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With every passing year, the word “organic” grows more inescapable. The organic food industry is currently booming, and it is only expected to grow further in the near future. Many consumers turn to organic products out of concern for the environment, believing that organic foods are better for the planet, and even more choose to buy organic produce for their own health and wellness.
But what are the ramifications of the organic label on a product? Are organic products really healthier, or is it all just lip service? Here, we’ll break down exactly what makes a product “organic”, and why it’s worth it when you’re buying hemp and hemp-derived products like CBD.
What is CBD and what’s the fuss about it?
There are around 120 known cannabinoids - a name for compounds naturally produced by and found in cannabis plants (Cannabis sativa). Humans have been cultivating and enjoying the benefits of these herbaceous plants throughout recorded history. We have historical knowledge of their unique therapeutic and intoxicating effects and their recreational, medicinal, and practical purposes have been documented in detail over the years. In more recent years, as our technology and scientific capacity has progressed, scientists have been able to break down the underlying intricacies of these plants and their effects, and we can now attribute the different effects of the cannabis plant to specific cannabinoids.
CBD, also known by its full name of cannabidiol, is one of these fascinating compounds and has particularly risen in popularity as of late. It’s one of the most abundant cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant and is increasingly garnering attention for its range of therapeutic effects, offering benefits to people with conditions ranging from anxiety, chronic pain, epilepsy, skin conditions, cancer, and more. Beyond therapeutic effects for medical disorders, CBD is taken by many consumers who report that it has the potential to improve mood, relieve stress, provide energy boosts and aid in sleep, among other things.
Unlike its fellow cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD draws a great deal of its appeal from the fact that it is non-toxic and non-neurotropic in nature. This means that when ingested or consumed, it doesn’t cause the user to experience a “high” - the sort of pleasure and heightened sensory perception that cannabis is so well known for. It is still psychoactive, meaning that a dose will alter your mental faculties, but it doesn’t induce a euphoric or altered state of mind. Research also indicates that CBD has non-addictive properties, and people who take it are less likely to build up a tolerance to it over time than they are to other substances.
Classifying CBD products
Many first-time CBD users, and even veterans and long-time users, may get intimidated by the sheer variety and quantity of products that are popping up in the market. Legalization of hemp farming in numerous countries, including the USA, as well as a surge in public interest in CBD, means that there is an ever-growing number of retailers (of varying quality) selling this emerging product.
CBD products available on the market come in one of three broad categories, defined by their specific ingredients and contents.
Full-spectrumproducts are the “fullest” experience - they contain the full range of cannabinoids, terpenes and other naturally-produced compounds that are found in cannabis plants. According to a theory called the “Entourage Effect”, cannabinoids are thought to be more effective when consumed in combination with other cannabis plant compounds, which is why full-spectrum products are thought to yield the best effects overall.
These products are the least processed in manufacturing since the extract does not need to undergo further processing and all the compounds extracted are retained. This also means these products will contain small amounts of THC, which means they may not adhere to local THC regulations. Most countries have a strict limit on the amount of THC allowed in a given product - 0.2% THC in the UK, and a maximum of 1mg.
Broad-spectrumproducts are fairly similar to their full-spectrum counterparts in their chemical composition but are defined by the exclusion of THC. Removing THC entirely means that these products easily comply with THC regulations, making them easier to procure in most places, while still allowing consumers to get a relatively full experience from their product and profiting from the benefits of the Entourage Effect.
CBD isolateproducts consist of pure CBD, extracted in a manner that excludes all other additional compounds in the final product. By doing so, this ensures that you get CBD and all of its benefits alone, without being exposed to any other cannabinoids or associated compounds. This does also have the downside of eliminating the benefits brought by the Entourage Effect, but some consumers simply prefer pure CBD without any other frills.
Besides these different compositions, the way these products are presented can also vary significantly. From pure CBD oil to CBD topicals like creams, lotions and balms, to CBD-infused foods and drinks, CBD vape cartridges, and more, manufacturers are coming up with increasingly creative and innovative spins on this natural compound.
