Let’s Talk CBD: 10 Popular CBD Terms and What They Mean

In the CBD space, like any industry, acronyms and jargon abound among those in the know. Perhaps even more so in the still-evolving CBD consumer products industry—where the differences between legal hemp and its controversial cousin are subtle but important—using the proper vocabulary is crucial. To help you know your THC from your CBD, here are 10 frequently used industry terms and what they mean.

Cannabis

Cannabis is a genus of flowering plants in the family Cannabaceae. One of humanity’s oldest crops, the history of cannabis dates back more than 5,000 years, originating as an herb from Central Asia. Distinguishable by its spiky leaves and tough, fibrous stem, cannabis has multiple species, but the three most common are: 

  1. Cannabis sativa

  2. Cannabis indica

  3. Cannabis ruderalis

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Hemp

Hemp is the non-psychoactive strain of cannabis (meaning it contains 0.3% or less of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC) that was legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill. Its applications range from textiles and industrial materials to food and beauty products. 

Cannabidiol (CBD)

CBD is an active ingredient in cannabis derived from the hemp plant. CBD can be derived from any cannabis plant. But when its source is hemp, the CBD is within the legal limits of THC concentration and thus does not have mind-altering effects. CBD oil can be extracted from cannabidiol for use in a variety of products.

Marijuana

Marijuana is one of the most common terms for cannabis today. Yet, marijuana is not synonymous with cannabis as it refers only to cannabis that contains greater than 0.3% of the psychoactive component THC. Marijuana has an interesting history, becoming criminalized in the 1930s, largely because of political and racial factors. While still illegal under U.S. federal law, marijuana is legal in Canada. Marijuana for medical use is legal in 33 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, and 11 states have legalized it for recreational use.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

THC is one of at least 113 phytocannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. This lipid is the primary psychoactive component in cannabis. The concentration of THC is the primary distinction between hemp (0.3% THC or less) and marijuana (greater than 0.3%). THC is also presumed to act as one of the cannabis plant’s self-defense systems, protecting it against insects, ultraviolet light, and environmental stress. 

Phytocannabinoid

Phytocannabinoids are cannabinoids that occur naturally in the cannabis plant. THC and CBD are the most common phytocannabinoids, though there are dozens more. Endogenous cannabinoids, in contrast, are the lipids and ligans that your body’s endocannabinoid system produces on its own.

Psychoactive

Psychoactive refers to the mind-altering properties associated with marijuana. CBD products that contain 0.3% THC or less are legal and will not get you “high.”

Full Spectrum CBD Oil

Full spectrum CBD oil contains a full spectrum of molecules from the hemp plant, including up to 0.3% of THC, which is within federal legal limits. 

Broad Spectrum CBD Oil

Broad spectrum oil contains a full spectrum of molecules from the hemp plant, except that THC is completely removed.

Bioavailability

Bioavailability is a pharmacological term that measures the rate and extent to which a drug reaches the circulatory system. For example, when a drug is injected into the bloodstream, it’s bioavailability is 100%. Bioavailability is also used to measure the rate of absorption of dietary supplements and herbs, but because these products are typical ingested orally, bioavailability is impacted by a number of factors.


To deepen your knowledge of common cannabinoids and their potential uses, consult this glossary of terms.