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What are the Differences Between Hemp, Marijuana, and CBD?

on May 15, 2024

In recent years, the world has welcomed a new age of cannabis wellness, largely spearheaded by the popularity of a particular cannabis compound: cannabidiol (CBD). Yet, many people are unclear on the differences between certain cannabis-related buzzwords, such as marijuana, hemp, and of course, CBD. In this article, we will explore these differences to give you a better understanding of this incredible plant.

What is Cannabis?

The term “cannabis’’ is largely used to refer to Cannabis sativa - the most common type of cannabis plant; however, there are other species of cannabis plants, namely Cannabis indica and Cannabis ruderalis. The cannabis plant has been cultivated and used as a source of food, medicine, and industrial materials for thousands of years. It is believed to have originated in Asia, later spreading rapidly to Europe, Africa and the Americas.

The industrial and medicinal use of cannabis has been well-documented in many societies throughout history. The plant appears in ancient texts, including the Egyptian Ebers papyrus (dating from around 1550 BC) and the Hindu Vedas, thought to be written between 2,500 and 3,500 years ago.

While it took a long time for cannabis to make its way to Western Europe, it eventually became a major commodity. It was a key crop in many European countries, including in England where, in the 16th century, King Henry VIII ordered all farmers to dedicate at least a quarter of an acre to the crop - they could even pay their taxes with it!

Hemp, marijuana and CBD are all products of Cannabis sativa, often prompting the terms to be used interchangeably - but there are some important distinctions. So, let’s take a look at some of the key differences between hemp, marijuana and CBD.

Marijuana vs Hemp

Throughout history, cannabis plants of all species were widely referred to as “hemp”. These plants were used to manufacture ropes, sails, clothing and even weapons and construction materials, thanks to their hardy fibres. While hemp can contain a wide range of cannabinoids with varying content levels, industrial hemp typically contains much lower concentrations of the psychoactive compound THC.

Many countries have introduced THC limits in hemp crops, ensuring that the plants are non-intoxicating. As a result, these “industrial hemp” plants are typically utilised for industrial purposes and increasingly as a source of CBD (more on this soon!).

For example, in the UK, hemp crops must contain a maximum of 0.2% THC, while in the European Union, the limit is 0.3%. Some countries, such as Switzerland, allow hemp plants that contain a much higher limit of up to 1% THC; however, at these levels, consumption of the plant still would not be intoxicating.

In contrast, the term “marijuana” is largely used to refer to high-THC cannabis plants. The word is believed to have been imported by Mexican immigrants in North America in the 1920s and 30s where it remains widely used today. This distinction means that “marijuana” generally refers to recreational cannabis products, although the term “medical marijuana” is also widely used in the Americas to refer to legal medicinal cannabis.

What about CBD?

As we mentioned earlier, industrial hemp is becoming increasingly used as a source of CBD. This common cannabinoid can be found in high levels in both hemp and high-THC cannabis plants (marijuana); however, due to legal regulations, the vast majority of the compound is derived from hemp.

Unlike THC, CBD is non-intoxicating (meaning it doesn’t cause the “high” often associated with cannabis), which alongside its impressive potential health benefits, has helped to make it a popular wellness ingredient. CBD can now be found in a wide range of products, including CBD oils, CBD edibles, and many more!

The benefits of CBD

In recent years, the growing interest in the potential benefits of CBD has led to increased preclinical and clinical research. The findings of these studies have led to the development of CBD-based medicines which have been shown to be effective in treating rare forms of treatment-resistant epilepsy. The success of these medicines largely spearheaded the legalisation of medical cannabis in the UK in 2018.

Anecdotal reports and some clinical evidence also indicate that CBD may possess anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, and antioxidative properties. Millions of consumers have embraced CBD wellness for its potential in these areas; however, more research is required to fully understand these effects.

Final Thoughts

Cannabis is an incredibly diverse plant containing thousands of active ingredients. The wide-ranging ingredients found in the plant have inspired many names, including “marijuana” and “hemp”. Each of these names refers to plants containing varying levels of THC, so, while marijuana will cause intoxication on use, hemp will not. Both marijuana and hemp contain CBD, the second-most abundant cannabinoid found in cannabis. However, most CBD used in commercial products, including HoneyHeaven’s high-quality CBD products, are sourced from hemp crops.