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Cannabis Oil vs. CBD Oil: Health Benefits and Legal Considerations
By Stephanie Garr
The topic of cannabis (marijuana) has become far less taboo in recent years, but there are still many misconceptions—and fears—about its use as a medicinal plant.
Cannabis is still an illegal product in most countries and can be difficult to obtain. More importantly, it is challenging to study.
Still, an increasing amount of evidence has found it could offer significant benefits for patients with chronic pain and even cancer.
This article looks at what cannabis oil is, how it differs from CBD oil, and what the science is saying about its potential.
What is Cannabis Oil?
Cannabis oil is an extract from cannabis (marijuana) plants that contains several cannabinoid compounds that bind to receptors in the brain and body.
Cannabis is one of the world's oldest cultivated plants, with its use dating back some 8,000 years ago (1).
As of now, more than a 100 of its active compounds have been detected, but there are two that have been studied the most:
- Cannabidiol (CBD): This is the active ingredient in CBD oil that has been shown to display anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor effects.
- Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): This is the substance in marijuana that is most known for getting you "high."
While the term "cannabis oil" may be used to describe any cannabis-based oil (like CBD oil or hemp seed oil), it typically refers to the specific extract that contains all components of marijuana, including THC.
Summary: Cannabis oil is an extract from cannabis (marijuana) plants. It contains all active ingredients in the plant, including CBD and THC.
Cannabis Oil vs CBD Oil ... What's The Difference?
Unlike cannabis oil, which is typically made from marijuana with a high THC percentage (typically at least 50%), CBD oil does not contain this mind-altering compound.
In other words, CBD oil does not get you "high," but could offer some helpful benefits.
Many natural health proponents have been touting CBD oil and its potential to relieve chronic pain, reduce anxiety and depression, and alleviate cancer symptoms, among several other benefits.
Because it doesn't contain THC, CBD oil is legal in all 50 states of the U.S., Canada and all of Europe (except for Slovakia).
Summary: Unlike cannabis oil, which is typically made from marijuana with a high THC percentage, CBD oil does not contain this mind-altering compound.
Is Cannabis Oil Illegal?
Because it contains THC, cannabis oil can only be purchased in an area where marijuana is legal or can be prescribed.
In the U.S., marijuana is legal for both recreational and medicinal use in nine states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington, along with Washington, DC.
Thirty states have legalized medical marijuana for medicinal use. These include the nine mentioned above, along with:
Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia.
Summary: Since it contains THC, cannabis oil can only be purchased in areas where marijuana is legal or can be prescribed. This includes 30 U.S. states.
Benefits of Cannabis Oil
Because of its long-held status as an illegal Schedule I drug, research on cannabis has been limited.
Fortunately, a growing number of studies on cannabis have focused on its potential health benefits, mostly regarding appetite, nausea and pain.
Cannabis oil would likely offer similar benefits as CBD oil. However, it's possible that its addition of THC could provide further benefits.
THC is a pain reliever, anti-inflammatory and anti-emetic (prevents vomiting).
Using the whole marijuana plant versus part of it (like with CBD oil) could also provide extra synergetic effects. This however, is difficult to study.
There are currently a few licensed cannabis-based drugs on the market including:
- Dronabinol (Marinol) / Nabilone (Cesamet): Both are synthetic forms of THC used to counteract nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, and to stimulate appetite in AIDS patients.
- Nabiximols (Sativex): Contains an equal amount of THC and CBD and used to relieve symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS) and pain in cancer patients.
- Epidiolex: A concentrated CBD oil used as an anti-seizure medication for children with epilepsy (2).
Cannabis Oil for Cancer
Many cannabinoids, including THC and CBD, have shown some anti-cancer effects.
Most significantly, cannabinoids may have the ability (at least in test tube studies) to inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells and promote the death of cancer cells by apoptosis (3).
That said, while THC has shown promise in cancer studies, it's also shown the potential to suppress the immune system and enhance tumor growth (4).
Clearly, much more research needs to be done to determine how cannabinoids, at specific concentrations, may work best for cancer treatment.
Cannabis Oil for Pain Relief
Cannabis oil is a potent anti-inflammatory and can provide significant pain relief, likely more so than just CBD oil.
