Only one and the same plant : Hemp and Cannabis
The scientific name of the plant: Cannabis Sativa L. was given by Carl Von Linné, a Swedish taxonomist in 1753. Etymologically “Cannabis” means “Hemp” and “Sativa” means a cultivated plant in Latin. The exact translation is « cultivated hemp L. », L. in reference to Linné. Thereby, in terms of botany, there is only one plant and no distinctions. It is history, the uses and the plant crossing that created the differences known today.
A distinction appears later
Hemp, also called industrial hemp, is legally cultivated all over Europe for its fiber and its nutritional qualities. It is currently used in the food industry using its seeds, as well as in the field of building materials, textiles, printing, cosmetics and so on. On the contrary to cannabis, hemp provides limited concentration of phytocannabinoids, however, CBD (cannabidiol) is the most largely represented in this plant.
It is Ernest Small, a Canadian scientist who wrote in his book « The species problem in cannabis » published in 1971, that hemp should contain less than 0.3% of THC to be categorized as such. This arbitrary distinction influenced lately standards in many countries, for instance France which fixes the limit of THC at 0.2%.
As a matter of fact, the whole plant is legal, only its psychoactive molecule THC is illegal.
Cultures and plant crossing have over time also created morphological differences. Hemp tends to grow higher, to have thicker stems and to be much thinner than cannabis in order to optimize its fiber production.
On the other hand, cannabis was crossed for its psychoactive potential, this explains why it is covered with trichomes, microscopic hairs where are concentrated the cannabinoids and which are found all over the flowers and the leaves. Therefore, cannabis is smaller and more robust than hemp in order to carry the flower weight and thereby optimize cannabinoid production. Due to the high level of THC concentration, the plant is prohibited in most countries.
One plant, many uses
As hemp and cannabis are originally the exact same plant, it cannot be said that it exists one recreative plant and another one medicinal. What makes the difference is more or less the THC concentration in the plant. In the common idea, THC is made for recreational use and CBD (non-psychoactive molecule) is associated with a medical purpose. Actually, only the consumption pattern and the consumer aim make the difference. Over these last 20 years, many scientific studies have proved that THC has therapeutic uses as well as the other cannabinoids. There are 144 cannabinoids known today and present in the plant. THC and CBD are the most represented, followed close by 4 other CBN, CBG, CBC, THCV.
Hence the importance of the entourage effect!
- Michka, Cannabis médical, du chanvre indien aux cannabinoïdes de synthèse,
CannaScope, Mama Éditions, 2015.
- Tetrahydrocannabinol Levels in Hemps (Cannabis Sativa) Germplasm Resources.
- Evolution and classification of cannabis sativa (Marijuana, Hemp) in relation to Human utilizatoin.
- Traduction cannabis en latin.
- Traduction sativa en latin.