Hemp Oil: What is it and What Does it Do? (101 Guide)

Hemp oil dropper

Understanding what hemp oil is can be confusing.

Various confusing terms, such as’ whole plant extract’, describe or market this product. This jargon makes it hard to separate myth from reality.

The consequences of this misinformation are clear. Choosing a good product correctly and buying the right thing is unnecessarily complicated.

Many confuse different varieties of extracts like hemp seed oil, hemp extract oil and full-spectrum hemp oil, which are all distinct. 

Others mistakenly believe that it’s the same as cannabis or CBD oil, which isn’t the case. In some instances, these mix-ups even result in legal strife.

Confused Shopper

Plus, descriptive terms like ‘raw’, ‘terpene-rich’ or ‘biodynamic’ add further confusion. 

These factors make it complex to get a clear answer on what hemp oil is.

The widespread renown of hemp extract’s powerful health benefits in Australia has exacerbated this confusion. More people are shopping for it than ever. But they don’t have the information they need.

Our 101 Guide here will provide all the critical information on hemp oil in a single, complete resource.

We’ll give you insights on: 

  • How hemp oil is made
  • What it does in the body
  • Is it legal in Australia?
  • Whether it gets you high

Let’s demystify this topic so you can choose the right product and avoid legal risks.

What is Hemp Oil?

Hemp Extract Liquid

Hemp oil is a cold-press liquid extract sourced from the cannabis sativa or hemp plant.

In Australia, it is produced from hemp plants that are selectively bred to contain minimal cannabinoids. These plants are known as ‘industrial hemp’.

The plants are used for various commercial purposes. These include producing hemp seeds, fibre for textiles, hemp protein, hemp hearts, and hemp tinctures.

Most hemp oil is drawn from the seeds of the plant. However, using all plant parts, it can also be derived as a ‘whole plant’ extract.

Visually, the oil has a clear green-gold appearance.

Its taste is nut-like, earthy, rich, smooth, and similar to olive oil.

How is Hemp Oil Made?

Extraction Process

There are a couple of ways that hemp oil can be made.

  • Solvent or Gas Extraction: draws the oil from hemp via a solvent or gas-based extraction process. For example, supercritical CO2 gas extraction.
  • Cold pressing: A mechanical press is used to crush hemp seeds at low temperatures to release the oil they contain. Typically used for hemp seed oil.

Each produces an extract that has been processed to differing extents, which alters the nutrients and antioxidants it contains. It also affects what the variety of hemp oil is best used for. Let’s briefly run through each of these unique oil varieties.


Refined Hemp Oil is extracted using solvents or gases like CO2 as extract mediums.

It undergoes substantially more processing, filtration and refinement than raw extracts. This is to eliminate fibrous plant matter. Refinement can also be applied to increase the product’s content of cannabinoids or terpenes.

Refined hemp oils appear purer and see-through versus their ‘raw’ counterparts.

You won’t see floating plant matter in these products, which are entirely filtered out.

Some advantages they have are:

  • Appearance and flavour: refined hemp oil has less scent, colour, and visible plant matter than raw oil. This is preferable to many people who don’t like the nutty taste of hemp.
  • Cooking: refined extracts are better for frying or cooking because they’re higher in fats and don’t contain plant matter (which can burn quickly).
  • Better shelf life: refinement helps to extend expiry periods and prevents spoiling.

Their drawbacks are:

  • Less fibre: plant matter is removed in refined extracts, lowering fibre and chlorophyll content.
  • Reduced antioxidants: Many potent antioxidants from hemp, like phytosterols and omega-3 are destroyed during refinement. These phytonutrients break down under heat, pressure or solvent exposure. It can substantially lower nutritional value.
Producing Raw Extract

Unrefined or ‘Raw’ Hemp Oil undergoes far less processing.

It is only produced through cold press extraction. This means no gases or solvents are used. The term ‘cold press’ comes from the pressing process occurring below 4 degrees Celsius.

Cold pressing minimises refinement to retain greater concentrations of natural vitamins, phytonutrients, antioxidants and healthy fats from hemp.

These nutrients are immensely anti-inflammatory and help to reduce cholesterol, enhance brain health and bolster cardiovascular condition. Due to this, unrefined products have superior nutritional, antioxidative and gut health benefits.

But it also has a few drawbacks. Some of these include having a shorter shelf life, musky taste, lower usability for cooking and less attractive appearance.

Types of Explained

Differing Oil Types

To properly understand hemp oil, you need to know its differing types.

Each of these types is entirely distinct.

