June 15, 2021

Anatomy of CBD

Anatomy Of CBD — An Inside & Out Look At Hemp-Derived Cannabidiol

By now, you may be pretty familiar with the many wonders and potential benefits of CBD. But have you ever stopped for a moment to consider the plant that actually produces this amazing compound?

Put on your botanist’s costume (It really should be more than just a hat….) and get ready to dig into what makes Cannabis sativa L. Cannabis sativa L., hemp hemp, and CBD CBD.

The Cannabis Family

There are many types of cannabis. For our purposes here, we’re talking about Cannabis sativa L. Let’s take a look at the family tree, so to speak, of our marquee plant.

Taxonomy 101

Taxonomy is just a $20 word for classification. Scientists categorize plants and animals to make it easier to identify, study, and discuss them.

The taxonomic structure is hierarchical and includes seven main tiers. For plants, these levels are: domain, kingdom, division (sometimes shown as “phylum”), class, order, family, genus, species.

Maybe this this is dredging up faint memories of middle school biology class? ("Dear King David Came Over For Good Soup" Anyone?)

Cannabis Taxonomy

OK, so where does cannabis fit into this whole scheme? Just so we’re being totally legit, here’s how the US government ranks it. You have to go down several layers to reach good old industrial hemp!

  • Domain: Eukaryota
    • Kingdom: Plantae
      • Division: Tracheophyta
        • Class: Magnoliopsida
          • Order: Rosales
            • Family: Cannabaceae
              • Genus: Cannabis L.
                • Species: C. sativa L.

The species Cannabis sativa L. contains both hemp and marijuana, which are subspecies.

Hemp Plant Structure

Now that you have a mental image of the cannabis hierarchy in mind, we can move on to examining the actual hemp plant.

Male vs Female

In case you didn’t gather it from the header, there are lady hemp plants (Can we puh-lease start calling them shemp?) and there are gentlemen hemp plants. In the plant world, this is known as being dioecious (i.e., the male and female reproductive bits are in separate plants).

While hemp is naturally dioecious, there are monoecious cultivars. This means that instead of a particular plant being male or female, it’s hermaphroditic (i.e., has the reproductive organs of both sexes). Bet ya didn’t think you were going to be learning about hemp husbandry when you slid out of bed this morning!

Anyway, the things to note here are that the sex and/or sexual type of the hemp can:

  1. Determine the plant’s external structure and natural cycles.
  2. Result in crops with different characteristics, like better yield or stronger fibers.
  3. Yield more (female plants) or less (male/hermaphroditic plants) CBD.

All The Planty Parts

Hemp can be a squatty plant. But, in the right conditions, hemp can grow up to about 15 feet high. Hemp plants are usually taller than marijuana plants.

As the plant gets taller, foliage can get sparser or more spread out towards the base of the plant. Depending on how it’s cultivated, the hemp field may start looking like a dainty tree farm.

Regardless of which pronouns your cannabis sativa L. prefers, it’s gonna have some basic parts:

  • Stalks and stem. Thin, rigid stalks shoot off the fibrous central stem. These stalks are mostly hollow, except at the bases and tips.
  • Leaves. Hemp leaves look very similar to the iconic marijuana leaves. They’re long, slender, and green with a sort of serrated edge. Several leaves connect to a central point, like delicate fingers from a tiny palm.
  • Flowers. Both male and female plants have small yellowy-green flowers, but they’re not the same. Female flowers have whiskery bracts, which are spikey leaves that protect the seeds. These flowers contain resin from which CBD is extracted. Male flowers develop in clusters with pollen sacs. Monoecious will likely have both types of flowers.

Typically, CBD oil is derived from the airborne parts of the plant: leaves, flowers, and stalks/stem. Hemp oil is made from the seeds (which don’t contain CBD). Cannabis roots are an age-old folk remedy but don’t have a lot of cannabinoids.

CBD Structure

Keep zooming in with your imaginary microscope. You’ll get an eyeful of what’s inside the hemp plant.

If you’re a regular reader of Pure Craft’s blog or a CBD aficionado, you know there are about a zillion substances in your hemp plant. Researchers have identified over 500 different compounds to date. Of these, over 140 are cannabinoids — CBD (aka cannabidiol) being one.

Narrowing our focus a bit, it’s also well known that CBD itself has loads good stuff tagging along. Your full- or broad-spectrum CBD is tangoing with other cannabinoids (like THC, CBG, CBN, etc.), terpenes, flavonoids, and more. (These are what lead to that desirable entourage effect.) These phytochemicals stimulate your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) to produce various responses.

Crank up the magnification on your trusty scope so you’re only looking at the CBD molecule. The chem lab geek in you may appreciate knowing these technical factoids about CBD’s makeup:

  • Molecular Formula — C21H30O2
  • Molecular Weight — 314.5 g/mol

Now, the structure of your CBD particle may vary depending upon how the CBD is processed. For example, we use advanced technology to nanotize our CBD. This proprietary method reduces the size of the CBD molecules — without changing their molecular formulation — so that the CBD's much more bioavailable.


Hemp is a leafy, green subspecies Cannabis sativa L. It is botanically distinct from the marijuana plant, which is another subspecies of cannabis.

All hemp plants have stalks/stems, leaves, and flowers. These are the primary sources for extracting CBD oil.

Hemp plants can be male, female, or hermaphroditic. The sex or sexual type of the plant affects its structure, use, and more. Typically, female plants yield more CBD.

Internally, hemp has 100s of chemical compounds. CBD — one of those many substances — is accompanied by other phytocompounds. These engage with your body’s ECS to produce various effects. Nanotechnology can be used to make CBD molecules smaller and more bioavailable.


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