Hemp is a fast-growing flowering plant from the Cannabaceae family. The plant has risen in prominence over the years due to its multiple applications as an industrial and therapeutic agent. Hemp is used in making industrial and commercial products, such as canvas, clothing, shoes, bioplastics, paper, building materials, rope, and biofuel. Its seeds are highly nutritious and are considered superfoods due to their high levels of proteins, fiber, and magnesium.

Hemp contains hundreds of phytochemicals, such as cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. Each of these compounds performs various functions in the plant and may also play a role in restoring normal body function in the human body. The phytochemicals interact with the endocannabinoid system in a way that could possibly assist with pain, sleep, temperature control, inflammation, neuroprotection, and many other conditions.

The major cannabinoid extracted from the hemp plant is CBD. The compound has gained immense attention as a health and wellness agent, especially after the signing of the 2018 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill legalized the cultivation, distribution, sale, and use of CBD products containing less than 0.3% THC. Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC is a psychoactive cannabinoid that produces mind-altering effects on cannabis consumers.

What is the difference between hemp and marijuana/weed?

The two plants belong to the same species and bear similar physical features and chemical composition. The only difference between the two is the amount of THC they contain. According to the law, hemp plants are cannabis plants containing less than 0.3% THC in dry weight. Any cannabis plant with more than 0.3% THC is considered marijuana and is federally illegal. 0.3% THC is considered minuscule and is less likely to cause any psychotropic effects.

Hemp-derived CBD products such as oils, gummies, topicals, patches, tinctures, edibles, and capsules are readily available on the market in varying potencies. Due to the lack of legal limitations or regulations of CBD, the market is flooded with products - some legitimate, while others do not contain what is promised. Consequently, as a consumer, you must conduct sufficient research and ensure you are getting lab-tested products with a Certificate of Analysis from a licensed dispensary.

Terpenes are naturally-occurring aromatic phytochemicals that determine cannabis plants’ distinct aroma and flavor. These oils are produced by a variety of plants besides cannabis, such as citrus fruits, tea, and Spanish sage. Plants use terpenes as tools to attract pollinators or as a defensive mechanism to repel pests. In cannabis plants, these compounds are abundant in the flowers/buds and are extracted through vaporization or the distillation process. Examples of terpenes include:

  • Linalool
  • Caryophyllene
  • Terpinolene
  • Myrcene
  • Bisabolol
  • Camphene
  • Terpineol
  • Phellandrene
  • Carene
  • Humulene
  • Pulegone
  • Sabinene
  • Geraniol

There are over a hundred terpenes in cannabis compounds, and each strain contains a unique combination of several in different proportions. This explains why the Girl Scout Cookies strain has a dessert-like aroma, Blue Dream has a blueberry and candy aroma, and ChemDawg has a pungent diesel aroma. However, you may find some strains with similar terpene and cannabinoid profiles, such as Blue Dream & 9 Pound Hammer (Myrcene, Pinene, and Caryophyllene), Cinex & Purple Hindu Kush (Limonene, Caryophyllene, and Pinene), and Chernobyl & Golden Lemon (Terpinolene, Myrcene, and Caryophyllene).

Benefits of cannabis-based terpenes

Besides their aromatic properties, terpenes are anecdotally associated with heightening and shaping the various effects and sensations resulting from the interaction of cannabinoids with the human body (the entourage effect). Theoretically, it is believed that terpenes have the same properties as other essential oils, especially in aromatherapy. Unfortunately, research into terpenes is still in its initial stages, so most of the benefits associated with the compounds are based on studies conducted on isolated terpenes. Here is what is known: 

  • Myrcene is an excellent relaxant
  • Limonene has potent anti-stress and anxiolytic properties
  • Caryophyllene is associated with anti-inflammatory benefits
  • Pinene is a diverse terpene that provides analgesic, anxiolytic, and anti-inflammatory benefits

Since Certificates of analysis only focus on cannabinoids and rarely on terpenes, you may need to consult a budtender to get products that have them included in the 3rd party reports. 

Terpenes have different effects on different consumers. You may have to try out various products before finding one that meets your needs.

Tetrahydrocannabinol, popularly abbreviated as THC, is a major cannabinoid found in the resin glands of cannabis plants. THC is behind the psychoactive effects associated with cannabis. The compound achieves its mild-altering capability by interacting with the human endocannabinoid system. THC binds with the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the Central Nervous System and other body parts to alter a person’s time perception, memory, coordination, pleasure response, thought process, and sensory system.

Most cannabis strains in the market are THC-rich. The evolution of THC potency has spanned over five decades and has been facilitated by advancements in breeding technology and cultivation techniques. Back in the 70s, the average THC potency was 4%. Fast forward to 2022, where the average potency is above 12%, and some strains like Godfather OG have soaring THC levels of 34%. The higher the THC percentage, the more intense the effects. Novice consumers and individuals with a low THC tolerance should avoid highly potent strains. An overdose may cause heightened anxiety, confusion, dizziness, paranoia, and hallucinations.