They differ due to being sourced from differing parts of the hemp plant or refined at varying levels.

So what are the types to know? 

Hemp Seed Oil

Hemp oil can be entirely extracted from hemp seeds. This is the product’s most common source.

It’s usually called ‘hemp seed oil’, produced by cold press extraction.

Hemp seeds are crushed under high pressure using a hydraulic press. Under this pressure, the seeds release their essential oils.

Crushing them makes it easier to remove any plant matter, like the seed’s outer shell and inner fleshy mass. Filtering these out ensures the final oil product is pure and clear, without any chunks of plant matter.

Hemp seeds contain these oils because they need enough caloric energy to grow a new hemp plant. The oils are packed with energy and nutrients to enable plant growth. They’re resultantly some of the most nutrient-dense foods available.

Hemp Extract Oil

Although most hemp oil is extracted from hemp seeds, this isn’t always the case.

It can also be extracted from all sections of the hemp plant. This can include the seeds, hemp flower (or buds), stems and leaves.

Extracts taken from the entire plant are known as ‘whole plant extracts’. Extracts produced this way are referred to as ‘hemp extract oil‘.

Hemp plants are first harvested and dried out to produce this product type. Drying them removes water content, which can degrade the extract.

After drying, all plant matter is stripped from the plant. This matter is compressed and concentrated before extraction is performed.

Instead of cold pressing, this extract is produced via solvent or supercritical gas extraction. Both these methods draw apart oil from more dense fibrous mass via refinement.

Hemp extract oil has some differences in nutrient content compared to seed extracts. These differences are due to varying parts of the hemp plant containing distinct mixes of nutrients.

Hemp seeds are more rich in fats than other parts of the plant. The seeds are the most significant source of polyunsaturated fatty acids like gamma-linolenic Acid and alpha-linolenic Acid, plus Omega-3 and 6,

In contrast, hemp’s stems, leaves and buds have more minerals, antioxidants, fibre and vitamins.

‘Whole plant’ extracts are most valuable if you want the widest variety of nutrients from hemp. It’s taken from all parts of the plant to contain the greatest mixture and balance of nutrients.

Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil

The third type of extract is ‘full-spectrum hemp oil’.

As the name suggests, this type contains the ‘full spectrum’ of phytonutrients from hemp, including cannabinoids (like CBD).

Cannabinoids are therapeutic compounds produced by cannabis but are often removed in the process of creating hemp extract or seed oils. These compounds have unique health benefits. For example, they can help lower stress, reduce anxiety, suppress pain, mitigate arthritis, and combat inflammation. These phytocompounds are uniquely beneficial due to their activity in the body’s endocannabinoid system.

Activating it offers benefits for cognition, cardiovascular, immune and hormone health.

Terpenes are also found in full-spectrum products, which offer distinct effects. These are aromatic scent compounds that the hemp plant naturally produces. Hemp has a unique smell, which is the result of terpenes evaporating.

Many terpenes are very useful and can help promote well-being. For example, Myrcene is anti-inflammatory and valuable for issues like endometriosis or arthritis. Additionally, terpenes accentuate the benefits of cannabinoids like CBG. They help the body absorb cannabinoids more efficiently, which improves their efficacy.

Full-spectrum hemp oil is more potent than other types because of these powerful effects via endocannabinoid pathways. It is more commonly used for medicinal purposes as a remedy for common inflammatory conditions instead of as a dietary product. It is also refined more carefully to retain cannabinoids and terpenes, which can easily break down during extraction.

Is Hemp Oil Legal in Australia?


There’s some confusion on the question of whether hemp oil is legal in Australia because of its association with cannabis. 

But rest assured, it’s entirely legal.

There are a couple of caveats to be aware of when buying it.

Firstly, the product can’t contain cannabinoids like CBD or THC

Products containing these compounds are considered CBD or cannabis oil. These are more strictly controlled in Australia.

That’s because they can have more substantial side effects. Each has therapeutic effects via the endocannabinoid system in the body and brain. They’re much more potent than hemp oil and are not used for similar purposes. These products are used therapeutically as medications to help deal with chronic conditions like pain.

The absence of cannabinoids indicates a legal hemp oil product used for nutritional and culinary applications. Check the label or confirm with the manufacturer to ensure this. It can be easy to mix these products up.

