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Hemp & CBD
Curious about hemp flower and pre-rolls but not sure what smoking hemp does, exactly? Read on to learn a little about hemp, CBD, and whether inhaling hemp flower could be right for you.
What is Hemp?
Many people hear the word “hemp” and associate it with ‘90s shell necklaces straight outta PacSun. Yes, hemp was a favorite accessory of frosted-tipped dudebros circa 1998, but you might be surprised to learn that in addition to its fashion swagger, hemp boasts a plethora of other uses and benefits. Hemp, (Cannabis sativa), is one of humankind’s oldest domesticated crops. A member of the cannabis species of plant, it is renowned for its versatility as a renewable source of raw material for a multitude of products. Hemp comes in a variety of forms: Its oil, seeds, and flower can be found in everything from clothing to paper products, body lotions to biofuel, and edible salad toppings to smokable pre-rolls. Indeed, there are a lot of things that hemp can and cannot do, but perhaps most importantly, it cannot get you arrested and it cannot get you high.
Hemp vs. Marijuana
But wait…hemp is cannabis, right? Cannabis, as in marijuana, Mary Jane, pot, weed, herb, grass, green, endo, reefer, chronic, sticky icky, the devil’s lettuce??! Well, yes. . . and no. Albeit a card-carrying member of the cannabis species, hemp is genetically distinct from its notably naughtier cousin, marijuana. Here’s where it gets a little science-y: Cannabis plants contain dozens of different naturally occurring compounds called “cannabinoids.” Cannabinoids can be extracted from cannabis plants for human usage, but the ratio of cannabinoids within each species of cannabis plant, as well as their respective effects on the human body, vary dramatically.
Two of the most widely known compounds found in plants of the Cannabis genus are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and its non-intoxicating cousin, Cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the psychoactive compound responsible for the “high” experienced by marijuana users. We can thank THC for the musical genius of Cypress Hill, the popularity of Flaming Hot Cheetos, and the entirety of Seth Rogen’s career. It is the compound labs look for when conducting drug screenings and the primary reason marijuana is considered an intoxicant. Fun as it may be for marijuana fans, Delta 9 THC is almost entirely absent in the hemp variety of cannabis plant. Hemp contains a paltry 0.3 percent Delta 9 THC – a trace amount that produces no psychoactive effects and is legal under federal law. Though lacking in Delta 9 THC, hemp is rich in a different, highly beneficial cannabinoid: CBD.
What is CBD?
The most compelling reason for therapeutic hemp usage lies in its high concentration of CBD, so a baseline understanding of CBD is useful when exploring the full benefits of inhaling hemp flower. You know CBD is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid that appears in hemp, but what does it actuallydo? Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple years, you’ve probably heard the buzz in the media about CBD. But despite making headlines, many people are still unclear about what CBD is, how it effects the body, and why they should buy into the hype.
Benefits & Side Effects of CBD
CBD’s recent surge in popularity is based largely on scientific studies from the medical community that have increasingly pointed to its efficacy in the treatment of certain illnesses and physical ailments. Empirical evidence now supports several therapeutic benefits of this superstar cannabinoid, with new research taking place daily. Best of all, unlike many traditional pharmaceutical treatments, CBD’s lack of psychoactive properties means that it is non-addictive. In its report on CBD usage, the World Health Organization stated, “In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential.” According to the report, there is currently “no evidence of public health related problems associated with the pure use of CBD.”
There is still much to be learned about CBD and its medicinal usage, but here are a few health issues CBD is proven to treat effectively (because SCIENCE!):
While THC is notorious for sparking anxiety in people, CBD is famous for having the exact opposite effect. The reasons for this are not entirely understood yet, but the majority of research indicates it has to do with CBD’s influence on the body’s serotonin. This also lends credence to the anti-depressive potential of CBD, although more research is needed in that arena. That said, it has been proven that CBD works to halt the brain’s breakdown of the anandamide within the endocannabinoid system, producing a calming effect and quelling anxiety.
Studies have shown that CBD may help with both falling asleep and staying asleep. Additionally, its ability to lower anxiety levels can help contribute to better and longer sleep.
Perhaps the most definitive evidence of CBD’s medical impact arises from its effective treatment of seizure disorders. Studies found epilepsy syndromes which had failed to respond to other antiseizure medications reacted positively to CBD – it was able to reduce, and in some cases eradicate, seizures experiences by study participants. This success prompted the FDA to approve the “first-ever cannabis derived medicine,” Epidiolex, an antiseizure medication containing CBD.
