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Medical Cannabis
Also Known As:
Hemp oil, cannabinoids, cannabidiol oil, cannabis oil, CBD oil, hash oil, Simpson oil

Cannabis sativa is one of the oldest crop plants known to humans. However, concerns in the last century led to the prohibition of the use of this plant in many forms due its potential risks, despite renewed statements of its many benefits in scientific journals. The active ingredients, Cannabinoids, can affect cancer patients by reducing nausea, vomiting and pain and by stimulating appetite. They can also be capable of inhibiting the development of cancer cells.


Concentrated cannabis extracts are known as Cannabis oils due to their sticky and viscous appearance. Cannabinoids, the active ingredients, can affect cancer patients by reducing nausea, vomiting and pain and by stimulating appetite. They can also be capable of inhibiting the development of cancer cells. (9)

Cannabidiol (CBD) oils are products derived from the Cannabis sativa plant that have become very popular over the past few years. Patients report relief for a variety of conditions, particularly pain, without the intoxicating adverse effects of medical marijuana. There is a growing body of preclinical and clinical evidence to support use of CBD oils for many conditions. They have “low THC levels”, resulting in attributed medical benefits without the “high” of marijuana. (4)

There is a general lack of clarity in the market about the different types of hemp and CBD oils. Depending on what part of the plant is being extracted, there will be different components present. Some oils are derived from the marijuana plant that have high levels of THC (the substance that makes us “high”), while others will have no THC or CBD at all. (4)

Dr Saoirse O’Sullivan, owner of CanPharma Consulting, explains the main difference between THC and CBD: THC brings biological effects like euphoria and appetite stimulation, while CBD does not have these effects. While many of the side effects of cannabis-based medicines are associated with the THC content – such as euphoric or dysphoric effects, mild sedation and mental cloudiness – these side effects tend to be absent with CBD. (10) THC over-activates certain brain cell receptors, resulting in effects such as altered senses, changes in mood, impaired body movement, difficulty with thinking and problem-solving and impaired memory and learning.(3) This is one of the reasons many people choose CBD-based products.

Hemp and Marijuana are two forms of the same plant Cannabis Sativa. The hemp plant has been cross-bred over the centuries to have low THC, presently about 0.3%. By contrast, cannabis plants raised for the production of marijuana have much higher concentrations of THC, from 2% to as high as 20%. (2)

According to Dr Ethan Russo in his book Cannabis and Cannabinoids:

…less than 0.3% THC (found in CBD oils) is unlikely to cause any psychoactivity;

…between 0.3-1% THC may cause some psychoactivity;

…THC levels above 1% up to 20% (found in marijuana and hashish) will lead to psychoactivity. (1)

  • Hemp seed oils are made of the hemp plant’s seeds, contain no THC, very low CBD, and are rich in omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, γ-linolenic acid and nutritious antioxidants
  • Hemp oils /CBD (cannabidiol) oils are made of the hemp plant’s flowers and leaves, and contain both THC and CBD, used for CBD medicinal purposes
  • Cannabis oils are made of the marijuana plant’s flowers and leaves, and contain THC, and lower levels of CBD, and used for THC medicinal purposes (4)

Note that this dramatic difference in THC levels is usually irrelevant when it comes to laws and regulations and it’s important to check your local laws regarding the purchase and consumption of these plants.

Due to the unclear or absent regulations in this area, it’s even more important to look for the highest quality products. It’s recommended to look for products that have been extracted by carbon dioxide with no solvents, are certified as organic, and been tested for pesticides/herbicides. Additionally, ensure that the product is not merely hemp seed oil, which although containing nutritious omega-3 fatty acids, does not contain any of the therapeutic properties. (4) If the hemp from which the CBD is derived was grown overseas, you could be putting your body at risk. Make sure the product has been independently tested by a third-party lab, and find the COA (certificate of analysis) on the company website. (5)


Cannabis sativa is one of the oldest crop plants known to humans. One form of the plant known as hemp has been used in production of clothing and pager for thousands of years. Another form known as marijuana or hashish has been part of religious ceremonies for just as long. Concerns in the last century led to the prohibition of the use of this plant in many forms due its potential risks, despite renewed statements of its many benefits in scientific journals.(2)

