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Blog: Hemp Oil vs. CBD-Rich Cannabis: The Need for Clarity

hemp-oil-seeds

Type ‘CBD Oil’ into amazon.co.uk today and you will be met with nearly 200 results over 13 pages. The majority of these results will be for small quantities of oil obtained from industrial hemp, with a few waxes thrown in and even one seller offering 50g of hemp ‘bud’, supposedly for making tea with.

It seems the explosion in popularity of these hemp-derived products, which has ramped up due to increased public knowledge of the medical benefits of cannabinoids, is unlikely to slow down any time soon. But is ingesting an oil made from industrial hemp the same as ingesting cannabis? Is it even beneficial at all? These and others are questions that you should be asking yourself before parting with your hard-earned cash, and luckily we’re here to help cut through the confusion.

Firstly, it’s worth quickly covering what CBD is, and why it has grown in popularity to such a huge extent over the past few years. Cannabidiol (CBD) is typically the second most abundant cannabinoid found in plants of the genus Cannabis Sativa L. (i.e. cannabis and hemp).

Decades of selective breeding for higher levels of THC (the main psychoactive cannabinoid) meant that until fairly recently it was difficult to find strains of ‘recreational/medicinal’ cannabis (as opposed to hemp) containing much more than 1-2% CBD. In stark contrast to that, industrial hemp cultivars were selectively bred to reduce the amount of THC present, and ended up, in some cases, with considerably higher levels of CBD than their recreational/medicinal cousins, although there still wasn’t much of it.

Now though, thanks in large part to the efforts of companies such as the CBD Crew, it is easy to get your hands on strains of cannabis which contain both THC and CBD in reasonably high quantities, with most strains containing a 1:1 ratio of the two.

The reason why these strains were developed is down to much medical need and a little bit of economics. As more research has been conducted on CBD its potential medical applications have constantly amazed.

It is perhaps best known as an anticonvulsant, which makes it excellent at treating seizures. This was brought to the public’s attention back in 2013 in CNN’s documentary ‘Weed’, with Dr Sanjay Gupta. In the documentary Gupta interviewed the Figi family, the joint-youngest member of which, Charlotte, suffers from a rare and extremely serious form of epilepsy called Dravet’s Syndrome. To cut a long story short, the only medicine which controlled Charlotte’s seizures was high-CBD cannabis oil, and she’d tried everything.

For the sake of scientific accuracy, it is important to note that not all scientists are convinced, as yet, of CBD’s efficacy as an epilepsy drug, but with Charlotte at least it seems to have worked wonders.

At the time of ‘Weed’s airing, there was a growing market for high-CBD flowers and oils, and stabilised genetics were already available, but after the story went out on CNN there was an explosion of interest. Most of this came from people suffering various forms of epilepsy, or their friends and family, but the film also spiked interest in the other qualities of CBD.

Not only is CBD an anticonvulsant, it is also an antiemetic, anti-inflammatory, and is even showing promise as an antipsychotic. In other words, far from causing ‘reefer madness’, it seems that CBD could well be an effective treatment for psychoses.

Naturally, whilst people in more enlightened parts of the world were able to legally obtain CBD oils, flowers, edibles, etc., in order to find out whether they could benefit from using them, most could not. And since high-CBD cannabis is rarely, if ever, being sold by the local neighbourhood dealer, desperate people were forced to look elsewhere. What emerged was an untapped market with no supplier.

That wasn’t the case for long though, as into that void stepped companies like Medical Marijuana Inc., owners of one of the first and most popular brands of ‘CBD Hemp Oil’ on the market: Real Scientific Hemp Oil.

These companies offered people the chance to buy oil marketed as containing as much as 24% CBD or higher, for often extortionate amounts of money – 60g of RSHO Gold Label will set you back $1,999 – and whilst the price has come down in many cases, many have been worried from the beginning about the quality, safety, and efficacy of these products.

