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Hemp Oil vs. CBD Oil — Is There A Difference?

Hemp oil and CBD oil are entirely distinct products made from different parts of the hemp plant. Learn to distinguish between the two and shop like a pro.

Article By
Katrina Lubiano , last updated on December 15, 2021

The difference between CBD oil and hemp oil lies in how it’s made and its cannabinoid content. As a result, they’re used for different purposes and provide their own set of uses.

CBD oil contains, you guessed it, CBD. CBD and other cannabinoids are concentrated in the fine, hair-like resin crystals found on the flower, stems, and leaves of the cannabis plant.

Meanwhile, hemp oil or hemp seed oil is derived from the seeds and contains no trace of cannabinoids or terpenes, but it does offer other nutritional benefits.

Let’s do a deep dive into the differences so you avoid adding the wrong product to your cart.

What Is CBD Oil?

CBD oil is made from hemp resin concentrates.

CBD is the most abundant cannabinoid in hemp plants, and it’s been extensively studied for its myriad health benefits as a natural anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-nausea, and pain-killing compound.

The problem with pure hemp extracts is that it’s difficult to use. CBD and other cannabinoids, terpenes, and other phytonutrients are concentrated in the sticky, crystal resin speckled on the buds, leaves, and stalks of the plant.

In its purest form, the extract is incredibly difficult to work with. Depending on the extraction process, it can resemble molasses or brittle glass (pure CBD).

To make it easier to dose and consume, this hemp extract is combined with a carrier oil such as MCT coconut oil, olive oil, or hemp seed oil. It dilutes the extract into different levels of potencies and increases the palatability of the naturally bitter and grassy taste of hemp extract, which makes it much more enjoyable to use.

How Is CBD Oil Made?

CBD oil is made by harvesting the flowers, leaves, and stalks of the cannabis plant and then isolating the active ingredients. 

There are two common industrial methods for extracting cannabinoids from the hemp plant — supercritical CO2 extraction and ethanol solvent extraction.

These two methods involve running the hemp material through machines that strip away the fat-soluble compounds (terpenes, cannabinoids, fatty acids, and plant esters) from the larger plant material.

What you get is a full spectrum extract containing a range of cannabinoids and terpenes that may undergo further processing to either isolate CBD or remove THC for a broad-spectrum CBD extract.

How Does CBD Oil Work?

All mammals have a unique messaging system for self-regulation called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). It’s made up of receptors, enzymes, and internally produced cannabinoids called “endocannabinoids.”

These endocannabinoids act as messengers to relay signals to CB1 and CB2 receptors found throughout the body to maintain homeostasis (balance) for optimal function.

If you’re thinking endocannabinoid and cannabinoid sound very similar, it’s no coincidence.

The endocannabinoid system was discovered by researchers delving into the pharmacology of marijuana and hemp. CBD, delta 9 THC, and other minor cannabinoids closely resemble our endocannabinoids. By supplementing the levels of endocannabinoids in our bodies and toning the function of the ECS, our body is better equipped to maintain homeostasis.

CBD has also been studied for its unique effects at other receptor sites for alleviating pain, supporting a sense of calm, and reducing inflammation. 

What Is Hemp Seed Oil?

Hemp seed oil, sometimes just called hemp oil, is made from the seeds of the hemp plant.

While the hemp seed is full of health benefits — it’s high in omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids and vitamins C and E — it doesn’t affect the endocannabinoid system.

Hemp seeds don’t contain any traces of cannabinoids or terpenes that interact with CB1 or CB2 receptors.

Hemp seed oil is often sold as a finishing oil for your meals drizzled over salads, rice, pasta, or roasted vegetables, which gives it a rich, nutty flavor. Because of its low burning point, hemp seed oil is too delicate to cook with like you would with olive oil, canola oil, or avocado oil.

How Is Hemp Seed Oil Made?

Hemp seed oil is made by cold-pressing the seeds of the hemp plant.

Cold-press extraction is a favored method for releasing oils from botanicals without heat, which keeps many of its nutritional benefits active.

On an industrial scale, it often involves machinery with centrifugal force to separate the oil from the fiber and pulp. When you cold press hemp seeds, you’re left with a dark green, translucent oil that can be used as a food supplement or in topical formulas.

How Does Hemp Oil Work?

Pure hemp oil won’t affect the endocannabinoid system at all because it doesn’t contain any endocannabinoids. However, hemp seeds are considered a superfood. Whole hemp seeds are an excellent source of plant-based, bioavailable protein and contain essential amino acids and vitamins.

Hemp seed oil is rich in two essential fatty acids omega 3 and omega 6. Our body doesn’t produce these essential fatty acids, so we need to seek them out from food sources to maintain optimal cellular processes.

Low levels of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids have been attributed to inflammatory diseases and heart conditions [1].

You can also find hemp seed oil in cosmetic products. Hemp seed oil is a non-comedogenic ingredient, which means it doesn’t clog pores and cause breakouts. It’s incredibly nourishing to the skin and it’s well absorbed, helping to reduce itchiness and irritation.

How Does The FDA Regulate CBD Oil & Hemp Seed Oil?

The Food And Drug Administration recognizes the development of therapies and consumer products from the cannabis plant, but they treat cannabinoid-based products differently from hemp seed products.

Since hemp seed oil is completely cleared with the FDA as a food and cosmetic ingredient, you can purchase this type of hemp oil at any supermarket as a food or beauty product.

