5 Myths About The Hemp Plant That Need To Be Debunked

mbg Senior Sustainability Editor By Emma Loewe
mbg Senior Sustainability Editor
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability Editor at mindbodygreen and the author of "The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care."
Hemp myth haters: 5 myths about the plant that we’d to be debunked

Hemp, or Cannabis sativa, is a versatile plant that can be grown in many different climates to produce a number of materials. Its fiber can be turned into clothing, its seeds can make for a nutritious snack, and its oils are in-demand for their high cannabinoid count (more on that later). There's lots of talk about hemp products in the wellness world, and lots of ensuing confusion. Today, let's debunk a few common myths about the plant:

1. Hemp gets you high.

Hemp plants, by definition, are cannabis plants that have been bred to contain less than 0.3% THC, tetrahydrocannabinol—the main psychoactive component of marijuana—which the USDA considers a trace amount. When present in such a small dose, THC doesn't cause the "high" you'd associate with smoking weed. (For comparison's sake, marijuana contains up to 30% THC.) Since anything extracted from a well-maintained hemp plant is so low in THC, it's now legal to buy and sell hemp-derived products in all 50 states.

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Where this gets confusing.

Marijuana is also a cannabis plant, just one that hasn't been bred to contain such low levels of THC. Marijuana-derived products are therefore higher in THC, more strictly regulated, and various degrees of legal across the country.

2. All CBD is created equal.

Besides THC, CBD is the most well-known and extensively researched cannabis plant compound, or cannabinoid. When consumed, these cannabinoids bind to receptors in our endocannabinoid system, also known as the body's master regulatory system, and seem to enhance health.*

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CBD and THC are not the only cannabinoids, though, and hemp plants naturally contain over 100 types of these beneficial compounds. When consumed together, these cannabinoids link up to cause what's known as the entourage effect: They act synergistically and their benefits are amplified.* A hemp product that contains all these cannabinoids (including CBD) is referred to as "full-spectrum." A hemp product that removes all the other cannabinoids and only contains CBD is referred to as an "isolate."

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Where this gets confusing.

In the absence of a regulated marketing system for hemp-derived products, full-spectrum products are now labeled a few different ways: They can also be called "broad-spectrum" or "whole-plant" products. In addition, these cannabinoid-rich products can also be labeled as either hemp or CBD. Full-spectrum hemp is the same thing as full-spectrum CBD—they should both contain all those beneficial compounds working in tandem. mindbodygreen calls its full-spectrum product full-spectrum hemp just to make it totally clear that it is not a CBD isolate product.

3. Hemp oil is used in cooking.

Technically yes, but hempseed oil is what's used in cooking. This oil is extracted from the seeds of the hemp plant, and it doesn't contain any CBD or cannabinoids. However, it is rich in nutrients like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, making it a healthy addition to any kitchen.

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Where this gets confusing.

When someone says "hemp oil," they could be referring to either hempseed oil or full-spectrum hemp oil—similar-sounding products that serve very different purposes.

4. No real research has been done on the health benefits of hemp products.

For this one, I'll quote registered dietitian nutritionist Natalie Butler, RDN, L.D., who rattled off the state of hemp research in her article on the six science-backed benefits of hemp: "A 2011 double-blind study found that 600 mg of the phytocannabinoid CBD administered to those with social anxiety disorder (SAD) 90 minutes before a public speaking test helped manage the physiological symptoms of stress.* Participants maintained normal blood pressure and heart rate and reported lower levels of discomfort, resulting in a similar presentation as those without SAD.* In fact, a neuroimaging study found that participants had [better] increased activity in the brain region associated with mediating stress when they took 400 mg of CBD oil than when they did not.*"

In addition, "In one animal study, it was found that arthritic mice that were given phytocannabinoids had lower levels of proinflammatory cytokines than those who were not.* Other studies have found that hemp oil extract can help manage cartilage breakdown.*"

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Where this gets confusing.

While there is ongoing research on how hemp extracts can help manage stress, promote sleep, support the immune system, and ease aches and pains, it is by no means extensive.* There's a lot more about the plant that we could and should be looking into. The health effects of cannabinoids other than THC and CBD, like CBN (which is thought to be helpful for sleep) and THCA (which is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties) are still largely speculative and unproven by science.

5. Hemp products are more effective when taken at higher doses.

Like anything else, they should be enjoyed in moderation. In an mbg article on how to dose a full-spectrum hemp product, Amy Shah, M.D., recommends starting at the lowest dose possible and gradually working your way up once you see how your body reacts since everyone metabolizes thing differently. While side effects are relatively rare, these products can cause diarrhea or fatigue when taking in high doses, and cannabis allergies are a thing.

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Where this gets confusing.

If you're waiting for a hemp-derived product to "hit" in the same way a marijuana one would, you're going to be waiting for a while. Remember that hemp oil will not have the same dramatic psychoactive effects as weed and instead will cause a more gradual sense of chill and relaxation.* Let it do its thing, and don't increase the dose prematurely.

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