• The term “CBD plants” refers to hemp plants that contain high levels of CBD (cannabidiol). Researchers from the University of Minnesota and a biotechnology company showed that high-CBD hemp plants have a predominantly marijuana genome(1).
  • High-hemp CBD may be grown in a controlled, isolated, humid environment to maximize psychoactive properties and THC levels.
  • Hemp CBD is legal in most states due to its low amount of psychoactive properties.

What Are “CBD Plants”?

Consumers sometimes use the term ”CBD plants” to refer to hemp plants that contain large amounts of CBD.

Experts from the University of Minnesota and Sunrise Genetics noted in a study that high-CBD hemp plants have a predominantly marijuana genome(2)

The researchers analyzed different types of cannabis, including types that produce substantial amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Data showed that plant breeding by cannabis growers had increased the THC level to account for up to 25% of a plant’s total weight. 

The scientists also noted that propagating high-THC plants with hemp-type plants can exchange a few genes. This method results in the creation of a new plant that produces high levels of CBD.

Where Does CBD Come From?

CBD (cannabidiol) is a cannabinoid with unique pharmacological properties(3). 

High levels of CBD are directly derived from the hemp plant, where it is most commonly found(4). CBD is an active and the second most prevalent ingredient naturally present in cannabis (marijuana). 

A study published in the Journal of Central European Agriculture in 2021 noted the possibility of utilizing harvested industrial hemp to produce material for CBD extraction(5). Results showed that CBD levels increased when extracts from the hemp materials were heated.

A 2020 study experimented on cannabidiol extraction from cannabis seeds. The authors discovered that the method of optimal pressurized hot water extraction produced an extract with higher CBD and lower THC content(6)

What Is Hemp?

Hemp, a class of Cannabis sativa cultivars, is from the Cannabaceae (Cannabis sativa L.) family(7). Experts believe hemp originated in central Asia and was indigenous to Europe(8).

Industrial hemp grows best in temperate regions and is an annual cross-pollinating plant(9). Its growth is rapid, and its development results in significant biomass accumulation. 

How May Hemp Be Used?

Hemp is a versatile plant traditionally grown for its seeds and fiber.

The consumption of hemp seeds and their use in products is increasing. Hemp seeds may be used as raw material or for food.

Hemp seeds contain large amounts of fat, protein, fatty acids, and fiber. They also contain bioactive compounds such as antioxidants(10). Although hemp seeds are edible, hemp leaves also are utilized for making tea or other infused beverages. 

A variety of food products may use hemp as an ingredient. These hemp products include hemp protein powders, hemp milk, energy bars, and granola. 

From hemp fiber, it is possible to get paper and textile. Other hemp products include clothing such as jeans, shirts, and shoes. Meanwhile, hemp flowers are helpful resources in the cosmetic field and pharmaceuticals.

What Are the Common Misconceptions About Hemp?

Hemp is sometimes confused with cannabis (marijuana). However, hemp has small amounts of THC compared to the amount found in marijuana. 

People may also make the common mistake of confusing hemp oil with CBD hemp oil. Hemp seed oil and CBD hemp oil are not the same. 

While CBD may be extracted from hemp to create an oil, hemp seed oil results from cold-pressed hemp seeds. Hemp Seed oil does not come from the marijuana plant; therefore, it contains no psychoactive properties. 

Individuals should consult with a doctor before consuming any form of hemp to find out the safest and appropriate dosage. 

Is It Possible to Grow High-CBD Hemp Plants?

Generally, high-CBD hemp plants are grown only as female plants(11). The combination of female and male plants leads to seed production and a decreased CBD yield. In the bracts of the female flowers is where the highest concentration of CBD may be found.

Bracts are specialized or modified leaflike structures under a flower.

However, scientific studies have shown that it is genetically possible to have high-CBD hemp plants. Researchers speculate that manipulated cannabinoid genes may enhance or reduce the potency of hemp plants(12)

Results suggest that high-CBD hemp plants can be genetically-modified plants and thus may be grown as crops. Essentially, high-CBD plants are genetically marijuana.

What Is Cannabis?

Cannabis or marijuana is a plant often used as an illicit psychoactive substance(13)

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration describes marijuana as a mind-altering psychoactive drug that is addictive(14).

Cannabis contains over 500 components, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), the primary psychoactive cannabinoids. The potency of cannabis is evaluated based on its THC concentration. 

