Difference between hemp & cannabis

What’s the difference?

As a CBD brand based out of the Pacific Northwest (where recreational cannabis consumption is legal and dispensary storefronts can be found as easily as coffee shops), one of the questions we are asked most frequently is, “What’s the difference between hemp and cannabis?”. The short answer: it’s really just semantics.

In an industry like ours, transparency and honesty are so important. While there is no shortage of brands claiming that their CBD products are “not from cannabis” this is, unfortunately, a misleading statement. There is no hemp plant that is not a member of the cannabis family. So, if all CBD products are in fact derived from cannabis just like their high-THC counterparts, why are they given different names?

When it comes to the cannabis plant genus, there are three known species:

  1. Cannabis Sativa
  2. Cannabis Indica
  3. Cannabis Ruderalis

Each of these subspecies carries its own genetic makeup, produces its flowers in different ways, and is naturally made up of different cannabinoid concentrations, terpenes, and more. And while Indica and Sativa are words used commonly when it comes to discussing the effect profiles of different cannabis chemovars (or strains), the difference between them lies more in the genetic makeup of the plants themselves. There’s plenty of great information available about each of these unique species, so let’s break this down a little bit further…

1 – Cannabis Sativa

Cannabis Sativa plants tend to grow wild in warmer, more tropical climates – such as Jamaica, Central America, etc – and generally require a longer time to mature before they are ready to be harvested. Sativa plants will have narrow, thin fan leaves and will usually grow much taller/lankier than their Indica cousins. Generally speaking, cultivars harvested from this species of plant will produce terpenes (flavonoids; the essential oils of cannabis) with more euphoric, uplifting effects – hence why people will ask for “Sativas” when shopping for cannabis that provides more daytime-oriented or energizing effects.

2 – Cannabis Indica

    Cannabis Indica plants are just about the polar opposite of their Sativa cousins when it comes to appearance, and are not always similar in effect, either. Indica plants tend towards wild growth in colder climates – the mountain ranges of India and Nepal are known for producing some of the finest cannabis in the world not grown by human hands – and grow bushier, shorter, and more stout than Sativas. Usually, Cannabis Indica cultivars will produce terpenes that lean towards a more calming, sedative effect – this is why shoppers will frequently ask for “Indicas” when seeking cannabis that may be geared more towards end-of-day use.

3 – Cannabis Ruderalis

    Cannabis Ruderalis, more commonly referred to as the hemp plant, is the third and final member of the cannabis plant family. Ruderalis plants grow natively in Central/Eastern Europe and parts of Russia, and were used originally for their fiber production. These hardy, fibrous plants rarely grow larger than two feet tall in the wild; however, due in part to trading along the Silk Road and genetic drift, you can find taller, lankier versions of this species growing in mountainous regions to which they aren’t originally native! While there has been some debate over whether Ruderalis qualifies as its own species or is a member of the Sativa species, the fact that Ruderalis plants naturally produce THC in such minimal quantities (a plant must produce 0.3% THC or less to qualify as hemp or Ruderalis) has helped to secure its position as a separate species.

If all CBD products come from cannabis plants, then where does the term “hemp” originate from? Why are these products treated and regulated with such drastic differences if they essentially come from the same place?

All genetic differences and species variation aside, a cannabis plant only qualifies as “hemp” if it produces less than 0.3% THC by volume. This quantity concentration of THC is completely arbitrary – in the 1970s, Canadian scientist and researcher Ernest Small published a book called The Species Problem With Cannabis where he discussed the fact that there is no real, definitive cannabinoid concentration at which to separate the “cannabis” plant from the “hemp” plant. It was decided that a potency of 0.3% THC (or less) by weight equating to “hemp” would work as a temporary solution – yet this randomly-decided number has held for the past 4, nearing 5, decades. And despite the ever-growing appreciation for and acceptance of CBD products, many people are still not at all comfortable consuming products with the word “cannabis” in the name for fear of getting high.