Effects associated with THC consumption include: 

  • Euphoria

  • Relaxation

  • Elevated moods

  • Positivity

  • Laughter

  • Uplifting

  • Anxiety in high doses

  • Rapid heart rate

  • Memory impairment

  • Lack of coordination

  • Dry mouth

  • Red eyes

THC - more than a recreational cannabinoid

THC’s benefits surpass its recreational value. According to numerous scientific studies, Tetrahydrocannabinol has multiple therapeutic applications with antiemetic properties that may make it valuable for managing vomiting.. The cannabinoid has even been used by athletes, maturing adults and Combat Veterans to sooth various needs.  

How THC interacts with your body depends on several factors, such as physiological factors, history of use, tolerance levels, the dose taken, and the potency of the product. Another major factor that comes into play in determining the shape of the effects is whether THC is taken solely or with other cannabinoids, such as CBD, CBN, CBA, CBT, THCV, and terpenes. While isolated THC may cause anxiety in high doses, taking it with other compounds like CBD may mitigate these effects and promote a synergy of positive effects, otherwise known as the entourage effect.

Delta 8 tetrahydrocannabinol is one of the over 400 compounds in cannabis plants. The cannabinoid occurs in trace amounts, classifying it as a minor cannabinoid. Although Delta 8 was discovered in the 40s and fully synthesized in the 60s, it wasn't until the signing of the 2018 Farm Bill that its popularity grew. Under the Farm Act, all hemp-derived compounds are legal if they contain 0.3% Delta 9 THC in dry weight. However, since Delta 8 is psychoactive, its sale, distribution, and consumption are prohibited in 14 states (as of July 2022).

The reason behind Delta 8 popularity is its ability to provide consumers with a mild and smooth high without causing some of the more negative aspects of THC usage. While Delta 8 and Delta 9 have similar chemical formulas, the two cannabinoids interact differently with the endocannabinoid system. Delta 8 has a lower affinity for the CB1 and CB2 receptors, meaning it binds weakly to these receptors compared to Delta 9. 

Delta 8 is half as potent as Delta 9 and provides a relaxing high that consumers have likened to Indica cannabis strains. The calming, body-centered effects provide peace, relaxation, and serenity. Due to its effects, the cannabinoid has been identified as an excellent option to consume after a long day or week when all you want is to relax and wind down. Delta 8 THC is available in different forms, such as flower, vape cartridges, edibles (gummies, chocolate, tea, etc.), and more. 

THC Acetate is a highly potent cannabinoid that is more intense than any other form of THC. In fact, the compound is considered 300% more potent than Delta 9 THC. Its effects border on the psychedelic side and are characterized by visuals and time distortion, similar to what psilocybin mushroom and LSD consumers experience. Consumers are advised to approach this compound cautiously as small doses could have potent effects.

THC-O’s effects are delayed and are only unleashed when it has been fully processed and metabolized in the body unlike other cannabinoids like THC, CBD, CBA, and CBG that are pre-activated through decarboxylation (heat application). Similar to consuming cannabinoid-infused edibles, THC-O effects appear after 20 to 60 minutes from ingestion.

THC-O’s legal status is in a legal gray area and is only popular in states where recreational cannabis is legal. Following the 2018 Farm Bill, any product derived from hemp plants and contains less than 0.3% Delta 9 THC in dry weight is considered federally legal. Although THC-O was discovered between 1949 and 1975 during the Edgewood Arsenal experiments, it wasn't until mid-2011 that consumer interest peaked. Currently, THC-O is available in many forms, such as disposable vapes, cartridges, oils, tinctures, edibles, and flowers.

Research into this semi-synthetic cannabinoid is scarce, and most of what is known about it, such as its effects and potency, stem from anecdotal reports. Consequently, the safety of THC-O is questioned. It is through scientific studies and regulations that the potency, safety, and proper dosage of THC-O can be determined.

Cannabidiol or CBD is a major cannabinoid found in cannabis plants. It is the most abundant cannabinoid in hemp plants and the second most abundant in marijuana plants (second to Delta 9 THC). CBD is a very popular health and wellness agent that has managed to become mainstream, thanks to the multiple scientifically-backed and anecdotal-based therapeutic benefits it may provide.

Like THC and other cannabinoids, CBD interacts with the human endocannabinoid systems to provide these benefits. However, the cannabinoid’s molecular structure does not allow it to bind to the endocannabinoid receptors CB1 or CB1, which results in zero psychoactive effects. The research into how CBD interacts with this complex system (ECS) is still ongoing. However, it is believed that CBD works by inhibiting the reuptake of vital endocannabinoids.

