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Breaking Down the Terminology: CBD vs. Medical Cannabis vs. Hemp 

It’s very easy to become confused when you start to research medical cannabis and if it is the right option for you.  

Quite quickly you head down the rabbit hole and there seem to be numerous terms for what you thought were the same thing. Isn’t cannabis, just cannabis? What is hemp? And what on earth does CBD mean?  

To begin with, it is important to go back to the basics and always make sure to consult the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) website. 

What is Cannabis? 

The drug cannabis actually comes from a plant called Cannabis Sativa, and is an overarching term that encompasses medical cannabis, hemp and CBD. 

The Cannabis Sativa plant contains hundreds of chemical compounds called cannabinoids and each cannabinoid will interact differently with your brain and body.  

For example, a well-known cannabinoid is THC (or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol for the chemists out there). THC is the psychoactive chemical compound associated with the ‘high’ of cannabis drug use and what makes the drug illegal.  

Crucially, there are a number of different varieties of the Cannabis Sativa plant, and each variety has a unique chemical composition of these cannabinoids. Simply put, this means that each variety of the Cannabis Sativa plant will have different levels of THC. Some may not even have enough THC to produce a ‘high’ – but more on that later! 

Read on as we breakdown the terminology and help you to understand the main differences between medical cannabis, hemp and CBD. 

What is Medical Cannabis? 

Medical cannabis comes from the same variety of the Cannabis Sativa plant that the recreational drug commonly known as marijuana comes from.  

However – medical cannabis exists in a pure, high-quality form of cannabis. 

How can it help me? 

Medical cannabis has been found to help many people struggling with chronic illness or disease, including chronic pain. 

It is important to note that research on medical cannabis is ongoing and, as with all medical treatment and therapies, there can be side effects associated with taking this medication. For more information, please visit the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) website. 

Is it legal in Australia? 

Yes, however medical cannabis remains strictly regulated and can only be prescribed by a qualified health practitioner.  

Prescriptions can be provided in a number of forms, such as a pill, nasal spray or oil and dosage is carefully controlled and managed by your doctor. 

What is Hemp? 

Hemp is a specific variety of the Cannabis Sativa plant with naturally occurring levels of THC of less than 0.3%.  

This means you cannot get high from hemp and it has been completely legal to consume in Australia since 2017 – you may even find it in your natural skincare products! 

For centuries hemp has been used industrially to make thousands of products such as rope, sails, food, skincare and clothes – all depending on which part of the plant is used. You may even be familiar with hemp products sold in farmers markets or alternative stores. 

How can it help me? 

Hemp is also known for its anti-inflammatory response, which can be helpful for people suffering with skin issues, such as eczema. Hemp seeds are also rich in nutrients such zinc, vitamin E and magnesium, as well as omega fatty acids and can be taken as dietary supplements.  

Is it legal in Australia? 

Yes, it is completely legal. 

What is CBD? 

CBD stands for cannabidiol, which is another type of cannabinoid found in the Cannabis Sativa plant. However, unlike the cannabinoid THC, CBD is non-psychoactive and will not produce a ‘high’ effect.  

Interestingly, CBD can be extracted from the flowers and leaves of both the cannabis or hemp varieties of the Cannabis Sativa plant. It is then usually diluted with a carrier oil, such as coconut or even hemp seed oil. This means that CBD is most commonly found as an oil, which can be taken in oral capsules or added to your food and beverage. 

How can it help me? 

CBD has been claimed to have a number of health benefits and is a form of medical cannabis which can be prescribed by doctors in Australia.  

Some studies suggest that CBD can help people suffering from a variety of health issues, such as pain, addiction, seizures, anxiety, depression and nausea, however more study is always needed to confirm these findings.  

More information on research and common side effects of CBD can be found on the TGA website.  

Is it legal in Australia? 

In 2021, it became legal for CBD oil to be purchased over the counter, without a prescription from a doctor.  

What Product is Right for Me? 

It is always important to consult a healthcare professional before taking any new products, especially if you are taking any other medications.  

If you have any questions, or would like more information about medical cannabis, CBD or hemp, please get in touch with us to organise a consultation. We provide informed, safe and up-to-date care and access to alternative therapies. 

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