Hemp has over 25,000 industrial uses and has been used in many different medical applications for thousands of years. It also contains over 100 different kinds of compounds known as phytocannabinoids. Each kind of cannabinoid is associated with its own unique medical benefits. One you may be familiar with is Cannabidiol (CBD), a hemp-derived, non-intoxicating compound with anti-inflammatory properties. Though CBD is not yet FDA approved, emerging research indicates CBD has a great deal of therapeutic promise, particularly with respect to pain management.
The Farm Bill passed in 2018, legalizing hemp across America. As such new CBD-rich hemp products are appearing on the market almost daily. One of the most popular types of new hemp products is hemp flower. Hemp flower refers to the resin-secreting flowers of hemp plants which have been harvested and cured.
Hemp has many therapeutic benefits for those who use it. And because there are so many different ways to utilize hemp it might surprise you to learn, then, that you can smoke hemp flower. But before we dive into that let’s address a basic question that crops up in everyone’s minds: what’s the difference between hemp/CBD/THC?
Understanding The Difference Between Hemp/CBD/THC
A common concern to address with new hemp users is whether or not hemp will get them high. The answer? Hemp will not get you “high” like THC does.
Hemp is one type of plant from the Cannabis sativa species. Cannabis plants can produce over 100 different kinds of phytocannabinoids. The distinguishing feature that categorizes hemp plants is the fact that hemp plants tend to produce CBD as their primary phytocannabinoid.
The 2018 Farm Bill took things a step further and set out quantifiable limits that defined hemp. It stated US hemp was to contain no more than 0.3% THC by dry weight.
But wait!! Didn’t you just say hemp = CBD??? Where did the THC come from?
Remember the 100+ phytocannabinoids each plant produces? This means hemp plants may produce trace amounts of THC along with CBD.
While you can get hemp flower with 0% THC if you can stand to have a little THC in your system it’s definitely A Good Thing because…
The Entourage Effect & Raw Hemp Flower
One of the primary benefits of raw hemp flower is the fact that it can contain the plant’s full spectrum of compounds. The term ‘full spectrum’ refers to all of the various compounds that are present in hemp plants such as cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids.
Researchers have confirmed that full spectrum cannabis is much more potent in its therapeutic benefit than isolates (any cannabinoid taken on its own). This is thanks to a theory known as “the entourage effect.”
The Entourage Effect puts forth the idea that cannabinoids work together synergistically, i.e. amplifying each other to confer the greatest therapeutic benefit.
So what does that have to do with raw hemp flower? Unlike many other CBD-rich products like gummies hemp flower is not highly processed. As such it’s far more likely to retain the full spectrum of cannabinoids. Consuming full spectrum cannabinoid products, in turn, can confer positive health effects associated with those cannabinoids.
The Benefits Of Smoking Full/Broad Spectrum Hemp
As we touched on just now, hemp plants can produce many different types of cannabinoids. Produced in smaller concentrations than primary cannabinoids like CBD, these compounds are called ‘minor cannabinoids’. Some minor cannabinoids include Cannabigerol (CBG), Cannabinol (CBN), Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and Cannabidivarin (CBDV).
While the research on these compounds is limited, we do have evidence that indicates each one of these cannabinoids can confer therapeutic benefits. CBG, for instance, is a powerful anti-microbial agent that can fight “superbugs” like MRSA. CBN also has anti-inflammatory features and demonstrates anticonvulsant properties. THCA can act as a neuroprotectant which may hinder cancer growth. CBDV is currently being evaluated for its role as an anticonvulsant as well.
Smoking Hemp Flower For Anxiety
One of the most commonly cited reasons for people trying CBD is anxiety. This makes complete sense—after all, 18% of Americans (40 million people!) report suffering from an anxiety disorder.
Hemp is rich in CBD. CBD, in turn, has been shown to demonstrate anti-anxiety (anxiolytic) like benefits. It also has shown therapeutic potential with regard to other anxiety like behaviors such as social anxiety disorder.
Smoking hemp flower, especially full or broad spectrum flower, can be a good way for people to access these benefits. ‘Broad spectrum’ refers to hemp plants that contain the full spectrum of cannabinoids except for THC.
Smokable hemp flower is also a great place to start for the canna-curious people hoping to alleviate anxiety. Why’s that? The presence of THC can be aggravating to certain groups which may not respond positively to it.
As such THC-free, CBD rich hemp flower is a great way to start experimenting for those looking to better manage their anxiety.
