The 2018 Farm Bill increased the already impressive boom on hemp seed and CBD oil by approving the growth and sale of hemp for any use (1). Before the new law was introduced, hemp had been classified as a controlled substance among heroin and LSD, but now the federal government has established a new category for the plant — an agricultural commodity.

At long last, we should say.

This means that hemp is now legal to grow and sell for commercial uses, including food and health supplements. However, since the market is booming and unregulated, there’s a lot of confusion when it comes to the basic terms for hemp products.

One of them is the evergreen debate between hemp oil vs CBD oil.

Although the names may sound strikingly similar, they mean two different products.

Today, we’ll cover all the differences — roots to branches.

Hemp Oil vs CBD Oil: Highlights

  • Hemp oil is an umbrella term to describe different hemp extracts. It can be used to talk about both hemp seed oil and CBD oil.
  • Hemp seed oil and CBD oil are two completely different products.
  • Hemp seed oil is a well-known superfood. It is made by cold-pressing the hemp seeds and contains large amounts of nutrients, including essential fatty acids, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. However, it is devoid of cannabinoids.
  • CBD oil is a thick liquid extract obtained from hemp flowers using a CO2 extraction. It yields high concentrations of cannabinoids and terpenes, but it hardly contains the compounds found in the seeds.
  • CBD oil is a health supplement. It can be consumed in a liquid form, taken as capsules, vaped, or used in a topical formulation.
  • Hemp seed oil is used in foods and skincare due to its dense nutritional content.
  • Both hemp seed oil and CBD oil should have their exact names listed on the bottle. Using the term “hemp oil” brings a lot of confusion and an attempt to market hemp seed oil as CBD oil, making the potential user believe they get more bang for their buck.

Is Hemp Oil the Same as CBD Oil?

As mentioned, CBD oil and hemp oil aren’t the same products. The main difference between them is that hemp oil has little to no CBD content. That’s because hemp oil commonly refers to the hemp seed oil, which is made from cold-pressing the plant’s seeds using an industrial press. It’s an omega-rich culinary oil that boasts a dense nutritional content.

CBD oil is made by extracting the compound from the flowers and leaves of the plant. These parts contain the highest concentrations of cannabinoids and terpenes. CBD oil isn’t typically used for cooking, except for making infusions with fats and alcohols.

Before we explain the difference in detail, let’s take a closer look at the botanical classification of cannabis plants.

Basics First! The Breakdown of Cannabis Species

Cannabis is a broad term used to describe the plants that come from the Cannabaceae family. Cannabis sativa is an annual herbaceous flowering plant that is broken down into two species: cannabis (or marijuana) and hemp (2).

When you talk about cannabis, you can use it to describe both marijuana and hemp. This is a similar analogy to rectangles and squares; all marijuana and hemp plants are cannabis, but not all cannabis plants are marijuana (or hemp, depending on which one you have in mind).

Marijuana contains significant amounts of THC, the intoxicating cannabinoid that produces the signature weed high. The THC content ranges between 5–35% (with an average of 17%). Standard marijuana strains contain very little CBD (0.1%–3%), but there’s also a branch of selectively bred varieties high in CBD and lower in THC.

CBD can be sourced from both marijuana and hemp. If it comes from marijuana, it may contain more than 0.3% of THC, which is the federally accepted limit. Medical-grade CBD from marijuana is only available in states with legal medical or recreational markets.

Hemp, on the other hand, is bred to fit within the legal limits of THC, so it contains 0.3% or less. This isn’t enough to get the user high, but it still evokes some of the whole-plant synergy (the entourage effect) in CBD products. However, the lack of higher amounts of THC puts hemp-derived CBD oil in the category of health supplements.

Hemp is legal in all 50 states. You can purchase it without a prescription locally or from online suppliers.

Now that you understand the cannabis plant classification, it’s time to shed light on hemp seed oil vs CBD oil.

What is Hemp Seed Oil?

Hemp Seed with wooden spoon

Hemp seed oil derives from the seeds of the industrial hemp plant. It contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, gamma-linolenic acid, and other natural antioxidants. It is also rich in B vitamins and vitamin D (3). Hemp seed oil won’t get you high due to the lack of cannabinoids.

How is it Made?

Manufacturers extract hemp seed oil by cold-pressing the seeds of hemp in an industrial press. The finished product is a runny, green oil that has an earthy aroma and nutty flavor. The oil is then bottled up and stored in cold, dark places to preserve freshness.

How it Works

According to research, hemp seed oil can help people enhance cardiovascular health and maintain optimal brain functioning by improving (4):

  • Triglycerides
  • High-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL)
  • Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL)
  • Total cholesterol

On top of that, hemp seed oil may have positive effects on the digestive system, immune system, and skin.

