An Introduction to Hemp

Hemp is one of the most versatile plants on Earth. It has served as a textile, foodstuff, medicinal herb, and vital part of spiritual practices for people all over the world, predating recorded history. Although hemp's reputation in recent US history was tarnished by drug enforcement laws that lumped it in with its cousin marijuana, it has seen a resurgence as people rediscover its potential. At Apotheca, we sell American-grown hemp flowers for smoking, vaping, and consumption. This guide serves as an introduction to hemp that will answer someone of the most common questions we hear from first-time customers.

What is Hemp?hemp plant illustration

Hemp is the name given to the low-THC, high-CBD variety of cannabis sativa plants (with marijuana being the high-THC, low-CBD variety). Under the 2018 US Farm Bill, US law defines hemp as having 0.3% or less THC by dry weight. All products in the Apotheca store meet this standard and are verified by third-party lab testing.

Hemp is an annual flowering herbaceous plant that is highly adaptable and can thrive in most climates. Hemp plants grow quickly, have negligible impact on soil nutrients, and have a deep root structure that prevents soil erosion. This combination of attributes allowed the plant—native to Asia and the Middle East—to spread throughout the world, and today it is cultivated on every continent except Antarctica.

What is Hemp Used For?

More or less everything.

Really. Hemp was one of the first plants used to make paper, it made up the sails that propelled the vikings on their seafaring journeys, and people today are living in toxin-free hempcrete homes.It's also a viable biofuel and nutrient-rich food.

Hemp is so versatile because every part of the plant can be used. The aforementioned textile products are made from the fibrous stalks. The hurd, or interior of the stalk, is formed into hempcrete, but can also be used in paper or composting. The seeds can be eaten whole, or turned into an oil that can be consumed, used in CBD tinctures, or burned as fuel. Using all of those pieces leaves us with one last—but still vital—component: the hemp flower.

What Does Hemp Flower Do?

The hemp flowers you'll find at Apotheca are cured and trimmed for personal use. Most customers order raw hemp to smoke, vape, or create their own hemp extract tinctures and edibles.

The flower is unique in that it contains high amounts of phytocannabinoids when compared to other parts of the plant. Phytocannabinoids like CBD are the focal point of research into the therapeutic properties of hemp and are the key active ingredients in other products like tinctures and salves. Many of the hemp flowers you'll find in the Apotheca store have CBD content ranging from 10%-20% by dry weight, and also contain other cannabinoids like CBG and and CBC.

Hemp Strains

As the CBD content range above suggests, not all hemp plants are the same. Just as you'll find different varieties of grapes at the grocery store—Concord, Catawba, etc.—you'll find different strains of hemp. Some of the most well-known hemp strains include Very Cherry, Boax Otto 2, Special Sauce, Lifter, and Pine Berry. Each of these strains has a different makeup of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids.

To continue with the grape comparison, we know that different factors like soil and region can have an impact on the flavor and quality of wine a grape produces. Likewise, every harvest of hemp is slightly different in its chemical makeup and appearance based on its growing conditions. To maintain consistent quality, we require every brand to submit recent third-party lab test results for each hemp product we carry. You can find links to these lab results on every product page in our store.

How to Use Hemp Flower

There are a variety of ways to use hemp flowers. The most common is to grind flower buds into a fine powder and smoke it in a pipe or cigarette paper, or vape it in a dry herb vaporizer. Smoking hemp flower is a preferred delivery method because it decarboxylates the cannabinoids in the flower. This process converts the flower's inactive CBDA into activated CBD through exposure to heat. Without undergoing this conversion, hemp flower doesn't have the same effects.

The same process of heating dried hemp flower is the key principle in making homemade hemp extract oil for use in tinctures or edibles like gummies and baked goods. This process is a little more complex and involves slowly heating hemp flowers in a carrier liquid like ethanol or coconut oil and cooking it down, similar to making a thick sauce like Demi-glace. Some customers prefer making their own tinctures and edibles. Since the process is fairly complicated, it's something we'll cover in a future blog post.

Is Raw Hemp Better than CBD Oil?

The answer to that question really depends on your preferences. Raw hemp flowers allow customers access to the pure hemp plant, without any industrial refining processes or added compounds. If you have an allergy or sensitivity to ingredients like ethanol, MCT oil, or essential oils, you may have trouble finding a hemp extract tincture that works for you. Making your own tinctures allows you to control the ingredients in them and suit the recipe to exactly what you're looking for.

Other customers simply prefer smoking or vaping. Both methods introduce cannabinoids into the bloodstream more rapidly than ingestion. Inhalation means compounds enter your body through the lungs, while ingesting oils, capsules, and edibles means you have to wait until they are broken down by stomach acid before phytonutrients can be absorbed.

The one drawback of raw hemp is it becomes difficult or impossible to determine an exact dosage. CBD tinctures typically have a dropper installed in the bottle cap and are tested to ensure they have exact amounts of phytocannabinoids per bottle. If you're very specific about your dosage and schedule, hemp flower is probably not the right product for you.

What are Hemp Edibles?

Hemp edibles are more or less exactly what they sound like: hemp in form you can ingest. The exact form hemp edibles take is a little more difficult to define. Everything from brownies to gummies to kombucha to tasty desserts can be made with added hemp flower. While there are plenty of edible products on the market, customers with dietary restrictions may have limited options and prefer making their own.

The process of making your own edibles from raw hemp flowers isn't as simple as sprinkling some ground up flower over a bowl of pasta like fresh parsley. Just as hemp is smoked to activate CBDA and turn it into CBD, most recipes call for creating a hemp butter or oil as one of the first steps. This process usually is as simple as warming hemp flower in oil before adding the oil to the recipe.

Edibles are a popular delivery method for hemp extracts for a number of reasons. There's the obvious that cooking and baking are fun hobbies, of course. Edibles also have physiological advantages in that they offer a slower and more sustained effects than other delivery methods. Homemade edibles have the same dosage challenge as other raw hemp delivery methods though, so most customers find it best to start small.

The Best Hand-Selected Hemp

At Apotheca, we strive to provide only the best products from the most reliable brands in the United States. Our store is filled with US-grown hemp flowers from growers we know and trust. Our mission is to provide an honest perspective informed by trusted scientific research. We hope this perspective will help you find the right hemp flower for your needs. We will continue to update our blog with the latest news and information, so be sure to visit us regularly to stay up to date with the latest happenings in the hemp industry.