referred to as marijuana. These plants contain high levels of THC, the psychoactive compound that produces the mental euphoria known as a “high.” Although many states allow for either medical or recreational use of marijuana, cannabis indica plants are still considered illegal under federal law.

Both types of plant contain the same fundamental molecules, basic structure and attributes. No matter what type of cannabis you consume or how, the cannabinoid molecule remains the same. Even though hemp’s THC content is very low, both types of cannabis contain some quantity of both CBD and THC.

Why does this matter?

The ratios of CBD-to-THC have a huge impact on the potency of effects. That’s why some people feel that hemp-derived CBD is less effective than marijuana-derived CBD. THC and CBD work together with many other cannabinoids and terpenes to maximize cannabis’s therapeutic benefits. If the CBD molecule is isolated, it may not be as effective as when it works together with THC, CBC, CBG, CBN, THCV and the many other cannabinoids.

In other words, there is no biological difference between hemp-derived CBD and marijuana-derived CBD. Think of it this way—lemons, oranges and grapefruits are different kinds of fruits that all contain vitamin C. The vitamin itself doesn’t change from fruit to fruit. The same goes for CBD.

What does this all mean?

The difference in CBD products is about more than whether the CBD is hemp or marijuana-derived.
The different wellness effects of cannabis, whether sativa or indica, depends on three things:

  • the quantity of CBD and THC
  • the ratio of each molecule in the plant
  • and the terpene profile.

When you’re shopping for a CBD product, you’ll want to take all of those factors into consideration.

You should also be sure to check for batch numbers and certificates of authenticity (you can find these on the label of the product). As CBD becomes more and more popular, so does the presence of low-quality or even fake CBD products. Just like any other health supplement or medicinal product, it’s important to do your research and know exactly what you’re getting before you buy it.

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