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What are the differences between hemp CBD and cannabis CBD?

• What is CBD?
• What is hemp?
• What is cannabis?
• Hemp CBD vs. Cannabis CBD
• Summary
With recent increased interest regarding cannabidiol (CBD), the range of available CBD-based products has also been growing. Something that often confuses consumers is if the CBD ingredient in such products is derived from cannabis or hemp. In fact, the CBD used in these products is derived from various forms of the plant Cannabis sativa.
Why the confusion? The debate about cannabis CBD vs. hemp CBD arises due to the categorisation, name, and nature of the various plants.
In general, hemp plants contain a higher level of CBD, but cannabis plants have higher levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the compound responsible for causing the ‘high’ sensation people experience when using cannabis.
Let’s examine cannabis CBD and hemp CBD. What are the differences?
The legality of CBD: in most European countries, CBD products derived from hemp with lower than 0.2% THC can be sold legally (in Austria and Luxembourg, THC 0.3% or lower). Note: non-prescription CBD products have not been approved by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Always check the label of any CBD product before purchasing.


The potential health benefits associated with CBD have stimulated interest by the public, and CBD-based products have become more widely available. Some people take CBD for a range of health conditions such as pain, depression, nausea, and addiction.Despite that research has not confirmed the effectiveness of CBD for treating such conditions, some evidence supports that CBD affects the body’s endocannabinoid system, which functions as a signalling network.

Discover more about CBD oil and how it might benefit health

CBD (cannabidiol) is a non-intoxicating compound; one of 540 phytochemicals present in Cannabis sativa. Another is THC (Delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol), the compound responsible for producing the “high” feeling. The differing levels of THC found in cannabis and hemp is what has led to many legal issues surrounding CBD products.


A form of the C. Sativa plant, hemp, especially industrial hemp, has been grown for centuries and is used in making clothes, rope, food, and many more applications.
Under the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), hemp plants yielding 0.3% or less THC are considered industrial hemp. Farmers legally grow industrial hemp across many European countries, although the cultivation of hemp is still strictly regulated.
These hemp plants contain minimal levels of THC. But, some kinds of hemp-based products, like capsules, gummies, or tinctures may still cause a ‘high’ sensation.
Generally, it is the flowers and leaves of hemp plants that are used to make CBD products.


Three strains of cannabis are common: C. ruderalis, C. indica, and C. sativa. But various hybrid plants also exist, which are a combination of the three varieties. The three common cannabis varieties contain much more THC than found in hemp plants.Apart from having higher levels of THC, cannabis plants also generally have lower levels of CBD compared to hemp plants. Over time, this difference has steadily grown.
An analysis in 2016 revealed that average potency in the three common cannabis plant strains had risen from 4% to 12%, from 1995 to 2014, respectively. Also, the average concentration of CBD had fallen from 0.28% to lower than 0.15% between 2001 and 2014.

Cannabis CBD vs hemp CBD

Both types of plants have THC and CBD, and 540 other compounds. It is the quantity of THC and CBD found in each that marks the difference between hemp and cannabis.
Hemp has higher levels of CBD, but less THC. Cannabis has higher levels of THC, but less CBD. Notably, the potential benefits of taking CBD remain unchanged whether the CBD is derived from hemp or cannabis. Reports of side effects including upset stomach, fatigue, or irritability are the same for both sources. The reason for this is that the chemical structure of CBD is independent of the type of plant it derives from.
But, the quantity of CBD that can be extracted does vary according to the source. That is why hemp plants are cultivated: they contain much more CBD and are therefore more lucrative for farming. The legal status of cultivating hemp plants is also well established, unlike the case of cannabis.
It is the legality of hemp-derived CBD as opposed to cannabis-derived CBD that sets the two plants apart. As mentioned, in Europe under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), CBD products manufactured using hemp plants meeting the legal regulations for hemp can be legally sold in most European Union countries.
But CBD products originating from high-level THC sources, such as cannabis, are prohibited by the CAP. The critical factor is that legal CBD products contain no more than 0.2% THC. This also applies to any product using CBD derived from cannabis; the product must contain no more than 0.2% THC.
Why is this important? The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) regulates CBD products with a THC level higher than 0.2% THC similarly to other Schedule I drugs in European countries where recreational cannabis use is illegal.


Public interest in CBD is growing due to its potential use for treating certain health conditions. But, currently, there is a lack of conclusive evidence to confirm any benefits.Cannabis and hemp are two common strains of C. sativa. Hemp contains a higher level of CBD but minimal THC.
Many CBD products are manufactured using CBD that comes from industrial hemp plants. These plants contain a higher level of CBD and lower levels of THC. It is THC that causes the ‘high’ sensation associated with using cannabis. The important difference between cannabis CBD and hemp CBD is the legality of each type in Europe.Anyone considering taking CBD products for health issues should first consult their doctor to ensure the CBD will not cause any side effects due to any other medication they might be prescribed.

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