By and large, though, these products are derived from the same source: cannabis plants. But between marijuana and hemp or other cultivars, which is which - and does it make a difference which they are sourced from?
Marijuana, hemp - what’s the difference?
The terminology and names surrounding cannabis plants and their products can get a little confusing at times, with the number of different monikers or slang terms thrown about for the same item. Generally speaking, while the term “cannabis plant” usually refers to the species Cannabis sativa, there isn’t just one type of cannabis plant. In fact, cannabis plants come in several distinct strains cultivated over time, with differing phytochemical makeups and different uses. The main two to distinguish between are marijuana and hemp.
Marijuanais a cannabis variety cultivated mainly for recreational purposes. It is primarily characterized by high concentrations of delta-9 THC, which is what induces a psychoactive “high” in consumers. A huge number of strains of marijuana exist, each with distinct cannabinoid and terpenoid compositions, and marijuana has also been extensively bred to increase the amount of THC naturally present in an individual plant. High-THC strains can average a 20-25% THC content, making it incredibly potent.
Hemp, also called industrial hemp, is cultivated specifically for industrial uses. It is defined by lower concentrations of THC and high concentrations of CBD, which is why it is typically the strain of choice when sourcing CBD. Its low THC levels (around 0.3% or less) means that it has lower or no psychoactive effects when smoked or consumed.
Industrial hemp is fast-growing and incredibly versatile, and every part of the plant can be harvested and put to use. Besides its use as a folk medicine ingredient, its seeds are nutritious and can be made into oil, and its fibres are extremely durable and have been used as materials for paper, textiles, biofuel, food, construction and even for making cars. Hemp can even assist in improving soil fertility and removing heavy metals and radioactive toxins from contaminated soil - a process known as phytoremediation.
What is "organic", really?
To define organic hemp and CBD, we first need to clarify what organic means in the first place. It’s a term so ubiquitous nowadays that you’d be hard-pressed to go into any grocery store or market without running into so-called organic produce. But what actually sets “organic” apart from the norm, and why is it touted as better?
Organic food and produce need to be made by farming systems that follow a set of rules in order to yield healthier, safer products. There is a list of criteria that a plant must meet to be certified as organic that doesn’t just boil down to “no pesticides”, though the specifics and how they are enforced vary from country to country. For example, in the EU, all farmers, processors, or traders who want to market their products as organic have to be checked by a control body or authority first and need to be compliant with requirements and general food law before they can receive their official government-approved certification.
Generally, organic certification requirements involve an extensive list of standards of production that encompasses every part of the production chain, from growing and storage to processing, packaging and shipping. For crops this includes:
- Avoiding any sorts of synthetic chemicals being used or input - which includes fertilizers, artificial herbicides and pesticides, food additives, and also the use of sewage sludge
- Using farmland that has been clean from any prohibited chemicals for a number of years
- Clearly labelling and strictly separating organic products from non-organic products
- Following a limited list of approved additives and processing aids in the production process
Methods such as irradiation, or the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the farming process also disqualify a product from being organic. And, of course, to verify this certification, approved regulatory bodies conduct inspections to check each step of the production chain.
The larger goal in organic products and organic farming is to produce food using natural substances and processes, thus encouraging a lower and more positive environmental impact. Organic farming prizes responsible usage of energy and natural resources, maintenance of biodiversity and water quality, improving soil fertility and preservation of local and regional ecological balance. All these regulations and guidelines are born out of environmental awareness and growing consumer demand for healthier food that doesn’t cause harm in the way that conventional agricultural practices so often do.
All of these rules contribute to why organic crops can be more expensive to grow than non-organic crops, because farmers have to use more intense or meticulous farming methods and natural fertilizers, without the aid of synthetic chemicals. Often farmers will implement methods such as crop rotation, selecting crop varieties that are resistant to weeds and pests, cultivating nitrogen-fixing plants to replenish nutrients in the soil, and more.