When it comes to hemp extractions, the FDA regulations get a little murky.

The Farm Bill (2018) legalized hemp and its derivatives for sale as long as they contain less than 0.3% THC. Since marketing CBD is fairly new, the FDA is working on cracking down on unsubstantiated health claims that could risk the health of consumers.

The FDA has administered warning letters to CBD brands that violate Federal Drug and Cosmetic Act compliance, mostly concerning the benefits of CBD in treating medical conditions. The FDA is still working towards reforming CBD products and their marketing, but it still remains highly unregulated, and it’s up to consumers to err on the side of caution when shopping for CBD products.

The Problem With Confusing Hemp Oil With CBD Oil

Some companies bank on unassuming consumers who don’t know the difference between hemp oil and CBD oil. If you’re trying to reap the health benefits of hemp extract but accidentally purchase hemp seed oil without any cannabinoids, you’ve just wasted your hard-earned cash.

CBD oil products are expensive to produce. Production requires careful regulation processes in farming, clean and meticulous extraction methods, rigorous testing for quality and purity, and formulation.

There have been instances of companies bottling pure hemp seed oil while marketing the benefits of cannabinoids and terpenes, charging a premium price to customers who don’t know any better about the differences. This practice is downright deceiving.

While the two products come from the same plant, their uses and benefits are entirely different. Marketing hemp oil and CBD as the same thing is confusing and causes more distrust and apprehension about the CBD industry as a whole.

To avoid accidentally adding the wrong product to your cart, make sure you look at the ingredients list.

Hemp oil should only indicate one ingredient — pure hemp seed oil. While CBD oil will contain hemp extract or CBD extract and a carrier oil (hemp seed oil, olive oil, coconut oil).

Suggested Reading: List of Scam CBD Companies You Should Avoid.

What’s The Difference Between Hemp & Marijuana-Derived CBD?

Hemp and marijuana are technically the same Cannabis sativa plant. What makes them distinct are the levels of the psychoactive cannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and its legal status.

Hemp is classified as any cannabis plant with less than 0.3% THC by dried weight; anything over that is considered marijuana, which may be illegal depending on your state.

CBD is found in both hemp and marijuana plants, but it’s largely concentrated in hemp varieties. CBD oil hemp products don’t contain enough THC to produce intoxicating effects, which is why it was legalized in 2018.

To make sure you’re complying with federal laws, make sure you’re buying CBD oil from hemp. Purchasing CBD oil derived from marijuana could land you in some legal problems, depending on your state.

Check out our exhaustive list of CBD Laws in the United States and Around the World.

What To Look For In A Premium CBD Oil

If you’re looking to take advantage of CBD oil to optimize your health regimen, we’ve compiled several shopping tips to help you navigate the space.

1. Full Spectrum CBD Oil

The most common hemp extracts are full-spectrum (whole hemp extract) and CBD isolates.

There’s more than one therapeutic compound found in hemp resin, and full-spectrum extracts contain a diverse range of cannabinoids, terpenes, and plant esters to leverage the entourage effect, which helps to increase the potency and balance the effects of CBD.

If you’re looking for a product that’s completely THC-free, we recommend looking to broad-spectrum CBD oils. They still have a range of cannabinoids and terpenes but have undergone further processing to remove THC.

2. Clean Hemp Source

The quality of your CBD oil starts with the health of the plant.

Typically, you want to look for CBD oil derived from American hemp as the USA has strict agricultural practices. Hemp crops are extremely sensitive to their environment, which means environmental pollutants and pesticides can end up in the final CBD product.

3. Independent Lab Testing

While this lab testing isn’t a requirement in the industry, reputable brands are making third-party lab testing a priority in an effort to provide customers with transparency and demonstrate the safety of their CBD oils.

Look to see that a CBD brand displays the lab results of their extracts on their website. These lab tests are conducted by a separate lab that examines the cannabinoid and terpene profile along with the presence of potential contaminants (pesticides, heavy metals, solvents, mycotoxins).

If you’re ever unsure about a hemp-based product, referencing the certificate of analysis is a failsafe way to make sure you’re buying CBD oil and not hemp oil.

The Takeaway: Hemp Oil vs. CBD

Hemp oil and CBD are entirely distinct products.

Although you may find them combined in CBD  formulas to make hemp extracts easier to work with, do not mistake hemp seed oil for CBD oil.

Hemp oil doesn’t contain any traces of cannabinoids or terpenes, which are the active compounds in CBD or other hemp extracts.

Hemp oil is harvested from the seeds of hemp plants, while CBD comes from the resin trichomes that cover the buds, leaves, and stems.

If you’re unsure about a product, look for a third-party lab rest on the brands’ website for a detailed breakdown of the cannabinoids present. If there are no cannabinoids in the oil — you’re likely looking at hemp oil rather than CBD oil.

The cannabis industry is slowly emerging out of a counter-culture and into the mainstream as more research emerges about the plant’s wellness benefits and government policies adapt.

Since the government bodies that regulate cannabis still have a long way to go to standardize the marketing of cannabis and its derivatives, it’s up to the consumers to do research before purchasing CBD oil.


  1. Simopoulos, A. P., & DiNicolantonio, J. J. (2016). The importance of a balanced ω-6 to ω-3 ratio in the prevention and management of obesity.

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