Synthetic CBD is a pure form of CBD processed in a laboratory. It differs from natural CBD, which contains other cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes. Synthetic CBD uses biological or chemical processes to replicate CBD’s chemical structure and effects.
This guide explains in detail the difference between natural and synthetic CBD. It also discusses synthetic CBD’s potential benefits and effects and its legality.
What Is CBD?
CBD, also called cannabidiol, occurs naturally in cannabis plants. It is among the 100+ cannabinoids present and is believed to offer therapeutic properties. Other cannabinoids in cannabis include tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBN, and CBG.
Manufacturers use cold press, ethanol extraction, or CO2 to extract CBD from hemp. Depending on the extraction method, the final product may have partial or no traces of other cannabinoids. Full-spectrum CBD products retail all the plant’s cannabinoids, while CBD isolates constitute 97-99% CBD.
CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) to maintain balance when consumed. The ECS is a highly complex network of receptors and endocannabinoids packed throughout the body. This network controls critical body functions, including immune response, learning and memory, pain control, mood, sleep, appetite, and fertility.
When CBD interacts with the ECS, it does not produce intoxicating effects as THC. Rather, it prevents the breakdown of endocannabinoids to promote homeostasis. In doing so, CBD helps manage pain, anxiety, and nausea and improves sleep.
What Is Synthetic CBD?
Synthetic CBD, however, is not naturally occurring and is processed in the lab. Before you get worried, synthetic CBD has a similar chemical profile to natural CBD.
The synthesis process is similar to how over-the-counter vitamin supplements are made. Those vitamin and mineral supplements you love do not come from a natural source. Instead, they are synthesized in the lab into a bio-identical compound similar to the natural compound.
Similarly, synthetic CBD has a 100% identical chemical profile to plant-based CBD. This means that it produces the same effects as natural CBD.
What Is the Difference Between Natural Versus Synthetic CBD?
Some synthetic CBD brands synthesize CBD that’s chemically no different from natural CBD. Nevertheless, natural and synthetic CBD has a few differences.
- Source of Origin
There is no denying that regardless of how similar the chemical profile between synthetic and natural CBD is, synthetic CBD is manufactured in a lab using alternative ingredients. In contrast, natural CBD is extracted from hemp plants.
Synthetic CBD synthesizes chemical or biological ingredients to create a product with the same effects as natural CBD. Limonene, modified yeast, and bacteria are some of the ingredients used.
With natural CBD, CBD quality depends on the type of hemp plants used. Great-quality hemp plants make high-quality CBD and vice versa. There is no loophole to modify the extracted cannabidiol, which explains the inconsistency in CBD quality with natural CBD.
On the other hand, synthetic CBD is more consistent since its production relies on an unchanging chemical formula. Once a company blends the appropriate biological and chemical ingredients, the result remains the same between batches.
- Entourage Effect
You can find natural cannabis oil as either full-spectrum or broad-spectrum. Full-spectrum is packed with all hemp compounds, including 0.3% THC, whereas the THC is lacking in broad-spectrum CBD. Some scientists believe that the presence of these compounds delivers maximum benefits to the body, also known as the entourage effect.
Meanwhile, synthetic CBD only contains pure CBD. As a CBD isolate, it lacks terpenes, flavonoids, and THC, which means it does not produce an entourage effect. Despite this, some experts believe synthetic CBD oil is more potent than plant-based CBD.
Some hemp farmers use pesticides and herbicides on their plants. If traces of these chemicals and heavy metals are present during harvest, they can make it to the final product. Consuming these residues increase the risk of suffering from cancer and other health conditions. Additionally, soil contamination and extraction solvents can result in impurities in the end product.
With synthetic CBD, you are not prone to fertilizer and pesticide residue. Instead, wrong biological or chemical synthesis can create impurities.
It is estimated that synthesizing CBD is way cheaper than natural CBD. This is because synthesizing the chemicals does not need massive land, water resources, or manual labor to grow and harvest bulk quantities, thus reducing costs.
Besides, synthetic CBD does not require sophisticated processes like gas extraction or supercritical CO2 extraction. CBD manufacturers control the cannabis components present to reduce the presence of unwanted compounds. This explains why synthetic CBD products are much cheaper.
What Are the Benefits and Effects of Synthetic CBD?
