If you are reading this, odds are you've been struggling to differentiate between CBD oil and hemp oil.
Maybe it's because they both come from the hemp plant, or because they're both used as prominent ingredients in skincare products and food. Certainly the rising popularity of both products has placed them firmly in the public eye.
The good news is that CBD oil and hemp oil are two completely different products, and we’re here to make it as easy for you to understand their differences.
Here’s what you need to know.
CBD oil is a chemical extract of the flowers, leaves, and stalks of the hemp plant. This compound is used by a wide variety of people as a health supplement.
CBD itself works through affecting the human endocannabinoid system.
Hemp oil, meanwhile, is extracted from the seeds of the hemp plant. It contains many rich nutrients and fatty acids one would expect from seeds but, most notably, does not contain any significant concentrations of CBD.
Understanding CBD Oil
CBD oil is extracted from the hemp plant, a process either involving the use of solvents or with an advanced technique like carbon dioxide extraction.
Depending on how the process goes, you can get any one of the three CBD oil varieties:
- CBD Isolate oil, containing CBD almost exclusively.
- Broad spectrum CBD oil, containing most of the compounds found in the hemp plant, but lacking the psychoactive THC compound.
- Full spectrum CBD oil, which is extracted with all the compounds found in the hemp plant including THC in trace amounts. THC is the compound in traditional cannabis products that makes one feel “high”. In the UK, full spectrum products will never contain more than trace levels of THC.
Whenever you buy CBD oil make sure to check the Certificate of Analysis (COA) to understand what they contain.
The CBD market has had an unfortunate history of containing improper quantities of both CBD and THC in its products; a hangover from the days when CBD was understood far less.
With the establishment of organisations like the Cannabis Trade Association, the implementation of laws such as the Novel Foods Regulations and the general normalisation of CBD use, the CBD industry now meets far higher standards.
Today the quality of CBD products from reputable sellers is as assured as in any other corner of the health and wellness industry.
Be sure to check the contents of your CBD purchases as well as the manufacturer’s background to ensure that you are getting the best experience.
CBD oil works in concert with the human endocannabinoid system, a naturally occurring set of receptors that exist throughout the body.
There are still ongoing scientific studies on CBD oil to reveal its benefits, so it would be misleading to advertise CBD oil as any kind of medicine or health product. Nevertheless, many enthusiasts tout the benefits of CBD and use it as a conventional health supplement.
CBD oil in particular is considered the quickest, most straightforward way to receive a dose of CBD, usually being taken sublingually (under the tongue) or applied topically (rubbed into the skin).
CBD oil is just one corner of a wide and varied CBD market, used by people the world over both recreationally and to promote cleaner living.
CBD Oil Components
CBD oil is composed of several key compounds, each of which serves a different role within the oil.
Broadly speaking they can be broken down into three categories: cannabinoids, flavourings and carrier oil.
Cannabinoids are the most important category, covering everything from the CBD itself to the trace THC content in full-spectrum oil, as well as other plant extracts such as cannabigerol and cannabichromene.
The type of oil you take will determine the specific cannabinoids content. CBD isolate will only contain CBD, broad-spectrum will contain this wider range but lack THC, whilst full-spectrum will contain every cannabinoid to a greater or lesser degree.
The role of these cannabinoids is rather straightforward, with CBD always being the primary component.
CBD will have the highest concentration in any reputable CBD oil, outweighing the others by a significant factor.
The presence of the other cannabinoids serves primarily to enhance the effects of the CBD, achieved through a principle called the entourage effect.
This chemical mechanic, although unproven, is held up as a cornerstone of the CBD community. It argues that the presence of multiple cannabinoids helps to enhance the overall effects of CBD.
This is the basis for the inclusion of small quantities of THC in full-spectrum CBD oil. It may not be in a high enough concentration to have any psychoactive effect, but it will nevertheless help to intensify the CBD.
This intensification is the primary role all of these other cannabinoids play in both broad-spectrum and full-spectrum CBD.