That’s because ‘CBD Hemp Oil’ is not the same as cannabis oil properly produced from a cannabis plant containing the full spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenoids. And since the market operates in a grey area, the safety standards cannot necessarily be trusted. The oil being purchased and ingested may contain CBD, but that doesn’t guarantee a thing.

Which is a problem where sick people are concerned, because they need to know exactly what they’re consuming. If the oil helps them, they need to know they can get another batch of exactly the same purity and potency. And if it doesn’t, it needs to be because CBD simply isn’t effective for them, not because they’ve actually eaten a syringe full of something barely resembling quality, full-spectrum, cannabis oil.

Unfortunately for everyone, there isn’t much that can be done to ensure the safety of what you’re buying. Which isn’t by any means to say that all hemp-derived CBD oils are dangerous, a lot of them now will show you test results and do genuinely have strict safety protocols in place. I have no doubt that some, probably most, of the oils on the market are in some way capable of helping people, but it’s hard to know which without trying, which is always a risk.

Luckily, there are people out there doing the leg work and testing samples of hemp oil to find out what’s really in them. On October 14th, 2014, projectcbd.org released a report into Medical Marijuana Inc., Kannaway and others. As they put it themselves in their press release at the time:

“A six-month investigation by Project CBD has revealed potentially serious quality control issues in products marketed by Medical Marijuana Inc, (MJNA) and questionable financial dealings between MJNA and its affiliates and subsidiaries.”

The ‘financial dealings’ in question don’t need to be gotten into now, but the ‘serious quality control issues’ most definitely do.

Project CBD commissioned lab tests on samples of RSHO Gold, at least one of which was found to contain “significant levels of toxic solvents”, namely hexane. The samples they used were donated to them by parents of children who became violently ill after consuming the oil. As well as potentially extremely dangerous adulterants, lab tests carried out on RSHO samples found massive variation in the levels of both CBD and THC – many samples tested at far above the legal limit of 0.3% THC, meaning not only were these oils potentially toxic, they were also illegal in most of the world.

The point of bringing all of this up is not to make all hemp-derived CBD products and the companies who produce them out to be evil, or to scare anyone off trying CBD, but to point out that in a largely unregulated market it is vital to understand the difference between cannabis oil and hemp oil, and to do as much research as possible before spending money on anything.

Aside from the fact that the biggest hemp oil producers of them all have been shown to be selling an inferior and potentially harmful product, Project CBD list a few other reasons why hemp should be a last resort on their website:

• Industrial hemp typically contains far less cannabidiol than CBD-rich cannabis strains so a huge amount of industrial hemp is required to extract a small amount of CBD. This raises the risk of contaminants as hemp is a “bio-accumulator”—meaning the plant naturally draws toxins from the soil.

• Hemp-derived CBD and refined CBD powder lack critical medicinal terpenes and secondary cannabinoids found in cannabis oil. These compounds interact with CBD and THC to enhance their medicinal benefits.

• It’s against federal law to use hemp leaves and flowers to make drug products. Hemp oil entrepreneurs attempt to sidestep this legal hurdle by dubiously claiming they extract CBD only from hemp stalk before importing it to the United States, a grey area activity at best.

Clearly then there is an urgent and vital need for clarity when it comes to the difference between cannabis oil and hemp oil, and perhaps an even more urgent need for vigilance and caution when it comes to buying either.

My advice is not to never use hemp oil, I know people personally who have experienced benefits from it, but if you have no way of obtaining full-spectrum oil from the cannabis plant itself and do decide to go down the hemp route, do your research. And if you’re not sure, don’t take unnecessary risks.

Comments

  1. OK, this is generally an accurate and helpful contribution to the information about CBD products. However, please allow me to clarify and elucidate some of the points you make towards the end.

    Although we call these ‘CBD products’, in fact a more accurate term would be low-THC products as they are, almost without exception, based on full spectrum cannabis oil but with very low amounts of THC. They therefore offer all the benefits of the ‘entourage effect’ as all cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids and other compounds occurring naturally in the plant are present. Clearly, in many cases more THC would be better but not in all cases and, of course, these products are legally available.

