Hemp Oil vs CBD Oil: Here’s How to Tell the Difference

And where to buy products that contain both. 
By Josh Hurst
October 23, 2020
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In recent years, CBD oil has become an increasingly popular natural remedy. Its proponents vouch for its abilities to alleviate a wide range of symptoms, and people can’t seem to get enough of this non-intoxicating cannabis extract.

As CBD has grown in interest, there has been renewed interest in hemp oil as well. In fact, there are some common questions about CBD oil vs. hemp oil because both products are extracted from the hemp plant, yet have very different effects on the body.

Hemp oil vs. CBD oil

There’s often confusion surrounding hemp oil and CBD oil, so let’s clear one thing up first: Hemp oil is a term used by different people in different ways. Sometimes, it’s used as a synonym for CBD oil, but in other cases, it’s used to mean hemp seed oil, which is a different product altogether. Here are the three main distinctions between CBD oil and hemp seed oil.

1. CBD oil has more potential benefits.

Hemp seed oil is rich in some vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids (EFAs), and as such, it can offer some basic nutritional benefits. Perhaps one of the most common advantages of taking hemp seed oil comes from its omega-3 and omega-6 composition, as it contains the ideal ratio for a healthy diet. These EFAs might also support heart health in a number of ways—for instance, slowing the buildup of plaque in arteries and lowering blood pressure, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. However, it’s important to note that hemp seed oil lacks the therapeutic potential of CBD since most of these “hemp oils” contain no amount of CBD.

CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a chemical compound derived from the cannabis sativa plant. CBD is actually most well-known for its many potential health benefits that go well beyond the scope of regular hemp seed oil, as CBD has shown promise for relieving stress, providing a good night’s sleep, and alleviating the symptoms of joint pain and arthritis. 

So, long story short: If you’re looking for the most pronounced health benefits, you’re better off purchasing true CBD oil as opposed to hemp (seed) oil, where CBD is minimal or non-existent and therefore cannot offer the same effects.

2. The products are not made in the same way.

There are also some important distinctions in the way CBD oil and hemp seed oil are processed. The latter is usually made through cold-pressing hemp seeds to create a dark, thick oil that is highly concentrated and nutrient-rich. CBD oil, on the other hand, is made from different processes such as ethanol or CO2 extraction, which draw from the whole hemp plant and create a final product that contains more beneficial plant compounds, like cannabinoids and terpenes.

3. The FDA views hemp oil and CBD oil differently.

One perk of hemp seed oil is that it’s completely cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and legal to buy or sell pretty much anywhere. With CBD oil, the laws are a bit trickier and vary from one state to the next. As a rule of thumb, CBD oils are legal if they contain less than 0.3% THC content. THC is the chemical compound that gives marijuana its psychoactive effects; in other words, it’s the part that gets you high, which is why it’s limited in all but a handful of states.

Since the FDA has yet to formally evaluate CBD products, the market is highly unregulated. As such, consumers are advised to do their homework and to be careful when browsing different CBD oil products online.

What to look out for when purchasing CBD oil 

To begin with, be clear about whether you’re actually looking for hemp seed oil, or if you want actual CBD. Make sure you thoroughly read product labels to ensure you’re getting what you want. In particular, look for references to “CBD,” “cannabidiol,” or “full-spectrum hemp extract” on the ingredients list; if none are listed, then what you’re looking at is probably hemp oil, and you shouldn’t expect to receive CBD oil benefits from it. It’s advisable to always spend time perusing the ingredient lists, as many hemp seed oils are misleadingly marketed to look like they are CBD products.

If you are searching for CBD products, here are a few things to look for as you shop:

  • THC content. Trace amounts of THC are unlikely to get you high or even make you fail a drug test, but remember that for a product to be legal on a federal level, it should contain 0.3% THC or less.
  • Lab test results. To ensure that a CBD product has been thoroughly tested for potency, safety, and potential toxins, confirm it’s been tested by a third-party laboratory. Often, you can find individual batch test results on the CBD company’s website. If you cannot find these tests, move on to another brand.
  • Additional ingredients. Some CBD oils have a natural, earthy, hemp-like flavor—maybe you like that or maybe you don’t! Other products mask the hemp taste with added flavorings. Also look out for other ingredients that may be added to augment the health benefits, whether that’s melatonin, omega-3 fatty acids, or something else.
  • Type of hemp extract. It’s also important to consider whether you’re getting an isolate, broad-spectrum, or full-spectrum CBD product. An isolate is the purest version of CBD, meaning it’s THC-free, contains 99% CBD, and features no other cannabinoids or terpenes. Broad-spectrum products include some cannabinoids and additional plant compounds, and may produce the “entourage effect,” but they don’t contain THC. And full-spectrum products are those that offer benefits from a wide array of plant compounds and do contain trace levels of THC, though it still falls below that 0.3% threshold.

Best CBD oils with hemp oil 

As you shop around for the best CBD products, you’ll find some CBD oils that also contain hemp seed oil for added benefits. The editors at Remedy Review, an independent CBD site, pulled together a list of CBD oils that contain hemp oil. These products come from top brands that have undergone an extensive review process that takes into account customer reviews, price, lab testing, hemp source, and more.

Credit: NuLeaf

NuLeaf Naturals products contain USDA organic certified hemp seed oil, so you still get the added benefit of this nutrient-rich carrier oil in conjunction with CBD. Additionally, these full-spectrum CBD oils are some of the strongest on the market, containing 60 milligrams of CBD per milliliter. There are no additives within these high-quality CBD oils, and all products are thoroughly lab-tested with easily accessible Certificates of Analysis available online.

To buy: NuLeaf Naturals CBD Oil, starting at $39, nuleafnaturals.com

Credit: Spruce

Another option for a CBD and hemp seed oil combo comes from Spruce, which makes its tinctures with a potent full-spectrum hemp extract. The Max Potency tincture is one of the strongest on the market, containing a total of 80 milligrams of CBD per serving—2,400 milligrams in total. Customers also have the freedom to choose either an MCT oil or hemp seed oil base for this particular product, or they can opt for the 750 milligram CBD oil for something a little less potent.

To buy: Spruce Max Potency CBD Oil, $269, takespruce.com

Credit: Green Roads

If you want the added natural benefits of hemp seed oil, but with a less natural taste, Green Roads is the brand to go for. Its products are formulated by a licensed pharmacist and come with a few flavor options: natural, apple kiwi, and mint breeze. This CBD oil formula is a bit thicker than other oils on the market, and it’s also available in full-spectrum and broad-spectrum options for anyone who wants a THC-free CBD oil.

To buy: Green Roads Broad Spectrum CBD Oil, starting at $45, greenroads.com

Is CBD oil better than hemp oil?

Ultimately, CBD oil and hemp oil are two distinct options that both have their pros and cons. Hemp oil has its own set of benefits, which may be well suited to soothe dry skin or support heart health over a period of time, but CBD oil offers certain advantages that hemp seed oil can’t match. If you do decide to pursue CBD oil to help treat a medical condition, please consult your physician, especially if you take any prescription medications.

Josh Hurst is a journalist, critic, copywriter, and essayist. He lives in Knoxville, TN, with his wife and three sons. As a writer for Remedy Review, an independent CBD review site, Josh covers the relationship between cannabis-based products and the human body.

This content is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice; it is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before consuming or using any of the products mentioned on this site.