Cultivated by humans for ten thousand years and counting, hemp has a long history of being used for a variety of purposes, including medicinal. Despite this ancient heritage, one which eventually leads to several of the U.S. founding fathers choosing to grow hemp as a cash crop, the cultivation of cannabis and its role in alleviating health problems became a controversy in the 20th century. Various laws and regulations were passed in the United States and elsewhere which virtually vanquished the hemp industry.
Along with the loss of its many industrial applications, these measures meant the medicinal value of cannabis was also taken away from society. From using THC oil to fight nausea to using CBD tincture for sleep, lawful medical cannabis was off the table. This forced cannabis users to either turn to less effective drugs or opt to break the law and buy cannabis on the black market.
While not completely overturned, tremendous strides have taken place over the last 20 years or so in the fight to undo the prohibition of medicinal cannabis. Most recently, the legislative and executive branches of the United States federal government agreed to pass a law which reclassified hemp from a controlled substance to an agricultural commodity. This landmark legislation allows farmers to grow hemp for a variety of purposes, one of which is the production of medicinal cannabis products under certain circumstances.
For readers wondering what all this might mean for their ability to use medicinal cannabis, several qualifying factors must be laid out. First and foremost, the U.S. federal government still considers marijuana to be a schedule 1 controlled substance. Despite both belonging to the same genus of the cannabis plant, hemp and marijuana are two distinct species. In simple terms, marijuana plants are cultivated to have a high volume of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis consumption. Hemp, on the other hand, is essentially bred so that the flowers containing THC are not present and the plant instead produces an overabundance of leaves, which typically contain very low levels of THC.
While hemp lacks the psychoactive compounds popularly associated with cannabis, the plant has the potential to contain high concentrations of the dozens of other cannabinoids found in the genus. One of these is cannabidiol, otherwise known as CBD. Unlike THC, which leads to a person feeling “high”, consuming CBD results in a more down-to-earth reaction, one responding to common health problems rather than providing an altered state of consciousness.
As a result, products containing CBD oil have been growing in popularity in recent years. From helping to reduce stress and anxiety to providing pain relief related to inflammation, CBD oil and products infused with CBD oil are becoming a trusted option in medicine cabinets and food pantries across the world. In the United States, the increased popularity of using CBD to help treat common health problems is set to grow even further thanks to the aforementioned passing of the omnibus farm bill in late 2018.
In closing, the legalization of hemp means more options for your daily healthcare needs. While it’s important to note cannabis is not a wonder drug, its role in treating a number of common medical conditions is undisputed. Now that more and more people are able to access products derived from hemp, the future of pain management and treatment for anxiety has never looked brighter.
(A version of this story first appeared on HealthTechZone.)