In fact, THC was shown to have 20 times the anti-inflammatory potency of aspirin and twice that of hydrocortisone (5).
Summary: Research on cannabis has been limited, but is quickly growing. Cannabis oil would likely offer similar benefits as CBD oil, but may offer even greater potential with the addition of THC, which is a proven pain reliever and anti-inflammatory.
Side Effects of Cannabis Oil
It can be difficult to obtain certified cannabis oils that provide specific concentrations and guarantee purity.
Some cannabis oils may even contain up to 75% THC (8).
Commercially produced cannabis oils for medical purposes are most dependable since they will have controlled concentrations of CBD and THC.
The addition of THC in cannabis oil will cause some side effects, including:
- The feeling of being "high"
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Reduced memory and learning ability
- Increased heart rate
- Increased appetite.
It's also noteworthy to mention that CBD actually helps control the psychoactive effects of THC, so a good balance of both may be important.
Summary: It can be difficult to know the concentrations and purity of cannabis oil products, so you will likely not know how much THC and CBD they contain. The presence of THC will cause you to feel "high," and may also lead to fatigue, reduced memory and increased appetite.
How to Make Cannabis Oil
Although cannabis oil has only started to find legal status in certain areas, plenty of people have been handcrafting their own for some time.
If you're able to obtain cannabis legally, you can easily make your own version of cannabis oil, which allows you to control the amount and type of cannabis used.
Canadian cannabis expert Rick Simpson is often cited for his groundbreaking work creating a cannabis oil, now referred to as Rick Simpson Oil or RSO.
He made his own cannabis oil to help treat his skin cancer, and has shared this recipe here.
Cannabis Coconut Oil
Another way to consume cannabis oil is with cannabis coconut oil.
The saturated fats in coconut oil help preserve the cannabinoids, making it a more potent and effective cannabis product.
Cannabis-infused coconut oil can be used topically, consumed on its own or used as a cooking oil just like normal coconut oil. You can also put it into capsules for measured doses.
This site offers a good recipe for cannabis coconut oil.
Summary: If you're able to obtain cannabis legally, you can make your own version of cannabis oil at home. Cannabis coconut oil can also be made and consumed on its own or used topically or as a cooking oil.
Should You Try Cannabis Oil?
The benefits of CBD oil are well established, but it's possible cannabis oil could be even more effective.
The addition of THC, the compound that also gets you "high," could offer greater anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and pain-relieving effects.
Because cannabis oil uses the entire marijuana plant, there may also be some other synergetic effects involved.
However, the state of cannabis' legality has severely limited its research opportunities. Fortunately this is rapidly changing.
Early studies have found that cannabis treatment has helped patients with chronic pain, cancer, MS, AIDS and fibromyalgia.
As of now, cannabis oil is still difficult to obtain, and is legal for medicinal use in only 30 U.S. states. It's also not regulated, so it's hard to know how much THC you may be getting.
If you're looking for a similar and safe alternative—and one without the "high"—you may want to seek out CBD oil first.
Stephanie is a certified nutrition consultant. She graduated from the University of Iowa with degrees in journalism and psychology in 2003, and later studied holistic nutrition at Bauman College in Berkeley, California.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Diet vs Disease.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Randi Spivak
Slashing two national monuments in Utah may have received the most attention, but Trump's Interior Department and U.S. Forest Service have been quietly, systematically ceding control of America's public lands to fossil fuel, mining, timber and livestock interests since the day he took office.
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By Sue Branford and Thais Borges
Ola Elvestrun, Norway's environment minister, announced Thursday that it is freezing its contributions to the Amazon Fund, and will no longer be transferring €300 million ($33.2 million) to Brazil. In a press release, the Norwegian embassy in Brazil stated:
Given the present circumstances, Norway does not have either the legal or the technical basis for making its annual contribution to the Amazon Fund.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro reacted with sarcasm to Norway's decision, which had been widely expected. After an official event, he commented: "Isn't Norway the country that kills whales at the North Pole? Doesn't it also produce oil? It has no basis for telling us what to do. It should give the money to Angela Merkel [the German Chancellor] to reforest Germany."