Beyond cannabinoids, the primary components of CBD oil are the flavourings and carrier oil.
The flavourings are quite straightforward, mostly consisting of natural or artificial flavourings designed to make the experience of sublingually taking CBD oil more enjoyable.
The carrier oil is often a standard MCT oil, an odourless and flavourless medium found in a wide range of health supplements.
Understanding Hemp Oil
Hemp oil, also called hemp seed oil, is extracted from seeds of the hemp plant.
Hemp oil is rich in nutritional antioxidants like gamma-linolenic acid, omega 3 and omega 6, among others.
It also contains high quantities of Vitamin B and Vitamin D. Because of this, hemp oil is included as an ingredient in many nutritional supplements.
Hemp oil can also be found in many CBD skincare products.
Similar to CBD oil, hemp oil can be applied directly to the skin. This oil is often used to unclog pores and moisturise dry skin, helping it to feel and look smooth.
Hemp oil contains no psychoactive or intoxicating compounds, such as THC, so its sole purpose is as a health supplement.
CBD is also not present in hemp oil, or if it is it will be in small enough quantities to have no effect on the users. Just like with CBD oil, you cannot get ‘high’ using hemp oil.
Hemp Oil Components
In its capacity as a health supplement, hemp oil is often added to bread, cookies, yogurt, salads, snack bars and other food products to provide basic nutrients.
As it is extracted from seeds it is rich in essential amino and fatty acids. For these reasons people will use it for a wide range of unconfirmed benefits, including anti-aging and as an antioxidant product.
However, this should not be read as a confirmation on the health benefits of hemp oil. Just like CBD, there's no conclusive research on the benefits of hemp oil. Although laws around advertising hemp oil as a health product are less strict than those around CBD oil, any proposed benefits are still just speculation.
As with many things in the hemp industry, more scientific evidence is needed before any claims can be properly made.
Marketing & Misinformation
The biggest challenge of differentiating CBD oil from hemp oil lies in their marketing.
The lack of regulation in the CBD market in certain parts of the world only makes this more difficult.
Although some brands will make a clear distinction between these two very different products, just as many will either confuse them or attempt to sell one as the other.
In general, consumers will pay more for products containing CBD oil than those containing hemp oil.
You'll find hemp oil products with images of cannabis leaves and with the word "cannabis" in large letters, coming with a hefty price tag. Going from this, many customers will assume that they are buying CBD only to be disappointed.
On the other hand, in places where CBD oil is not legal you may find products with CBD contents being advertised as hemp oil.
As a consumer, your safest option is always to buy products that are clearly labelled and come from a reputable supplier.
Products that contain hemp oil will often be labelled Cannabis Sativa seed oil or hemp seed oil.
Products that have CBD oil will often be labelled as cannabidiol, phytocannabinoid-rich (PCR), full-spectrum hemp or PCR hemp extracts.
The difference between CBD oil and hemp oil is quite straightforward.
They both come from the same plant, but CBD is extracted from the leaves, flowers and stem, while hemp oil is extracted from the seeds.
This difference in source has a great effect on their contents: CBD oil contains a wide range of cannabinoids when extracted -including CBD itself- whilst hemp oil contains those elements that would help to grow a hemp plant: namely amino acids, fatty acids and a wide range of vitamins and nutrients.
CBD oil will work in concert with the endocannabinoid system, whilst hemp oil has no effect beyond its basic nutrient contents.
People have claimed a wide range of health benefits tied to hemp oil, none of which have been scientifically confirmed.
Due to their shared biological originals they are often conflated or confused. This is unfortunate as, considering their widely different contents, a mistaken purchase could prove to be extremely disappointing.
Certain retailers don’t make it easy either, instead aiming to mislead consumers into paying a higher price tag for a different product.
In order to avoid such disappointment we encourage you to always research a product thoroughly before you purchase it, knowing exactly what it is you want and only sourcing it from a reliable supplier.
That way you'll be doing your best to ensure that your hemp or CBD experience is exactly what you're looking for.