Effects and Benefits

People add hemp seed oil to nutritional and skincare products because it provides an excellent source of nutrients, mostly unsaturated fatty acids and essential amino acids.

Some of the health benefits of hemp seed oil include:

  • Constipation relief
  • Cardiovascular health boost
  • Anti-inflammatory effects
  • Skin-nourishing effects
  • Gastrointestinal balance

Some scientific sources also suggest that hemp seed oil may have antioxidant and anti-aging benefits (5).

How to Use Hemp Seed Oil

People use hemp seed oil for nutritional purposes. It has no recreational uses because the levels of THC and CBD are absent. Some nutritional supplements are infused with hemp seed oil due to its high omega-3 and omega-6 acid content, gamma-linoleic acids, and natural antioxidants. For the same reasons, the hemp seed oil is a desired ingredient in skincare products.

Risks and Side Effects

Hemp seed oil is safe for consumption. However, some consumers report digestive problems such as diarrhea, but these effects may not occur in everyone. Since hemp seed oil doesn’t contain THC, it’s impossible to experience a high after eating it.

What is CBD Oil?

A person holding CBD Oil Drop on pink background

CBD oil is a viscous liquid extract infused into an inert oil (usually MCT from coconut). There are three different types of CBD oil on the market:

  • Full-spectrum CBD Oil – it contains all compounds of the hemp plant, including traces of THC (0.3% or less)
  • Broad-spectrum CBD Oil – it contains all the cannabinoids and terpenes, but not THC

Since the CBD market is unregulated, some manufacturers may use the terms ‘full-spectrum,’ ‘broad-spectrum,’ and ‘pure’ CBD oil interchangeably. If you want to make sure your product is legitimately labeled, you should always check the Certificate of Analysis (COA). Reputable companies test their products in third-party laboratories for content analysis purity to confirm they are safe for use.

How is it Made

CBD oil comes from the flowers of the hemp plant. Most high-quality CBD oils are made using specialized extraction technologies such as CO2 extraction. Applying pressurized carbon dioxide allows the manufacturer to pull the full-spectrum of cannabis compounds from the source material without using additional heat or solvents.

CBD isolates undergo a series of filtration processes that separate the CBD from the other compounds.

The CBD extract is then infused into a carrier oil, such as hemp seed oil, MCT oil, or olive oil. CBD oils are usually packaged into 30-mL bottles with glass droppers for accurate dosing.

How it Works

Scientists are still trying to understand the exact mechanism of action behind CBD’s effects on the body, but they suggest that it uses several pathways, such as:

  • Slowing endocannabinoid reuptake (6)
  • Increasing the activity of serotonin receptors (7)
  • Activating the transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 (TRPV1) and g-coupled receptor 55, both of which are involved in regulating pain and convulsions (8).

The THC in full-spectrum CBD oil binds to the CB1 receptor in the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and is responsible for the signature cannabis high. However, the trace amounts of THC in hemp-derived products won’t get you high. Instead, they may enhance the health benefits of CBD — the reason why full-spectrum extracts are the preferred option among users.

Full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD oils also contain beta-caryophyllene, a terpene that interacts with the CB2 receptors. The CB2 receptors are responsible for modulating the immune system.

Effects and Benefits

The cannabinoids in CBD oil are known to interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a widespread network of receptors that regulates a wide range of physiological processes, including mood, memory, body temperature, fertility, immune response, stress, fear, and pain perception (9).

The ECS is responsible for maintaining homeostasis in the body — a fancy term for the balance between the said functions. It produces its own chemical messengers (endocannabinoids) that bind to the CB1 and CB2 receptors to promote optimal health. However, these compounds are short-lived, and the ECS doesn’t store them in advance.

CBD signals the ECS to produce more cannabinoids; it also inhibits the enzyme that breaks them down. With more cannabinoids circulating in the body, the ECS may restore homeostasis efficiently.

People use CBD oil to stay calm, maintain focus, relieve physical discomfort, promote healthy sleep, balance appetite, and deal better with daily stressors. In 2020, more research was done on CBD than in every past year, so with more studies on its health benefits, we’ll be able to get a better understanding of how it interacts with the body and brain.

We encourage you to do your own research on the health benefits and potential applications of CBD.

How to Use CBD Oil

A Women taking CBD Oil

CBD comes in many forms. Each of them offers a different route of administration and provides some different lifestyle-dependent benefits.

CBD oil is the most common format. It contains a mix of hemp extract and a carrier oil and is usually taken under the tongue. Once there, you need to hold it for about 60 seconds for direct absorption and swallow. The calming effects should take hold within 15–20 minutes.

