The foundation of a good education in hemp related products must begin with a complete understanding of some of the terminology commonly used to describe hemp products. Once you learn accurate terminology to describe hemp related ingredients and finished products, you will quickly be able to make better choices as you can discern whether individuals writing or speaking about cannabis related products truly understand and have correctly described the essential elements inherent in the products and their unique effects.
Without strict FDA guidelines, the labels on hemp products can be deceiving as marketing terms collide with facts. For example, if a product other than cannabis is going to be sold as a dietary supplement, the FDA has strict guidelines that must be followed. These regulations include manufacturing practices, labeling and warning requirements as well as marketing rules if the FDA has not already officially evaluated a product’s claims. The FDA does not have comparable regulations in place governing cannabis. However, the FDA maintains aggressive oversight of cannabis companies that make medical claims to diagnose, prevent, treat or cure a disease. The FDA also maintains aggressive oversight in the cannabis space to make sure that the potency levels of cannabinoids contained in a product is accurately reflected on the label and confirmed by independent lab tests. Terms like, “full spectrum”, “phytocannabinoid rich”, “broad spectrum”, “pure” and “nano” are commonly used descriptors of hemp products. Understanding their meanings and their subtle differences helps to make more focused and informed choices.
The Hemp Plant
Hemp oils are derived from the cannabis sativa L. sub-species, cannabis sativa and its varieties. The current determining factor between what the federal government considers legal and illegal is a plant’s Delta-9 THC content. The legal limit is .3% THC by dry weight.
In cultivation of hemp for medical or therapeutic purposes, the female flowers are sought after because they produce significantly higher quantities of cannabinoids. In production, the presence of even one male plant in a growing facility, or a little stray pollen, from a male plant, can cause female plant flower buds to produce seed, significantly reducing the hemp’s medicinal value.
From a technical standpoint, the hemp plant consists of the stalk, node, fan leaf and flower. Hemp’s therapeutic cannabinoids permeate through the leaves and the flowers. Female plants have dense colas, covered in trichome boasting resins that house terpenes and flavonoids.
The Hemp Oils
Full Spectrum Hemp Oil: Full spectrum hemp oil, full plant hemp oil or phytocannabinoid rich (PCR) oil, is rich in all the cannabinoids indigenous to the hemp plant; cannabinoid acid precursors, terpenes, flavonoids and other phytonutrients. THC levels in the final product cannot exceed the federal legal limit of .3% delta-9 THC. Full spectrum hemp retains cannabinoid acids such as CBDA, CBGA or CBCA. Simply stated, full spectrum, full plant or phytocannabinoid rich hemp oil retains all its natural components.
Broad Spectrum Hemp Oil: Broad spectrum hemp oil, like full spectrum hemp oil, retains a mix of cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids and phytonutrients found in the original plant but without a major compound, most always THC. It may include cannabinoid acid precursors like CBDA, however the process of removing THC typically reduces acid precursors to nondetectable levels. The origin of the term “broad spectrum hemp” is not definitively known, but it most likely began when companies wanted to market full spectrum products without detectable THC but with all the health benefits a range of cannabinoids can deliver.
There has always been confusion about the difference between the two types of hemp and without FDA regulation, the names of the two types have been used interchangeably, creating misunderstandings and incorrect assumptions. It is not uncommon to see contradictory labels stating, “full spectrum – THC free”. Technically, broad-spectrum means that there is an absence of at least one component, but in industry wide practice, whether from genetics or extracting removal, it is the absence of THC that separates broad spectrum hemp from full spectrum as full spectrum contains the legal limit of .3% delta-9 THC.
Important note: Both full spectrum and broad-spectrum hemp oil are rich in cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids and other phytonutrients, so they hold the power of “the entourage effect”. Without FDA guidelines, marketing companies use and develop terms to market their products. that may confuse consumers and industry professionals alike. The smartest way to evaluate hemp oil products in the current climate is to review the Certificate of Analysis. The COA from an independent lab will identify the major cannabinoids present in the final product. Some COA’s reflect more detailed analysis and will show cannabinoid profiles, terpene profiles and even results from heavy metal testing.
CBD Distillate is a highly refined extract often derived from hemp flowers and hemp biomass. The processes involved in creating distillate increase the concentration of the naturally present cannabinoids, mainly CBD, but by doing so most of the acid forms of cannabinoids and other minor cannabinoids are lost. Distillates typically can contain between 60-65% CBD in potency and may include a range of minor cannabinoids. Distillates are used in formulations of end products like vapes or products that need a boosted CBD content and still offer a small range of other compounds. Most often terpenes are added back into distillates for vaping products. Distillate can also be further refined to produce CBD isolate. One important note here is that distillate-based products are not necessarily inferior. There are many reasons that distillate is preferable to other oil types for manufacturing certain functional products; one important one is “competition.” For example, let’s say you wanted to create a super terpene enhanced weight loss product that needed CBD in it to work effectively but the presence of other competing terpenes or inhibitory cannabinoids to fat loss (i.e. CBG) would interfere with its effects, you would definitely want your product made with a distillate base.
An isolate is a product with one intensified cannabinoid remaining. CBD isolate, the most commonly produced, has been isolated from all other cannabinoids and phyto- nutrients in the source plant. CBD isolates can range in concentration from 94%- is 99.9% CBD. Cannabinoid isolates, like CBD isolates, are devoid of all other cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids. (3) Because cannabinoids can be made into isolates, formulators can work with intensified concentrations in order to enhance the potency of a finished product. A CBN isolate may be added to full spectrum hemp oil, for example, because CBN can effectively induce and maintain quality sleep. Because CBN concentrations are low in the plant base, relying on the concentration of an isolated version can provide a more effective and helpful antidote.
Along with confusion between full and broad-spectrum there is no established standard for proper cannabinoid dosing which creates a different confusion and misdirection.
Cold Pressed Hempseed Oil
Hempseed oil is harvested by cold-pressing hemp seeds. Hempseed oil is often unrefined. It’s a clear green oil and has a nutty flavor. Hempseeds are not used as a source of cannabinoids. In fact, according to the Hemp Industries Association, “hemp seeds may contain low levels of CBD, typically less than 25 parts per million (ppm).” Hempseed oil is most beneficial in dietary and skin care products. Hempseed oil is very rich in omega 3 and omega 6 essential fatty amino acids and vitamin D which helps with calcium absorption. Hempseed oil is a safe choice for those who suffer with acne, psoriasis and eczema because it has anti-inflammatory properties, and a comedogenic rating of 0, so it will not clog pores. It is also highly effective in maintaining a natural moisture balance which helps to prevent premature aging of the skin.
Eating products made with hemp seed oil and hulled hempseeds delivers an unexpected array of health benefits. They are great protein sources with more than 25% of their total calories coming from high quality protein, which is a considerably higher percentage than the levels of protein found in flaxseeds or chia seeds. Hempseeds and their oils are a good source of vitamins and trace minerals, such as phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron and zinc. Hempseed oil is temperature sensitive and can be used in baking and cooking, but it has a low flash point, which means it will start to smoke at fairly low temperatures and it will hydrogenate at high temperatures.