According to its website, the Amazon Fund is a "REDD+ mechanism created to raise donations for non-reimbursable investments in efforts to prevent, monitor and combat deforestation, as well as to promote the preservation and sustainable use in the Brazilian Amazon." The bulk of funding comes from Norway and Germany.
The annual transfer of funds from developed world donors to the Amazon Fund depends on a report from the Fund's technical committee. This committee meets after the National Institute of Space Research, which gathers official Amazon deforestation data, publishes its annual report with the definitive figures for deforestation in the previous year.
But this year the Amazon Fund's technical committee, along with its steering committee, COFA, were abolished by the Bolsonaro government on 11 April as part of a sweeping move to dissolve some 600 bodies, most of which had NGO involvement. The Bolsonaro government views NGO work in Brazil as a conspiracy to undermine Brazil's sovereignty.
The Brazilian government then demanded far-reaching changes in the way the fund is managed, as documented in a previous article. As a result, the Amazon Fund's technical committee has been unable to meet; Norway says it therefore cannot continue making donations without a favorable report from the committee.
Archer Daniels Midland soy silos in Mato Grosso along the BR-163 highway, where Amazon rainforest has largely been replaced by soy destined for the EU, UK, China and other international markets.
An Uncertain Future
The Amazon Fund was announced during the 2007 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali, during a period when environmentalists were alarmed at the rocketing rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. It was created as a way of encouraging Brazil to continue bringing down the rate of forest conversion to pastures and croplands.
Government agencies, such as IBAMA, Brazil's environmental agency, and NGOs shared Amazon Fund donations. IBAMA used the money primarily to enforce deforestation laws, while the NGOs oversaw projects to support sustainable communities and livelihoods in the Amazon.
There has been some controversy as to whether the Fund has actually achieved its goals: in the three years before the deal, the rate of deforestation fell dramatically but, after money from the Fund started pouring into the Amazon, the rate remained fairly stationary until 2014, when it began to rise once again. But, in general, the international donors have been pleased with the Fund's performance, and until the Bolsonaro government came to office, the program was expected to continue indefinitely.
Norway has been the main donor (94 percent) to the Amazon Fund, followed by Germany (5 percent), and Brazil's state-owned oil company, Petrobrás (1 percent). Over the past 11 years, the Norwegians have made, by far, the biggest contribution: R$3.2 billion ($855 million) out of the total of R$3.4 billion ($903 million).
Up till now the Fund has approved 103 projects, with the dispersal of R$1.8 billion ($478 million). These projects will not be affected by Norway's funding freeze because the donors have already provided the funding and the Brazilian Development Bank is contractually obliged to disburse the money until the end of the projects. But there are another 54 projects, currently being analyzed, whose future is far less secure.
One of the projects left stranded by the dissolution of the Fund's committees is Projeto Frutificar, which should be a three-year project, with a budget of R$29 million ($7.3 million), for the production of açai and cacao by 1,000 small-scale farmers in the states of Amapá and Pará. The project was drawn up by the Brazilian NGO IPAM (Institute of Environmental research in Amazonia).
Paulo Moutinho, an IPAM researcher, told Globo newspaper: "Our program was ready to go when the [Brazilian] government asked for changes in the Fund. It's now stuck in the BNDES. Without funding from Norway, we don't know what will happen to it."
Norway is not the only European nation to be reconsidering the way it funds environmental projects in Brazil. Germany has many environmental projects in the Latin American country, apart from its small contribution to the Amazon Fund, and is deeply concerned about the way the rate of deforestation has been soaring this year.
The German environment ministry told Mongabay that its minister, Svenja Schulze, had decided to put financial support for forest and biodiversity projects in Brazil on hold, with €35 million ($39 million) for various projects now frozen.
The ministry explained why: "The Brazilian government's policy in the Amazon raises doubts whether a consistent reduction in deforestation rates is still being pursued. Only when clarity is restored, can project collaboration be continued."
Bauxite mines in Paragominas, Brazil. The Bolsonaro administration is urging new laws that would allow large-scale mining within Brazil's indigenous reserves.
Hydro / Halvor Molland / Flickr
Alternative Amazon Funding
Although there will certainly be disruption in the short-term as a result of the paralysis in the Amazon Fund, the governors of Brazil's Amazon states, which rely on international funding for their environmental projects, are already scrambling to create alternative channels.
