It’s a word with a lot of weight. No other plant on the planet can seem to incite such a mixed bag of emotions and assumptions. It makes some people angry. Others are passionate. Some are indifferent. But I’m going to say with confidence that most of us are just confused. Confused about the laws, confused about the claims, and confused about the plants themselves. But for all kinds of people, from war veterans to doctors to families just searching for support, the issue of cannabis deserves to be discussed.
So today, to mark the famous national holiday on 4/20 (I’m talking about National Lima Bean Respect Day! Whaddya think I was talking about??), let’s take a quick trip down cannabis lane. No, we aren’t going to get into the nitty-gritty about the laws, fragmented research claims, and social and political issues; we’re going to start with the very basics. And maybe later, if the interest is out there, we’ll spend more time with this topic. Because when we have a better understanding of the conversation taking place, we are able to make the best health and wellness decisions for ourselves and our families—and that’s what it’s all about, right?
But for now, let’s clear up one of the most fundamental aspects of cannabis as it relates to aromatherapy. And that is: what in the world is the difference between Hemp Seed Oil, CBD, and THC? Time to break it down…
Cannabis belongs to the genus Cannabaceae, which is a big family of flowering plants. Another familiar member of this family is Humulus lupulus, or hops, which has famously been used worldwide as a beer ingredient for hundreds of years.
Cannabis is a dioecious plant, which means that there are both male and female plants that rely on each other for pollination. There are monoecious cannabis plants as well, which means they contain the characteristics of both male and female plants and pollinate between themselves. But this is a rare find that happens under pretty particular situations.
So what difference does the gender of the plant make? All the difference, actually!
Male plants, with their fibrous tissues and tall limbs, is where preferred hemp comes from. Throughout history, hemp has been used to make clothes, paper, rope, shoes—all kinds of things. Fun fact: both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were drafted onto hemp paper!
Female plants, on the other hand, are shorter and stockier. This doesn’t make them good for fibrous purposes, like hemp, but they do have their own unique characteristics. It’s from the female plants where we get nutritious hemp seeds from. And it’s from her small resin glands, called trichomes, where THC synthesizes from. So when we hear the word “marijuana,” you should know this typically refers to the female cannabis plant. Fun fact: the term “marijuana” originated in the 1930s to incite a fear of cannabis by relating it to the immigration of Mexican refugees after the Civil War. Actually, that wasn’t really a “fun” fact…
There are three main strains of cannabis, called Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. From these strains, there are hundreds of subspecies strains, all of which can be bred to produce different effects. We won’t spend a lot of time on this, just know that there are hundreds and hundreds of different subspecies strains of cannabis.
So now let’s get into a bit of what this plant can offer us and help clear up some confusion!
Hemp Seed Oil
You’ve probably heard about Hemp Seed Oil before. This gem is part of our carrier oil collection! Ours is made from the seeds of the female Cannabis sativa plant, but rest assured that the seeds contain absolutely no THC component, despite being surrounded and protected by blossoms carrying trichomes. The seeds are cold-pressed at low temperatures to produce a lovely dark green oil that has a slightly nutty scent.
You can use the carrier oil alone or alongside other carriers and essential oils. It is a natural, non-GMO whole food product that is very nourishing to the skin and hair due to its high content of omega fatty acids, proteins, and vitamin E. Again, there is no THC, CBD, or any other cannabinoids present in Hemp Seed Oil.
THC is what gets you “high.” There’s really no reason to sugarcoat that. It is one of two of the most well-known chemicals found in cannabis (the other being CBD) and is really the culprit that gives cannabis its mixed reputation and uncertain future. But what exactly is THC?
Like stated above, females have trichomes. These are microscopic protrusions comprised of a stalk and a head that kind of resemble tiny, clear mushrooms. They are actually really neat looking:
These little guys appear on the surface of buds, leaves, and (though in a much less amount) the stalk. THC synthesizes in the heads of these trichomes. When inhaled or consumed, THC molecules bind directly to CB1 receptors in the body. CB1, or cannabinoid receptor 1, is abundant in the brain. It is part of our endocannabinoid system, or eCS, which runs throughout our bodies (brain, glands, and immune cells to name a few places). The eCS runs a massive amount of our life, and has an influence on our sensations of pain, our mood, our memory, and our appetite. It helps keep us in balance by sending neurotransmitters all over our bodily parts to make sure that everything is running smoothly. If something is off, our eCS helps rebalance it by instructing certain receptors to adjust your feelings and thought processes.
