A growing “green rush” towards products made with CBD (cannabidiol), a non-psychoactive component of cannabis, has created a wealth of new products and terms that can easily be overwhelming and confusing to consumers.
One of those products is CBD oil made from hemp, but it is very easy to mix up that product with another that has been around a lot longer — hemp seed oil, also known as hemp oil.
Given that demand for CBD products is high, some may be taking advantage of the craze with misleading labels that use shared terms between CBD oil and hemp seed oil.
A 2017 study found that nearly 7 out of 10 CBD products did not contain the amount of cannabis extract promised on the label. Nearly 43 percent of the products contained too little CBD, while around 26 percent contained too much.
We’re here to help you cut through the “hemp oil vs. CBD oil” confusion. Read on to discover what exactly hemp seed oil and CBD oil are, and how to tell the difference between the two.
What is hemp oil?
Hemp oil has been on store shelves for decades.
It is created by pressing hemp seeds to extrude its oil, similar to how olive oil or coconut oil is made, then refining the concentrated oil to make it taste less strong or change its dark green colour.
Hemp seeds contain little to no CBD or THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive component of cannabis.
Under Canadian law, hemp oil must contain less than 10 parts per million of CBD or THC, according to Ted Haney, the executive producer at the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance (CHTA).
While some CBD from other parts of the plant may make its way into hemp oil during manufacturing, Haney says it is usually around three to four parts per million — below the regulatory limit.
Hemp oil is classified as a food product, Haney says, and is available in regular retail stores where specialty oils are sold.
As long as there is less than 10 parts per million of THC, hemp oil requires no license to sell it or export it, according to Haney.
Hemp oil uses
Hemp oil has been used for years for a variety of purposes.
“Hemp seed oil’s primary health claims are related to its fatty acid content,” Haney explained.
Haney says that hemp oil contains omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in a “very well balanced ratio” of three to one, which matches the human body’s dietary requirement ratio for the fatty acids.
Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids help lower cholesterol and increase metabolism, which means burning fats at faster rates.
Hemp oil’s fatty acids also make it a good topical to nourish and protect the skin from inflammation and oxidation, as well as increase skin’s elasticity and water retention. This has led hemp oil to be included in shampoos, lotions, soaps and other cosmetic products.
Hemp oil also contains high levels of vitamins E, B, B1, and B2. Just add it to food to have it act as a vitamin supplement; it will also bring a crispy, nutty flavour to the meal.
What is CBD oil?
CBD oil is a completely different beast from hemp oil.
It is derived from the cannabinoid cannabidiol, which can be found both in cannabis and hemp.
CBD is non-psychoactive and counteracts the psychoactive effects of THC.
This feature has helped CBD gain a lot of popularity as a more consumer-friendly form of cannabis for those wary of THC’s high, and studies have found CBD has its own health benefits.
CBD oil can be made from either CBD isolate extract, which is pure CBD extracted from either hemp or cannabis, or full spectrum CBD extract, which contains other cannabinoids and terpenes (which give cannabis its flavour) that organically occur in the plant.
We would recommend full spectrum CBD for this purpose since the inclusion of other cannabis components have been found to work synergistically with CBD, which is known as the “entourage effect.”
The CBD extract is then mixed with a carrier oil to distill it and make it more palatable. Carrier oils include hemp seed oil, MCT coconut oil, grape seed oil, olive oil or canola oil, but really it can be any edible oil.
Struggling to dose CBD? We made an app that calculates your perfect dosage based on research studies. Find out more here.
Hemp CBD oil should contain very little to no THC — around a 20 to one ratio CBD to THC, according to Haney.
CBD oil made from cannabis rather than hemp could contain more THC, but may also provide a better entourage effect because cannabis contains a wider variety of cannabinoids and terpenes than hemp.
The possible inclusion of THC is something to be aware of when purchasing CBD oil, especially if made from cannabis.
CBD oil uses
CBD oil may be purported to be a cure-all for whatever ails you, but there is actually some solid science behind some of its uses.
