Decoding Medicinal Hemp

Debunking common misconceptions, spotting faulty marketing, and finding the best hemp-based and CBD products.

It’s official, the hemp and CBD craze has taken America by storm. From mainstream retailers selling topical lotions and oils to high-end beauty stores offering CBD-enhanced cosmetics, and plant-based wellness companies using it as an ingredient in their natural supplements, people from all walks of life are becoming interested in hemp’s wide array of health benefits.

But, as it too often happens in the world of botanicals, there are several key details about hemp and CBD that are misunderstood, which can lead to misuse of the product, or worse, lead well-intentioned consumers to get taken advantage of by dishonest retailers.

So, how do you protect yourself from faulty marketing and safely enjoy the health benefits of hemp? The simple answer is education, and we’ve got everything you need to know right here.

Hemp 101

Although this is a well-known fact for some, many people still wonder: are hemp and marijuana the same thing? Well, it is, and it isn’t. Hemp and marijuana are the same plant (Cannabis Sativa), and both are biologically classified as cannabis, but one was bred over the centuries for its “psychoactive” properties – marijuana, and one was bred for its industrial use – hemp.

There are many active compounds (called cannabinoids) found within the Cannabis Sativa plant, one of which is tetrahydrocannabinol, otherwise known as THC. THC is famous for its psychoactive properties or “high-inducing” effect, and the main difference between marijuana and hemp is the amount of THC found within them. Hemp, which was legalized by the legislative branch via the Farm Bill signed into law in December 2018, is specifically defined as having THC less than 0.3%.

The other prominent and highly-sought-after compound found within the Cannabis Sativa plant is cannabidiol, or CBD. Both CBD and THC interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, but their effects are very different. Despite their comparable chemical structures, there is one main difference between these two cannabinoids: CBD is a non-psychoactive compound, which means it does not produce the “high” that is associated with THC.

Plant compounds and the “Entourage Effect”

While most people focus on the macronutrients (like protein, fats, and fiber) and micronutrients (like vitamins and minerals) in plants, at Rightful, we’re passionate about the powerful compounds that plants create and provide us. Plants create these compounds to help them thrive and evolve, and by consuming these plants, we evolve with them and reap their amazing benefits. Caffeine – the most used psychoactive compound in the world – is an example of one of these plant compounds.

This brings us back to hemp, a plant with over 100 cannabinoid compounds found within it, just two of which are CBD and THC. The term “entourage effect” refers to the synergistic phenomenon that occurs when all of hemp’s compounds work together to enhance the therapeutic health benefit of each individual compound.

Hemp is not the only plant with an entourage effect. As a matter of fact, every plant has its own unique entourage effect. Turmeric, ashwagandha, and rhodiola, to name a few, all contain their own unique beneficial compounds, and they work on humans using their own powerful entourage effect. And, fun fact, hemp is not the only plant to create cannabinoids – several other plants, including Cacao, are being studied for their similar compounds.

These plant compounds can be extracted and consumed in three main ways: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and in isolate forms.

Full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate

Although these variations may sound similar, they are not the same, and if you want to see the most benefit from your plant compounds, specifically hemp extract, it’s important to understand their differences. Here is a quick breakdown:

  • Full-spectrum hemp extract: This refers to CBD that has been extracted from the cannabis plant, along with all of the other compounds like essential oils, terpenes, and other cannabinoids, including THC
  • Broad-spectrum hemp extract: This refers to CBD that has been extracted from the cannabis plant, along with all of the other compounds like essential oils, terpenes, and other cannabinoids except for THC
  • Isolate hemp extract: This refers to CBD that has been extracted and isolated from all of the other compounds and cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant

Generally speaking, the western medicine and pharmaceutical approach when dealing with medicinal botanicals is to identify powerful plant compounds, isolate them, and then to provide super-high doses of that one compound in a “medicine” form. While this approach can produce intense and quick results, it is so unnatural that it often also produces significant aftereffects. At Rightful, we believe in the power of the entourage effect, so we provide the whole plant and its compounds via a broad-spectrum hemp extract, which creates a gradual, sustainable, and healthy approach to herbal therapies overall.

