Hemp oil is an oil extracted from the plant Cannabis sativa. This plant has a natural distribution across central Asia from the eastern Mediterranean region, across Western Asia and into Pakistan, Nepal and Northern India. CBD is short for cannabidiol. This is part of a family of chemical compounds called cannabinoids. These are a large class of organic molecules that occur mostly in the plant genus Cannabis, although many are found in some species of Echinacea and others in some families of fungi.
CBD has been demonstrated to elicit a number of responses in all mammals – including humans – and a number of these have been well-publicised. These range from anti-inflammation and anti-spasticity properties to possible applications in breaking addiction cycles in heroin addicts.
Hemp oil is a more complex mixture. It is sometimes known as ‘full spectrum’ oil. Hemp oil is the unrefined mix of fatty acids and other lipids and compounds that are extracted mechanically from the hemp plant. Hemp oil can contain anywhere from 97 to up to 147 phytochemicals – chemicals produced by plants through photosynthesis. This number varies to a large extent due to the inexact manner in which plants produce their nutrients.
Hemp oil usually contains anywhere from 3% to 40% CBD content – generally its largest constituent. Other chemicals usually present in hemp oil can include omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, in a 1:3 ratio. This is often thought to be the optimum ratio between these two essential nutrients for human brain function. Hemp oil is also known to contain Omega-9 along with a variety of other essential micronutrients.
Hemp seeds and hemp oil has been known to many cultures for centuries. As with many other traditional medicines, the use of hemp as a medicine took a number of forms. Often, the plant itself is burned and the residue inhaled. As many studies through the 20th century and beyond have demonstrated, the regular inhalation of burning materials is dangerous to long-term health and wellbeing. This ancient method of administration is fast falling out of favour, as more people switch to healthier methods.
Another, safer, traditional way of using CBD or hemp oil was to imbibe it orally. In ancient India and Nepal, bhang was developed. This is a milk-based sweet drink, essentially a milkshake. It includes the active ingredients: CBD and other oils, that occur in Cannabis sativa. The ancient Greeks used to rub the prepared plant on their horses’ wounds, and would often use the plant topically (on the skin) in humans also, after steeping in warm water or wine. The efficacy of these ancient techniques cannot be verified, due to the patchiness of data from those times.
CBD was first extracted from hemp oil in 1940 in the United States by two organic chemists independently. 23 years later, a research group in Israel elucidated the exact chemical composition and absolute form of CBD or cannabidiol. Once the components of hemp oil were isolated, the scientific application of these compounds would be possible. CBD can now be used in a number of ways.
Similarly to the bhang still in use in Asia, CBD or hemp oil is commonly taken orally – through the mouth. Some can be absorbed through the mouth lining. Some CBD is then swallowed and enters the digestive system, from where it is transported to the stomach. To take hemp or CBD oil orally, the bottle must be shaken to mix with the carrier oil it is suspended in: this will likely be grapeseed, coconut, or other oils. It then must be lifted using the dropper provided and dropped onto the surface under the tongue in whatever dosage is desired. This oral administration method is often sold as a ‘tincture’. Other oral ways of absorbing CBD or hemp oil include oral spray/mist and tablets or pills – commonly known ways of taking many medications and supplements.
CBD and hemp oil are often available in forms to be applied to the skin. Creams, lotions, balms and gels are widely available. These always come with manufacturer’s instructions, and these are best followed.
These are available from a number of manufacturers. These are similar in operation to the well-known nicotine patches used by many in smoking cessation. The patch is adhesive on one side and impregnated with the active ingredient on the same side. This patch is stuck to the skin on the upper portion of a limb for a set period of time – usually a number of hours – and then removed. CBD and hemp oil have also been manufactured in suppository form, however, these have not proved popular among many users.