by Dan Ketchum
Terpenoids, flavonoids and tetrahydrocannabinol, oh my. Sometimes, reading a CBD blog sounds a lot like starting a really weird sci-fi movie halfway through.
The good news is you don’t have to be a made-for-Netflix astrophysicist to understand the basics of what CBD has to offer before you take your first supplement or drop a little minty CBD oil under your tongue. Take it slow, read up and get educated before you get intimidated.
Marijuana vs. Cannabis
Comparing marijuana to cannabis may sound like an apples-to-apples situation, but that’s not actually the case. Cannabis is the umbrella term for all marijuana and hemp, while marijuana is a variety of the cannabis plant — the Cannabis sativa species to be exact — that is particularly rich in THC.
Speaking of, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the psychoactive component of the cannabis plant that offers therapeutic benefits but is also responsible for euphoric, light-headed feelings. In other words, that’s what gets you high.
Oily Terms: CBD vs. Hemp
Going from macro to a bit more micro, CBD stands for cannabidiol, which is the non-psychotropic, non-addictive product that finds its way into everything from gummies to tinctures (plant extracts dissolved in alcohol) and sleep-aid supplements. While marijuana contains CBD, not all CBD comes from marijuana plants. In fact, it often comes from other cannabis plants or hemp, which is high in CBD and extremely low in THC.
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Hemp plants are another strain of Cannabis sativa. Historically bred for its strong, fabric-friendly fibers, modern hemp — which is federally legal to cultivate across all US states (as opposed to marijuana, which currently has only been legalized at a state or city level) — is often bred to contain higher amounts of CBD. However, cannabinoids, the active chemical compounds in cannabis, only occur in the flowers, leaves and stems of hemp, not seeds.
So if you’re asking yourself what the difference is between CBD oil and hemp oil, the answer is not much. While seed-based hemp oils pack skin-friendly omega-3 fatty acids, making for a solid cosmetic option, it’s the cannabidiol that has all the therapeutic potential.
The Parts of the Plant
As it turns out, the cannabis plant contains a whole lot of “oids.” While both THC and CBD are cannabinoids, the term is commonly used in reference to the phytocannabinoids in the plant, the active components that produce both calming and psychotropic effects when they interact with the endocannabinoids naturally present in our bodies.
Terpenes lend cannabis its distinctive aroma and flavor, and different types of terpenes can create different flavor profiles (such as citrusy limonene or clove-scented myrcene).
A Spectrum of Buzzwords
Dipping your toes into the CBD pool, you’re going to hear a lot about “spectrums.” (We promise you didn’t just walk into a tanning bed.) Here’s how that breaks down:
- Broad spectrum refers to CBD products that contain every part of the cannabis plant but the THC, cannabinoids and terpenes included.
- Full-spectrum means that the CBD product contains all-natural components of the cannabis plant, including some THC. But when the CBD is hemp derived — as is the case with all FOCL products — full-spectrum products contain no more than 0.3 percent THC, a trace amount that does not lead to feeling high.
- CBD isolate is, well, isolated from other parts of the cannabis plant. It contains only CBD, and no THC.
The use of full-spectrum CBD allows for what’s called the “entourage effect,” a proposed chemical process by which THC, CBD and those various -oids work in synergy to potentially heighten the feeling of therapeutic effects. As the study “The Case for the Entourage Effect and Conventional Breeding of Clinical Cannabis,” first published in Frontiers in Plant Science in 2018, says, “The plant does it better.”
Dan has been a freelance writer and small business owner since 2009. In the healthcare realm, he’s fortunate enough to have collaborated with the likes of Civilized Life, Cetaphil, LIVESTRONG, VitaGenne, DermStore, Civilized Life, JillianMichaels.com and more as a writer, with work appearing in publications such as USA Today, The Seattle Times and the San Francisco Chronicle’s SFGate, among others.
Shape: What’s the Difference Between CBD, THC, Cannabis, Marijuana and Hemp?
Healthline: Reading a CBD Label: How to Find a Quality Product
Consumer Reports: Cannabis and CBD: CBD Goes Mainstream
U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health: NCBI: Frontiers in Plant Science: The Case for the Entourage Effect and Conventional Breeding of Clinical Cannabis: No “Strain,” No Gain
U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health: NCBI: Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research: A Cross-Sectional Study of Cannabidiol Users