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CBD oil vs Hemp Oil – What’s the Difference?

Posted by Alex Harber on
CBD oil vs Hemp Oil – What’s the Difference?

As CBD oil has grown in popularity there has been an increasing amount of confusion about how CBD products are labelled. Hemp oil and CBD oil are often very different and do not have the same effects. It has become common for CBD and hemp seed oil to be synonymous with each other and many consumers are perplexed with what the actual differences between the two variations of oil are.

CBD and hemp seed oil are extracted from the same source, either the hemp plant or cannabis sativa plant. However, CBD and hemp seed oil are derived from different parts of the respective plant with each derivative creating its own distinct effects. 

CBD oil is created using the flower, stalks and leaves of the plant as these possess a higher concentration of CBD.

Hemp seed oil on the other hand is derived from seeds of the cannabis sativa plant. While the seeds do not contain CBD, they have numerous health benefits due to the presence of various nutrients, fatty acids and other valuable bioactive compounds.

To complicate matters further, hemp seed oil is often used as a carrier oil for CBD oil! Please read on and hopefully by the end of the article, the differences will be far clearer!

What is hemp seed oil?

Hemp seed oil doesn’t come from the flowers, leaves or stalks of the cannabis plant, meaning it doesn’t contain any THC. This is the psychoactive compound within cannabis that causes users to get high and experience psychoactive effects. This means that hemp seeds oil doesn’t have any impact on the user’s mood or mental state and will not get the user high.

The hemp oil extraction process is far simpler and traditional than that of CBD oil. The hemp seeds themselves are cold-pressed to form an oil, before any lingering sediment is filtered out.

The resultant oil is very rich in a number of useful nutrients including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, gamma-linolenic acid, vitamin B and vitamin D. This is why it has been a popular with many health retailers for a number of years. 

Hemp seed oil doesn’t contain any cannabinoids or terpenes. Cannabinoids are the chemical compounds in the cannabis plant that interact with the human body’s endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is linked to a variety of bodily functions that include pain, stress, memory and immune function. As a result, hemp oil and CBD oil are used for very different purposes.

What are the uses for hemp seed oil?

While hemp may not be as beneficial as CBD from a therapeutic perspective, it is still an incredibly useful product with myriad uses.

Topical Benefits

Hemp seed oil is the product of pressing hemp seeds. This oil is very rich in fatty acids and other nutrients that certain studies have found help to treat skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema.

The nutrients within hemp seed oil are a common ingredient in beauty and cosmetic products such as lotions, moisturisers, balms and soaps.

Hemp seed oil is often combined with other natural ingredients to soothe the skin. The complimentary ingredients include lavender, shea butter and lemon peel.

Cardiovascular Benefits

There is some belief that hemp seed oil is beneficial to cardiovascular health by improving total cholesterol, high and low density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides. However, solid evidence to back up these claims are yet to be produced.

Anti-inflammatory Properties

A notable 2011 study conducted by Kiecolt-Glasser et al, found that increasing omega-3 in your diet can help to reduce inflammation. As hemp seed oil is incredibly rich in omega-3, we can reasonably conclude that it will also contribute to the reduction of inflammation and linked diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

Premenstrual Syndrome

A couple of studies also suggest that hemp seed oil may be beneficial in combatting the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. In 2011, Lima et al concluded that various physical and mental symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome may be caused by increased sensitivity to prolactin, the hormone responsible for allowing women to produce milk. Prolactin is also related to low levels of prostaglandin E1.

We know that gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which hemp seed oil is rich in, helps to facilitate the production of prostaglandin E1. consequently, it is a fair assumption to make that hemp seed oil would combat certain mental and physical symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.

Menopause

There is also primitive research that suggests hemp seed oil could have a role to play in combatting certain symptoms of menopause. In 2010, Saberivand et al discovered that hemp seed oil protected against numerous complications of menopause, again due to the rich presence of gamma-linolenic acid.

Clothing

Hemp seed oil is also an increasingly popular component of clothing. Due to its natural antimicrobial and antibacterial nature, it combats germs and odour to keep your clothing clean and fresh for longer. Furthermore, it has the ability to absorb 20% of its own weight, meaning it is creates robust and long-lasting clothing.