· Pain relief
Although more research is needed, preliminary results of several studies have indicated that CBD can be effective in the treatment of chronic pain. It has proven effective in inhibiting both inflammatory and neuropathic pain, two types of pain that are notoriously difficult to treat. One European study demonstrated CBD’s ability to lower arthritic pain and inflammation in animal subjects. Testing is still needed to substantiate claims of CBD as a method of pain control, but early studies have yielded positive results.
· Other potential benefits (TBD)
A non-exhaustive list of conditions potentially responsive to CBD (pending further research), includes diabetes, heart disease, some forms of cancer, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Alzheimer’s, autoimmune diseases, and acute and chronic kidney disease. There is also some research that CBD can assist in smoking cessation and the treatment of nicotine addiction.
As with any treatment, CBD has the potential to cause unwanted side effects. Though rare, side effects can include fatigue, nausea, dry mouth, and irritability. It can interact with existing medications, increase the level of the blood thinner coumadin in blood, and raise levels of other medications that are known to react to grapefruit. Always consult a doctor before introducing CBD into a treatment plan, especially if you are currently taking any medication labeled with a “grapefruit warning.”
CBD vs. THC
Without the benefit of a little supplemental information, it’s easy to conflate CBD with its mind-altering cannabinoid counterpart, THC. In reality, the two are distinguished by their chemical compositions and unique interactions with human physiology, e.g., their individual effects on the body’s endocannabinoid system. See the top of this page for a handy dandy chart illustrating some primary differences between the two cannabinoids:
* CBD can be extracted from hemp (cannabis plants that contain less than 0.3 percent THC) or from marijuana plants (cannabis plants with higher concentrations of THC).
** Hemp products may contain trace amounts of Delta 9 THC. Though highly unlikely, THC may show up in high enough concentrations to produce a positive drug test.
Source: Holland, Kimberly. Medically reviewed by Wilson, Debra Rose, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT. CBD vs. THC: Properties, Benefits, and Side Effects. Healthline. 20 May 2019.
Inhaling Hemp Flower
Should you smoke hemp flower or pre-rolls instead of popping an edible? While that is largely a matter of personal preference, there are a couple of facts to consider.
For one, smoking CBD results in faster and greater absorption than with methods of consumption, such as edibles. This is due to the higher bioavailability of smoking CBD. Bioavailability is the absorption rate and amount of a substance. The higher the bioavailability, the faster the absorption and the greater amount absorbed. Bioavailability varies widely with different methods of ingestion. Since the bioavailability of smoking CBD is higher, this means that compared to other methods (like eating a gummy, for instance), when you smoke hemp flower, your body gets more CBD, at a quicker pace.
If affordability is a factor for you, hemp flower and pre-rolls offer a far less expensive source of CBD than most other forms. Quality CBD can be pricey, and most of us aren’t rolling in it like that dude who sold MySpace. If you’re a baller on a budget, hemp flower has got your back.
Finally, there’s the convenience factor of pre-rolls (no explanation needed).
The American Lung Association has warned that inhaling smoke of any kind is harmful to the lungs. People with a history of lung disease, pregnant or breastfeeding women, and those on medications that interact with CBD should not smoke hemp pre-rolls. Otherwise, smoking hemp flower is considered a safe and effective method of consuming CBD.
We are not doctors. Nothing on this website was written under the supervision of a medical professional, nor should it be considered medical advice. Please consult your doctor before smoking hemp flower or consuming CBD.
Chesak, Jennifer. Medically reviewed by Carter, Alan, PharmD. CBD and Drug Interactions: What You Need to Know. Healthline. 15 November 2019.
Kentucky Hempsters. Hemp 101: What Is Hemp, What’s It Used for, and Why Is It Illegal?. Leafly. Last visited 19 February 2019.
Holland, Kimberly. Medically reviewed by Wilson, Debra Rose, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT. CBD vs. THC: Properties, Benefits, and Side Effects. Healthline. 20 May 2019.
Petruzzello, Melissa. Hemp. Encyclopaedia Britannica. 06 August 2019.
Rahn, Bailey. The Complete Guide to CBD (Cannabidiol). Leafly. Last visited 19 February 2019.
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