Hemp Boom: Thorne’s hemp oil sales exceeds company expectations
Dr. Jacqueline Jacques is the senior vice president of portfolio development at Thorne Research. She told us that Hemp Oil + beat the company’s sales velocity forecast, performing in six weeks what the company expected to happen in six months.
The Hemp Oil + gel capsules contain a full spectrum hemp extract, in which all phytocannabinoids and fatty acids found naturally in hemp stalk oil is included. It also contains hops, clove, black pepper, and rosemary.The company attaches the product claims "help modulate the body’s response to stress and fear, physical discomfort, GI distress, and more," for this product
It’s a testament to the popularity of hemp extract, which according to Google Trends data, has continued to rise slowly ever since the 2016 elections, when several states passed legislation to legalize recreational marijuana.
It's not just daring start-ups that are exploring product development in this space, as publicly traded giant Vitamin Shoppe expressed intent to launch private label hemp extract products during its Q2 earnings call last month.
Important to note is that, while there may be a correlation between hemp’s popularity and the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana in several states, hemp is a plant from the same family but with only 0.3% or less of THC, the psychoactive compound found in marijuana.
Still, the use of any plant from the Cannabis sativa family in food, beverage, and dietary supplements may cause some confusion and different interpretations of how it's regulated.
“I want to be super clear, we are not selling or marketing CBD oil,” Dr. Jacques told us, referring to cannabidiol oil, an isolation of just one of the more than 80 chemical compounds naturally found in cannabis plants. “We have hemp extract, which is what we’re selling—there’s a big difference when you’re looking at [CBD and hemp extract in terms of] dietary ingredients.”
The product marked Thorne’s first ever foray into hemp. “This was a new category for us,” she added. “We are considering other things in this category, really based off of success of an initial product. There may or may not be more hemp products in our future.”
CBD vs. Hemp Extract – is there a difference?
Looking at internet searches per Google Trends data, searches of ‘CBD oil’ and ‘hemp extract’ both started a rapid upward trajectory after the November 2016 elections, but searches for ‘CBD oil’ far outpaces searches for ‘hemp extract,’ suggesting that the former is more popular.
More 'CBD' searches than 'hemp extract'
Searches for 'hemp extract' has seen an upward trajectory...
...but 'hemp extract' searches are minuscule compared to 'CBD' searches
CBD product development in the dietary supplement space has been rampant, as evident in product launches announced at natural product shows like Expo West. But when playing by FDA’s rules, CBD is not a legal dietary ingredient, especially after FDA approved GW Pharmaceuticals’ Epidiolex, its CBD drug.
The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) today rescheduled Epidiolex to a Schedule 5 Controlled Substance, the lowest level, though it does not yet extend to other cannabidiol products. Nonetheless, analysts predict an avalanche effect for the whole category, Business Insider reported.
For now, Dr. Jacques argued that hemp extract is not the same as a CBD product, which isolates just one constituent of a chemically diverse plant.
“Natural hemp extract is actually [has] a whole range of compounds. There’s fatty acids, there’s a range of phytochemicals that are all able to interact with endocannabinoid system of the human body,” she said.
“Hemp itself contains upwards of 80 compounds that are considered to be phytocannabinoids. CBD is one of those compounds but there’s a whole range of them that are present that have value in terms of being able to nourish the endocannabinoid system. It’s a very diverse plant in terms of its chemical constituents.”
An analogy Dr. Jacques used was the case of red yeast rice, which has been in Thorne’s product portfolio for many years.
“Red yeast rice has a class of compounds in them called monacolin, and one of those compounds, monacolin K, is considered by FDA to be a drug,” she explained.
“It’s a perfect analogy, because monacolin K is what you commonly know as Lovastatin. We can’t go saying we sell statin, but we can talk about the benefits of the whole red yeast rice extract for health.”
Importation as a regulatory distinction
She also argued that the fact that Thorne uses imported hemp from Europe is a significant regulatory distinction.
“We’re very specifically using a legally imported European hemp extract that comes from hemp stalk and seed,” she explained.
“The thing about legally imported hemp, which means it has to meet the guidelines of US Customs and Border Control under The Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States, is that it has to be made from the correct parts of the plant, it has to have the levels of THC at or below 0.3%, so there’s a bunch of criteria there for using legal imports.”
“That was never made illegal in the US. So even in 1970 when we passed the Controlled Substances Act, it still allowed for the import of hemp,” she added. “This is why most of the hemp in the US market today is imported. This could change if the federal regulations change to make all domestic hemp legal. “