At a glance, hemp is a non-intoxicating variety of cannabis that contains high concentrations of Cannabidiol or CBD and less than 0.3% THC. And while cannabis plants look the same and come from the same plant family, hemp won’t get you high. It may, however, offer other benefits.
Most recently hemp has taken the media spotlight because of extracts like CBD oil.
These cannabinoids are formed in trichomes, which are the little hairs found on the surface of cannabis plants. Some of these hairs are glandular trichomes that produce the compounds in the form of sticky resin.
All cannabinoids begin as acidic precursors in living hemp plants (CBDA, THCA, etc.). It’s only after a chemical reaction called decarboxylation that these compounds become CBD, THC, CBN, and so on.
Incredibly, all cannabinoids share a common precursor known as CBGA. This parent molecule acts as a stem cell cannabinoid and eventually, through a process called biosynthesis, becomes the many different cannabinoids you’ll find in full spectrum or whole-plant hemp extracts.
Most CBGA will become either THCA or CBDA, which then converts into THC or CBD respectively.
In hemp genetics, the majority of CBGA will become CBDA, leaving the remaining traces of CBGA to become THCA and other secondary cannabinoids.
Anyway, there’s plenty of fascinating science behind cannabinoid biosynthesis, however there are other phyto-compounds to consider as well.
Namely, terpenes. Most people know terpenes as the compounds responsible for the unique fragrance of cannabis, however, terpenes aren’t exclusive to hemp. They also fuel the aroma of fruits, spices, and other plants.
Like cannabinoids, terpenes are formed in the glands of hemp leaves and flowers. Cannabis plants develop these potent smelling compounds to ward off predators and attract pollinators like bees.
The most interesting aspect of terpenes is their ability to synergize with other plant compounds to alter the effects of hemp in the endocannabinoid system.
And while cannabinoids and terpenes are our primary focus, hemp is also a rich source of nutrition and is considered a superfood. Even hemp seeds are packed with nutritious value. And while they lack some of the compounds found in the plant, these tiny seeds are high in protein and essential fatty acids.
Hemp is the Future
But hemp is a lot more than just a superfood or supplement. It’s a durable, fibrous plant that can be used to produce thousands of products ranging from textiles, paper, plastics, building materials, and even fuel. And as a bonus, the fiber harvested from hemp is actually stronger and more sustainable than other materials used in most textile and paper industries today.
The natural makeup of hemp isn’t just good for the body, it’s good for the world as a whole.