In a press release issued yesterday Helder Barbalho, the governor of Pará, the state with the highest number of projects financed by the Fund, said that he will do all he can to maintain and increase his state partnership with Norway.
Barbalho had announced earlier that his state would be receiving €12.5 million ($11.1 million) to run deforestation monitoring centers in five regions of Pará. Barbalho said: "The state governments' monitoring systems are recording a high level of deforestation in Pará, as in the other Amazon states. The money will be made available to those who want to help [the Pará government reduce deforestation] without this being seen as international intervention."
Amazonas state has funding partnerships with Germany and is negotiating deals with France. "I am talking with countries, mainly European, that are interested in investing in projects in the Amazon," said Amazonas governor Wilson Miranda Lima. "It is important to look at Amazônia, not only from the point of view of conservation, but also — and this is even more important — from the point of view of its citizens. It's impossible to preserve Amazônia if its inhabitants are poor."
Signing of the EU-Mercusor Latin American trading agreement earlier this year. The pact still needs to be ratified.
Council of Hemispheric Affairs
Looming International Difficulties
The Bolsonaro government's perceived reluctance to take effective measures to curb deforestation may in the longer-term lead to a far more serious problem than the paralysis of the Amazon Fund.
In June, the European Union and Mercosur, the South American trade bloc, reached an agreement to create the largest trading bloc in the world. If all goes ahead as planned, the pact would account for a quarter of the world's economy, involving 780 million people, and remove import tariffs on 90 percent of the goods traded between the two blocs. The Brazilian government has predicted that the deal will lead to an increase of almost $100 billion in Brazilian exports, particularly agricultural products, by 2035.
But the huge surge this year in Amazon deforestation is leading some European countries to think twice about ratifying the deal. In an interview with Mongabay, the German environment ministry made it very clear that Germany is very worried about events in the Amazon: "We are deeply concerned given the pace of destruction in Brazil … The Amazon Forest is vital for the atmospheric circulation and considered as one of the tipping points of the climate system."
The ministry stated that, for the trade deal to go ahead, Brazil must carry out its commitment under the Paris Climate agreement to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 43 percent below the 2005 level by 2030. The German environment ministry said: If the trade deal is to go ahead, "It is necessary that Brazil is effectively implementing its climate change objectives adopted under the [Paris] Agreement. It is precisely this commitment that is expressly confirmed in the text of the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement."
Blairo Maggi, Brazil agriculture minister under the Temer administration, and a major shareholder in Amaggi, the largest Brazilian-owned commodities trading company, has said very little in public since Bolsonaro came to power; he's been "in a voluntary retreat," as he puts it. But Maggi is so concerned about the damage Bolsonaro's off the cuff remarks and policies are doing to international relationships he decided to speak out earlier this week.
Former Brazil Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi, who has broken a self-imposed silence to criticize the Bolsonaro government, saying that its rhetoric and policies could threaten Brazil's international commodities trade.
Senado Federal / Visualhunt / CC BY
Maggi, a ruralista who strongly supports agribusiness, told the newspaper, Valor Econômico, that, even if the European Union doesn't get to the point of tearing up a deal that has taken 20 years to negotiate, there could be long delays. "These environmental confusions could create a situation in which the EU says that Brazil isn't sticking to the rules." Maggi speculated. "France doesn't want the deal and perhaps it is taking advantage of the situation to tear it up. Or the deal could take much longer to ratify — three, five years."
Such a delay could have severe repercussions for Brazil's struggling economy which relies heavily on its commodities trade with the EU. Analysists say that Bolsonaro's fears over such an outcome could be one reason for his recently announced October meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, another key trading partner.
Maggi is worried about another, even more alarming, potential consequence of Bolsonaro's failure to stem illegal deforestation — Brazil could be hit by a boycott by its foreign customers. "I don't buy this idea that the world needs Brazil … We are only a player and, worse still, replaceable." Maggi warns, "As an exporter, I'm telling you: things are getting very difficult. Brazil has been saying for years that it is possible to produce and preserve, but with this [Bolsonaro administration] rhetoric, we are going back to square one … We could find markets closed to us."
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