Hemp oil vs CBD oil

by Tom Russell July 24, 2023

Hemp Seed Oil vs CBD Oil

Hemp oil and CBD oil may come from the same plant, but their composition and uses are very different. The two terms are often used interchangeably – usually by retailers hoping to hike up the price of hemp oil products by cashing in on the popularity of CBD oil.

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To make things more confusing, your favourite CBD oil might contain hemp oil, but a standard bottle of hemp oil will likely contain no traces of CBD. So, where does this confusion come from? And why are some retailers happy for the confusion to continue?

It all comes down to the price difference between CBD oil and hemp oil. CBD oil is more expensive due to the delicate production process. Hemp oil is a lot cheaper, as the process of cold-pressing hemp seeds for their oil is far simpler. But this doesn’t stop unscrupulous sellers trying to make a quick profit by slapping a “CBD” label on their hemp oil products.

To remove this confusion and allow you to understand exactly what you're buying, let's take a closer look at hemp seed oil and how it is different from CBD oil.

Fast facts

  • CBD oil and hemp seed oil are not the same thing
  • It’s common for retailers to use the words interchangeably
  • CBD oil is more expensive than hemp oil
  • CBD is a cannabinoid that helps to support the endocannabinoid system
  • Hemp oil contains none of the beneficial cannabinoids found in CBD oil
  • Hemp oil does have its uses and benefits, but should always be significantly cheaper

What is hemp seed oil?

Hemp Seed Oil

Hemp seed oil is an oil made by cold-pressing hemp seeds. It is rich in nutrients, fatty acids and other bioactive compounds. Hemp oil is made from small, spherical seeds which can be cold-pressed to produce an oil that is dark amber to light green in colour. 

It has a mild, nutty flavour that makes it a popular cooking ingredient. Depending on how they intend to use it, some producers refine it to remove any visible phytonutrients making it almost clear and tasteless.

While CBD oil has only recently made it into our collective consciousness, hemp oil has been in regular use for thousands of years. The hemp plant is grown for food, fabric, paper, rope, biofuel and more. However, its close association with intoxicating strains of cannabis led to an increase in growing restrictions over the past 100 years. These restrictions are now relaxing as attitudes towards cannabis and hemp are changing.

Hemp oil is a popular alternative to cooking oils like olive oil. It can be used in cooking and also used cold for salad dressings. Hemp oil is also a popular addition to beauty products, including skincare and haircare.

With the growing interest in CBD oil, retailers are quick to cash in on the trend. This is why it isn’t uncommon for companies to “greenwash” their products, and describe them as containing CBD when in fact they only contain hemp oil. Hemp oil offers some benefits, but these are not the same as the benefits offered by CBD oil. This is why it is important to know the difference between the two when you part with your hard-earned cash.

What is CBD oil?

CBD oil contains cannabinoids extracted from the hemp plant, usually mixed with a carrier oil. The carrier oil is typically hemp oil, MCT oil or olive oil. The cannabinoid content in your CBD oil is capable of interacting with the endocannabinoid system. This is a cell signalling system that helps to maintain balance in key processes throughout the body.

CBD oil helps to support the endocannabinoid system and is used as a general health and well-being supplement. It can also be used topically on the skin and scalp. CBD oil can also be added to food, but it is less common to use CBD as a cooking oil due to the cost.

What is the difference between hemp oil and CBD oil?

Hemp Plant Leaves

Hemp oil and CBD oil are both derived from the hemp plant, but they come from different parts. Hemp oil commonly refers to hemp seed oil, which is oil extracted from hemp seeds. CBD oil is made from the stems, leaves and flowers of the hemp plant. CBD oil contains cannabinoids, including CBD, CBN, CBG and often trace amounts of THC.

To make CBD oil, they harvest the plant and extract the CBD using CO2 as a solvent. The CO2 allows them to collect an oily extract, which they purify using methods called 'winterisation' and 'short path distillation'. 

Finally, manufacturers combine CBD extract with another oil to create a finished CBD oil product. To make matters more confusing, hemp oil is commonly used as a carrier oil, as it ensures that the finished product is as close to the natural plant as possible. Hemp oil offers a light and nutty flavour and some nutritional benefits. Other carrier oils include MCT oil and olive oil.

The key difference between CBD oil and hemp oil is its cannabinoid content. Hemp oil is taken from the only part of the plant that does not contain cannabinoids. This means that it won’t interact with your endocannabinoid system.

Why is CBD oil more expensive than hemp oil?

CO2 drop leaves

CBD oil should be more expensive than hemp oil. This is because it is a more complex manufacturing process and the end product is very different. CBD oil is available in different strength levels, and the cannabinoid content will be reflected in the price. 

Cannabinoids are extracted from the hemp plant using a process known as supercritical CO2 extraction. This uses CO2 as a solvent to remove the valuable cannabinoids from the plant material. 