When it comes to hemp and CBD, you need to know exactly what you’re buying. CBD Oil is often just that – an isolate of that one compound, CBD. A product labeled with “hemp extract” might also be the same solitary thing – just CBD and no other cannabinoids. A label that specifies “broad-spectrum hemp extract” signifies that the product contains the whole plant, inclusive of all of the beneficial cannabinoids (with the exception of THC). Reputable companies will include which type of CBD is included in their product, as well as the exact amount used.

Parts of the plant and key markers

Now for the next twist – CBD, and the bulk of all other cannabinoids, reside in the plant’s flower. So, if you are looking at a product that includes “hemp extract” from “seeds and stalk” – you aren’t getting any CBD. You’ll generally find this type of marketing ploy on sites like Amazon, who are specifically prohibited from selling CBD products. Why does this matter? Because this leads consumers to spend a premium for products that contain absolutely no CBD and very little beneficial cannabinoids at all.

There are also a lot of companies out there marketing full-spectrum, THC-free CBD. This is like trying to sell hydrogen-free water. It’s not a thing. There are other companies that are incorporating extremely low doses (as low as 2 mg) of CBD into their product just so they can include it on their label.

To ensure you are buying quality products, educate yourself on the three forms of hemp extract, stay away from products that use “proprietary blends” in their ingredients, and beware of manufacturers who do not specifically note what part of the plant was used for the hemp extract.

Not all plant extracts are created equal. When dealing with plant-based therapies you’ll want to know that the manufacturer tested the herb to ensure it is efficacious or as expected. To do this, manufacturers test for a “marker” (a single compound or a subset of the compounds). With hemp, CBD is usually that marker as it is the most prevalent compound in the hemp flower. Therefore, if the manufacturer does not explicitly tell you the amount of CBD in the extract, you should email them and ask.

It’s all about the absorption

Finally, even if you are certain that you’re getting the right plant, inclusive of all of the beneficial compounds from a reputable manufacturer who has included a decent marker proof point – it’s all a waste if your body can’t absorb the nutrients. Luckily, there are a few proven ways to remedy this.

Take turmeric, for example. Turmeric as a standalone has very low bioavailability, which means it is not well absorbed into our bodies, yet most people are consuming it in isolation. However, in the presence of piperine, an extract of black pepper, and lipids (fats), the absorption of turmeric is increased by up to 2,000%.

Research indicates that hemp’s bioavailability is similar to that of turmeric. When consumed alone, it is very poorly absorbed into the body, which whittles its potential health benefits down to almost nothing. When taken with black pepper extract and fats, however, its chances of absorption are greatly increased, which maximizes its intended benefits.

Lastly, the ingredients in supplements that are formulated as a liquid enter the circulatory system faster and more efficiently than those in other forms, allowing for maximum bioavailability. At Rightful, we use liquid formulas and meticulously selected ingredients that work together to greatly increase the bioavailability and effectiveness of the components found within our products.

Putting it all together

So, now you’re ready to go shopping for some high-quality hemp that will make a difference for you! To ensure a quality product, be on the lookout for:

  • Broad-spectrum hemp extract with all the valuable cannabinoids (other than THC)
  • CBD that has been extracted from the plant’s flower
  • A label that clearly indicates the amount of hemp extract in the product, along with how many cannabinoids and/or CBD is included in a serving
  • A liquid product that includes piperine, and ideally lipids, to ensure you’re getting maximum absorption for your investment

If the manufacturer is not crystal clear about these things, or if for any reason it’s not making sense to you, we suggest you think twice before purchasing that product.

So, how much should high-quality hemp cost? At Rightful, our expert advisors have recommended hemp extracts that contain a minimum marker of 30 mg of CBD per day, split between the morning and night. So, that means that a therapeutic dose of broad-spectrum hemp extract should be a minimum of 900 mg CBD per month.

Once you’ve identified a manufacturer you can trust, calculate how much you’re paying for 900 mg CBD per month of their product – it’s typically $150 or more for just the hemp extract. At Rightful, we also include therapeutic doses of seven other powerful and safe botanicals that have been optimized for efficacy and rapid absorption via the addition of ingredients like black pepper and coconut cream.

If you have questions about responsibly shopping for medicinal botanicals, drop us a line. We’re always happy to help.