Why organic matters for hemp
“Organically-grown hemp”, or “organic hemp” is hemp that has been grown under these stringent conditions and complies with all the applicable regulations. Organic hemp benefits significantly from organic farming practices and the healthy soil required under regulations. Hemp has a greater tendency than other crops to absorb toxins from the soil, making it particularly sensitive or prone to accumulating heavy metals, pesticides, and other pollutants. This is an amazing quality when one wants to clean the soil, but the presence of these toxins in the plants themselves can ripple down to affect the quality of the final product and the health of consumers, especially when you consider that CBD oil is usually topically applied or ingested.
Organic hemp is also far better for the environment because of the avoidance of herbicide and pesticide use. While pesticides are a useful tool for farmers to keep their crops from being ravaged by insects, they can also kill insects and pollinators that form a critical part of the local ecosystem as well as beneficial microbes in the soil. Furthermore, some studies suggest that fruits and vegetables that have been sprayed with certain pesticides can trigger allergic reactions when consumed, though whether or not the pesticides are the true cause of this is still debated.
In place of these harmful methods, certified organic farms make use of natural methods to protect their crops which are far less damaging to the environment. A growing number of farmers are also implementing “regenerative organic” practices, which prize soil health and maintenance and sustainable conservation of the land so it can be used for many years to come.
Hemp is also a sustainable and environmentally friendly plant on its own merits. It provides pollen for bees, butterflies and other insects who are indispensable to the ecosystem, and it improves soil quality by suppressing weeds, loosening soil, and affecting soil condition, which can be exploited for future crop production. Its derivatives, CBD oil included, are thus environmentally responsible products.
Although the effort behind organic certification makes this kind of hemp more expensive, many consider it well worth it since growing hemp in pristine growing conditions and a strictly managed production process keeps it “cleaner” and free from potentially toxic agents or synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. The end result is a healthier, more natural, and higher quality product.
Organic versus non-organic CBD
Organic CBD refers to CBD oil that is extracted from these organically grown hemp plants and then processed without any artificial additives or chemicals. In a way, this makes it organic twice-over, on both a farming level and a manufacturing level. The final product is all-natural, cleaner, and more environmentally-friendly on the whole, which is incredibly appealing in an era of increasingly irreversible climate change.
You may have also heard the term natural CBD thrown around. By definition, as a product extracted from hemp leaves and flowers, most CBD products should be classified as natural. These products are safe for therapeutic uses, have minimal side effects, and are generally commonplace and benign - but they are not organically certified, and do not comply with the same sort of environmentally-conscious exacting standards.
There are also some products on the market that use synthetic CBD oil. CBD manufactured in this manner has yet to be thoroughly researched and its effects are not completely verified, making it a potentially dangerous ingredient to consume. These products are largely untested and unverified and should be avoided so you don’t put yourself at risk. Keep an eye out for the labels of products - if they do not specify the source of the hemp used, they may use synthetic CBD.
However, it’s also important to keep in mind that synthetic does not necessarily equate to bad - some well-researched, safe synthetic ingredients may be vital to the makeup of a product. When it comes to CBD oil, though, all-natural and organic is the way to go, as buying CBD oil that is natural and organic will provide the greatest benefits to you, your wellness, and then environment.
Vaping Organic CBD
With the abundance of different retailers and products on the market today, you should take heed that not all CBD products are created equal, even organic CBD products. Some methods can be compromised by cheap filler ingredients, lower concentrations of CBD, or they can just be plain ineffective. Thankfully, out of all the different ways to take CBD, one of the most effective and increasingly popular methods is vaping.
To vape, you use a vaporizer device - which can come in the form of a vape pen, e-cigarette, vape mod or pod mod. A given device consists of four main components: a cartridge to hold the vape liquid, an atomizer to heat the liquid into a vapour, a power source to fuel the atomizer, and finally, an airway or mouthpiece through which the vapour can flow out into the user’s mouth and be inhaled. The vape oil itself has to reach a specific viscosity level so that the atomizer can carry out its function effectively, which is why most manufacturers need to resort to adding different compounds to act as thinning agents.