In contrast to CBD or cannabis oil, hemp oil is legal to:

  • Purchase in Retail Stores: You can purchase it in wellness shops, hemp stores, health food retailers, and supermarkets.
  • Import: unlike CBD or cannabis oil, you’re able to import hemp oil into Australia. You may need to obtain an import license, pay import fees and make the required declarations. 
  • Travel With: it is safe to travel with as it’s a legal food product. You can take it in your car, on planes or on public transport without issue. 
  • Buy Online: shopping online for the product is also perfectly legal. Today, there are many online hemp shops and supplement or wellness stores where you can buy it. Remember that some of these stores may sell other products like CBD oil, which you can’t yet buy online in Australia without a prescription. 

What’s in It?

Spoon of Oil Pouring

Knowing what’s in hemp oil is vital to comprehending its rich health benefits.

Healthy Fats

Healthy Fats

Most of hemp oil’s mass is from fats.

But they aren’t fats that are detrimental to heart health.

Hemp’s entirely plant-derived, naturally occurring polyunsaturated fatty acids are incredible for overall health.

In particular, the product contains high quantities of antioxidative, anti-inflammatory fatty acids like:

  • Alpha-Linolenic and Gamma-Linolenic Acids
  • Omega-3 and 6
  • Long-chain fatty acids

These fats help to protect the arteries from cholesterol while supporting metabolic health.

Omega-3 and 6 are considered ‘essential’ fatty acids as the body can’t produce them, yet they’re critical for heart function. Each must be consumed from dietary sources like fatty fish or nuts.

The body’s cells also use omegas to repair cell walls and maintain metabolic function.

Hemp oil contains the ideal 1:3 ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids. Both are synergistic, but consuming about 3x the amount of Omega 6 versus Omega-3 maximises their complementary antioxidative effects.


Hemp Vitamins

Some of the vitamins found in hemp extracts include:

  • Vitamins E
  • Vitamin D
  • B-Vitamins
  • Vitamin C.

Each of these vitamins is critical to maintaining good health. Vitamin D, for instance, enables the body to absorb calcium. It’s needed for bone, muscle, hormone and immune health. Deficiencies in it are linked to a vast number of adverse health conditions like depression and chronic fatigue.

Vitamin E is antioxidative. It’s excellent at supporting immune health and works to protect against cell damage. Many use hemp cream for their skin because of its rich Vitamin E content. In the skin, it helps to slow aging and defends the skin’s cells from degradation.


Hemp oil contains high quantities of essential minerals. It’s abundant in:

  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorous
  • Iron
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Zinc

Like essential fats, the body can’t create its essential minerals. Yet they are critical for many bodily functions like generating bone, maintaining the teeth, controlling the nervous system and metabolising food. Iron, for example, helps red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body and prevents anemia. Potassium is needed for blood pressure maintenance and muscle contraction.


Natural Antioxidants

‘Oxidation’ in the body is very harmful. It’s a chemical reaction between your cells and damaging molecules known as free radicals.

Free radicals enter the body from sources like pollution, toxins or sunlight. They can cause cell mutation, increasing the risk of cancers, heart diseases and many degenerative illnesses like arthritis.

Preventing or slowing damage from free radicals reduces disease risk and maintains metabolic health.

The best way to do so is by ingesting antioxidants, which block oxidation from free radicals.

Many natural, plant-based antioxidants can be found in hemp oil, like:

  • Phytosterols (Vitamin E)
  • Omega-3
  • Carotene
  • Beta-caryophyllene
  • Cannaflavins
  • Lignans

Due to its excellent antioxidant content, the product can help reduce the risk of illnesses like cancer.

Amino Acids

Amino acids are needed to build tissue in the body and repair cells. Hemp oil contains all nine essential amino acids and is exceptionally high in leucine plus lysine. These two amino acids are known to be the most effective in building muscle and regenerating tendons. It makes the product great for those who exercise. Getting the right building blocks for muscle repair and recovery is essential for optimal performance.

What Does Hemp Oil Do in the Body?

Active Woman Weightlifting

There are some surprising things that hemp oil does in the body. These health effects result from the rich phytonutrients, healthy fats and antioxidants it contains in high amounts.

  • Cardiovascular Support: polyunsaturated fats it contains, like omega-3 and alpha-linolenic acid, have been shown to reduce cardiac risks and improve heart health. Each is antioxidative and helps to protect the cardiovascular system while promoting circulation.
  • Brain Health: omega fats in hemp oil have properties that help brain cells repair and work better. More research shows they are both protective for the brain and can also assist with forming new neurons. 
  • Nutrition: many essential amino acids, minerals, vitamins and fatty acids can be found in the product. These have profound holistic benefits for good overall health and are critical in many bodily functions. 
  • Gut Health: fibre and plant matter in raw hemp oil have prebiotic effects in the gut, helping to feed good bacteria. In addition, it’s rich in micronutrients and antioxidants like carotene that help with microbiome quality.
  • Skin Moisture and Appearance: using the product on the skin is a fantastic method to improve skin moisture, oil balance and appearance. It has large amounts of anti-inflammatory healthy fats that deeply restore the skin, replenishing oil without causing dryness or breakouts.
  • Inflammation: antioxidants are abundant in hemp extracts. These compounds lower inflammation across the body, which is the cause of many chronic conditions like endometriosis and arthritis. Taking advantage of the product’s anti-inflammatory powers is a great way to help your body stay in top shape naturally.