Anyways (sorry if I lost anyone there!), THC goes right to the CB1 receptors, stimulating parts of the brain that respond to pleasure and releases our happy-brain chemical called dopamine. All said and done, you end up experiencing the infamous “high.”
Unlike THC, most CBD comes from the male cannabis plants, the hemp-makers. So you’ll notice right there that the potent psychoactive elements from THC are not going to happen if you consume CBD. They’re often not even coming from the same gender of plant and may even be from different strains. What does this mean? CBD will not get you high. Not even a little.
CBD does not bind to cannabinoid receptors the same way as THC. It acts more on CB2 receptors, which are much more dispersed throughout the body than CB1 receptors, which are located primarily in the brain. And instead of attaching directly onto the receptor, CBD impacts them indirectly. It does this by activating other receptors and signals throughout the body, like TRPV1 receptors, which are involved with inflammation and pain regulation.
And we can’t forget about CBDs involvement with the so-called Bliss Molecule, or anandamide, a neurotransmitter that plays a part in helping us feel happy and have a sense of well-being. Funnily enough, anandamide is also found in chocolate! Maybe that’s why we love it so much…
Oh, and CBD contains a lot of beta-caryophyllene, an endocannabinoid system stimulating terpene that is known as a potent anti-inflammatory agent.
And while CBD is working hard in your body by influencing your endocannabinoid system, what do you get to do? Sit back and relax! CBD works to make an impact on your eCS system to help relax muscles, reduce inflammation, ease feelings of stress and anxiety, and so much more! It is developing quite a reputation for effectively relieving both short term and chronic pain, and reducing symptoms associated with anxiety and depression. It does all this with absolutely no psychoactive side-effects.
You made it!
If you’re still reading—congratulations! You made it to the end. This is a lot of information to learn, though in reality it barely even scratches the surface on the subject of cannabis. Hopefully, this broad overview on Hemp Seed Oil, THC, and CBD cleared up some misconceptions you may have had or taught you something new.
By Katrina Scampini, Certified Aromatherapist
- Note: I would like to reiterate that this blog covers only the most basic information. It does not discuss the growth of male/female plants, raising crops, or imply that the male plant flowers. It also does not discuss the molecule structure of THC or CBD molecules or distillation or solvent extractions of said molecules. Please limit blog comments to the information provided and refrain from redirecting to other companies for cannabis products. Information used in this blog is primarily sourced from Elizabeth Ashley’s book Cannabis: CBD Rich Hemp Oil, Hemp Essential Oil, & Hemp Seed Oil: The Cannabis Medicines of Aromatherapy’s Own Medical Marijuana. It is an excellent resource for anyone interested in learning more! Thank you for helping me keep our comments clean, kind, and relevant to this blog!
Information collected from the following sources:
Ashley, E. (2017). Cannabis: CBD Rich Hemp Oil, Hemp Essential Oil, & Hemp Seed Oil: The Cannabis Medicines of Aromatherapy’s Own Medical Marijuana. The Secret Healer Oils Profiles, Vol. 8.
Blessing, E. M., Steenkamp, M. M., Manzanares, J., & Marmar, C. R. (2015). Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Neurotherapeutics : the journal of the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics, 12(4), 825–836. doi:10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1
Cannabidiol (CBD) Pre-Review Report. (2017). Expert Committee on Drug Dependence. World Health Organization. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/5.2_CBD.pdf
Tisserand, R. (2016). Retrieved from https://tisserandinstitute.org/learn-more/cannabis-oil/
“The Brain Loves CBD: What are the Effects of This Major Cannabinoid?” (2018). CBD Health and Wellness. Retrieved from https://cbdhealthandwellness.net/2018/09/04/the-brain-loves-cbd-what-are-the-effects-of-this-major-cannabinoid/