Smoking Hemp Flower For Pain
Another one of the most commonly cited reasons for people trying CBD is to help with pain. In fact pain was listed by 40% of applicants in a recent Gallup poll as the #1 reason why they use CBD products.
One of CBD’s many therapeutic benefits is its analgesic (painkilling) properties. These properties are magnified when you consume full or broad spectrum CBD thanks to The Entourage Effect.
Smoking Offers A Rapid Onset Time
There are many different types of CBD/hemp products out there: CBD gummies, teas, lotions and even patches, to name a few. However each different type of CBD product will affect you differently. This is due to 1) everyone’s unique pharmacology and 2) each type of product is absorbed differently by the body.
Smoking hemp is quite possibly one of the most popular and conventional ways to consume it. That’s likely due to the fact that smoking hemp has one of the fastest onset times, or how long it will take before a chemical begins to affect you. When hemp is smoked it causes your central nervous system (CNS) to activate, producing “intense pleasurable and strongly reinforcing effects” in a matter of minutes.
As such many people turn to smokable CBD hemp flower to help them manage pain and other related conditions.
Smoking Flower = Better Bioavailability
The current data we have regarding bioavailability, or how efficiently your body processes an external substance, is limited with regards to CBD.
A 2018 systematic review on the pharmacokinetics of CBD in humans noted that, “…no other studies attempted to report the absolute bioavailability of CBD following other routes in humans.” The study they cited reported smokable CBD flower had a bioavailability of 31%.
Smoking hemp flower likely offers greater bioavailability compared to eating CBD hemp gummies or other edible products. This is due to the fact that orally consumed cannabinoids are subject to something called “the first pass effect.” The first pass effect subjects orally ingested CBD to further breakdown in your digestive tract, reducing overall bioavailability. When you smoke flower you avoid this process altogether, thereby improving bioavailability.
The Benefits Of Terpene-Rich Flower
Hemp is a remarkable plant for many reasons. And while the benefits associated with cannabinoids were enumerated earlier, you might be delighted to learn that there’s even more goodness to be found in hemp plants.
Plants in the Cannabis sativa family contain over 500 different compounds! 100+ of them are cannabinoids, sure, but then you also get an entirely new class of compounds in there called terpenes.
Terpenes are the aromatic molecules that give hemp and cannabis plants their unique effects. We currently know of at least 150 different terpenes. A few of the most prominent, or “major” terpenes (Monoterpenes) include Myrcene, Limonene and Pinene. Myrcene is a terpene found in hemp and black peppercorn that has anxiolytic, anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects. Limonene has been shown to exert antidepressant and anti-anxiety-like effects on mood. Pinene is the most abundant terpene in nature. It’s thought to contribute to the cannabis plant’s ability to act as a bronchodilator, or a compound that opens up the airways.
Unprocessed, raw hemp flower is rich in phytocannabinoids like CBD as well as terpenes. Terpenes also create a more pleasurable smoking experience as they provide scent and flavor to hemp flower.
Smoking hemp flower, then, allows you to experience the full therapeutic benefits associated with phytocannabinoids and terpenes.
CBD May Help Reduce Cravings Of Addictive Substances
Smoking Hemp flower that’s rich in CBD may offer another surprising benefit: reducing cravings for addictive substances.
CBD acts on our Endocannabinoid Systems (ECS). The ECS is a series of chemical messengers that regulates many functions such as hunger, metabolism and mood throughout the body. CBD is thought to act on the ECS in such a way so as to reduce our cravings for addictive substances.
A 2013 paper published in the scientific journal Addictive Behaviors found that CBD reduced cigarette consumption in tobacco smokers. The amount, incidentally, was more than statistically significant: smokers reduced their cigarette consumption by 40% during treatment!
Another study examining the effects of CBD on addictive behaviors found that CBD reduced the “pleasantness of cigarette cues.”
While more research is ultimately needed to form any conclusions, CBD is also currently being evaluated for its potential role in the opiate crisis. These factors suggest that CBD may help people better manage cravings, making smokable hemp flower a viable candidate for tobacco smokers looking to quit.
How To Shop For The Best Hemp Flower
Hemp flower, especially full or broad spectrum hemp, can contain many therapeutic compounds. As such those seeking to maximize the therapeutic potential of hemp will want to keep a few tips in mind when shopping for hemp flower.
