What Is the Difference Between Hemp and CBD?

Written by Sabina Pulone

Cannabis is a genus of plants belonging to the family of Cannabaceae. Cannabis plants produce a unique family of  terpeno-phenolic compounds called cannabinoids.  Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the two cannabinoids usually produced in greatest abundance and only the former one is psychoactive. The term hemp, or industrial hemp,  usually refers to varieties with low amount of THC (<0.3%). Hemp can be cultivated for many different purposes, either for its seeds, oil, food and medicinal properties. [1] Certain hemp chemovars contain high amount of cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive phytocannabinoid of high interest for its therapeutic potential for treatment of anxiety, cognition, movement disorders and pain. [2] Hemp fibers are used for different purposes in industry, including clothing, textiles and  cosmetics. In the last decade, hemp have been considered as a potential source of biofuel, with high convertion rates and yields: the hemp biomass can be fermented for production of low carbon fuels like bioethanol or biobutanol, while the oil extracted from hemp seeds can succesfully be transformed into biodiesel through base catalysed transesterification. [3]

Hemp contains many phytocannabinoids in the aereal part of the plant and CBD is usually the most abundant one: through extraction procedures it is possible to isolate this valuable cannabinoid in the form of pure isolate or full-spectrum extract, if the final product contains also other cannabinoids and plant costituents. Hemp seeds unlike stalks, leaves and flowers, don’t contain phytocannabinoids and are used to obtain an oil with a rich profile of nutrients, dietary fibers, vitamins, minerals and high amount of fatty acids, in particular omega-6 and omega-3, optimal for human health. [4] It is possible to add plant matter also to seed extraction leading to a full-spectrum hemp oil, with phytocannabinoids included in the final extract.


[1] Adesina, I. et al. A Review on the Current State of Knowledge of Growing Conditions, Agronomic Soil Health Practices and Utilities of Hemp in the United States. Agriculture, 10(4), 129 (2020) doi:10.3390/agriculture10040129  [Times cited=  21]


[2] VanDolah, H. J. et al. Clinicians’ Guide to Cannabidiol and Hemp Oils. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. (2019). doi:10.1016/j.mayocp.2019.01.003 [Journal impact factor= 6.942] [Times cited=  106]


[3] Si-Yu Li et al. The feasibility of converting Cannabis sativa L. oil into biodiesel. , Bioresource technology],  101(21), 8457–8460 (2010). doi:10.1016/j.biortech.2010.05.064 [Journal impact factor= 7.539] [Times cited=  75


[4] J. C. Callaway. Hempseed as a nutritional resource: An overview. ,Euphytica 140(1-2), 65–72.(2004) doi:10.1007/s10681-004-4811-6 [Journal impact factor= 1.614] [Times cited=  656]


Image: Hemp_Picture Sabina Pulone

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Sabina Pulone