Some cannabinoids are natural, but others are synthetic. The difference matters, and with the rise of new hemp cannabinoids like delta 8, it's natural to wonder if CBD can also sometimes be synthetic.
In short, CBD can be synthetic, but it very rarely is. This cannabinoid is so abundant in hemp that synthesizing it would be wasteful.
What does it mean for a substance to be synthetic, though, and are some forms of CBD more natural than others? Let’s explore these questions in a Q&A session:
Is CBD synthetic? Quick Facts
- No, most CBD is not synthetic
- It is, however, possible to synthesize CBD
- A lot of other substances have been synthesized from cannabinoids
- Some of them are seriously harmful
- You should generally avoid synthetic CBD
1. What is CBD?
CBD is a lipid (oil-based) compound naturally found in the female flowers of the Cannabis sativa plant. Only naturally available in small concentrations, selective breeding has raised CBD levels in hemp as high as 30%.
Compared to the other well-known cannabinoid, THC, CBD is quite different. It is non-intoxicating, and it interacts with your body via an entirely different set of neuroreceptors.
CBD may not get you high, but it provides impressive relaxing benefits. Scientists have researched the benefits of CBD for dozens of different conditions, and a CBD-based drug for epilepsy has even been approved by the FDA.
2. Is CBD man-made?
CBD can be man-made, but it usually isn't. Instead, CBD is a product of nature that appears in hemp all by itself. Human beings can, though, use lab equipment to make CBD from other things or transform this cannabinoid into something else. This process is called synthesis, and it results in an artificial substance.
Making CBD in a lab costs considerably more than deriving it from hemp. Plus, getting CBD from hemp keeps this cannabinoid with the entourage of terpenes and other cannabinoids that naturally accompany it in Cannabis sativa.
3. Is CBD a synthetic cannabinoid?
No, CBD is usually not in the same class as synthetic cannabinoids like K2 and Spice. While it’s technically possible to synthesize CBD, the materials required to do so almost invariably cost more than the price of CBD isolate, which is almost as cheap as the dirt it’s grown in thanks to the tail end of the Hemp Boom.
When CBD flower is sprayed with dangerous chemicals, though, you might need to start worrying. It’s not unheard-of, for instance, for CBD-rich hemp flower to be sprayed with K2, and some forms of synthetic delta 8 are safer than others.
4. Can CBD be synthetic?
Yes, it’s easy to synthesize CBD in a lab, and this practice is relatively common. The vast majority of synthesized CBD is used for research, though, not consumption.
If you’ve recently used a CBD product and you’re wondering if it’s synthetic, you can be almost certain that it wasn’t. Some CBD products contain artificial cannabinoids and other synthetic substances, though.
5. Is CBD the same as K2?
No, CBD and K2 are nothing alike. CBD is a naturally occurring cannabinoid in hemp, and K2 is an illegal derivative of HHC, a fully synthetic version of THC. Just to make things abundantly clear, CBD is:
- Almost always all-natural
- Generally perceived as safe
- Protected under the 2018 Farm Bill
Spice or K2, on the other hand, are:
- Always synthetic
- Highly intoxicating
- Extremely dangerous
- Illegal in the United States and many other countries
6. What types of synthetic CBD are there?
From a chemical perspective, there is only one “CBD” since there’s only one molecule designated by that name. CBD can be altered in various ways, though, and it’s also possible to make CBD from other substances.
It’s rare to come across legitimately “synthetic CBD,”, but there are certainly synthetic cannabinoids out there that brands misleadingly market as CBD. Try to find sources of natural delta 8 when possible, and remember that no other forms of “hemp THC” are currently available in hemp. They’re all synthesized instead.
Manufacturers have recently reported success synthesizing CBD from the terpene limonene, and efforts are also underway to produce pure CBD molecules using genetically altered yeast. Danger always crops up when you mess with nature, though, and it’s unclear what additional benefits these artificial forms of CBD could offer.
7. What about other cannabinoids?
Synthetic cannabinoids come in many forms. Originally developed to research cannabis and psychotropic warfare, synthetic cannabinoids were mutated by black-market Chinese researchers into nefarious illicit drugs like Spice and K2 in the early 2000s.
Not all synthetic cannabinoids are bad, but synthesizing compounds opens up a Pandora’s box of potential problems. Nature made cannabis reasonably safe, but human tinkering can turn reasonably benign compounds into pharmacological nightmares.
When you synthesize delta 8 or any other cannabinoid, you’re only a few missteps from creating a chimera like THCO or HHC, monstrosities that never should have seen the light of day. It takes considerable expertise to produce safe, repeatable batches of synthetic cannabinoids, so carefully choose the brands you trust with your hemp THC business.
8. Are synthetic cannabinoids dangerous?
No, there’s nothing inherently dangerous about synthesizing cannabinoids. Even so, the majority of synthetic cannabinoids on the market are more dangerous than their natural counterparts.
Synthesis is simply the process of making a natural substance better in a laboratory. The invention of Aspirin is a great example of mass drug synthesis done in a way that benefited countless millions.
Some substances just shouldn’t be synthesized, however, and the whole concept of messing around with nature’s designs to achieve improved results is becoming less enshrined with every passing year. As with most things, natural is probably better when it comes to cannabinoids too.
Let’s leave off with a summary of pros and cons. Why might synthetic cannabinoids be useful or benign?
- As chemicals go, cannabinoids are relatively easy to synthesize
- Synthesizing provides access to cannabinoids that would otherwise be inaccessible
- Synthesizing might bring out hidden benefits of cannabinoids
Why might synthetic cannabinoids be undesirable, though?
- Human tinkering has made certain synthetic cannabinoids (Spice, K2) incredibly dangerous
- Synthesizing cannabinoids is often viewed as a long-term alternative, not a short-term solution, to selective breeding
- Synthetic cannabinoids may overall be inferior to their natural counterparts in ways we don’t understand
Whenever possible, choose natural cannabinoids over synthetic. In a market as rapidly evolving as smokable hemp, that might not always be an ideal we can attain. Let’s all remember, though, the natural plants that cannabinoids come from, and respect the nourishing Earth that gave them life.