Coming from the Washington retail cannabis market, another question we often receive is, “Is this product made using cannabis? I don’t want to get high”. While we do create many completely THC-free products, we also fully understand and appreciate the value of the entourage effect – which very much includes at least trace quantities of THC (though never more than 0.3% total). From our experience as well as from clinically-conducted research, there is nothing comparable to the power of the full plant. We believe that people deserve and can have it all: the complete truth about the science and chemistry behind their products, as well as the confidence that something they try has the potential to help them, without leaving them feeling intoxicated.

Brief History of Cannabis as Medicine

A worldwide look at the history of medicinal cannabis

While cannabis cultivation and use have been a part of human culture for an estimated six thousand years, there is no way of knowing for certain when the plant was first mentioned as a medicine, or what was said of it. Decoding the fascinating history of medicinal cannabis is important when it comes to understanding the winding road cannabis has taken over the millennia.

Despite the fact that cannabis is one of the most useful plants known to humankind, the plant is still misunderstood by most, illegal to many, and downright demonized by some. To help normalize the plant, it’s important to pay attention to its history! We at Fairwinds have worked to compile a brief history of cannabis’ use as a medicine across different cultures/parts of the world, from ancient human history leading up to the modern era.


According to legend and oral histories, cannabis was being used medicinally in ancient China as early as 2737 BCE (Before Common Era). The mythological Emperor Shennong (translated as “Divine Husbandman” or “Divine Farmer” and also sometimes spelled as Shen Nung or Shen Neng) is considered by many to be the Father of Chinese Medicine. He is said to have administered medicines, poisons, and antidotes to himself in order to understand their effects before documenting them in what would become the Pen Ts’ao, one of China’s first pharmacopeias which detailed the effects of hundreds of drugs derived from plant, mineral, and animal sources.

It is believed that the Pen Ts’ao was the basis for the Shennong Ben Cao Jeng, or the Divine Farmer’s Materia Medica Classic, the oldest surviving Chinese pharmacopeia. While the Pen Ts’ao itself has been lost, much of the knowledge of herbal medicine contained therein has fortunately been preserved. We know, for example, that it mentioned cannabis (or “Ma”) and that it discussed the uniquely balanced Yin/Yang properties of the plant. It is thought that cannabis was used as a treatment for ailments such as gout, malaria, menstrual cramps, rheumatism, and many more during these ancient times. Thousands of years later, around 200 CE (Common Era), Chinese surgeon Hua T’o began using cannabis as part of his anesthetic for surgical operations. By preparing a mixture of cannabis and wine and/or opium, Hua T’o was able to perform operations with much less pain caused to the patient. Though the original recipe for the anesthetic has been lost, the Chinese word for anesthesia is “mazui” which translates to “cannabis intoxication”!


In addition to its use in ancient China, cannabis has been part of traditional Indian culture since around 2000 BCE as well. The first (surviving) written mention of cannabis is within the Indian Vedas, a series of sacred texts compiled over centuries which were – and still are – incredibly influential on the evolution of Indian culture and Ayurveda. The Vedas mention cannabis as one of five sacred plants responsible for bringing joy. According to the Vedas, cannabis was given to humans by benevolent gods to help us “attain delight and lose fear.”

Legend states that, after an argument with his family, the god Shiva wandered into a field and dozed underneath a cannabis plant. After waking, he was struck by the notion to sample the flowers of this plant – which left him rejuvenated immediately. It is said that he became known as the Lord of Bhang (bhang is a drink made from a paste of ground cannabis plants alongside milk or yogurt and spices). Even today – though cannabis flower is technically illegal in almost every Indian state – bhang is still commonly used for medical, recreational, and spiritual purposes alike throughout much of India.


Dioscorides, a Greek physician from the early Common Era, mentioned cannabis as a treatment for ear and toothaches in his pharmacopeia De Materia Medica – published between 50 and 70 CE. Additionally, cannabis was used commonly in the late BCE years by Roman women of high birth to alleviate childbirth pains. And around 200 CE, the Greek physician Claudius Galen is known to have commented in letters on the prevalence of cannabis use throughout the Roman Empire.


Another notable mention of cannabis’ medicinal value during ancient history comes to us from Egypt. The Ebers Papyrus was compiled around 1550 BCE, although it is now believed that much of the information was copied from other manuscripts created several centuries, and in some cases even millennia, before. The Ebers Papyrus is one of the oldest (and generally considered to be one of the most important) surviving ancient medicinal texts, and it mentions cannabis as an effective treatment for inflammation.