    There is a small amount of THC present in all of these products. The oil is extracted from strains of cannabis containing less than 0.2% THC (0.3% in the US) but by the time they are extracted and refined this concentration is increased. In some instances, some of these products have up to 2% THC.

    It is a moot point, yet to be tested in the courts, as to whether these are legal as they have been derived from ‘legal’ plants but do contain significant levels of a ‘controlled drug’ (most also contain CBN)

    The most important point of all though is quality. Hardly any suppliers provide any evidence that their products contain what they claim. That is why six months ago CLEAR decided to endorse UK CBD Ltd as its preferred supplier because all UK CBD products are provided with independent lab reports showing exactly what you are getting and demonstrating the absence of heavy metals or other contamination.

    It is UK CBD’s ethical approach to the business that has recently led to its exclusive distribution agreements with Charlotte’s Web and Mary’s, the two biggest US brands. I have been to Colorado and sen these companies growing facilities and, believe me, their ‘industrial hemp’ is grown to same exacting standards as any high THC strain.

    So, CBD products offer great benefits, truly remarkable results are being achieved in both humans and pets. My own elderly dog couldn’t walk more than 10 or 20 yards but after six months of daily CBD he is now walking a quarter of a mile without difficulty.

    So embrace CBD products but insist on lab reports so you know what you’e getting. Unfortunately, when you ask most suppliers for this they don’t get back to you.

    1. Phil Sars says:

      THC would be better but not in all cases and, of course, these products are legally available.
      Not in the UK only pure CBD is legal unfortunately, it can be bought http://ukcbd.com/ (remove link if you dont want it here) just Google CBD UK

      1. You’e totally incorrect Phil and I am on the board of UK CBD so I should know!

        I’ve explained very clearly what CBD products are in my comment above. They are all based on full spectrum cannabis oil extracted from low-THC strains of cannabis.

      2. There are a number of further inaccuracies in this article which I had offered to help the publishers correct. They haven’t taken me up on this offer so in the interests of truth and accuracy.

        1. Industrial hemp IS cannabis. It’s just a term applied to low THC cannabis so the question “…is ingesting an oil made from industrial hemp the same as ingesting cannabis?” is nonsensical.

        2. “That’s because ‘CBD Hemp Oil’ is not the same as cannabis oil properly produced from a cannabis plant containing the full spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenoids”. This statement is completely false. It is all cannabis oil just with differing proportions of cannabinoids, terpenes, terpenoids, flavonoids and other compounds.

        3. Your claims about Project CBD are also completely false. they used faked test results are now subject to a $100 million law suit from Medical Marijuana, owners of HempMeds. You really have this completely back to front. Project CBD are the villains. Mind http://www.medicalmarijuana.co.uk doesn’t get a law suit because you are publishing blatant falsehood.

        4. “Hemp-derived CBD and refined CBD powder lack critical medicinal terpenes and secondary cannabinoids found in cannabis oil.” Another totally nonsenical statement for reasons already explained. If you stop confusing the use of the words hemp and cannabis you might start making some sense.

        5. The highest quality CBD products in the word are now produced from oil extracted from low-THC (industrial hemp) cannabis flowers grown in the USA.

        Really all this article has one is add to the confusion around this issue. I gave you the opportunity to speak to a real expert on the subject so that you could correct your errors without embarrassment but it is a scandal that you have left this misleading nonsense up without doing your research properly while claiming that you are helping people. You’re not. You’re doing the opposite.

        1. Dan says:

          Unfortunately this kind of ill-informed nonsense is everywhere online when it comes to CBD oil. As you rightly say, articles like this only reinforce the ignorance.

          The only part of your comment I take issue with is this: “The highest quality CBD products in the word are now produced from oil extracted from low-THC (industrial hemp) cannabis flowers grown in the USA.”