In 2018, the FDA approved Epidiolex, a drug made from Hemp-extracted CBD, for treating seizures resulting from Dravet’s Syndrome, Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, and tuberous sclerosis complex. CBD has proven to be effective in promoting relaxation and calm moods. Research into cannabis and its derivatives is still in its infancy stages, so it is hoped that researchers will help extend its list of therapeutic applications with time. 

CBD products are available in either of three forms: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or CBD isolate. The first product contains all the phytochemicals in hemp plants, including other cannabinoids (THC included), terpenes, and flavonoids. Broad-spectrum CBD consists of all phytochemicals except THC, while CBD isolates are the purest forms of CBD, containing 99+% Cannabidiol. These products can be vaped, taken sublingually, consumed as oils or edibles, smoked, or applied topically as sprays, balms, patches, or lotion.

CBD is considered safe for consumption, although some consumers may experience side effects, such as fatigue, appetite issues, dry mouth, diarrhea, and drowsiness. Additionally, the cannabinoid is known to interact with certain medications, so consumers are advised to consult a physician before taking it, especially if they are on medication for any conditions. The CBD market is not regulated, so always ensure you purchase CBD products from a reputable brand that offers a certificate of analysis indicating the contents of the products and their potency.

CBGA is the acidic or raw form of CBG, a minor cannabinoid found in the trichomes of cannabis plants. CBGA is considered the mother/origin of a majority of cannabinoids. During the vegetative stage of a cannabis plant’s life, CBGA levels are at a peak. As the plant matures, the CBGA is converted into THCA, CBDA, and CBCA, the acidic precursors of cannabinoids THC, CBD, and CBC, respectively. The plant is left with trace amounts of CBGA, which eventually converts to CBG after decarboxylation. Most cannabinoids are available in their acidic form before they are activated and converted via heat application, otherwise known as the process of decarboxylation.

Functions of CBGA

In plants, CBGA helps by triggering plant cell necrosis to regulate the shape and maintain health, allowing the plant to focus on bud health for a potent and healthy yield.

CBGA /CBG interacts with the human endocannabinoid system in the same way that other cannabinoids, like THC and CBN: by binding with the CB1 and CB2 receptors. Although scientists in the past have been more focused on converting CBGA to THCA, this mother cannabinoid has enormous potential as a spectrumized therapeutic agent.

In recent years THCV or Tetrahydrocannabivarin has become a highly sought-after phytochemical, which has earned it the moniker ‘diet weed.’ THCV was first discovered in 1971 and appears in trace amounts in cannabis strains. However, due to the increased demand, breeders focus on creating THCV-rich strains. Although THCV has a similar molecular structure to THC, these compounds bear opposite effects. While THC is a known appetite stimulator and anxiety stimulant, THCV provides relief of those THC symptoms.

Some brands have identified the growing demand for THCV and may have started retailing THCV-rich strains as well as concentrates, oils, and gummies. However, if you are in an area where it is impossible to get access to these products, your best option is to look for strains with a high THCV percentage. Africa landrace strains such as Red Congolese and Durban Poison have been known to contain substantial levels of the cannabinoid. Alternatively, you can look for strains with African genetics in them, like cherry pie. Always ensure you ask for the 3rd party reports of these strains and examine their cannabinoid profile to ascertain the presence of THCV.

Cannabidivarin or CBDV is a minor cannabinoid with identical molecular composition and arrangement as CBD. Like CBD, CBDV is non-psychotropic and provides multiple therapeutic applications. This cannabinoid was first isolated in 1969 and has since been the subject of numerous scientific studies. CBDV occurs in trace amounts and sometimes may be untraceable in some strains. For consumers looking for CBDVrich strains, African and Asian landrace Indica strains grown in their natural habitats are known to possess substantial levels of cannabinoid.

CBDV interacts with the human endocannabinoid system by binding to the CB1 and CB2 receptors to provide a host of therapeutic benefits.

You can find CBDV from African and Asian landrace Indica strains, although the genetics have been thoroughly hybridized such that it is nearly impossible to find a genuine landrace strain.  Breeders have come up with CBDVrich strains such as Royal CBDv, CBDv Auto, Euphoria, Royal Medic, and Dance World. Always ask for 3rd party reports to ascertain the presence and potency of the CBDV. 

Cannabinol or CBN is one of the hundreds of cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. However, unlike THC, CBD, CBN, CBA, CBG, and many other cannabinoids, CBN does not occur naturally in hemp or marijuana. Instead, CBN is formed through the degradation/oxidation of THC, the psychoactive compound that causes the high associated with cannabis. When cannabis flowers are harvested late, the continued exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light and oxygen gradually converts THCA to CBNA, the acidic precursor of CBN. CBNA is converted to CBN through exposure to high temperatures (heat). 