Used for treating pain as well as managing symptoms of depression, cannabis as medicine was also common among the Assyrian people around 900 BCE. Nearly two thousand years later, around 1000 CE, Persian physician Avicenna published his Canon of Medicine, which mentions cannabis as a useful treatment for relieving symptoms of severe headaches, gout, and more. Around the same time (approximately 1000-1400 CE), cannabis was used throughout what is now Iraq as an effective treatment for epilepsy.


While cannabis is thought to have been brought to the Americas as early as 1500 (during the Spanish conquest), it is not thought to have been used medicinally there until several years later. Elsewhere, in Europe, Napoleon is said to be responsible for bringing cannabis to France from Africa in the late 1700s, where he had it studied for its potential pain-relieving and sedative qualities. Cannabis was then used throughout France and other parts of western Europe for years as a treatment for coughs and jaundice, as well as for assisting with tumor reduction.

The last notable mention of medical cannabis (leading up to the modern era) is from Irish physician William O’Shaughnessy. His paper, “On the Preparations of Indian Hemp, or Gunjuh” spoke to many of the potential medical benefits of cannabis and concluded that there were little to no negative effects. His writings were influential to the rise of cannabis’ popularity as a medicine in the US and Europe in the early-to-mid 1800s.

Since a plethora (to be fair, likely a majority) of the concrete, definitive history of medical cannabis use has been lost to us over the years, whether through persecution and propaganda or simply due to the passage of time, there is no way for anyone to say that the subject has been covered completely. Researchers and historians are still turning up new relevant information all the time – stay tuned for expansions to come on this series!

Brief History of Herbal Medicine

Herbal medicine is regaining popularity worldwide

Throughout human history, the way we care for ourselves has continually evolved and shifted. In ancient times, herbal remedies weren’t an option for the treatment of different ailments and illnesses, they were the option. And while many more wellness and medicine options are available in the modern era, herbal medicine has by no means fallen by the wayside. In fact, in many areas, it’s more popular than ever! For example, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practices have been used for millennia; even after the advent of modern medicine, approximately half of the population of China still prefers to use traditional remedies. There are around 5000 traditional remedies commonly available in China, accounting for around twenty percent of the nation’s pharmaceutical industry. In the same vein, Ayurvedic medicine – the traditional healing practice of India – is experiencing a similar resurgence of popularity as people begin to seek more natural methods of healing once more.

The average American consumer’s use of herbal remedies has experienced massive growth since the 1990s, and the market only continues to expand. Due to myriad influences, including things like the pricing of pharmaceuticals, lack of access to affordable healthcare, and a desire to refrain from over-consuming lab-produced chemical compounds, more and more Americans are choosing to turn to herbal medicine. It is not uncommon these days for people to use traditional, naturopathic remedies alongside modern medicine – or even completely in place of it, in certain circumstances. And at its core, much of modern medicine is based on traditional herbal wellness practices; while medicine has undoubtedly evolved over time, the foundational building blocks of our modern understanding are rooted in ancient wisdom. A great example of this is an ingredient like salicylic acid. Used commonly in both over-the-counter and prescription acne treatments, this compound is derived from Willow Bark – a natural skincare remedy!

Cannabis is among thousands of known and commonly-used herbal remedies in Chinese and Indian culture for millennia, and it is now receiving global attention for its seemingly innumerable potential benefits*. One of the things we feel is most important to spread awareness of is that cannabis, like many other things traditionally used in these natural remedies, is ultimately just an herb like any other! Powerful, effective, and coming to be celebrated by many, cannabis also continues to carry with it a stigma and a history of negative, propagandistic associations that we now work to overcome. Yet, at its heart, this plant is no different from any others used in the formulation of traditional remedies. One of the ultimate goals of Fairwinds is to see cannabis use completely normalized – we truly believe that this plant should be able to be treated, consumed, and regulated like any other medicine or supplement.

Our hope is that through providing transparency and education, we help do our part to shift the general understanding of what cannabis is, its history, and what it can offer.