If you dislike the taste of CBD oil, capsules provide a decent alternative. CBD capsules are infused with a premeasured dose of CBD suspended in a carrier oil for higher bioavailability. Once you’ve swallowed them down with water, they will need to pass through the digestive system, so there’s a delay in effects that may take anywhere between 30–90 minutes.

You can also try edibles such as gummies and honey sticks. They work in the same fashion as capsules but are available in fancy flavors that make your supplementation more enjoyable.

If you’re looking for the fastest effects, consider using a CBD vape pen. Inhaled CBD gets into the bloodstream using the lung tissues, so its effects are pronounced within minutes from your first puff.

For localized discomfort or skincare, you can choose from a wide range of topical products, such as CBD creams, balms, gels, lotions, and bath bombs. When applied this way, CBD absorbs into the skin, interacting with the CB2 receptors in its epidermis layer. The absorption rate and duration of such products vary depending on their formulas.

Risks and Side Effects

Studies have concluded that CBD products are safe and only have a few mild side effects. Although the data regarding the safety of different CBD oils are lacking, researchers have studied the effects of pure CBD on the subjects.

For example, people who took a daily dose of 300 mg of CBD for up to 6 months didn’t show any negative reactions. The same study also demonstrated no side effects when a dose of 1,500 mg per day was applied for a month (10).

Large studies into the effects of Epidiolex, an FDA-approved CBD medication for people with epilepsy, reported the following side effects:

  • dry mouth
  • fatigue
  • low appetite
  • diarrhea
  • elevated liver enzymes

When buying CBD oil for the first time, make sure to find a trustworthy source. Today, regulations regarding the production and labeling of CBD products are unclear, so experts suggest ensuring that:

  • The company uses solvent-free extraction methods
  • The product was tested for pesticides and herbicides
  • The label clearly lists the CBD content
  • The CBD oil is sourced from organic hemp

If you take any medications, you should speak with a doctor before buying CBD products, as CBD is known to interfere with certain pharmaceuticals.

How to Tell the Difference Between CBD Oil and Hemp Oil?

  • Read the label carefully – if it states “CBD oil” or “hemp seed oil,” you know exactly what you’re looking at. A product labeled as “hemp oil” tells you nothing about its cannabinoid or nutritional content, nor does it point you to the source of the extract. You should also check the ingredient list; hemp seed oil will be listed as cannabis Sativa seed oil while CBD will usually be listed as cannabidiol, PCR (phytocannabinoid-rich), or PCR hemp extract.
  • Check if there are dosage instructions – CBD oils are health supplements, so they must provide a recommended serving that helps users determine the right dosage for them. If there’s no information about the recommended serving and the number of CBD milligrams per milliliter, you’re probably looking at hemp-seed oil.
  • Look for terms like “full-spectrum,” “broad-spectrum,” and “isolate” – these are the terms used to describe CBD oil and there’s no point why a manufacturer would use them on a cooking product.
  • Steer clear of hemp oils from Amazon and Walmart – places like Amazon and Walmart don’t sell CBD oils. When you see a product labeled as ‘hemp oil,’ it’s hemp-seed oil, not CBD oil. Such products also list ridiculously high numbers on the labels, such as “10,000 mg,” which is a clear indicator that you’re looking at a mislabeled product, especially considering the price.

Hemp Oil vs CBD Oil: The Bottom Line

CBD oil and hemp seed oil both come from the cannabis plant, so it’s no wonder why people who are new to the market confuse them. CBD oil comes from the flowers of the plant, while hemp seed oil uses the seeds.

Both products are non-psychoactive, so they won’t get you high like marijuana-derived oil. However, this is where the similarities end.

Hemp seed oil is a nutritional product, while CBD oil is classified as a health supplement. They have their own health benefits, but since hemp seed oil doesn’t contain any cannabinoids, it won’t interact with the ECS to help it promote homeostasis. Instead, the hemp seed oil is chock-full of essential nutrients known for their health benefits for cardiovascular health.

You can safely use both products in your daily routine. Nevertheless, always make sure to buy hemp oils from a trustworthy source that can provide Certificates of Analysis and has a good reputation among customers. Doing so will help you avoid bad experiences with fly-by-night vendors who use fishy marketing techniques to market mislabeled products.


  1. The Federal Government of the United States. (2018) “Farm Bill”. Retrieved from:
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  4. Rodriguez-Leyva, Delfin, and Grant N Pierce. “The cardiac and hemostatic effects of dietary hempseed.” Nutrition & metabolism vol. 7 32. 21 Apr. 2010, doi:10.1186/1743-7075-7-32
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