Recently I asked myself this very question and the more I read the more contradictory statements I found and the more confused I became. With an extensive background in medical marijuana and high THC strains I felt I had a good grasp on which one was “better” before I started researching for this article and could make a good argument for why medical marijuana derived CBD is better than hemp derived CBD.  More recently I have been introduced to CBD derived from hemp and after some preliminary research I was not so sure. Fortunately, I have connections from within the industry and so my mission began. I set out to talk to the largest names on both sides of the spectrum and get their opinions on this matter.


Along with its better-known counterpart, THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical that produces the marijuana high), CBD is one of more than 400 compounds found in the oils of cannabis plant species, which include marijuana and hemp. Unlike THC, CBD will not make you high. That said, this doesn’t mean CBD is not at all psychoactive, as many assert, says Jahan Marcu, Ph.D., director of experimental pharmacology and behavior at the International Research Center on Cannabis and Mental Health in New York City: “CBD does change cognition. It affects mood, which is why people take it for anxiety. And some find that it makes them more alert.”

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No one’s really sure: “It’s astonishing that there’s still no real consensus on how CBD works,” says McLaughlin. “One thing we do know is that it doesn’t work through the same receptors as THC, and, in fact, seems to have the opposite effect.” THC mainly binds to a certain type of receptor (known as CB1) in the brain. But with CBD, he says, “there seems to be a lot of complex targets”—which means CBD may affect multiple pathways throughout the body.
Because of recent legislation legalizing marijuana, CBD product sales have grown. People are more open to the medical benefits of the drug, especially now that CBD can be separated from THC. With popularity and interest on the rise, manufacturers have expanded their product offerings. Products typically come in two types: nutritional or medicinal products and beauty products.
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Yes: CBD extracts can’t always be trusted. A 2017 JAMA paper reported that almost 70 percent of all CBD products sold online do not contain the amount of CBD stated on the label. Of the 84 products bought from 31 different companies, 42 percent contained a higher concentration of CBD oil than the label claimed, and 26 percent of the products contained less than the label claimed. The remainder of products contained the labeled amount—give or take 10 percent.
Cutting-edge science has shown that the endocannabinoid system is dysregulated in nearly all pathological conditions. Thus, it stands to reason that “modulating endocannabinoid system activity may have therapeutic potential in almost all diseases affecting humans,” as Pal Pacher and George Kunos, scientists with the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), suggested in a 2014 publication.
Scott Shannon, M.D., assistant clinical professor at the University of Colorado, recently sifted through patient charts from his four-doctor practice to document CBD’s effects on anxiety. His study, as yet unpublished, found “a fairly rapid decrease in anxiety scores that appears to persist for months,” he says. But he says he can’t discount a placebo effect, especially since “there’s a lot of hype right now.”
Most human studies of CBD have been done on people who have seizures, and the FDA recently approved the first CBD-based drug, Epidiolex, for rare forms of epilepsy. Clinical trials for other conditions are promising, but tiny. In one Brazilian study published in 2011 of people with generalized social anxiety disorder, for example, taking a 600-mg dose of CBD (higher than a typical dose from a tincture) lessened discomfort more than a placebo, but only a dozen people were given the pill.

THC-dominant edibles (like chocolates) can carry an even higher risk. “It can take one or two hours to feel an effect from ingestion as opposed to a few seconds from inhalation,” says Dr. Bonn-Miller. “This makes titration very difficult.” Add to that, an edible is made to taste good. So you can easily eat more than you should in the course of a few minutes—and end up feeling negative effects hours later.
The health benefits of full-spectrum hemp go beyond it being a source of CBD. The array of cannabinoids and other natural constituents found in full-spectrum hemp oil work have been shown in studies to work together in what’s referred to as the “entourage effect.” Together, these compounds work harmoniously to magnify their therapeutic properties. The complex mix of cannabinoids, essential nutrients, protein, and healthy fats work synergistically to encourage homeostasis and balance in our health.
When extracting a pure botanical oil from hemp, a solvent is passed through the plant material, pulling the compound rich oil from the plant. The solvent is then removed in a purging process, leaving behind a concentrated oil. When extracting from hemp, the oil can next be formulated into finished products or further refined and purified into a number of forms, including a golden dewaxed concentrate or crystallized CBD isolate.
Zuardi, A. W., Crippa, J. A., Hallak, J. E., Bhattacharyya, S., Atakan, Z., Martin-Santos, R., … & Guimarães, F. S. (2012). A critical review of the antipsychotic effects of cannabidiol: 30 years of a translational investigation [Abstract]. Current Pharmaceutical Design, 18(32), 5,131–5,140. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22716160
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