Why Hemp Genetics Matter To The CBD Industry

Why Hemp Genetics Matter To The CBD Industry

The hemp and CBD industries have completely exploded during the last decade. More and more cultivators, extractors, manufacturers, and sellers have entered the CBD game. As a direct result of this influx of competition, the national quality of hemp has improved tenfold. Just take a look at some whole flower for sale today, and see how gorgeous the nugs look compared to just a few short years ago. 

But how exactly did we end up with such superior hemp? The answer: genetics. 

What Is CBD? 

CBD is a chemical compound derived from the cannabis plant known as a cannabinoid. Unlike THC, another well-known cannabinoid, CBD doesn’t get users high. Despite being non-intoxicating, there are still a myriad of potential CBD uses.

Currently, with the exception of Epidiolex (a pharmaceutical-grade form of CBD used to treat seizures), the FDA hasn’t approved CBD for medicinal or therapeutic use. However, preliminary research and anecdotal evidence strongly suggest that CBD has the potential to help treat several ailments. For many who use CBD, pain relief is the number one priority. Others use the cannabinoid to help deal with sleep disorders or anxiety. Some people just use CBD to relax after a long day or to help them stay calm and focused throughout the workday. 

History Of CBD

For a long time, nobody in the cannabis industry ever talked about CBD. Most didn’t even know what it was. In the past the main focus revolved around breeding plants with the highest possible THC content to create a more potent buzz. Until a young girl named Charlotte Figi and a team of Colorado-based cultivators changed that. 

Charlotte had a condition called Dravet Syndrome that caused her to have hundreds of seizures a month. Conventional drug therapies didn’t have any positive effects. When there was nothing else the doctors could do, her mother discovered an obscure clinical trial out of South America where cannabis was being successfully used to treat epilepsy. Willing to try anything to save her daughter, she began sourcing low THC marijuana for Charlotte. Remarkably, the cannabis significantly reduced the frequency of Charlotte’s seizures. However, it wasn’t easy finding the right strains. High THC percentages made Charlotte’s condition even worse, and nobody at the time was growing cannabis for CBD. Fortunately, Charlotte’s mother found the Stanely Brothers, a team of cultivators who were already in the process of creating a high CBD strain by cross breeding marijuana with hemp. Their bud had such a profound effect on the Figi family, that they named their strain Charlotte’s Web.

Charlotte’s story became a national phenomenon and brought mainstream attention to CBD. So you see, without creative manipulation of hemp genetics, there wouldn’t be any CBD industry, to begin with. Today, cultivators still focus on genetics, albeit for different reasons—mainly for desirable terpene and cannabinoid profiles. 

Let’s Learn About Terpenes 

Everyone in the cannabis industry today is talking about terps. But what are terpenes exactly? 

If you’ve ever enjoyed the smell of lavender blooming or the fresh scent of freshly picked basil, then you’ve already appreciated terpenes. Terpenes are aromatic molecules that give plants their unique smell, and cannabis is chock full of them. 

Hemp terpenes do more than just smell good, though. Studies suggest that terpenes’ health benefits are significant. Some different terpenes and their benefits include: 

  • Limonene: This citrusy terpene has noted anti-fungal properties. 
  • Pinene: Pinene smells like a fresh forest and also may be effective at helping to reduce inflammation 
  • Humulene: It smells like a brewery in here! This bitter terpene is also found in hops, and studies indicate it may help suppress appetite. 

    These are just a few of the many hemp terpenes out there. By breeding certain strains together, cultivators can create unique aromatic signatures for their CBD flower, as well as influence the health benefits. 

    Cannabinoids

    We talked a little about CBD vs THC earlier, but these aren’t the only cannabinoids found in hemp. In fact, we know of at least 100 different cannabinoids that can be present in cannabis. But what do other cannabinoids have to do with CBD? Some CBD products are what some might call full spectrum or broad spectrum: meaning that there’s more than just CBD in there. Whole flower, for example, will always be either broad spectrum or full spectrum. 

    The large majority of CBD users choose full spectrum products because of the entourage effect—a theory that suggests cannabinoids and terpenes work together to increase each compound’s individual benefits. 

    Just like with terpenes, growers manipulate hemp genetics to create plant’s with unique cannabinoid profiles. It’s also imperative that they keep the THC down below 0.3% per dry weight, or risk having their crop destroyed for being illegal. 

    Minor Cannabinoids

    All the cannabinoids that aren’t either CBD or THC are considered to be minor cannabinoids since they only make up a small percentage. 

    • CBN: What’s CBN? This minor cannabinoid is non-intoxicating like CBD, but when looking at CBN vs CBD there are some distinct differences. For one, CBN is actually created when THC ages. CBN is said to produce sedating effects, and studies suggest it has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. 
    • CBG: This cannabinoid also won’t get you high, but there are many CBG benefits. Studies suggest that CBG may be particularly useful in treating glaucoma by reducing intraocular pressure. It’s also known to have anti-inflammatory and cancer-inhibiting properties. 
    • CBDA: CBDA is the acidic form of CBD. You can transform CBDA to CBD through decarboxylation—a process that involves exposing the cannabinoid to heat, usually either through cooking or with the flame of a lighter.