Hemp Seed Oil Vs. Cbd Oil: Two Totally Different Things—Here’s What to Know About Each

Photo: Getty Images / lechatnoir
In this plant-happy world we live in, you can find me slathering cannabidiol or CBD on my muscles to relieve soreness, applying it to my skin to soothe inflammation, and dropping it into my daily water for stress relief. In fairness, I'm drinking the proverbial Kool-Aid, but until recently I didn't recognize the difference between hemp oil vs CBD oil, and as it happens, there's a big one.

Experts In This Article

These days, the green-washing on CBD products can be hard to navigate, and the vocab one needs to navigate the CBD-lined shelves is extensive to say the least. Brands want to get in on the much-praised benefits, after all—but the issue here is that the terms being marketed under the "cannabis" umbrella aren't all the same thing.

Truth be told, oftentimes, you'll see the cannabis plant touted on a label, but the specific ingredient being used isn't so crystal clear. And there are any number of ingredients that can come from the cannabis or hemp plants from hemp oil to CBD oil to cannabis sativa seed oil, each of which have their own unique benefits, despite often being used interchangeably. To clear up the confusion, I sought out advice from the pros.

What is CBD oil?

CBD is a term signifying a component of the cannabis plant that comes with the much-talked about anti-inflammatory benefits, and you're seeing it on everything from skin-care products to high-vibe tinctures. It's extracted from the leaves, flowers, and stalks of the cannabis plant. Jenelle Kim, DACM, LAc, a doctor of acupuncture and Chinese Medicine and founder and formulator at JBK Wellness Labs, notes that CBD is a protein source and hemp plants contain all 20 amino acids which makes them a complete chain of protein. “Additionally, CBD contains B-complex vitamins including vitamin B6, B12, riboflavin, niacin, and thiamine,” she says.

The Uses and Benefits of CBD Oil

CBD provides many other therapeutic effects on the body. One of the most well-known benefits is that it helps reduce inflammation.

"Cannabidiol—known as CBD—is one of over a hundred active compounds or cannabinoids found exclusively in the cannabis plant," says Cindy Capobianco, co-founder of Lord Jones. "CBD acts as an analgesic and anti-inflammatory, which reduces pain and inflammation. It's been used for centuries to successfully provide pain relief to muscle aches, arthritis, joint pain, neuropathic conditions, headaches, and to aid skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, even sunburn, and bug bites when used topically."

Phew! When ingested, Capobianco notes that the anti-inflammatory powers remain, and it "provides relief from anxiety and promotes a calm sense of well-being," she says.

The cannabinoid itself is a potent, highly anti-inflammatory antioxidant. "It's been shown in multiple studies to reduce lipid product from the sebaceous glands—and the overproduction of this sebum is what leads to acne," says Ashley Lewis, co-founder of Fleur Marché, a new online CBD retail destination. You'll see it on product labels as the following terms: CBD, hemp CBD, and phytocannabinoid-rich hemp oil. Hence the obvious confusion.

Dr. Kim also points out the discovery of the endocannabinoid system (EDS). “When that system is receiving the proper amount of cannabinoids which vary from person to person, that person can have less inflammation in the body, ultimately getting the body closer to homeostasis, which means creating stability in the body,” she says.

Furthermore, CBD oil is also said to help manage seizures. “So far, Epidiolex is the only FDA-approved CBD oil and it is used to treat seizures, other uses are pain management, sleep, and can decrease anxiety,” Dr. Kim says.

With all that in mind, though, Dr. Kim notes more research is required to confirm the effectiveness of CBD oil for various medical conditions.

CBD Oil Risks and Side Effects

Dr. Kim says some of the potential side effects of CBD oil include dry mouth, diarrhea, reduced appetite, drowsiness, and fatigue. She notes that CBD can also interact with other medications, so it’s always best to check with your doctor before trying it. She adds that, in general, CBD wellness products won’t cause harm. However, there is potential harm in the unreliability of the purity and dosage of CBD products. For this reason, it is important to use products that are made from organic hemp and have no flavorings or additives, and ensure that it is third-party tested for pesticides.

What is hemp oil?