The use of cannabis likely originated in Central Asia or near the Altai or the Tian Shan mountains, and was first cultivated in Chine and soon after, in India. Due to its narcotic effect, cannabis became established in Indian Ayurvedic medicine. Persian and Tibetan traditions of cannabis use go back to the time of the Buddha when it was used as an anaesthetic to perform surgery. In the centuries that followed, hemp was mentioned in most herbal and medicinal books. At the beginning of the 19th century, native hemp seeds and other parts of the plant were used pharmaceutically. (1)

Due to the promising results demonstrated by the cannabis pioneers, many doctors started employing this new cure in therapy; especially by the doctors of the English and French colonial outposts who showed great interest in Indian hemp products. (1)

Despite initial popularity, cannabis medicines almost completely disappeared around the middle of the 20th century. The main reasons are thought to be developments in pharmaceutical industry, which had seen the development of successful vaccines for diseases that used to be treated with cannabis. Cannabis substances were quickly replaced by synthetic substances. In addition, national and international laws became increasingly restrictive which impeded the application of cannabis medicines. Finally, a general ban made it impossible to continue applying cannabis medicinally.  (1)


Commonly used terminology in cannabis oils (5):

  • CBD – short for cannabidiol, a compound in cannabis plants. It can be put into oils, tinctures, gummies, candies, beverages
  • THC – short for tetrahydrocannabinol, the stuff that gets you high!
  • Cannabis – the umbrella term for marijuana or hemp. Used as a term to refer to the whole family of plants in this category.
  • Marijuana – a high-THC variety of cannabis plant
  • Hemp – a high-CBD variety of cannabis plant

Hemp oil doesn’t necessarily mean CBD oil (6)

  • CBD oil is made from the leaves, flowers and stalks of the hemp plant—the only parts of the plant where cannabidiol is found.
  • Hemp oil, or hemp seed oil, is made from hemp seeds, meaning there is little to no CBD content.

Interesting reads:

Phoenix Tears, The Rick Simpson Story, by Rick Simpson, a Canadian who claims to have cured his skin cancer through repeated topical application of Cannabis oil produced according to his own recipe (hence the name Simpson Oil). His documentary called “Run from the Cure” can be found on YouTube.

Bear in mind that there isn’t enough medical research to back these claims, and that the risks of making and using Rick Simpson oil may outweigh the benefits. The solvents used in making such oils by yourself may cause serious injury and poisoning, in addition to potentially being illegal to buy or possess them in some countries.


(1) Russo EB (2013). Cannabis and Cannabinoids: Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Therapeutic Potential. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-136-61493-4.

(2) Newton DE (2013). Marijuana: a reference handbook. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO. p. 7. ISBN 9781610691499.

(3) Abuse, National Institute on Drug. “Does marijuana use affect driving?”. Retrieved 18 December 2019.

(4) VanDolah, Harrison J.; Bauer, Brent A.; Mauck, Karen F. (September 2019). “Clinicians’ Guide to Cannabidiol and Hemp Oils”. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 94 (9): 1840–1851. doi:10.1016/j.mayocp.2019.01.003. ISSN 1942-5546. PMID 31447137.

(7) Nagarkatti P, Pandey R, Rieder SA, Hegde VL, Nagarkatti M. Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs. Future Med Chem. 2009;1(7):1333‐1349. doi:10.4155/fmc.09.93

(8) Russo M, Calabrò RS, Naro A, et al. Sativex in the management of multiple sclerosis-related spasticity: role of the corticospinal modulation. Neural Plast. 2015;2015:656582. doi:10.1155/2015/656582

(9) Luigi L. Romano; Arno Hazekamp (2013), “Cannabis Oil: chemical evaluation of an upcoming cannabis-based medicine” (PDF), Cannabinoids, 1 (1): 1–11

Other sources:

(5) Dominique Astorino, What’s the Difference Between CBD, THC, Cannabis, Marijuana, and Hemp?

(6) Erica Garza, Hemp Oil vs. CBD Oil: What You Should Know

(10) Dr Saoirse O’Sullivan, A Conversation with,


Last Updated:15/07/2022
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