1. Always look for a Certificate of Analysis (COA)
The only way consumers will be able to truly understand what their hemp contains is to examine a Certificate of Analysis, or COA. A COA is a lab result (performed by a third party) that provides information on the hemp’s content. It will generally include information on cannabinoid content (listing primary and minor cannabinoids present) along with information on terpene profile. COAs will usually also have several different test results available. These results test for the presence of leftover chemicals, heavy metals, pesticides and other harmful agents like mycotoxins.
When purchasing hemp flower you should endeavor to buy flower that has COAs available. Go through the COA and be sure that it meets the criteria for a passing grade when it comes to test results. Check to see if the amount of hemp listed in the COA matches what the label says. It’s also ideal if you can find a product that provides a COA for each batch number as this ensures your COA is always up to date.
A COA is also another way to ensure the hemp you’re buying is the right fit for you. Looking to maximize the anti-inflammatory properties of hemp? You may want to look for hemp with high THCA content in its COA. Or perhaps you’re looking for hemp to use before bed, in which case you might want to opt for a hemp high in the terpenes Myrcene and Linalool.
2. Opt for grown in the USA
Hemp is a bioaccumulator. That means that it can absorb heavy metals and other waste in soil. This mighty plant is so powerful that it was even planted in the areas surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
Accordingly, researchers note that, “If large quantities of hemp are being cultivated to produce CBD, it is critically important that the quality of the soil is closely monitored and regulated.”
You can evaluate the quality of hemp in a number of ways. One criteria to keep in mind is where the hemp was grown. US grown hemp is often viewed as a golden standard due to the fact that Chinese hemp may be subject to less regulation. One such report published by the United States Department of Agriculture in 2019 claimed that,“According to industry sources, hemp cultivation in provinces other than Yunnan and Heilongjiang for fiber and seed use is unregulated.”
Knowing where your hemp was grown is a good way to ensure the hemp you’re getting is of the highest quality available.
3. Reach for organic brands
The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) has confirmed that hemp can be certified organic. They note that,
“A crop can only be certified if the land has been managed without the use of prohibited materials (synthetic fertilizers and pesticides) for 36 months before the crop is harvested.”
Organically grown hemp, then, is likely to contain less traces of residual chemicals like solvents or pesticides. A Politico piece published in December 2019 highlighted increasing trade in the organic hemp market, noting that,
“‘There’s increasing interest and increasing demand’ in organic hemp, said Gwendolyn Wyard, vice president of regulatory and technical affairs for the Organic Trade Association. ‘There’s so much hemp coming onto the market — we’re looking at a flooded marketplace. Retailers are figuring out who to buy from and looking at how brands are distinguishing themselves.’”
The piece also highlighted some of the benefits associated with organic hemp such as the reduced environmental impact thanks to increased sustainable practices.
Keep an eye out on your product label and COA to see if your hemp flower is organic.
4. Support regenerative farming practices whenever possible
There are many different ways to grow hemp. Some are decidedly more sustainable than others.
One type of farming that prioritizes biodiversity is known as regenerative farming. Regenerative farming places an emphasis on growing cannabis in a sustainable way to as to not overly deplete the soil and earth of nutrients. In this way hemp that is grown with regenerative or other sustainable farming practices can benefit many but have a greatly reduced carbon footprint.
When you choose to support brands that use regenerative practices you’re helping make the world a better place one gram at a time. You’re likely also helping support small businesses as regenerative practices are often replaced with commercial farms that prioritize high yields instead.
Smoke some hemp, save the world. Sounds like a good deal to us.
5. Thoroughly examine packaging
The final step to smart hemp shopping is giving the label a good, thorough read through. Does it clearly state the cannabinoid content of the product? Are there any instructions for use/recommended use? Are ingredients clearly labeled? Can you access a COA? These are just a few elements to look out for on a hemp flower product label (or any CBD product, for that matter).
Hemp has many, many benefits and can be enjoyed in many different ways. Each different type of hemp product, however, will have its own unique effects. Smoking hemp, for instance, is favored by many people as it’s very fast acting and has a high bioavailability rate. Smoking full or broad spectrum hemp flower is also another good way to maximize the hemp’s therapeutic effects. This is likely due to a phenomenon known as “The Entourage Effect” which states that cannabinoids work better together than alone.
Finding your ‘just right’ hemp product can require some finesse. A few things to look out for when shopping for hemp flower include: Certificates of Analyses (COA), cannabinoid/terpene profile, organic certification, where your hemp was grown and details of the label.