This cutting-edge extraction process is one of the best ways to extract heat-sensitive cannabinoids without impacting the quality of the finished product. It also ensures the finished product is free from contaminants.

To create the finished product, it is then mixed with carrier oil to achieve the perfect ratio. This product is then sent to a third-party laboratory to confirm the cannabinoid contents. In short, CBD oil is not cheap because of the extensive production process.

In contrast, hemp seed oil can be produced by simply cold-pressing the seeds. This is a cheap process that could even be done at home with inexpensive equipment. The finished product does not contain any cannabinoids, so no testing is required to confirm the concentration of cannabinoids.

How do you know if you are buying CBD oil or hemp oil?

Cooking hemp oil

As mentioned above, retailers love to cash in on the popularity of CBD by adding these three letters to their products, even if the product contains little more than hemp oil. This practice is all too common in the cosmetics industry.

The first way to check if you are getting CBD oil or hemp oil is to check the ingredients list. CBD will often be listed as Cannabis Sativa Extract, whereas hemp oil will be listed as just “hemp oil” or “hemp seed oil”.

You can also ask the retailer for a certificate of analysis. This shows the cannabinoid breakdown contained in the product. This is the best way to confirm that your product contains CBD and other beneficial cannabinoids, along with confirming that it contains sufficiently low levels of THC.

Does hemp seed oil contain CBD or other cannabinoids?

Hemp Seed Oil vs CBD Oil

The range of cannabinoids found in hemp plants, including CBD are only present in the plant itself. There is none in the seeds or the oil they produce. However, most manufacturers invest in other methods to ensure that none accidentally end up in the oil.

Some cannabinoids can be found in hemp seed oil if tiny particles of plant matter remain on the outside of the seeds. In modern production facilities, technicians thoroughly clean the seeds, and then test and filter the final product to ensure it is cannabinoid free.

CBD isn’t the only cannabinoid out there. THC is another slightly more famous cannabinoid. It is in the best interests of hemp oil producers to ensure that their products are completely free from cannabinoids, as this will ensure there is no THC content.

THC is a controlled substance and its presence in hemp oil could make it an illegal product.

Does hemp oil have the same effect as CBD?

Hemp oil does not have the same benefits as CBD because it does not contain beneficial cannabinoids. This means that it cannot support the endocannabinoid system. However, this is not to say that hemp oil has none of its own benefits. Despite not containing cannabinoids, hemp seed oil offers the following perks:

Happy Loving CoupleIt is nutritious - Hemp seed oil contains essential fatty acids Omega 3, 6 and 9, as well as vitamin E, which are vital to a balanced diet. This is why it is commonly used as a carrier oil for CBD.

It tastes great - As with any oil, you wouldn't want to drink it neat, but the smooth texture and nutty flavour of hemp seed oil make an excellent accompaniment for many foods. It can be used as cooking oil, added to recipes or used to make tasty, nutritious dressings.

It can keep skin moisturised - Hemp seed oil provides fatty acids that moisturise dry skin without clogging pores. The moisturising action also helps regulate oil production in the skin, making it perfect for dry, combination and oily skin use. These properties have resulted in hemp seed oil being regularly used in skin and scalp care products.

It has antibacterial properties - In 2017, research studies uncovered the ability of hemp seed oil to inhibit bacteria. The complex composition of the many compounds in the hemp means that it prevents certain bacteria, like Staphylococcus aureus from thriving.

The benefits of CBD are very different to those listed above. We’re still learning about CBD and how it interacts with the human body, including how it can be used to support a sense of health and well-being.

Why is hemp oil used as a carrier oil for CBD products?

When CBD extract is taken alongside a fat or lipid, it offers improved absorption rates. When cannabinoids are combined with the fatty acids from the hemp seed oil, they can 'piggyback' on their passage through your gut. This results in more substantial amounts of CBD being available for your body to use and much less being wasted or filtered out.

As well as the increased bioavailability and the pleasant nutty flavour, the high level of nutrients and active compounds from hemp seed oil adds an extra nutritional component to the CBD.


Hemp seed oil is a different product to CBD oil; it is rich in fatty acids and nutrients but contains no CBD or other cannabinoids. While it can be used as a carrier for CBD, it is often a much cheaper product used as a healthy oil for food or as a moisturising and balancing agent in skincare products. 

As with many hemp plant products, hemp seed oil has incredible benefits and can be used as part of a healthy diet or skincare routine. 

While it might offer some distinct benefits, hemp oil should always be the cheaper counterpart to CBD oil. Before parting with your money for CBD products, always ask for a certificate of analysis to confirm the cannabinoid content.


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Tom Russell
Tom Russell


Tom Russell writes extensively about CBD oil and other groundbreaking food supplements. He and his wife share their home with two daughters and a lifetime’s collection of books.

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