Choosing a Product

Old Couple Choosing Product

Before you choose a hemp oil product, assess which type you need:

  • Hemp Seed Oil: is cold pressed only from hemp seeds. It’s higher in healthy fats like GLA and omega-3 but contains fewer antioxidants and phytonutrients. This product type is mainly used in raw form as a food to improve nutrition.
  • Hemp Extract Oil: is extracted from all parts of the plant, which gives it greater nutrient variety than hemp seed oil but lower healthy fat and omega content. It’s better used for issues like inflammation as it has a greater concentration of antioxidants such as phytosterols. You can find it in both cold press and CO2 or solvent-extracted varieties.
  • Full-spectrum Hemp Oil is similar to whole-plant extracted products but undergoes less refinement to retain more terpenes and cannabinoids. Instead of being used for culinary purposes, it’s primarily taken as a remedy for anxiety, arthritis, inflammation or insomnia. You won’t find this product as a cold press extract. It must be made using supercritical CO2 or solvent extraction.

Additionally, consider whether you’re looking for raw or refined products, as each differs.

  • Raw: During extraction, cold pressing is used to retain more antioxidants, vitamins, and omegas. It’s less processed and has higher omega-3, GLA, and ALA, plus antioxidants like cannaflavins. These break down during the extraction of refined hemp oils. But raw oils aren’t as good for cooking and shouldn’t be heated. They have a lower smoke point and shelf life than their refined counterparts.
  • Refined: undergoes more significant treatment using heat, solvents or gases to purify the extract and remove any plant matter. It will appear more transparent and is better for frying or cooking with. Additionally, it lasts much longer after opening.

Once you’ve chosen the type you want, research to find a high-quality, reputable product.

Tips to Find Quality Products

Woman Shopping for Hemp Oil

Check what’s available online and compare prices, ingredients, plus customer reviews.

It’s often tough to gauge quality based on a hemp oil’s packaging alone. Looking at what prior customers have commented about a product is often a better way to assess this.

A good rule of thumb is to shop organic. Organic products will be free from pesticides and herbicides, which can contaminate plant-based products like hemp oil. Non-organic hemp is often sprayed with these toxic chemicals to stop pests, fungi or weeds from ruining the crop. However, hemp plants can easily absorb such toxins. These toxins can subsequently make their way into extracts produced from contaminated plants. Look for certified organic products to mitigate these risks.

Additionally, it is advisable to choose extracts sourced from biodynamic and GMO-free hemp. Non-GMO hemp plants also tend to be treated with fewer toxins and have less risk of causing adverse effects from these nasty chemicals.

Ensure that your supplier is trustworthy by checking ratings or testimonials. Some sellers use fillers in their products. Others mislabel their products to mislead shoppers. Verify the product and supplier to prevent purchasing fake or mislabeled products. Exercise caution on who you’re buying from.

Avoiding CBD Oil

Avoiding CBD

In some online stores, you may also find a different product type known as CBD oil. This is different to hemp oil as it contains cannabinoids like CBD or CBG. It’s used for treating conditions like pain or anxiety as opposed to culinary purposes. You shouldn’t confuse the two.

CBD oil comes at a far higher price tag than hemp oil in Australia. You can expect to pay over $100 per bottle for CBD oil. In contrast, hemp oil is typically less than $50 per bottle. Mixing them up can be costly. It can also be a source of legal risks if you buy a restricted product. For example, high-strength CBD oil is a prescription-only medication.

Read the product label carefully and confirm that your extract contains no cannabinoids like CBD to ensure it isn’t CBD oil. Verifying the price should also confirm this.

Does Hemp Oil Get You High?

Young woman smiling in field

Hemp oil won’t get you high because it doesn’t contain the cannabinoid ‘THC’ or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol.

THC is the infamous psychoactive cannabinoid that cannabis naturally produces. It strongly activates the brain’s CB1 cannabinoid receptors, which causes euphoria and intoxication after consumption.

