So maybe you have found yourself wondering… what is the difference between marijuana and hemp? What exactly is cannabis? Look no further – we have the answers you need right here!
Cannabis is a genus of plants. There are three main species (also called varieties) of Cannabis: C. sativa, C. indica, and C. ruderalis. Although there are many hybrid varieties that have been created by cross-pollinating the different species. The most commonly grown species are Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa.
Pure C. sativa can grow relatively tall, reaching heights of 4.5 meters. Pure C. indica plants are shorter and bushier and usually chosen by indoor growers. While there are many claims that marijuana produced from sativa plants give the user a more energetic, uplifting effect while marijuana produced from indica plants gives the user a more sedating, relaxing effect, the science says that both have a high THC-to-CBD ratio (averaging 200-to-1). However, the different strains can vary widely in their composition of terpenes.
C. ruderalis is a low-THC species of Cannabis, although some argue that it is a sub-species of C. sativa. This short, stocky plant is not commonly grown for industrial, recreational, or medical use. However, the characteristics of its flowering process and its increased resistance to disease and insects make it frequently used in breeding new hybrids with the other species.
The plant referred to as hemp is a variety of C. sativa. It is bred for industrial use and its fibers are used for many commercial items such as paper, textiles, clothing, biodegradable products, paint, insulation, and more. The selective breeding of hemp for industrial use has resulted in it containing greatly decreased levels of THC and slightly higher levels of CBD than its parent plant C. sativa.
The substance known as marijuana is also called “cannabis”. Technically, marijuana consists of the dried flowers, leaves, and stems of a female Cannabis plant (any species). Marijuana typically contains between 3 – 20% THC, the psychoactive compound found in all Cannabis species in some amount. Marijuana is mostly used for recreation or as a medicinal drug.
What Exactly Are Terpenes?
Terpenes are volatile compounds that can give the different Cannabis strains their unique smell and taste. More than 200 different types have been identified in Cannabis. These molecules can themselves have physiological effects in the human body, and more research is needed to understand the role of terpenes in the therapeutic and/or detrimental effects of Cannabis consumption. Some may heighten the effects of the accompanying cannabinoids, decrease the effects of the accompanying cannabinoids, or have effects all on their own. For example, humulene (alpha-caryophyllene) plays a large role in many of the distinguishing features between different Cannabis strains and has been found to have a strong anti-inflammatory role all on its own.
The plants of the Cannabis genus contain over 540 phytochemicals, roughly divided into cannabinoids (like CBD and THC), terpenes, and flavonoids. There have been over 700 different cultivated varieties of Cannabis that have been cataloged thus far, and many more are thought to exist. Each of these different varieties can vary greatly in their exact phytochemical composition.