Hemp seed oil, on the other hand, is relative to many other carrier oils—along the lines of sunflower seed oil and jojoba oil—in that it's a cold-pressed extract from seeds. "Hemp seed oil, sometimes referred to as cannabis sativa seed oil, is perfectly good seed oil that's high in antioxidants, omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, but contains no CBD," explains Capobianco. "Hemp seed or cannabis sativa seed oil has been available in health food stores for decades and abundantly present in smoothies and skin care."

For this reason, hemp seed oil is considered nature’s most perfectly balanced oil. “It contains the 3:1 ratio of omega-6 linoleic (LA) to omega-3 alpha-linolenic (LNA) essential fatty acids (EFA). These are the required amounts for proper nutrition and health,” Dr. Kim says, adding that hemp is also one of the 50 fundamental herbs used in Chinese medicine.

The Uses and Benefits of Hemp Oil

The benefits of hemp oil are largely credited to the EFAs it contains, which Dr. Kim notes are a very necessary component in our diet more than any other vitamin since our bodies don’t naturally produce them. “The EFAs found in hemp seed oil act as life energy throughout the human body and without them, life is not possible,” she says. “When a person is eating the proper amount of EFAs—and hemp seed oil is a great source—[they] will have a balanced ratio of essential fatty acids and this will also benefit energy levels and give the appearance of healthy skin, and a strong immune system.”

For the skin specifically, Dr. Kim says hemp seed oil is great for conditions such as psoriasis, acne, and most skin irritations because it helps reduce inflammation in the skin. And, she adds, it’s good for reducing inflammation in general—both internally and externally. You can even take it at night to promote a good night’s sleep, she says.

Hemp Seed Oil Risks and Side Effects

As far as risks and side effects go, there isn’t much to worry about with hemp seed oil. Dr. Kim says it may cause drowsiness and dry mouth. And, she actually prefers a hemp seed oil-based essential fatty acid vitamin rather than a fish oil because it's safer, more effective, and better for the environment. Also, like CBD oil, she warns that hemp seed oil can interact with other medications. So be sure to consult with your doctor before using this supplement (or any supplement for that matter).

What’s the difference between hemp and marijuana?

Now that you’re informed on the difference between hemp seed oil vs CBD oil, you may be wondering where marjiuana comes in and how it differs. “The difference between hemp and marijuana is the psychoactive property known as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC),” Dr. Kim explains. “Hemp contains 0.3% or less THC, which means if you see a product that says ‘hemp-derived’ then you can rest assured that it will not contain enough THC to make you feel ‘high’ which marijuana is known to cause.”

The Problem With Mixing Up the Two

Since hemp seed oil and CBD oil are essentially wellness ingredients, you won't exactly be harmed if you accidentally purchase or use one instead of the other; however, if you're trying to reap the maximum benefits of CBD oil, hemp seed oil won't deliver...which is a problem considering that these oils don't come cheap. "Unfortunately, we see a number of brands cynically cashing in on the popularity and cannabis trend and even making false claims that their products contain CBD when they contain none," says Capobianco. "Some brands are calling hemp seed oil cannabis sativa oil, which is deceiving."

Sure, they both come from the same plant, but they're significantly different beyond that: "The biggest issue is that hemp seed oil and CBD are two totally different compounds that come from different parts of the hemp plant, have different makeups, and different benefits," says Lewis. "Marketing them as the same thing just isn't accurate and does a disservice to consumers who are expecting certain benefits that they won't get from hemp seed oil and who are often paying more for what they think is CBD."

So which is better: hemp seed oil or CBD oil?

Both oils have their benefits so the best option comes down to personal preference and what benefits you want to reap. But rest assured, Dr. Kim notes either hemp or CBD oil won’t cause harm. However, it is vital that you ensure you’re using a properly dosed product that doesn’t contain additives or coloring. And for CBD products, in particular, she recommends opting for ones that have been third-party tested and come with a certificate of analysis, which confirms the product actually contains what it claims to on the label.

In other words, checking the product label is key to not falling for marketing traps. "If you're looking for the unique benefits of CBD, make sure you're purchasing a product that clearly states it contains it," says Capobianco. "Read labels, ask questions, and know what you're buying." That savviness will help the wellness industry continue to reap—and normalize—the plant's benefits, which is a win-win for all.

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