Hemp is one of the most versatile plants in the world, and endless hemp products have entered the market since the US government legalized its cultivation in 2018. With the overwhelming selection of hemp-based products available in stores and online, it can be difficult to know exactly what you’re getting. Terms like “hemp extract,” “cannabis oil,” and “hemp seed oil” can add to the confusion, and it’s important to know that not all hemp products are created equal. In this guide, we’ll discuss hemp oil vs CBD oil and how to tell the difference.

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What is CBD Oil?

CBD oil has become popular in natural wellness circles for its potential health benefits. CBD is short for cannabidiol, which is one of over one hundred known cannabinoids found in cannabis. CBD products must contain a concentration of less than 0.3% THC to be compliant with federal law. With only trace amounts of THC, CBD oil is unlikely to cause intoxication or a stoned feeling. Because CBD is extracted from hemp plants, it is sometimes labeled as “hemp extract,” which should not be confused with hemp oil.  It’s important to read the label carefully before spending money on a CBD product. The CBD industry is still largely unregulated, and a number of low-potency and low-quality products continue to enter the market. When purchasing CBD oil, look specifically for the CBD content (measured in milligrams) to ensure that you’re getting a product that actually contains cannabinoids and promotes the wellness benefits you want. You should also look for products that have been independently lab-tested to verify their purity and safety.

What is Hemp Oil?

The term “hemp oil” is often used incorrectly to describe CBD, but don’t let this confuse you. There are many distinct differences between these two hemp-derived products. Hemp oil is more accurately known as hemp seed oil, and is mainly used in food and skin care products. Hemp seeds are harvested from industrial hemp plants. The oil contained within hemp is refined using a similar process to other seed oils, like sesame or sunflower. Hemp oil is not rich in cannabinoids like CBD oil or THC oil, and does not offer the same effects. That said, hemp seed oil offers many of its own benefits.

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CBD vs. Hemp Oil: What Are the Benefits?

One of the most remarkable benefits of CBD is that it is FDA-approved to treat certain types of epilepsy. It has not yet been approved by the FDA to treat or cure any other disease or condition, however anecdotal reports and emerging research suggest that CBD oil may also promote the following benefits: 

  • May help to reduce inflammation
  • May help with sleep
  • May assist with pain management
  • May help manage stress and anxiety
  • May help manage certain skin conditions

These potential benefits stem from CBD oil’s interaction with the endocannabinoid system. Cannabinoids can either directly or indirectly influence cannabinoid receptors found within the human body to help promote homeostasis which can help bring balance to a wide range of internal functions. Hemp oil is considered particularly nutritious as a rich source of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids as well as a range of beneficial minerals. It also has been praised for promoting skin health whether ingested or applied topically. These benefits may include:

One study has suggested that hemp seed oil may even support healthy brain function.

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How Are They Made?

CBD is made from the flowers and leaves of specially-cultivated cannabis plants. While industrial hemp is grown for its fibrous stalks and nutritious seeds, hemp plants grown for CBD are cultivated to promote optimal cannabinoid production. The process is quite similar to growing marijuana for medical or recreational use. When growing both medical cannabis and hemp for CBD, male plants are separated before pollinating the female plants, thus promoting greater cannabinoid production and preventing seed growth.  When the cannabinoid-rich flowers reach peak potency, they are harvested and then undergo a complex extraction process. Supercritical CO2 or another solvent is used to separate the cannabinoids and remove the unwanted plant materials, such as fiber and plant waxes. The resulting product can be mixed with a carrier oil for proper consistency or added to a wide range of consumer products. Hemp seed oil comes from the seeds of industrial hemp, which are cultivated with both male and female plants present. The male plants pollinate the females, who then exert much of their energy in the process of seed production. The seeds are harvested, cold-pressed, and filtered to remove any remaining sediment. Hemp seed oil is typically sold in bottles in health food stores or with other cooking oils in the grocery store.

How to Use CBD Oil vs. Hemp Oil

CBD has been incorporated in everything from sports creams to CBD candles with varying degrees of success. Some of the most effective products include tinctures, edibles such as gummies and CBD butter, inhalables such as CBD vapes, and CBD topicals which can be applied to the skin. When it comes to trying CBD, it’s wise to begin with a small serving and increase your dose until the desired effect is achieved. For beginners, a good rule of thumb is to use one milligram of CBD per 10 pounds of body weight.  Hemp seed oil is typically used in either cooking or topical products. It can be applied directly to freshly cleansed skin or incorporated into moisturizers, serums, or creams. Remember that not all skin types are the same, and it’s a good idea to test a small area, such as the inside of your arm, by applying a small amount and waiting at least 24 hours to see if any skin irritation or reaction occurs. The benefits of hemp seed oil can also be harnessed through consumption. You may choose to simply swallow 1-2 teaspoons of the oil per day, or incorporate it into a recipe such as a salad dressing, hummus, or pesto.  The world of cannabis terminology can be confusing, but we hope that our guide has made it easier to navigate this complex landscape and find the right hemp products for your unique needs.