Most parts of the United States have legalized marijuana for medical and recreational use at a state level(15). However, recreational marijuana remains illegal according to federal law. 

What Are Different Forms and Consumer Uses of Cannabis?

There are different forms of cannabis. Consumers may vaporize, eat, or smoke cannabis.  

Marijuana refers to the dried leaves and flower buds of the cannabis plant that people use to smoke. Smoking marijuana is a standard method of consuming cannabis

Another form is hashish, dried cannabis plant resin mixed with tobacco. Cannabis products include edibles, supplements, and gummies

Cannabis used to help treat specific medical conditions is known as medical cannabis or medical marijuana. People use medical marijuana for wellness purposes. However, qualifying conditions for treatment using medicinal cannabis varies depending on government state laws(16)

Individuals who smoke marijuana may feel the effects of THC after thirty minutes to an hour(17)

A study indicated medical cannabis used for chronic pain relief may reduce the use of prescription medicines(18). Patients reported that pain and nausea symptoms improved, resulting in improved mood and quality of life. 

One scientific study evaluated the effectiveness of cannabis CBD product use among people with epilepsy(19)

Those who used CBD products reported lower psychiatric symptoms, a higher quality of life, and improved sleep. Users also noted lower odds of prescription medication use and better epilepsy control and tolerability. 

Nevertheless, any individual faces risks when consuming cannabis. Individuals with medical conditions, such as mental illnesses, asthma, and bronchitis, should consult a doctor before consuming cannabis

Cannabis CBD vs. Hemp CBD

The difference between hemp CBD and marijuana CBD is the concentration of THC

A scientific study showed various calculations to illustrate how much THC is in hemp and marijuana(20). Hemp that is not monitored and purified contains some concentration of THC.

While there are different hemp CBD varieties, all contain less than 0.3% THC. In contrast, marijuana CBD contains more than 0.3% THC and can cause euphoric effects.

The Controlled Substances Act states cannabis plants and their derivatives remain controlled substances unless they meet the statutory definition of hemp(21).

Therefore, another difference between hemp CBD and cannabis CBD is its legality. Any CBD product with more than 0.3% THC is illegal in most states. 

In addition, the DEA announced a disclaimer stating controlled substances include all hemp extracts that exceed 0.3% THC levels.

In hemp CBD oil, the bi-product is hemp. In cannabis CBD oil, bi-products consist of CBD and THC products. 

According to the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp products must meet FDA (Food and Drug Administration) standards(22). The FDA recognizes the possibilities and potential opportunities that cannabis or cannabis-derived products may offer(23).

CBD oil product manufacturers should indicate on the product label whether the product contains hemp. In addition, they should declare the ratio of CBD and THC along with the manufacturing date and a batch number.

Hemp CBD oil products may be highly contaminated if tested outside the United States, although tests to maintain the consistency of cannabis CBD occur regularly.

Why Choose CBD From Hemp?

Hemp CBD contains therapeutic properties without the psychoactive effects.

A study discussed the potential benefits of CBD for substance use disorders and social anxiety disorders(24). In a clinical setting, patients with moderate to severe symptoms observed the effectiveness of CBD treatments 

Results suggest that CBD-rich treatments may help patients with depression, anxiety, and pain and promote overall well-being(25).

Cannabidiol and terpenes found in hemp have also drawn research interest due to their anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties(26)

Results of a 2021 survey assessment on hemp-based CBD oil were published in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association(27). Most participants used hemp CBD oil for sleep, anxiety, and pain, with sublingual, followed by topical as the commonly used dosage forms.

Another study examined the effects of hemp CBD oil in patients with chronic pain, insomnia, and anxiety(28). The participants in the study receive either topical CBD creams or CBD tinctures. Side effects, quality of sleep, and pain levels were evaluation factors. 

Epidiolex has been the only CBD-based drug approved by the FDA. This drug is used to treat severe forms of epilepsy(29).

The History of the Biochemistry of Cannabis sativa Plants

Humanity’s knowledge of cannabis is from studies at the end of the 19th century(30). The first compound isolated was cannabinol, assumed to be the main active compound. 

The second compound was cannabidiol, or CBD(31). Then, in 1964, scientists isolated the main active compound delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ-9-THC).

