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All your hemp oil and CBD questions, answered. Including, what's the difference, why it matters, and how to decode the label. It can be challenging to understand products that seem similar, but there are a few key differences between CBD and hemp. Read now.

Hemp vs. CBD: What’s The Difference & Which One Should I Take?

Lindsay Boyers is a nutrition consultant specializing in elimination diets, gut health, and food sensitivities. Lindsay earned a degree in food & nutrition from Framingham State University, and she holds a Certificate in Holistic Nutrition Consulting from the American College of Healthcare Sciences.

Roxanna Namavar, D.O. is an adult psychiatrist focusing on integrative health. She completed her residency training at the University of Virginia Health-System and currently has a private practice in New York City.

Until recently, federal regulation in the U.S. meant that industrial hemp could not be cultivated for commercial use. It wasn’t until the 2018 Farm Bill that farmers could grow and sell hemp plant extracts—namely, hemp oil and CBD oil. Since then, these products have hit the market quickly and with much fanfare, but with increasing popularity comes increasing confusion. If you’re wondering about hemp, CBD, and the difference between the two, here are the top-level highlights.


In This Article

Hemp vs. CBD: The basics.

For starters, let’s go over the differences between hemp and marijuana. These are two different plants from the same family: Cannabis. Cannabis plants contain a variety of different compounds called cannabinoids, the two most well-known (and most studied) are THC and CBD. THC has psychoactive effects, which means it can get you high and is found in high concentrations in marijuana plants. CBD does not have psychoactive effects, and is instead taken for stress management.*

Hemp oil extract, on the other hand, is an oil that’s made from the stalk, and/or flowers of the hemp plant and is rich in beneficial cannabinoid compounds. (It should not be confused with hemp seed oil, an omega-3 rich culinary oil made from pressed hemp seeds that does not contain cannabinoids.) CBD isolate oil, on the other hand, is an isolated extraction of one particular cannabinoid, cannabidiol. So the main difference between hemp oil and CBD oil is that CBD oil contains one type of cannabinoid, while hemp oil has a variety of them.

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More on hemp oil.

Hemp oil is safe and legal: It must contain less than 0.3% THC, it is legal in all 50 states, and it will not make you feel you high even in large doses. (Repeat: Hemp oil will not make you high!)

What it will do is give you a dose of beneficial cannabinoids, including CBD. While CBD and THC are the most well-known cannabinoids, the hemp plant contains more than 140 different cannabinoids in total. In addition to the cannabinoids, hemp is also rich in organic compounds called terpenes that give the plant its smell and taste. Each of these cannabinoids and terpenes is associated with various benefits, like supporting sleep, digestion, and immune function.*

While each cannabinoid and terpene is beneficial on its own, all of these compounds are synergistic when taken together—a phenomenon called “the entourage effect.”* That’s what makes hemp oil extract so impressive. As a rich source of cannabinoids, hemp oil extract imparts the entourage effect, meaning you benefit from all the plant compounds.


OK, what about CBD oil?

CBD is the isolated extract of the specific cannabinoid cannabidiol from either the hemp or marijuana plant. CBD oil can be purchased in the isolate form, which means all of the other cannabinoids and terpenes have been filtered out or in the broad- or full-spectrum form, which means some or all of the other cannabinoids remain.

CBD oil that comes from the marijuana plant can contain higher concentrations of THC and get you high. This type of CBD oil is only legal in certain places or under certain circumstances, like with a medical marijuana card. CBD oil extracted from marijuana is often marketed as “cannabis oil.” CBD extracted from hemp contains less than 0.3% THC and will not get you high.

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A good way to tell if the CBD oil you’re purchasing is from hemp or marijuana is its availability. Most of the CBD oil that you can buy online and over the counter is the type that comes from hemp since the sale of high-THC CBD oil isn’t legal everywhere or outside of dispensaries.

While CBD does have benefits on its own, like stress management and enhanced sleep quality, it’s missing out on the synergistic benefits of the other cannabinoids and terpenes.* For this reason, many experts recommend whole-plant extracts rather than isolated CBD products. For more, check out our roundup of best CBD products.

So, what’s the difference?

Although they are marketed as being essentially the same thing, hemp oil extract and CBD oil extract do have some important differences. Hemp oil is a cannabinoid-rich extract that contains over 140 beneficial cannabinoids that produce the entourage effect, while CBD oil is an isolated extract of a single cannabinoid.

What’s the difference between CBD and Hemp?

It can be challenging to understand products that seem similar, but there are a few key differences between CBD and hemp.

The passing of the 2018 Farm Bill allowed for farmers to grow industrial hemp. The legality of cultivating and selling hemp-derived products for commercial use brought immediate growth in the industry. Hundreds of products, such as hemp oil and CBD oil, became available to the masses. But with such a sudden surge of compounds like CBD and hemp available came confusion about the differences between the products.

First, it is important to know that CBD is actually a chemical found within the hemp plant. Comparing CBD to hemp would be like comparing milk to dairy. The two compounds come from the same plant family but they each come from different species within it.

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CBD is extracted from different parts of the hemp plant, or any cannabidiol-rich cannabis strain. Before being processed, the product is then heated after being extracted in order to activate the CBD and other cannabinoid compounds found in cannabis. The result is a concentrated CBD extract, which is usually mixed in with a carrier oil and sold as CBD oil. Hemp oil, also known as hemp seed oil, is extracted from only the seeds of the hemp plant.

The main difference between CBD and hemp is the cannabinoid content. Both products come from the same plant, but hemp plants contain a significant amount of CBD, while hemp seeds do not. Since CBD is extracted from different parts of a mature plant it contains cannabinoids, so when ingested the user can feel the effects of it.

Hemp is cultivated for a number of reasons, such as for food products, skincare, and natural remedies for diseases. CBD does not have any psychoactive effects and is ideal for mental health. People often take it for its therapeutic benefits such as anxiety relief, pain management, or for its anti-inflammatory properties. Hemp plant seeds are nutritious and contain healthy fatty acids, making hemp oil ideal for its nutritional and anti-inflammatory benefits and most commonly found in supplements and skincare products.

Hemp and CBD are often words used interchangeably, and even though they come from the cannabis sativa plant and can both be used topically or ingested, it is important to know the differences before using or introducing them into your kitchen.

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