Hemp Oil is being used more and more often in the treatment of a variety of disorders. Despite this recent attention there is still some confusion about its relationship to marijuana. Industrial Hemp and marijuana are cousins but there are some drastic differences, and now even the government is intrigued about Industrial Hemp and its benefits.
How are these 2 plants related? Both are derived from the cannabis plant, and for this reason, both are known as cannabinoids.
To help distinguish what Industrial Hemp is and if it is legal in the US, it helps to look at some of the basics.
What is the difference between industrial hemp and marijuana?
Cannabis plants produce more than 400 chemical compounds. CBD is one of those compounds. As aforementioned, Industrial Hemp and marijuana both come from the cannabis plant family. However, even though they look similar to each other, there is a major difference between the two.
While marijuana is well known for its ability to produce psychoactive effects – aka – “getting high”, Industrial Hemp does not produce a “high”. This difference is because marijuana contains high amounts of the compound THC, which is responsible for the ‘head change’ one experiences after smoking or ingesting marijuana. Industrial Hemp typically contains very low amounts of THC – often less than 1% - and therefore does not produce a psychoactive effect. This is an important distinction to make from both the legal and medical perspective.
Industrial hemp produces the compound CBD, and it contains minute amounts of THC and does not produce psychoactive effects. These plant properties combined with some remarkable health benefits have sparked interest in industrial hemp even from the federal government over the last few years.
Is Industrial Hemp legal in the United States?
In the 1930’s growing hemp was outlawed in the US because of its association with marijuana. However, in 2014, President Obama signed the 2014 Farm Bill, which allows state agriculture departments and universities to grow hemp for limited purposes. Now it is legal in approximately 35 states to grow hemp for industrial and research use. If Hemp Oil, or CBD oil, is derived from industrial hemp, it is legal under the 2014 Farm Bill.
Soon hemp cultivation could be legal in all 50 states. In March 2018, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell announced that he would be introducing legislation to legalize hemp. And, Chuck Schumer has stated that he will support this bill.
How do cannabinoids affect our bodies?
To understand how intricately Hemp Oil can affect our bodies, it is important to understand the body’s endocannabinoid system.
Never heard of it? That’s no surprise – the endocannabinoid system has not yet been thoroughly studied, largely in part due to the US government’s prohibition of the cannabis plant in 1937.
However, since the 1990’s, scientists have been busy studying the endocannabinoid system and the effects of cannabinoids on this amazing, intricate body network. Part of this research was the discovery that our bodies produce cannabinoids (aka endocannabinoids), and this understanding spurred much of the research into the effects of these compounds on our bodies.
Our bodies’ cells have cannabinoid receptors in numerous body regions, such as our immune system, organs, glands, and tissues – and most significantly, the brain. It has been found that cannabinoids play a role in the regulation of stress and anxiety, increasing appetite and decreasing nausea, immune system balance and tumor inhibition. Other cannabinoid receptors have mostly been found on immune system cells. The benefit of this appears to be inflammation reduction and a decrease in tissue damage.
Therefore, research shows that the endocannabinoid system overall ensures that the body’s central nervous and immune systems are working properly.
What are the potential health benefits of Hemp Oil?
Plant-derived cannabinoids such as Hemp Oil, or CBD, mimic endocannabinoids and boost the endocannabinoid system. It should be no surprise then that the potential health benefits of Hemp Oil use are numerous. Early research has shown several diseases and conditions can possibly be treated using Hemp Oil, including the following:
- Inflammation – CBD binds to endocannabinoid receptors to produce an anti-inflammatory effect.
- Pain – possibly making CBD and other cannabinoids a less dangerous alternative to opioids.
- Anxiety – studies have shown that CBD can support emotional balance and decrease the effects of anxiety.
- Epilepsy treatment – research done in 2012 supports CBD as a therapeutic agent to treat a wide range of human epilepsies.
- Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis – research from 2006 suggests that CBD has a neuro-protective effect, and may help prevent the breakdown of the protective coating surrounding nerve cells.
- Cancer – research from 2015 showed that CBD inhibited tumor growth in breast, lung, prostate, and colon cancers.
How, then, is CBD isolated from plants?
There are several methods that can be used to extract Hemp Oil from the hemp plant, and they are not all equal. Additionally, there are different varieties of the plant that are used for extraction because certain strains are higher in CBD concentration and lower in THC.
The method considered by most in the industry to be the best for CBD extraction uses pressurized carbon dioxide. This extraction method is the most commonly used due to the yield of a highly pure product. Carbon dioxide is very safe to use - in fact, food companies use it to remove caffeine from coffee. After this process, the raw oil is sent to a lab for testing and to ensure the quality and potency.
The research gathered so far is very promising regarding the health benefits of Hemp Oil and CBD, including pain relief. And, with the new Farm Bill that is expected to pass, it is clear that Hemp Oil is something that you will be hearing about for a while!
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