For decades, hemp products such as oil, fibers and seeds and more recently protein powder based on hemp have been available on the Internet and in health food stores. However, the legalization of CBD products and their distribution is a relatively new phenomenon. Since CBD stems from the hemp plant, the question arises whether those traditional products have the same psychogenic effects.
To understand the difference between the two categories, we first have to approach the topic from a botanical perspective. There are different types of hemp, which all belong to the family of Cannabaceae. Strains that contain Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are generally referred to as cannabis, whereas the strains used for the extraction of oils, fibers or other products without pharmacological effects are classified as industrial hemp.
The industry takes advantage of the components of hemp crops in many ways. The oil from the seeds consists of approximately 90% polyunsaturated fatty acids, including the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid. It is used as edible oil or for cosmetics. The solid constituents of the seeds are a leftover from oil pressing and contain a lot of proteins and minerals. They can be used to make flour or protein concentrates for sports nutrition. The fibers of the remaining plant have been used for centuries to make ropes, fabrics or even paper. But neither the seeds nor the fibers contain significant amounts of CBD or THC.
To obtain the two pharmacological agents, we have to look at the flowers of the plants. As already mentioned, there are different varieties that can be extracted. In the case of the CBD, however, there are also some varieties of the hemp that carry the substance in their flowers without containing significant amounts of THC. Even if hemp products such as oils, flours, protein powder or fibers are extracted from the hemp plant, the flowers do not play a role in their origin. As a result, the traditional products do not contain any CBD.
Since CBD is a lipophilic, meaning a "fat-soluble" substance, CBD products for oral or sublingual intake are usually offered in the form of oils. Without the oil, the mucous membranes of the mouth and digestive tract cannot absorb the molecule. Therefore, many manufacturers use the oil of the hemp seeds to dissolve the CBD. The situation is different when smoking or vaporizing the flowers, for which no carrier oil is needed.
However, because hemp oil has a strong taste in its pure form, we decided to use MCT oil for this step. “MCT” means “medium chain triglycerides”, i.e. fatty acids with medium chain length. Not only are they tasteless, but they are also often used as an energy source in sports. The reason is that they can be metabolized differently in comparison to the long-chain fatty acids that we find in most of our foods. As a result, MCT’s are able to deliver energy faster and are less easily stored in body fat. But this information only plays a marginal role – the most important factor for their usage lies in their lack of taste.
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