The Key Differences between Cannabis and Hemp Derived CBD

Hemp vs Cannabis Derived CBD

What is hemp-derived CBD and what is cannabis-derived CBD? Part of the reason this question arises is that there is quite a lot of confusion around terminology in the CBD world. To understand the similarities and differences between these two forms of CBD it will help to review some of the basic terminology. Here we delve into the forms and terminology of CBD. Read along to test your working knowledge and deepen your understanding of hemp, cannabis, and most importantly, CBD.


The short answer to the question: What are the key differences between hemp-derived and cannabis-derived CBD is that there are none. The CBD molecule is exactly the same whether it exists in a low-THC industrial hemp or a high-THC cannabis. Different effects come into play; however, based on the presence and relative amounts of the hundreds of other bioactive cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids found in cannabis and hemp plants.

Hemp vs. Cannabis

Now is a good time to recall that hemp is a category of cannabis varieties that contain very low levels of THC. Cannabis is the official scientific botanical name given to all plants in this category, whether they contain very low or very high levels of THC. Cannabis is the genus, a term you might recall from high school biology. Hemp, on the other hand, is a common name used to describe cannabis plants with low THC levels that, historically, were cultivated mainly for their fiber.


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Legal Status: Some CBD is Legal and Some Isn’t

As of the 2018 Farm Bill, CBD is legal and available over-the-counter, i.e. without a prescription, in all 50 states. However, its status is contingent upon the type of plant the CBD is extracted from. In order to be sold legally, the CBD you purchase in a store or online has to have been extracted from hemp plants. So, although the CBD molecule is the same in both types of plants, one is legal and one is still considered a controlled substance in all states except those that have legalized recreational cannabis.

It’s All in the Resin

Cannabis plants tend to produce more resin than hemp plants. Resin is like the sap of the plant and contains all the good stuff, like cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. Resin is found mainly within the buds, and some is also found in the leaves.

As a result, cannabis generally contains more of everything that is found in the resin, including, including CBD, itself. However, with selective breeding this is not always true. High-CBD hemp strains are being produced currently and, in the future, as we learn more about the functions of each of the dozens and hundreds of individual bioactive constituents, it’s predicted that hemp varieties will be bred to produce specific ranges of bioactive molecules for particular desired effects.

The Key Differences between Cannabis and Hemp Derived CBDEffects, Side Effects, and the Entourage Effect

Terminology also comes into play in that, commonly, full spectrum CBD products, which contain hundreds of active compounds in addition to CBD, are usually referred to simply as CBD. This is convenient but misleading.

When comparing full-spectrum CBD extracts, the most readily apparent difference between hemp-derived CBD and cannabis-derived CBD is the psychoactive effects of the THC found in cannabis-derived CBD. This makes cannabis-derived CBD impractical for use at work or school, when driving, and in many other situations. Apart from THC, the presence of other active constituents produces a synergistic effect, known as the entourage effect, that increases CBD’s effectiveness.

Minor Cannabinoids

Some studies have noted differences in the levels of some of the minor cannabinoids in hemp and cannabis. For example, hemp tends to have higher levels of cannabigerol-A, or CBG-A, which is the precursor molecule to all of the other cannabinoids. CBG-A also has its own effects, acting as an analgesic and anti-inflammatory and it has also been noted, in preliminary research, to have potential anti-cancer activity[1].

Hemp also has been found to have higher levels of cannabichromene, or CBC, which exerts anti-inflammatory effects and, in early research on laboratory mice, has been effective at reducing inflammation associated with colitis [2].

Cannabis, by contrast, contains higher levels of cannabigerol, or CBG, which has antibacterial activity as well as being anti-inflammatory. CBG shows promise for inhibiting cancer cells and promoting bone growth[1,3].


Hemp contains significantly higher levels of myrcene. Myrcene is the most abundant terpene in all cannabis and hemp species. It has been used in folk medicine as a remedy for dysentery, diabetes, and hypertension. Myrcene is also a strong analgesic that works by stimulating your body’s own endogenous opiates[4].

Hemp also has slightly higher levels of B-caryophyllene, which, in addition to being a potent anti-inflammatory and analgesic, has been found to reduce alcohol cravings in early phases of research[5]. This terpene is also being studied for potential cancer treatment[6] and anti-depressant activity[7].

Cannabis, on the other hand, contains considerably higher levels of limonene, which has been noted to have potential anticancer[8] and liver protective[9] effects. Cannabis also contains more terpinolene, which acts a central nervous system depressant and shows potential for use as an anti-anxiety remedy[10].


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  1. Cannabis as a plant: Taxonomy and Chemistry.
  2. The cannabinoid TRPA1 agonist cannabichromene inhibits nitric oxide production in macrophages and ameliorates murine colitis. Br J Pharmacol, 2013. 169(1): p. 213-29
  3. Cannabigerol (CBG).
  4. Effect of myrcene on nociception in mice. J Pharm Pharmacol, 1990. 42(12): p. 877-8
  5. The cannabinoid receptor 2 agonist, beta-caryophyllene, reduced voluntary alcohol intake and attenuated ethanol-induced place preference and sensitivity in mice. Pharmacol Biochem Behav, 2014. 124: p. 260-8
  6. Chemosensitizing Properties of beta-Caryophyllene and beta-Caryophyllene Oxide in Combination with Doxorubicin in Human Cancer Cells. Anticancer Res, 2017. 37(3): p. 1191-1196
  7. beta-Caryophyllene, a CB2 receptor agonist produces multiple behavioral changes relevant to anxiety and depression in mice. Physiol Behav, 2014. 135: p. 119-24
  8. Cancer prevention by natural compounds. Drug Metab Pharmacokinet, 2004. 19(4): p. 245-63
  9. Dietary d-limonene alleviates insulin resistance and oxidative stress-induced liver injury in high-fat diet and L-NAME-treated rats. Eur J Nutr, 2012. 51(1): p. 57-68
  10. The sedative effect of inhaled terpinolene in mice and its structure-activity relationships. J Nat Med, 2013. 67(4): p. 833-7