Studies show CBD oil is effective in reducing pain and inflammation, making it a good alternative to opioids, which are dangerously addictive.
One of the most famous uses of CBD is in its treatment of epilepsy.
A 2016 Israeli study showed a significant decrease in seizure activity when CBD-enriched medical cannabis was taken. Fifty-two percent of patients had a greater than 50 percent reduction of seizure activity in the study.
In 2018, the FDA approved the first-ever drug that contained a substance derived from cannabis. The drug, called Epidiolex, uses CBD to help treat two rare and severe forms of epilepsy, Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndrome, for children two years of age or older.
Why the confusion?
The line between hemp oil and CBD oil became more blurred once hemp CBD production was legalized in the U.S.
The U.S. removed hemp from its list of controlled substances with the passing of the Farm Bill in late 2018.
Hemp is now defined by U.S. law as cannabis that has less than 0.3 percent THC, whereas previously U.S. law made no distinction between hemp and cannabis.
The Farm Bill allowed the legal creation of hemp CBD oil and opened the floodgates for new hemp products to hit store shelves.
This rush includes some companies that may be trying to take advantage of the craze and using “dubious marketing methods,” according to Haney, to mix up CBD oil and hemp oil.
One of these methods may be calling hemp oil “cannabis sativa seed oil,” according to Ashlae Warner, the founder of the hemp CBD company, Supergood Hemp.
Sephora has a number of topical products branded “cannabis sativa seed oil.” One has the primary label “Cannabis Facial Moisturizer” with a green colour, which clearly puts it in the cannabis category.
Technically, hemp is the species cannabis sativa, sharing the name with a type of cannabis that has uplifting effects.
However, hemp has been bred for industrial purposes and with very low amounts of THC compared to sativa cannabis that people use to get high.
It also doesn’t help the confusion that CBD oil can be distilled with hemp oil, and in the U.S. hemp CBD oil can be sold in supermarkets where hemp oil can also be found.
How to know the difference
In Canada, CBD oil is only allowed to be sold through legal online or physical stores, according to Haney.
To be sure you’re getting true CBD oil, make sure you buy from a legal distribution channel. Otherwise, you may not get all that is advertised, since currently there is no legal oversight for products sold outside of the legal network, according to Haney.
“What you order [from legal stores] will be produced by well-known and regulated cannabis producers, the content will be clearly labelled and the product will be associated with high levels of confidence,” he said.
Haney hopes that the illicit market for CBD products where consumers may get duped won’t be around forever.
He says that CHTA is pushing the Canadian government to take CBD off the country’s prescription drugs list and for it to be sold as a natural health product in stores.
“The current regulations seem to be supporting a very large illegal trade in CBD-related products with no purity, potency or source guarantees associated with them at all,” he said. “That represents risks to consumers who don’t know what they’re consuming when it comes from illegal sources.”
In the U.S., since the hemp CBD oil industry has been legalized federally, there are a couple of verifications you can do to make sure you’re getting real CBD oil.
Look out for a “Certificates of Analysis (CoA)” when shopping for CBD oil, which verifies that a vendor has laboratory tested its products. It should give a full breakdown of the cannabinoids present and their amounts in the product, which will allow you to verify if you have a true full-spectrum CBD product with at least two cannabinoids in it.
CoA will also show if it has been tested for contaminants such as heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, microbes such as mold, or residual solvents, which you should be careful of given hemp’s ability to catch toxins.
CBD oil can also be USDA-certified in the U.S., which means the U.S. government has given it organic certification. This requires cultivators to not use prohibited substances for at least three years.
CBD companies that are USDA-certified can be found in the database here: https://organic.ams.usda.gov/Integrity/.
CBD oil may have many benefits, but consumers still have to be savvy when shopping to be sure they get the right thing. It is still early in the game, and regulations and oversight are still being put in place. We hope you get all the advantages of both hemp oil and CBD oil and don’t get a product that is not all that it says it is.