CBN is commonly referred to as the ultimate relaxation cannabinoid since it is the most sedating cannabinoid. Strains rich in CBN are recommended for evening or nighttime use as they help one wind down, relax, and be more receptive to sleep. 

CBN is believed to interact with the ECS similarly like other cannabinoids. Through this interaction, the cannabinoid may have a great potential in dealing with a myriad of conditions. Through more large-scale, human-based studies, researchers can ascertain the cannabinoid’s purported benefits as well as explore more.

There are multiple CBN products to suit the needs of different consumers. The cannabinoid is available in vapes, cartridges, capsules, edibles, oils, and tinctures.

Cannabis plants are packed with hundreds of phytochemicals ranging from cannabinoids, terpenes, oils, waxes, flavonoids, and alkaloids. While exploring the market, you will notice that cannabis-based products come in three types: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolates. What’s the difference between these products, and which is best suited for your needs? Let's explore. 

Full-spectrum - This refers to products containing all the active compounds found in cannabis plants, including cannabinoids (THC inclusive), terpenes, and flavonoids. These types of products are highly sought as they provide a combination of benefits from multiple phytochemicals referred to as the entourage effect.

Broad-spectrum - These are similar to full-spectrum products, the only difference being the presence of THC. Broad-spectrum cannabis products are designed to meet the needs of consumers who want to benefit from the multiple compounds without Tetrahydrocannabinol. These are ideal for individuals in jobs or situations requiring them to undergo drug tests. Unfortunately, even 0.3% THC can lead to a positive drug test, especially when taken in high doses or over a long period.

Isolates - These are isolates that comprise the purest form of a compound (99+ %). Most isolates on the market include CBD, CBN, CBG, and CBDV. 

Full-spectrum and the entourage effect

According to anecdotal and several scientific studies, the combination of phytochemicals from the cannabis plants provides a synergy of effects that heighten the experience. Full-spectrum compounds work in unison to provide a better outcome compared to taking the compounds as isolates. Terpenes, flavonoids, and other cannabinoids work with THC to modulate the overall effects, which offers a unique experience.

Raphael Mechoulam, the father of cannabis research, first proposed the entourage in 1998. The researcher, alongside Simon Ben-Shabat, conducted a study that detected increased endocannabinoid activity after administration of multiple compounds. Later on, in 2011, researcher Ethan Russo advanced this theory by conducting a study that concluded that cannabinoids and terpenes work together to provide improved therapeutic relief. In 2019, Ethan Russo reviewed previous studies and concluded that full-spectrum products had enhanced benefits for consumers compared to isolates.

A solvent is a substance that can dissolve other substances (solutes) to form a solution. Solvents are predominantly liquid (ethanol, water, acetone, and methanol) but can also be gas (hexane, butane, or hexane) or in a supercritical state, such as Carbon Dioxide. Factors that affect solubility are temperature, pressure, and the nature of the soluble and solvent.

There are two types of solvents: polar and nonpolar

Polar: These types of solvents have atoms with positive and negative charges at the end of the molecules that attract positive and negative charges from the solutes. The solutes are dissolved when pulled into different parts by the solvent’s electrical charge. Examples of polar solvents include water, acetone, methanol, and isopropanol.

Non-polar: These have electrons that are evenly distributed along the molecule. This is as opposed to polar solvents whose atoms are located at the end of the molecules. Non-polar solvent molecules attract non-polar solutes to form a solution. Examples include benzene, CO2, pentane, hexane, and xylene.

Cannabis extraction techniques break down the flower and extract phytochemicals like cannabinoids, terpenes, essential oils, and others. The most commonly used cannabis extraction solvents are ethanol and CO2. Water is also a viable solvent used to create bubble hash, aka solventless concentrate.

CO2 Cannabis Extraction
Most extracting companies prefer the CO2 extraction technique as it tends to produce a pure, potent, and huge yield. The solvent is used in the extraction of terpenes and cannabinoids. It easily evaporates and poses no fire threat since it is non-combustible. The only issue with this technique is that it requires expensive equipment and expertise to operate.

Ethanol extraction
Ethanol extraction involves soaking cannabis plant material (flowers, stems, or leaves) in ethanol to create a potent botanical extract. Since the technique is non-specific, the end product will have waxes, fats, and chlorophyll. The solution then undergoes distillation to remove any solvent residues and winterization to eliminate the fats and waxes. When not done correctly, this technique may produce a concentrate with impurities, making it unsuitable for human consumption.
Always ensure you purchase concentrates from a reputable, licensed dispensary that provides 3rd party reports. This will prevent you from consuming products that may affect your health.