Hemp has a serious identity problem – one that’s kept it outlawed and in the dark ages for far too long.
Often confused with marijuana, hemp is a very different plant. Marijuana and hemp may share the same scientific name, Cannabis sativa, but that’s their only similarity.
Marijuana is cultivated for its primary psychoactive phytocannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, for recreational and medicinal value.
In contrast, hemp has been cultivated for thousands of years for food, clothing, fibre, and fuel. It’s one of the world’s oldest domesticated crops.
Hemp was vital to the world economy in its early days. Thomas Jefferson, who grew it on his plantation, wrote, “Hemp is of first necessity to the wealth and protection of the country.”
Hemp contains only a trace of THC (less than 0.3% compared to marijuana’s hefty 5 to 35%), but that didn’t keep the U.S. government from becoming deeply confused about the two in more recent years.
While there are many different theories surrounding the fall of the hemp industry, one of the most credible was an astonishing event in 1937 that brought hemp production to a screeching halt.
Hemp was valued for its strength for rope and fiber in the early days. Disturbed by hemp’s “billion-dollar crop” success and its impact on their plastic market shares, American industrialists, led by William Randolph Hearst and DuPont executives, initiated a smear campaign to destroy the lucrative hemp market.
Painting hemp as the “evil weed” because it shared the same genus and species as marijuana, their conniving strategy worked.
Without warning, Congress announced a prohibitive tax on hemp, known as the Marijuana Tax Act that virtually ended the production and sale of the plant in the U.S.
That abrupt action was a dream come true for the industrialists. For hemp, it was a death sentence. Even though it didn’t contain marijuana’s abundant THC, hemp became classified as an illegal drug, just like marijuana.
The industry now had the green light to replace environmentally friendly hemp lubricants, paints and oils with polluting and nonrenewable petroleum products.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, President Nixon declared the “War on Drugs” in 1970 and signed into law the Controlled Substances Act. All Cannabis species, including hemp (with the exception of its sterilised seeds), were declared a Schedule 1 Drug and banned under the Act.
This action classified hemp as an illicit substance even though it didn’t include the substances that made marijuana a drug.
Then out of the dark ages, in 2005 the New Zealand Government approved regulations to allow the commercial cultivation of hemp (Cannabis Sativa).
Then on 28 April 2017, trans-Tasman Ministers approved a change to the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code to allow the sale of hemp seed as a food for human consumption.
So does that make cannabidiol or CBD, one of the phytocannabinoids in hemp, legal as a supplement?
In short, no.
CBD remains a controlled substance under the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Act.
This makes isolated purified CBD a prescription medicine still restricting CBD as a nutritional supplement.
But you know what? It doesn’t matter…
Hemp happens to be a food that contains some CBD. However, it’s much more.
While CBD has grabbed most of the attention recently, full spectrum hemp oil really deserves the spotlight. CBD is just one of more than 100 different phytocannabinoids or cannabinoid substances that occur naturally in the cannabis plant.
Let’s just say CBD is one player in a field of many…
Full spectrum hemp oil contains many different phytocannabinoids (including CBD) and terpenes to fully support your endocannabinoid system. You can read more about what is "full spectrum" hemp oil and why is it great for you.
Among herbalists, there’s a well-accepted truth about plants: The sum of all its parts is much greater than any single, isolated component.
In fact, Traditional Chinese and Ayurveda Medicine insist on using full spectrum herbal extracts in place of single, isolated components to take advantage of the plant's synergistic properties.
Isolates from plants rarely have the same degree of activity as the whole plant.
While CBD may be the most recognised phytocannabinoid in hemp, the plant contains other vitally important cannabinoids as well, such as CBG, CBC, CBV and CBN, which all offer exciting potential for health.
Hemp also contains nearly 200 terpenes, active compounds that give plants their taste and smell.
Herbalists believe the terpenes in hemp are thought to interact synergistically with its phytocannabinoids to create an “entourage effect” that enhances the healthful effects of each individual component.
Here’s why that matters: CBD alone cannot fully support your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS).
We believe your endocannabinoid system needs all of the phytocannabinoids and terpenes in hemp to function effectively, not just CBD.
Let’s take a look at one of the most exciting discoveries in recent times and how this new view of the human body can help support overall health and well-being.
Researchers made an astonishing discovery in the 1990’s – one that would change the direction of medicine in previously unforeseen ways.
What may be the most important physiological system in your body, your endocannabinoid system appears to play a major role in your overall health. Your ECS maintains constant communication with every organ system in your body.
Think of your ECS as the conductor of an orchestra... Your organs are the orchestra.
This communication involves a two-part system. It takes place through messenger molecules – called endocannabinoids – that your body produces and the doorways or receptors, on every cell that accepts them.
You have two main types of receptors, or doorways, within your endocannabinoid system: cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid receptor type 2 (CB2).
Researchers have mapped out the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the human body. There are many – more than 1,000 in total! They’re located largely on nerve cells in your brain and spinal cord, but you can also find them in your organs and tissues, such as your spleen, blood cells, and gastrointestinal and urinary tracts.
You have cannabinoid receptors in your brain and spine and throughout your body.
So what can you do to support your ECS and your body’s production of endocannabinoids?
As part of your ECS, your body produces two types of endocannabinoids: anandamide and 2-AG. These endogenous cannabinoids are transported into your cells through the CB1 and CB2 receptors.
As you age, your body becomes less efficient at producing anandamide and 2-AG. The proper functioning of your ECS also depends on your omega-3 status, so it’s important to make sure your levels aren’t low.
The feeling of euphoria you get after exercising hard is from an increased level of anandamide.
One important way you can nourish and support your ECS is to exercise regularly. Moderate exercise not only helps keep your ECS in shape, it dramatically increases your levels of anandamide and 2-AG.
Have you ever experienced that ‘feel good’ sensation that can occur after strenuous exercise? Some people call it a “runner’s high.”
Most believe that lifted mood comes from a release of endorphins. Researchers now know it’s also from an increase in anandamide. Anandamide targets your CB1 receptors as well as your opioid and endorphin receptors.
The higher your anandamide levels, the better you feel.
Your other endocannabinoid, 2-AG, is another real workhorse in your body. Especially important for transmitting signals across your brain cells, levels of 2-AG run about 170 times higher than those of anandamide!
When 2-AG activates your CB1 and CB2 receptors, it influences many of the same functions as anandamide. In addition, 2-AG supports your immune health, brain health, and insulin sensitivity.
There’s no question that both anandamide and 2-AG are essential for your physical, cognitive and emotional health. So how else can you help correct low levels and keep your levels of endocannabinoids high?
Because of the similarity, phytocannabinoids from hemp may help support proper ECS functioning and the balance of systems in your body.
CBD is the most dominant phytocannabinoid in hemp and offers many potential, valuable benefits. However, there’s one major downside to CBD. CBD does not attach to your CB1 or CB2 receptors so it can't fully support your ECS directly. That’s one of the reasons full spectrum hemp is better than taking just pure CBD.
Legal issues aside, by taking isolated CBD, you may miss out on the other important phytocannabinoids in full spectrum hemp oil.
These other phytocannabinoids do attach to your cannabinoid receptors and may equal to or even more important than just CBD alone.