Shortly after, scientists confirmed the existence of the endocannabinoid system. They also noted that Δ-9-THC is present in the brain(32)

Scientists observed that CB1Rs (cannabinoid receptors 1) are in the brain at peripheral and central neurons(33)

The ongoing release of inhibitory dopaminergic neurotransmitter systems occurs due to the cannabinoid receptors in the brain. Using cannabis allows Δ-9-THC to bind to CB1R and release neurotransmitters, which may increase the release of dopamine. 

Individuals using cannabis CBD or hemp CBD may feel side effects such as drowsiness, diarrhea, and reduced appetite. Individuals experiencing these side effects should check with a doctor to determine whether taking cannabis CBD or hemp CBD is advisable. 

  1. A new Cannabis genome assembly associates elevated cannabidiol (CBD) with hemp introgressed into marijuana https://nph.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/nph.17243
  2. Ibid.
  3. Industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) as a possible source of cannabidiol https://jcea.agr.hr/articles/772947_Industrial_hemp_(Cannabis_sativa_L_)_as_a_possible_source_of_cannabidiol_en.pdf
  4. Cannabidiol (CBD)-What We Know and What We Don’t https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/cannabidiol-cbd-what-we-know-and-what-we-dont-2018082414476
  5. Industrial Hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) as a Possible Source of Cannabidiol https://jcea.agr.hr/articles/772947_Industrial_hemp_(Cannabis_sativa_L_)_as_a_possible_source_of_cannabidiol_en.pdf
  6. Selective Extraction of Cannabinoid Compounds from Cannabis Seed Using Pressurized Hot Water Extraction https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7144126/
  7. Ibid.
  8. The Seed of Industrial Hemp (Cannabis sativa L.): Nutritional Quality and Potential Functionality for Human Health and Nutrition https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7400098/
  9. What is Industrial Hemp? https://catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/sites/catalog/files/project/pdf/em9240.pdf
  10. Mineral Elements and Related Antinutrients, in Whole and Hulled Hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) Seeds https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S088915752200134X
  11. Hemp Production for CBD https://cropwatch.unl.edu/2019/hemp-production-cbd
  12. A New Cannabis Genome Assembly Associates Elevated Cannabidiol (CBD) With Hemp Introgressed Into Marijuana https://nph.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/nph.17243
  13. Cannabis, Cannabinoids, and Health https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5741114/
  14. Marijuana https://www.dea.gov/factsheets/marijuana
  15. Marijuana Laws by State https://www.investopedia.com/marijuana-legality-by-state-4844504
  16. Ibid.
  17. Cannabis (Marijuana) DrugFacts https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/cannabis-marijuana
  18. Mixed Methods Study of the Potential Therapeutic Benefits From Medical Cannabis for Patients in Florida https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0965229921000108
  19. Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal Evaluation of Cannabidiol (CBD) Product Use and Health Among People With Epilepsy https://www.epilepsybehavior.com/article/S1525-5050(21)00466-2/fulltext
  20. Hemp & Cannabidiol: What is a Medicine? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6140266/
  21. Hemp Production and the 2018 Farm Bill https://www.fda.gov/news-events/congressional-testimony/hemp-production-and-2018-farm-bill-07252019
  22. The Controlled Substances Act (CSA): A Legal Overview for the 117th Congres https://sgp.fas.org/crs/misc/R45948.pdf
  23. FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD) https://www.fda.gov/news-events/public-health-focus/fda-regulation-cannabis-and-cannabis-derived-products-including-cannabidiol-cbd
  24. Cannabidiol Use and Effectiveness: Real-World Evidence From a Canadian Medical Cannabis Clinic https://jcannabisresearch.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s42238-021-00078-w
  25. Ibid.
  26. Cannabidiol and Terpenes From Hemp – Ingredients for Future Foods and Processing Technologies https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2772566922000015
  27. Assessment of Hemp Oil–Based Cannabidiol Use in a Community-Based Pharmacy Setting https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1544319121000807
  28. The Study of Hemp Oil CBD for Evaluation of Efficacy and Safety in Treatment of Pain, Anxiety and Insomnia Management https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT04729244
  29. FDA Approves New Indication for Drug Containing an Active Ingredient Derived from Cannabis to Treat Seizures in Rare Genetic Disease https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-new-indication-drug-containing-active-ingredient-derived-cannabis-treat-seizures-rare
  30. Cannabis, a Complex Plant: Different Compounds and Different Effects on Individuals https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3736954/
  31. Ibid.
  32. Ibid.
  33. Ibid.
CBD Clinicals is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more