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Home » Blog » Hemp Education » Hemp Oil 101: Everything This Oil Is and Isn’t

Hemp Oil 101: Everything This Oil Is and Isn’t


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Hemp oil is all the rage these days, especially as more Americans realize their value as a natural medicine. There is, however, a bit of confusion among new users. Hemp oil is very specific and is renowned for specific cannabinoid concentrations. We believe it’s important users and soon-to-be users know what hemp oil is and isn’t before making it a part of their supplementation.

What Is Hemp Oil?

So, what is hemp? Hemp oil is derived from the fiber portions of the cannabis strain cannabis sativa. Most CBD extracts on the market are derived from industrial hemp because it contains high levels of the cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD). Simultaneously, it has few levels of the psychoactive compound THC. This stands in contrast with marijuana (weed), which comes from the flowers and buds of various cannabis strains. Marijuana often contains THC traces well above the federally legal 0.3% limit.

The health benefits of CBD are numerous. We have discussed these benefits at length in previous posts. Some of the perks of cannabidiol use include neural pain relief1, healthy sleep2, anxiety reduction3, and more. See our past post on the full benefits of CBD.

For CBD and its effects on specific ailments, see our posts on CBD for treating seizures, CBD for depression, and much more. Cannabidiol as a reliever for ailments X, Y, and Z are well documented by years of scientific studies.

With this in mind, hemp oil is high in CBD and possibly other cannabinoids (excluding THC). The specific cannabinoid concentrations depend whether you’re using CBD isolate hemp oil or CBD full spectrum hemp oil.

For a detailed overview of hemp, its history, and why it was unfairly outlawed, see our post on hemp extract. To sum it up briefly, multiple cultures have been using hemp for thousands of years. It was outlawed in the U.S. in 1937 over a collusion between conglomerates to benefit a corrupt timber company.

What Hemp Oil Is Not

Okay, now that you know what hemp is, it’s time to explain what it is NOT. This is important because users tend to use the words “hemp,” “hempseed,” and “CBD” interchangeably. These terms entail different things; if you buy hempseed oil, you’re not getting the same benefits as hemp oil.

We must distinguish between hemp oil and hempseed oil. We just explained the basics of hemp oil and extracts. Hempseed oil, on the other hand, is something else entirely. Hempseed is more of a nutritional supplement rich in vitamins and minerals. However, it contains no CBD or other cannabinoids. See our post for details on hempseed oil. This oil is very beneficial in its own right, so we also recommend checking it out as a nutrient-rich supplement.

What About Hemp Essential Oil?

Just as hemp oil is not hempseed oil, it is also not hemp essential oil. Many people believe hemp oil and hemp essential oil are the same because neither comes from hemp seeds. This is not entirely true.

Hemp essential oil is made from the distilled leaves of the cannabis sativa plant. The end result is a light green and pale-yellow oil with a very therapeutic fragrance. Most notable of all is that hemp essential oil has zero CBD, hence why it’s not hemp oil. You’ll find such essential oils in high-end perfumes and colognes.

Hemp essential oil is very beneficial and is beloved as a stress reliever. However, if you want a product with CBD, avoid the word “essential.”

Hemp Oil Vs CBD Oil

Though Hemp oil contains CBD, CBD oil is not necessarily hemp oil. Let’s put it this way: while hemp oil is a type of CBD oil, the opposite is not true. As mentioned, hemp comes from a specific cannabis strain, cannabis sativa. There are, however, other cannabis species, mainly cannabis indica and cannabis ruderalis. While hemp does not come from these two sources, the two do contain CBD and other cannabinoids, including possibly THC.

For products with the label “CBD oil,” check to be sure which strain is the extract derived from. 95% of the time, it will be industrial hemp from cannabis sativa. Nevertheless, double check since cannabinoid concentrations differ.

Hybrid strains also exist, with crossbreeding usually from the sativa and indica plants. So, in a way, “semi-hemp” extracts are also a thing. Hybrid oils lead to a number of effects and are especially popular for their “mellow out” sensation.

Uses for Hemp

Hemp oil is edible, and oral ingestion is the easiest mode of application. Some users purchase hemp oil in a tincture bottle and place a few droplets under their tongue and let dissolve. Others mix it into their food. Even though pure hemp oil is flavorless, others choose to use it as a salad dressing or cooking additive. Some users also pour it into olive oil and use it as a French bread dip.

Due to its skin care benefits, hemp oil also suffices as a topical agent. Hemp creams and lotions are vogue in the beauty industry. You can make your own using beeswax or coconut oil as a base and hemp oil as a secondary ingredient. The same goes for homemade shampoo since hemp contains nutrients vital for healthy follicle production.

Finally, while we don’t recommend any DIY attempts, hemp is also useful as a biodiesel. It’s a fact that diesel engine can run on vegetable and peanut oil. You can also create ethanol and methanol through the process of hemp gasification. The process of making hemp biodiesel is very specific, so don’t attempt to pour hemp oil into your vehicle.

Hemp Oil Supplementation

Hemp oil is very beneficial; we recommend adding it as part of a bigger lifestyle overhaul. This means it shouldn’t be your sole supplementation. We advise using other natural products, such as a probiotic supplement. Stay physically active and stick to foods that lower stress and promote circulation for better nutrient transport.

See our Where to Buy page for various products, ranging from hemp oils to other CBD extracts.

Medical References

Rahn E, Hohmann A. Cannabinoids as pharmacotherapies for neuropathic pain: From the bench to the bedside. Neurotherapeutics. 2009;6(4):713-737. [PMC]
Babson K, Sottile J, Morabito D. Cannabis, Cannabinoids, and Sleep: a Review of the Literature. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2017;19(4):23. [PubMed]
Blessing E, Steenkamp M, Manzanares J, Marmar C. Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Neurotherapeutics. 2015;12(4):825-836. [PMC]
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Christopher Walker

Christopher Walker has a degree in Neuroscience from Duke University, and is the research writer for The Universal Plant. He has dedicated his life to helping men and women around the world educate themselves and take action to improve their health with natural plant-based and nutrient therapies. Follow him on Instagram @_christopherwalker