Hemp or CBD? What Formulators and Marketers Need to Know By: David Foreman RPh, Organic & Natural Health Association Advisory Council.
All one needs to do is to use their favorite search engine on the topic of “CBD,” and immediately, the confusion begins. Throughout the past hundred-plus years, trade names have become synonymous with different categories of products. For example, Kleenex is used for the facial tissue, or Xerox has been used for copy machines. Today, CBD is being used “generically” for what could be CBD isolate, hemp oil, full-spectrum hemp oil, and Broad-Spectrum Hemp Oil. If you search medical websites such as PubMed to look for clinical studies done in the arena of CBD/hemp/cannabis, you will get a broad range of studies using all forms. Here are some of the questions we still need to answer: Which is best? Is it safe? Are there any drug interactions? What is the best dose to take?
The above questions are just the tip of the iceberg in this new and booming market. Before answering those questions, let’s start from the beginning: Hemp vs. Marijuana. Keeping this simple, marijuana and hemp contain virtually the same number of phytochemicals and nutritional components but in differing amounts. Of all of the compounds, the one that makes the difference is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the phytochemical known to cause the “high” from marijuana use. Hemp plants are defined as any cannabis plant that has 0.3% or less of THC, and anything higher (no pun intended) would be considered marijuana. Other than this commonality, both contain differing amounts of phytochemicals (cannabinoids, terpenes, for example), vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, and essential fatty acids.
What’s the difference between CBD, Hemp Oil (HO), Full Spectrum HO, and Broad-Spectrum HO?
This question is one of the leading areas in which I believe manufacturers and marketers deceive or fall short on behalf of consumers. Before digging into why this comment is made, let’s take a quick look at what the “definitions” are of the terms above.
CBD – CBD should only refer to the purified or concentrated phytochemical isolate found in hemp – cannabidiol. It does not contain the other phytochemicals and nutrients found in hemp. Regretfully due to the confusion mentioned above, with regards to generically using CBD to mean all things hemp, the natural products industry and consumers use these three letters loosely. The FDA does not consider CBD isolate a dietary supplement ingredient.
Hemp Oil – This term can mean just about anything and is the oil extracted from one of the many parts of the hemp plant. Most of the current research on hemp oil revolves around the oil, which originates from the seed. In the modern CBD-market, hemp oil is mostly derived from stalk, leaves, and flowers, all of which have different nutritional values. Hemp oil may or may not have the full array of nutrients and phytochemicals you are seeking. This is another area of huge confusion for the consumer and whether or not they will receive the benefits they seek.
Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil (FSHO) – FSHO refers to hemp oil that contains the full array of nutrients and phytochemicals found in hemp, including 0.3% or less THC. In most cases, FSHO ingredients can be tested for precise phytocannabinoid and terpene levels. Using FSHO will allow manufacturers to give consumers precise amounts of phytocannabinoids per serving.
Broad-Spectrum Hemp Oil (BSHO) – BSHO like that of FSHO also contains the phytonutrients and phytochemicals, but it has been processed in such a way as to remove all THC. This is a good option for those concerned with drug tests for THC. Even with the minimal amount of THC found in FSHO, a person may test positive during a drug test. I believe that THC is part of the plant, which provides some of the health benefits which consumers seek this category and should be part of the mix.
Referring back to my comment about manufacturers and marketers deceiving consumers, just do an internet search for CBD, and you will find a plethora of products that cross all of the versions of hemp mentioned above. These ingredients are not equal and should not be easily interchanged or meta-tagged as part of a marketing plan. This is not the first time in the natural product industry in which this has happened. A great example is in the area of omega-3s from fish oil. Just because a product states it is fish oil, the ratio of EPA and DHA may differ in product A vs. product B even though the label on the front of the bottle states each capsule contains 1,000 mg of fish oil. It may say 1,000 mg of fish oil and contain zero omega-3s. The hemp arena is the same. Just because an ingredient is called hemp oil doesn’t mean it contains phytocannabinoids or in the same amounts. This is an area that needs either government regulation or better policing by the industry to avoid consumer harm or disappointment.