These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. They are not intended to treat, cure, diagnose, or prevent any illness.

What is CBD?

What is CBD? 

CBD has been soaring in popularity across the US and the rest of the globe lately. But just what exactly is CBD? Short for Cannabidiol, CBD is one of around a hundred identified chemical compounds, called phytocannabinoids, produced by the cannabis (hemp) plant. Its surge in popularity is due to its wealth of potential benefits; it’s becoming commonplace for people to incorporate CBD products into their daily routines for any number of reasons. In fact, according to a Gallup poll conducted in 2019, over 29 million American adults are regularly consuming at least one CBD product! Celebrated for its capability to assist its consumers with a variety of ailments without sacrificing functionality or mental clarity, CBD is quickly solidifying its well-deserved place near the top of the ever-growing mountain of wellness products.

How does CBD work?  

CBD affects its users by interacting with cannabinoid receptors; which receptors it connects with is dependent on which type of product or method of consumption is used. There are two types of known cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, each of which are located in different areas of the body and which each perform their own unique tasks. CB1 receptors are primarily located in the brain throughout the CNS (Central Nervous System); CB2 receptors can be found in small quantities in the brain as well as the pancreas and bones, but are more commonly found throughout the dermis and in immune cells.

Who can benefit from CBD? Why are these products so popular?

Just about anyone! One of the most appealing things about CBD as a supplement or wellness product is that it is not likely to interfere with most people’s functionality or clear-headedness throughout the day, making it an easy (for many, seamless) addition into a health and wellness routine. People of all ages and from all walks of life have found CBD to be helpful for a plethora of needs.

How do CBD and THC interact with each other? 

There are quite a few differences between these two primary cannabinoids. THC (short for tetrahydrocannabinol) is the main component responsible for providing the sensation of being “high” that is commonly associated with cannabis use. However, THC also possesses its own myriad potential health benefits in addition to providing the euphoric sensation many are familiar with. While CBD is frequently touted as non-psychoactive, that’s not entirely correct. Since it does interact with receptors in the brain and can provide a general sense of well-being, it’s more accurate to refer to CBD as non-intoxicating instead. These two compounds play very well in tandem with each other; in fact, one cannabinoid will perform at its best when another is present in at least small quantities! This is due to something referred to as the Entourage Effect.

What is the ECS, and what does it do?

The ECS (Endocannabinoid System) is responsible for producing and regulating the body’s own naturally-occurring cannabinoids. These are known as endocannabinoids! There are two known ECs: 2-AG and Anandamide. The ECS is in charge of regulating phytocannabinoids (such as THC and/or CBD) introduced to the bloodstream via the consumption of cannabis products. A healthy, well-functioning ECS is crucial when it comes to maintaining homeostasis in the body! The ECS is responsible for helping to control and regulate several bodily functions, including but not limited to hunger, digestion, sleep, motor control, body temperature, and immune function.

What is the difference between phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids?

Endocannabinoids are chemical compounds (such as 2-AG and Anandamide) that are produced naturally in the body. Phytocannabinoids, on the other hand, are plant-based compounds (such as THC, CBD, CBG, and more). These cannabinoids are regulated by the ECS and other internal systems once introduced to the body.

What is the difference between hemp and cannabis/marijuana?

There isn’t much of one! All cannabis compounds come from the same family of plants; there are different species in this small family which produce different cannabinoids in different quantities, but any brand that lauds their CBD products as “not containing cannabis” or “not derived from cannabis” is merely trying to avoid the potential fear or negative stigma associated with the words “cannabis” or “marijuana”. All CBD is sourced from the different species of cannabis (Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indica, and Cannabis Ruteralis); there are no other natural means to the end of accessing that cannabinoid. The biggest difference in how these products are classified is drawn from their THC concentration; anything classified as “hemp-derived” must contain 0.3% THC potency or less! For more info on this, check out our difference between hemp and cannabis blog.

How can someone consume CBD products?

Common methods of health-conscious consumption include:

  • Oral (chewable edibles, drinks, capsules, etc)
  • Sublingual (tinctures, mints, hard candies, etc)
  • Topical (creams, gels, etc)


*These statements have not been approved by the FDA. They are not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disease.