          There are growers in Europe putting out far higher quality products than anything that is legal in the US. Due to our hemp laws being more liberal in Europe (and not being restricted to extracting from stalks) we’ve got suppliers in Europe that are coming up with some really impressive oils.

          1. Peter Reynolds says:

            In Colorado, Mary’s, CW Botanicals, CBDrx, Elite and Pure Ratios are all growing and extracting oil from flowers using both CO2 and solvent extraction processes. I’ve been there, seen their grow rooms, extraction plant and labs with my own eyes.

  2. Dan says:

    Peter Reynolds is 100% correct. I’ve been selling CBD oil for about 15 months now and I can tell you that most CBD oil being sold in the UK comes from whole plant extracts. There are a few dodgy sellers out there using so-called CBD isolate, but most of us understand the importance of the other cannabinoids (as well as the criminally under-appreciated terpenes).

    I suspect that the crazy situation in the USA – where CBD has to be sourced from stalks and seeds to comply with Federal law – has seeped into the conversation in the UK. People might have assumed the UK has the same law – fortunately we don’t. We’re able to sell CBD oil extracted from hemp flowers, which is a crucial difference… and why I’d never recommend getting CBD oil from the USA.

    1. Jenny Murphy says:

      Hi Dan,so can i get some CBD oil?as im desperately in cronic pain everything is a chore for me,the Drs cant help me anymore ive tried everything avalible with nothing touching the pain im in,my life is just trying to manage my pain every movement is so painfull,and i break the law everytime i help myself,its so exspensive as on disability i cant afford to live let alone pay the government every penny that comes my way,and could my dr priscribe me medicinal CBD oil,please let me know i would apreciate it thank you, jenny,

      1. Julie says:

        Hi Jenny, did Dan get back to you as looking myself

      2. Peter Reynolds says:

        UK’s leading supplier of CBD products including Charlotte’s Web http://ukcbd.com/

  3. Dan says:

    Federal law is quite clear: hemp flower extracts are illegal. So while in Colorado they’re able to produce these extracts due to their state law permitting cannabis, it can’t be taken across state lines. So I suspect the CW Botanicals CBD Oil being sold in the UK is very different from the Charlotte’s Web sold in Colorado.

    1. Peter Reynolds says:

      I confirm that the CW Botanicals products distributed in the UK and Europe are identical to those marketed in Colorado and US MMJ states.

      1. Dan says:

        Thanks Peter. Good to know.

  4. David Blatner says:

    I have a question in regards to making of the CBD oil. Is it made using the same type of alcohol dilution process as hemp oil is made?

    1. Dan says:

      We use C02 extraction to make our oil. The trouble with alcohol extraction is you tend to destroy a lot of the terpenes and get a much higher % of cannabinoids – which is great for CBD but problematic as the THC inevitably rises alongside it.

      1. David Blatner says:

        Thank you for the reply. I am trying to get my hands on some Charlottes Web or some Avidekel hemp for making CBD oil. I was told that they either have extremely small amounts of THC, or none at all, but have high concentrations of CBD, from 18% to 20%.

        1. Peter Reynolds says:

          UK’s leading supplier of CBD products including Charlotte’s Web http://ukcbd.com/

          1. Dan says:

            A) They’re not the leading supplier of CBD in the UK

            B) You’re presumably on commission

  5. helz says:

    Lol @Dan. Iv been looking for a reputable company to get cbd oil in uk can anyone recommend?

  6. Dan says:

    Yeah… mine! But I’m not gonna spam this thread. Enough spam on this page already. 😉

    1. helz says:

      Where can I get yours

    2. sharon says:

      can you let me know how to get some too please – same problem – chronic pain due to auto immune disease (possibly RA but not 100% certain – I also have periventricular white matter lesions – so possibly MS – to be honest the diagnosis has gone beyond completely p***ing me off now and I just wanna get to the pain so I can try to get on with my life, before it’s too late – I would really like to delay the wheelchair for as long as possible) TIA

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