7 Lessons About Hemp Extract and The Endocannabinoid System

Hemp is expected to be a $2.5 billion industry in the U.S. by 2022. Are you ready for this? I ask because America has a real problem with euphoria; we’re anti-euphoric. Yet, we’re pro-toxic, which is why alcohol is our drug of choice – it’s a toxin and therefore intoxicates you. Hemp oil is associated with a long list of health benefits and is considered the healing component of the cannabis plant. It is not addictive, habit-forming or psychoactive.  

Lesson #1: Understanding CBD Oil

There are over 100 active cannabinoids in the cannabis plant (Cannabis sativa), and the most well-understood cannabinoids are marijuana (THC) and hemp (CBD); however, don’t forget the therapeutic potential of the minor cannabinoids (see Lesson #5). Marijuana contains THC, the cannabinoid responsible for its psychoactive effects. Hemp has levels of THC less than 0.3% and is considered non-psychoactive, which means it won’t get you high. In fact, CBD can actually counteract the psychoactivity of THC and combat unpleasant effects of THC.  

Lesson #2: Hemp Legality

In 2018, the Farm Bill removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) so hemp is now officially an agricultural commodity, not a controlled substance. Additionally, hemp was redefined in the bill to include extracts, cannabinoids and derivatives. As long as the THC level is at or below 0.3%, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) can no longer interfere with interstate commerce of hemp products. Along with this, CBD products derived from hemp can be freely purchased over the internet and consumed.

Lesson #3: The Endocannabinoid System's Mode of Action

Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is a complex signaling network in the human body consisting of cannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors.

The body has two types of cannabinoid receptors: CB1 and CB2. CB1 receptors are concentrated in the brain and is critical for maintaining a healthy central nervous system. CB2 receptors are mostly in the peripheral organs, especially cells associated with the immune system. When a particular cannabinoid attaches to these specific receptors, it triggers a series of changes in the way cells send signals to other cells throughout the body.

Stimulating the ECS with plant-based cannabinoids (ie: CBD) promotes balance in the body.

Lesson #4: What to Look For On A Hemp Extract Label

Since passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, most products sold as hemp-derived CBD oil don’t mention CBD anywhere on the label – rather, they call it hemp extract, phytocannabinoid, or hemp-derived full spectrum oil – basically a code word for CBD.

Hemp oil is different than hemp extract. Hemp oil is made from hemp seeds, which doesn’t contain CBD. Hemp oil contains various omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and although it doesn't contain CBD, it does make a desirable carrier oil for CBD.

When researching hemp extract products, look for a company that emphasizes quality control, farming practices, third party testing for product homogeneity, cannabinoid quantitation, and screening for potential harmful contaminants (ie: lead, cadmium, arsenic).

Lesson #5: Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil

Researchers have identified over 100 different cannabinoids in the hemp plant, and they’re separated into subclasses.

Some of the primary constituents include:

CBD (including CBDa and CBDv): enhances blood flow, neuroprotective, antiepileptic, supports a healthy inflammatory response

CBN: excellent for eye health

CBG: promotes the body's innate resistance to bacteria, supports a healthy inflammatory response, promotes bone growth

CBC: helps relieve occasional pain discomfort, supports a healthy inflammatory response, promotes bone growth

On the market today, “CBD oil” is an umbrella term that refers to ALL different cannabinoids within the plant. You DO NOT want a CBD isolate product with only CBD. You want a product with a variety of strains, including CBN, CBG, CBC, etc. The entire plant must be looked at for the synergistic relationship between the constituents. Always look for WHOLE PLANT full spectrum CBD oil, which will have a very small amount of THC (less than .3%). Ask the company you’re buying from if the product is full spectrum.

Lesson #6: Clinical Endocannabinoid System Deficiency is Real

If you feel “high” from taking CBD, which is technically impossible because it’s not psychoactive, yet some people still very much FEEL it – you may be suffering from “endocannabinoid deficiency syndrome.” This means your endocannabinoid receptors are so deficient, and your nervous system is so out of whack (tied up in fight or flight mode), you feel THAT much of a difference (high) when finally entering parasympathetic mode.

Lesson #7: Other Ways to Utilize Your Body’s Endocannabinoid System

Scientists have found prolonged aerobic exercise increases levels of anandamide, the “feel good” endocannabinoid. Diet is also a useful target. Increasing your intake of the omega-3 essential fatty acid, found in oily fish or healthy seeds like flax or hemp, can help support endocannabinoid brain signaling.

Full spectrum hemp oil is a trend that will not be going away anytime soon. Give it a try!

Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods


1. Cannabinoids, Cannabidiol (CBD), THC, HEMP, Marijuana, Cannabis

2. Fuss J et al. A runner’s high depends on cannabinoid receptors in mice. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Oct 20;112(42):13105-8.

3. Lafourcade M et al. Nutritional omega-3 deficiency abolishes endocannabinoid-mediated neuronal functions. Nat Neurosci. 2011 Mar;14(3):345-50.

4. https://basresearch.com/science/anatomy-of-the-cannabis-plant-cannabinoids/

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