What’s the Difference Between Hemp Oil and CBD Oil?

Medically reviewed by Jillian Kubala, MS, RD
Written by Melena Gurganus
R+R Medicinals, Unsplash

As the cultivation and sale of industrial hemp has increased over the past few years, we’ve seen a growing interest in the potential health benefits of hemp extracts like CBD oil. With this newfound attention, other hemp products have started making their way into the market as well. In some instances, you may come across broad terms like “hemp oil” that may cause some confusion, as many people wonder if hemp oil is the same as CBD oil.

When comparing hemp oil vs CBD oil, a general rule of thumb is to see if the term “CBD” or “cannabidiol” is prominently displayed on the label or description of a product. You also may see a note about “phytocannabinoids” or full-spectrum hemp oil. If you see no mention of cannabinoids, then the “hemp oil” is more than likely hemp seed oil rather than CBD oil. The distinction between these two is critical, as each of these oils serves a different purpose and has varying effects. If you’re looking to buy hemp oils or CBD products, read the fine print and look for lab test results so you know exactly what product you are getting.

What is hemp seed oil?

The seeds of hemp plants are rich in essential fatty acids, like omega-3 and omega-6, and also contain a plethora of vitamin E and minerals, like calcium and magnesium. Hemp oil is extracted by cold pressing hemp seeds to extract their oil, and the final result is commonly dark in appearance and can be ingested or applied topically to reap the benefits of its valuable nutrients. Hemp oil benefits the heart as well, since it may reduce your risk of heart disease thanks to omega-3s, which have been shown to decrease blood pressure, slow the buildup of plaque in arteries, and reduce your chance of heart attack and stroke.

In addition, hemp seed oil can help alleviate itchy, dry, or irritated skin, as well as eczema, because the rich fatty acids in hemp seeds aid in the development of healthy cell membranes. Another benefit of hemp oil is its legal status within the United States. Unlike CBD oil, hemp seed oil is generally recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration and is widely legal in all 50 states. CBD products on the other hand are constantly in a legal gray area and have yet to be evaluated by the FDA.

Why CBD oil is different

It’s no secret that CBD oil is extracted from hemp, but different parts of the plant are used during this process (that does not include the seeds). CBD oil is made primarily from the flowers of hemp plants, which contain many more cannabinoids, terpenes, and high levels of CBD. Hemp oil and CBD oil differ in more ways than their extraction process, because they also have varying degrees of potential health advantages that consumers report experiencing.

It’s clear that hemp seed oil has its own array of wellness possibilities, but CBD oil is more sought after for its association with symptom relief. Many people do use CBD oil for a wide range of benefits, and some studies have found that it can relieve pain with its anti-inflammatory properties, boost your immune system, or alleviate anxiety and stress. However, there is a lack of research about CBD and its interaction with cannabinoid receptors throughout the body, as well as any long term side effects. As a result, consumers often rely on anecdotal evidence and personal testimony when trying CBD for the first time. It’s important to know that your experience with CBD may not be the same as someone else’s, and you should always thoroughly research any product before introducing it to your endocannabinoid system.

CBD is known for its analgesic properties, and this potential defines the separation between hemp oil and CBD oil. These oil products are both primarily extracted from industrial hemp, except hemp seeds are not rich in CBD. Any substance derived only from the seeds of hemp plants will not produce relaxation or pain relieving effects that many consumers have described experiencing with CBD products. It’s possible that there is CBD within hemp seeds, but oil obtained from pressing these seeds will not contain any significant amount of CBD to have a noticeable impact on the person using the oil.

Hemp Oil vs CBD Oil—A Quick Breakdown

Which cannabis oil is more beneficial?

Hemp oil and CBD oil can be used in various ways, but choosing a product that’s well suited for you will depend on your health goals or concerns. In either case, you won’t experience any psychoactive effects that marijuana plant strains of cannabis sativa are known to produce. People that use CBD oil typically do so to help with chronic pain or anxiety management, but hemp seed oil may be more of a daily supplement to gain nutrients rather than to reduce pain or stress. There is no definitive chance that you’ll see any medicinal value in either CBD or hemp seed oil, but we felt it was important to outline the distinction between the two. Misleading information and confusion about hemp, and its use as a natural remedy, can sometimes be generated when two similarly labeled products are on the market, yet have different effects on the body.

You may want to consult your doctor before introducing cannabis extracts into your system, especially if you take any existing medications. When looking for products that contain CBD, remember that CBD oils are extracted from hemp plants, but not all hemp oils contain CBD. If it’s not clear that the product contains CBD, you can always ask the company to determine what kind of “hemp oil” they sell.

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