Only medical cannabis plants in Australia can contain quantities of THC above 0.3%. Hemp oil is produced from varieties of the plant that only produce trace levels of THC (close to 0%).

Oil containing THC or other cannabinoids is termed ‘cannabis oil’, which is a prescription medication.

You usually won’t find it in the same stores as hemp oil. It can only be bought in pharmacies using a script from a doctor licensed to prescribe cannabis medications.

In contrast to cannabis oil, hemp oil won’t have any perceivable effects when you consume it. It isn’t psychotropic or psychoactive, so it can’t affect your mental state or impair motor skills. It’s a significant advantage for drivers and those who are drug tested. These tests screen for THC metabolites, which the product doesn’t contain.


Drops on Hemp Leaf

This guide has given you a comprehensive understanding of what hemp oil is.

To recap, it’s an oil extract of the hemp plant that can be taken from its seeds, leaves, buds and stems.

Which parts it is extracted from will determine the product’s composition and nutrients. It also will determine the type of hemp oil produced.

Hemp seed oil is from hemp seeds, while hemp extract and full-spectrum hemp oil are ‘whole plant’ extracts.

Each distinct oil type is also extracted and refined using differing methods, such as cold pressing, solvent or CO2 gas extraction.

Hemp oil is abundant in healthy nutrients. These include healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and amino acids. Each has powerful benefits for the heart, brain, immune system and body. Despite being such a potent health product, hemp oil is legal in Australia.

You can buy it in many stores, online or overseas, provided your purchase contains no cannabinoids. When choosing a hemp oil, ensure you understand which type you need. Once you do, shop organic, non-GMO and confirm you’re not mistakenly buying CBD oil. Doing thorough research on different options and their suppliers is essential. This will let you get what you need while avoiding fake or legally risky products.


What Does Hemp Oil Do for You?

Hemp oil is valued for its antioxidative nutritional content and ability to rejuvenate the skin or hair. It is a rich source of essential fatty acids, including omega-3 and omega-6, which help with brain, heart and metabolic health. These fatty acids play a crucial role in various physiological functions, reducing triglycerides in the body and assisting the cells to repair.
The product is often used topically, either by itself or in creams, balms and moisturisers. It has profoundly moisturizing and soothing effects on the nails, skin and hair. In addition, it can help with inflammation, irritation and skin conditions. It’s great for eczema or psoriasis. Plus, it can help alleviate dry skin and dermatitis by promoting natural oil balance without clogging the skin. Additionally, the nutritional profile of hemp oil contributes to complete well-being by offering amino acids, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fats.

Is Hemp Oil the Same as CBD Oil?

Hemp oil is different to CBD oil because it doesn’t contain cannabinoids like CBD. That’s because it’s primarily extracted from hemp seeds, which don’t contain these compounds. In contrast, CBD oil is drawn from the hemp plant’s leaves, buds and stalks. CBD acts on the endocannabinoid system, which means it can provide therapeutic effects like reducing anxiety, inflammation and arthritis. In contrast, hemp oil has no medicinal properties but is highly valued for nutrition and as a moisturising product for the skin.

Can you feel the effects of hemp oil?

Most people don’t feel any mental effects from hemp oil. It doesn’t contain cannabinoids like THC, which are psychoactive and stimulate the brain. This also means it won’t necessarily lower anxiety or calm you, which is the main feeling that the CBD cannabinoid causes. When you consume it, you should feel the same as when you consume any other healthy, nourishing food. Topical use, however, can feel a bit different. Its smooth, cooling texture on the skin is excellent for massage therapy or moisturising. Hemp oil contains anti-inflammatory antioxidants like phytosterols that help calm irritated, flaky, or sensitive skin. So, if you’re using it topically, you may feel the effects more clearly.

Does hemp oil really relax you?

As it doesn’t contain CBD or other cannabinoids, hemp oil won’t really relax you. It doesn’t have the abilities like CBD to reduce anxiety or improve mental state. Cannabinoids act on the brain’s receptors, releasing calming, therapeutic endocannabinoids that enable relaxation. But dietary hemp oil lacks these cannabinoid compounds, so you won’t feel much subjectively after consuming it. You’re better off looking for CBD oil if you need a product that can relax you.

Is Hemp Oil Anti-Inflammatory?

Hemp oil is a rich source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory polyunsaturated fats. These compounds work in the body to reduce inflammation by counteracting oxidative stress, which damages cells. As such, they can help the cells function and repair better. Omega-3 fats, for instance, are neuroprotective and can lower inflammation in brain cells. Phytosterols in the product calm inflammation in skin cells while reducing irritability.