What are the Side Effects of Hemp Seed Oil?

There are few side effects related to hemp seed oil. Eating hemp seeds or ingesting any part of the plant is considered safe, but seeds may cause mild diarrhoea due to the high fat content. The most common side effects associated with hemp seed oil are:

  • Throat irritation
  • Nausea
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Diarrhoea
  • Bradycardia (slow heart rate)

What is CBD oil?

CBD is a cannabinoid extracted from the entire hemp or cannabis plant, including the flowers and leaves. This means that CBD oil contains certain compounds and terpenes that you will not find in hemp seed oil. There are over 500 different compounds found within the cannabis plant, with THC the most dominant cannabinoid, closely followed by CBD. 

CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) are also often confused with one another. THC is the key psychoactive ingredient within cannabis and is responsible for causing the ‘high’ typically depicted in popular culture. CBD on the other hand is non-psychoactive and does not alter the cognitive functioning of the user.

CBD oil occasionally has trace amounts of THC, but it doesn’t have any psychological impact and does not get you high. Ingestible products in the UK & Europe now must be formulated with CBD isolate or distillate that doesn’t contain any THC.

The extraction process for CBD oil is far more complex than that of hemp seed oil, hence the increase in price. There are three main methods of extraction that are used: steam distillation, solvent extraction and supercritical carbon dioxide extraction.

Currently, the most sought after (and also costly!) extraction method is supercritical carbon dioxide extraction. This is due to the levels of advanced customisation, the increased yield and superior purity that it provides. The process involves effusing all plant matter through the gas properties of supercritical CO2, while the liquid properties facilitate the efficient extraction of other compounds.

There are three main types of CBD that are extracted and the process used often impact the final product. The three that all CBD users should be aware of are:

  • Full Spectrum CBD – Full spectrum CBD possesses a whole host of compounds, ranging from terpenes and flavonoids to cannabinoids and fatty acids. Crucially, in the case of full spectrum, trace elements of THC are included. In the UK, the legal THC limit is 0.2% of any given CBD product. It is also important to note that this level of THC is not high enough to intoxicate the user.
  • Broad Spectrum CBD – Generally speaking, broad spectrum CBD is almost identical to full spectrum. For example, it includes the same spectrum of fatty acids, cannabinoids, flavonoids and terpenes. The main difference here is that broad spectrum does not contain any THC.
  • CBD Isolate – CBD isolate is pretty much as the name suggests: isolated CBD. It contains no other terpenes, cannabinoids or flavonoids. This is the purest form of CBD.

It is important to always seek a Certificate of Analysis (CoA) from your retailer, to ensure that you are buying what is advertised. This is an impartial document compiled by an independent, third-party laboratory that confirms the exact ingredients and processes used.

What are the benefits of using CBD oil?

CBD interacts with the CB1 & CB2 receptors within the body’s endocannabinoid system, meaning that it can produce a plethora of changes within the body that may be beneficial. 

While the relatively novel nature of CBD in mainstream health circles has meant that research has been limited in recent history, this has begun to change in the last 10 years. This intensification of scientific research has led to a number of promising findings.

Anti-inflammatory

One of the most common reasons people use CBD are to benefit from its powerful anti-inflammatory properties. This also happens to be one of the most heavily researched aspects of CBD. For example, a rodent study in 2016 found that topical CBD gel “significantly reduced joint swelling, limb posture scores as a rating of spontaneous pain, immune cell infiltration and thickening of the synovial membrane” in rats with arthritis.

Additionally, a 2015 meta review found in Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry highlighted the anti-inflammatory potential of CBD. The researchers state that CBD reduced inflammation through a number of pathways throughout the body, indicating that it may be an effective treatment for a range of inflammation-centric conditions such as arthritis.

Improving Sleep

CBD is also an increasingly popular sleeping aid due to the calming sensation it can provide upon use. A number of studies have illustrated these claims effectively. Zhornitsky and Potvin compared a placebo to a dose of CBD for treating insomnia patients. They found that CBD not only increased sleep duration, but also helped participants fall asleep in the first place.

Furthermore, it is widely accepted that those who suffer with insomnia have increased levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) at night, compared with most people who experience high levels during the morning. Cortisol is also known to increase the number of times an individual will wake up during the night. This leads on to an interesting study conducted in 2019 that assessed this aspect in further detail. The researchers declared that cortisol levels decreased when participants took CBD oil, suggesting that CBD may be an effective sedative.