In CBD vape cartridges, the primary ingredient, CBD, is in the form of specialised vape oil, also called distillate or juice. Typically this is isolated CBD, which means it has high potency but also that other compounds will probably be included to achieve the correct viscosity level for vaporization. Increasingly, manufacturers are using terpenes - which are naturally-produced cannabis plant compounds - as their additives of choice in lieu of synthetic chemicals, which has the added bonus of boosting the positive effects of CBD through the entourage effect.
Vaping CBD is one of the fastest and most effective ways of consuming CBD, primarily due to the mechanism of delivery. When you vaporise and inhale CBD, it enters your airways and comes in contact with the lining of the lungs. CBD is absorbed rapidly via this thin membrane and can thus enter the bloodstream quickly, where it can spread through your body and act on your tissues and cells within minutes of the first breath. Each successive breath pulls in more CBD, which is absorbed and moves through your bloodstream to its various destinations in your body. Compared to other products, CBD vapes also have the highest bioavailability - meaning that when comparing the amount of CBD in the product to the amount that actually enters systemic circulation, a higher proportion (around 34 to 46%) makes it into your system when vaping.
This efficacy compounded with the ease of use and potency of this method is why many use CBD vapes. It’s particularly advantageous for CBD vape products to be organically produced, as you can avoid any unnecessary risks that are associated with synthetic or non-organic products like unwanted additives. This allows you to maximise the experience and the health benefits of your CBD, giving you a safe and smooth dose.
As an additional bonus for those who are looking to ease off of smoking or e-cigarette use, CBD vapes may have the potential to take the edge off of addiction in the long-term. Research indicates that CBD is itself a non-addictive substance, and can help treat addictions in chronic smokers and alleviate the pains associated with quitting smoking.
The best CBD for you
The next question you may have is where to go to buy your organic CBD. Depending on where you live and your area’s legal status, you can try purchasing organic CBD oil from pharmacies, wellness shops, or dispensaries in person. Alternatively, you might prefer the convenience and choice afforded from buying from an online CBD retailer. In that case, why not try Amphora?
Here at Amphora, we have a holistic selection of different CBD vape cartridges, each formulated and tailored to help alleviate different problems and meet specific wellness goals. Our CBD is sourced from organically-grown hemp plants and procured by innovative supercritical carbon dioxide extraction technology, to separate plant components and yield a pure, clean and safe distillate. Our vape oil contains only natural, organic CBD distillate, alongside all-natural terpenes to further boost flavour and wellness. All our products undergo third-party testing and are certified THC-free and clean of any artificial additives like vitamin E acetate, MCT oil, propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin.
By purchasing any one of our signature blends, you can take a breath to relax and enjoy all the benefits of a good dose of CBD, all while supporting an environmentally-friendly industry.
Written by | Infused Amphora Team
The Infused Amphora Team is dedicated to creating resources to educate and engage consumers on the growing evidence of CBD benefits and the extensive health and wellness properties of CBD oil.
Contributors | Angus Taylor + Dr Gaylord Wardell
IPI is a pharmaceutical ingredient company that cultivates cannabis strains curated to extract specific cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids for the formulation of effects-based health and wellness products. Angus is an experienced public speaker, engaging stakeholders, governments and media. Angus was the co-founder of NewLeaf Cannabis, Canada’s most successful retail brand to date, and has been established as a well-known and recognized expert in the field.
Dr Wardell is a practising physician with over 40 years of clinical and educational experience in pain management, medical practices and education. Dr Wardell is past President of the Pain Society of Alberta, and current President of the Alberta Medical Association, section of Pain. He is a popular public speaker, an active blogger on medical and pain-related issues, and proponent for scientific validation for patients experiencing pain.
Infused Amphora “Learn” is intended for informational purposes only and is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.