From discussions with industry colleagues, the hemp/CBD industry isn’t taking off as fast as initially thought. Perhaps this is due to companies marketing a product containing hemp/CBD but only uses traces amounts, or well below what might be therapeutically effective. This is why we need better science substantiating what to take and how much. Until we have clinical substantiation, this market is like throwing darts in the dark, hoping to hit the target.
Safety and Toxicity
The area of safety and toxicity is often looked at by those in the R&D field and should be passed on to the end consumer. This area is not unique to this either. Hulled hemp seed, hemp seed protein powder, and hemp seed oil are generally recognized as safe (GRAS) in the United States. Regretfully, most products on the market are not derived from the seed but the stalk, leaves, and flowers. So, does this still mean it should be GRAS? More specifically related to CBD or CBD amounts found in full or broad-spectrum products, research shows CBD is well tolerated, with a good safety profile. There is, however, a concern with this phytocannabinoid use and drug-drug interactions. Given CBD effects on common biological targets for drug metabolism and excretion, the potential for drug-drug interactions with commonly used medication is high . CBD is linked to both drug-drug interactions and adverse drug events. These effects should be readily made to consumers for the potential safety issues using CBD containing products (full, broad, etc.).
The potential toxic effects of CBD have been extensively reviewed with a recent update of the literature. In general, CBD has been found to have relatively low toxicity, although not all potential effects have been explored.
Dosing opens Pandora’s box one more time. With the majority of the information in clinical studies revolving around the isolate CBD, it is challenging to get the precise dose to yield an effect. Here are a couple of examples:
• Insomnia – 160 mg 30 minutes before bed
• Social Anxiety Disorder – Single doses of cannabidiol 300-600 mg have been used for anxiety related to public speaking or medical imaging
If I were formulating a product to help with sleep using an FSHO product and the dosing per capsule yielded 25 mg of “CBD,” then the suggested dose per night would be six capsules per night.
The remainder of the research on dosing is still insufficient to list in this article. Suffice it to say that the amounts used in just these two examples show that many products claiming to help with sleep are not suggesting the accurate dose to be consumed. Until we have more independent clinical studies, health benefit claims should be limited.
Are you confused yet?
Before continuing, the organization Organic & Natural Health Association currently has an active educational platform to help educate consumers on the safety and efficacy of “CBD” products. By sorting through the confusion, Organic & Natural Health is empowering consumers through education to make informed decisions about “CBD” and a plethora of other topics such as vitamin D, omega-3s, and other dietary ingredients. I am so excited about the efforts and currently sit as a part of their scientific advisory council.
As a pharmacist and natural health expert, the category of hemp/CBD/cannabis has been a challenging one to wrap my head around. Making things simple, there are several key areas we need to focus on in the B-to-B world:
1. Clear Labeling: What is being sold, dosing, etc. Is it FSHO, BSHO, just HO?
2. Education: Both industry and consumer education
3. Verify the supply chain
4. 3rd Party verification for contaminants and active compounds
5. Reporting of safety issues, interactions, and adverse events
This is not the first time in the dietary supplement industry in which an ingredient has been controversial. The industry has been dealing with this type of confusion, rush to market, lack of information on what form, how much, etc. for decades. The example of fish oil above is just one of many instances of this occurring. Ginseng, St. John’s Wort, natural vs. synthetic, and the list goes on. As we learn more, we re-educate ourselves, and the market, as to what is best. Too many are bastardizing the CBD/hemp/cannabis space because we don’t know the answers to all of the questions. This, combined with mavericks, with little to no knowledge of the industry and its standards, are making wild and outrageous claims about their products. This is nothing new and should not scare reputable companies from joining this space. The more who enter it with integrity and honesty, the cream will always rise to the top.