Anxiety

As anxiety increases in prevalence at a steady rate globally, many are left searching for alternative solutions to traditional treatments such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Again, initial research suggests that CBD may be a viable substitute for many.

A 2015 study published in the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), investigated the impact of CBD on anxiety in rats. Upon observation, it was declared that the subjects displayed fewer behavioural signs and anxiety, as well as a reduction in physiological symptoms of anxiety (such as increased heart rate). 

Furthermore, a 2011 study by Crippa et al found that participants who were struggling with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) displayed reduced anxiety levels when given CBD compared to a placebo.

Depression

It is now widely acknowledged that low levels of serotonin contribute to depression. It is also accepted that traditional antidepressants used to combat depression are often accompanied by severe side effects including insomnia, migraines and low sex drive.

A 2014 study looked into the antidepressant-like and anxiolytic properties of CBD. Their findings highlighted the impact of CBD on serotonin, stating that CBD appears to have a positive interaction on serotonin receptors in the brain. 

That said, this was an animal study and more robust human studies must be carried out to investigate the impact of CBD on depression.

Pain Management

Pain management is a difficult topic to cover in relation to CBD as the subject matter is so broad, ranging from neuropathic pain to joint pain, to chronic pain. However, research thus far has shown promising signs.

Neuropathic pain is caused by nerve damage. A 2017 meta review looking into eleven different randomised controlled trials of 1219 patients suffering from neuropathic pain. The researchers state in their results that “patients who received selective cannabinoids reported a significant, but clinically small, reduction in mean numerical rating scale pain scores compared with comparator groups.”

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is characterised by  muscle spasms that can often cause constant pain throughout the entire body for sufferers. A 2017 study of found that short-term use of CBD oil could reduce the severity of muscle spasms for MS patients, with many participants reporting a reduction in symptoms. 

General chronic pain is defined as a pain which persists for over 12 weeks. There are a number of meta reviews that have analysed the myriad studies into CBD as a treatment for chronic pain and almost all show positive signs. One particular study of note in the Journal of Experimental Medicine found that CBD reduced pain and inflammation in mice.

What are the Side Effects of CBD?

Recent research informs us that CBD oil is safe, with minimal side effects. Of course, further studies need to be conducted, particularly those over a longer period of time.  

This statement is given further credence by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) review in 2018. This report stated that “there is no evidence of recreational use of CBD or any public health-related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”

While the FSA recommend a maximum daily dosage of 70mg, there have been studies that have examined the side effects of CBD well beyond this threshold. For example, one particular 2019 study showed no side effects when participants took up to 1500mg per day for a month.

The few side effects that have been reported as a result of CBD use tend to be mild and are low in prevalence. These side effects include:

  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhoea
  • Dizziness
  • Changes in appetite
  • Dry mouth

It is also important to note that there are a number of contraindications that can arise with CBD use. We strongly recommend talking to your doctor or GP before trying CBD for the first time, particularly if you are taking existing medication.

Comparing hemp seed oil and CBD

The primary difference between hemp seed oil and CBD is that hemp seed oil doesn’t contain any cannabinoids. While CBD obviously contains cannabidiol and other cannabinoids depending on the product and extraction method used, it doesn’t cause a psychoactive effect. Both hemp seed oil and CBD are commonly used in skincare and cosmetic products, dietary supplements and the do not contain any THC.

While both CBD oil and hemp seed oil have their own benefits from a therapeutic standpoint, research suggests that CBD oil has the higher potential to provide genuine relief from a wider range of ailments. 

Conclusion

It is important to know whether you are buying CBD oil or hemp seed oil when you are making a purchase as it will impact the effect the product has. Therefore, it is advisable to carefully select which product you think fits your needs and then make your purchase accordingly.

Make sure you look closely at the packaging of the product to not only read the name of the product, but also the ingredients. If these are not available then ensure that you seek a Certificate of Analysis (CoA) to confirm the exact ingredients.

It is also wise to talk to your doctor or GP before trying either CBD oil or hemp seed oil, particularly if you are pregnant, breast-feeding or taking existing medication.

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