There are two main types of CBD—hemp-derived CBD and marijuana-derived CBD—and if you’re confused about the difference between the two, you’re not alone. Both kinds of CBD are sourced from the cannabis plant, but similar to how your thumb is a finger but not every finger is a thumb, hemp is cannabis, but not all cannabis is hemp.
What sets these two sources of CBD apart is their distinctly different levels of phytocannabinoids (e.g., cannabidiol, tetrahydrocannabinol, etc.). In fact, by definition, their levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component that gives you a sense of high, are very different. Hemp has negligible, trace amounts of THC (less than or equal to 0.3%), while marijuana contains higher amounts of THC (much more than 0.3%). That’s per U.S. law.
“It’s primarily an issue of the legal classification,” says Babak Larian, M.D., clinical chief of the Division of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, and co-founder of MDbio.
So, how does nonpsychoactive, hemp-derived CBD work to promote relaxation? According to Larian, it works in tandem with the human body’s endocannabinoid system, which is responsible for restoring homeostasis (balance) in the body.*
“The feeling of taking a hemp product is one of achieving a state of balance more easily or more fully if you’re having a difficult time doing so (whether physically, emotionally, or both, in many cases),”* he tells mbg. “In short: [Hemp-derived CBD encourages] balance, equilibrium, and harmony.”*
A note on FDA regulations: The 2018 Farm Bill states hemp-derived CBD products containing less than 0.3% THC are “no longer controlled substances under federal law.” The FDA does, however, continue to regulate cannabis or cannabis-containing products, including industrial hemp.
And in addition to this helpful oversight, the scientific evidence is growing for cannabis, with studies showing that the hemp plant offers a slew of health benefits, from easing stress to promoting healthy sleep cycles.*