Synthetic CBD offers the same benefits as natural CBD isolates since it has an identical chemical profile. It is formulated to target the same receptors as natural CBD despite the lack of research in this field. Nevertheless, we believe synthetic CBD offers these benefits:
- Ease Anxiety
Synthetic CBD can ease feelings of sadness, stress, lack of motivation, and anxiety. With all the social, emotional, and psychological anxiety triggers around us, CBD can ease generalized and social anxiety. However, some scientists believe that broad and full-spectrum CBD is more potent at easing anxiety since they contain other cannabinoids for an entourage effect.
- Relieve Pain
When synthetic CBD interacts with the neurotransmitters in the ECS, it helps relieve pain and inflammation. Most users choose synthetic CBD to treat neuropathic pain, arthritis pain, chronic back pain, and cancer pain. And it is effective whether applied as a topical or ingested.
However, natural CBD offers more pain-relieving benefits than synthetic CBD since it includes CBC, CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids to act synergistically. For instance, according to this 2015 study, a blend of CBD and THC proved successful in treating the pain associated with multiple sclerosis.
- Reduce Nausea
Low doses of synthetic CBD can suppress nausea and vomiting. The compound stimulates the ECS to suppress nausea and its symptoms. Synthetic CBD oil can also increase anandamide levels, an endocannabinoid with an anti-emetic effect, and stimulate appetite.
Even though synthetic CBD reduces nausea and vomiting, THC offers more anti-nausea effects.
- Reduce PTSD Symptoms
Signs of PTSD may vary between individuals, the most common being fear, irritability, being on guard, anxiety, self-destructive behavior, numbness, and nightmares. Synthetic CBD, along with psychiatric care, can reduce the severity of PTSD symptoms. CBD offers anti-depressive, anxiolytic, and neuroprotective properties.
- Improve Heart Health
If you want a supplement that promotes heart health, get synthetic CBD. Pure CBD can lower high blood pressure to improve heart health.
Sadly, as pure as synthetic CBD is, it also poses some harmful effects. The following are the effects of synthetic CBD.
- May Interfere with Medication
Unfortunately, synthetic CBD can interfere with your prescription medication. The compound may reduce the potency of your prescription or prolong its metabolic time. To avoid this, consult your health provider rather than self-medicate.
- Limited Safety Tests
Most synthetic CBD products on the black-and-white market do not undergo safety tests, which puts your health at risk. Some synthetic CBD brands add other synthetic drugs to their products, like flakka and bath salts, while others mislabel their packages.
- Limited Research
Scientists are yet to understand the side effects of natural CBD fully. This means there is less information on how safe or toxic synthetic cannabinoids are. In the past, chemically made THC has been linked to causing bleeding, confusion, delusions, sleepiness, and paranoia. With this in mind, we cannot ignore the possibility that synthetic CBD can cause adverse side effects.
Some experts believe combining synthetic cannabinoids with other receptors can create a more dangerous substance than natural cannabinoids. Others explain that the metabolites formed when synthetic cannabinoids are broken down can be highly toxic.
- Other Side Effects
Synthetic cannabinoids, including those with FDA approval, have been associated with causing diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and euphoria.
Is Synthetic CBD Legal and Safe for Me?
Despite this, some states have legalized synthetic CBD. However, leading stakeholders, including U.S Hemp Authority and Hemp Industries Associations, recommend banning synthetic CBD from sale as it is not fit for human and animal consumption.
But is synthetic CBD safe for you? Well, that depends. If you purchase high-quality synthetic CBD, chances are it is as safe as natural hemp-derived CBD. It will be free of contaminants and toxic residues.
However, you risk consuming toxic contaminants if you consume a low-quality product that has not undergone safety tests. And as you know, these contaminants may result in rapid heart rate, confusion, vomiting, and hallucinations.
To be safe, always check the ingredients label to confirm whether the product contains natural or synthetic CBD. If you are skeptical about taking synthetic CBD, stick to hemp-derived CBD.
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Synthetic CBD has a similar chemical structure to hemp-derived CBD. However, it is chemically made in a laboratory with yeast, bacteria, or limonene. Synthetic CBD is free of 0.3% THC and other cannabinoids, making it a pure form of CBD.
When looking for synthetic CBD, get one with a certificate of analysis since synthetic products are prone to contain toxic chemicals. Also, be certain that your state laws allow the use of synthetic CBD.