What’s the Difference Between Hemp and CBD Oil?

Hemp oil and CBD oil are similar in many ways but entirely different products. Many people confuse them due to being produced from the same source. Both are created from extracts of cannabis sativa. Both of these oils are extracted and refined from the leaves, buds, seeds, and stems of the hemp plant. Each is entirely distinct and has unique characteristics. Hemp oil won’t contain cannabinoids like CBD or CBN. It is produced as a dietary or topical product. It can be added to foods as a condiment or dietary addition. Primarily its value is in, adding nutritional value through its omega 3, GLA, vitamin, and nutrient content. CBD oil on the other hand is a hemp extract rich in bioactive cannabinoids. Cannabinoids have potent health-promoting effects as they act on the body’s endocannabinoid system. Let’s explore the major differences between hemp and CBD oil, plus learn more about how you can distinguish them to avoid purchasing the wrong product.

Different Cannabinoid Content

The single largest difference between hemp and CBD oil is the cannabinoid content of each. Cannabinoids are naturally produced, bioactive and therapeutic compounds created by the cannabis plant. But they aren’t present in hemp seeds. As hemp oil is produced from these seeds it won’t contain cannabinoids like CBD. This is the largest difference it has versus CBD products. Trace cannabinoids may still be present in hemp oil but they will be less than 0.1% concentration and won’t be perceptible. 

When CBD oil is produced, it is made from parts of the hemp plant with high cannabinoid concentration such as the buds and leaves. During its production and refinement, these cannabinoids are retained. Full-spectrum CBD oil contains a multitude of cannabinoids like THC, CBN, CBDA, CBG, and other minor cannabinoids. Each of these has its unique benefits. 

Differences in Production Method

Both hemp and CBD oil are extracted from the cannabis sativa plant. But how this occurs is different for each. Hemp seed oil is largely made using cold press extraction, while CBD oil comes from CO2 or solvent extraction. These techniques are very different. The first step in producing either product is stripping the hemp plant of its seeds, leaves, buds, and stems. The plant matter is dried and compressed to extract natural oils. 

Hemp oil will only be produced from the seeds of the hemp plant. It’s why you will often see hemp oil called ‘hemp seed oil’. The seeds contain no cannabinoids but are rich in healthy fats, omegas, and alpha-linolenic acid. Cold pressing is used to pull the pure hemp seed extract from the seeds of the plant. During this process, no external heat or solvents are used. The hemp seed extract is separated and distilled using high pressure in a mixing chamber, forcing out its rich oil. This creates a pure oil product that should be clear, green and nutty in flavour.

CBD oil on the other hand is produced from all parts of the hemp plant. Cannabinoids like CBD can be separated from cannabis plant matter using solvents or CO2. With solvent extraction, ethanol or other solvents strip cannabinoids out of the extracted plant matter. Gas-based extraction using CO2 employs supercritical pressure and heat via multiple extraction chambers to distil the cannabinoid extract. Gas-based extraction methods produce more pure and safe products, as there is no risk of contaminating the final product with solvents like ethanol. They also use high pressure and heat during refinement which eliminates bacteria, and any impurities and results in a higher-strength product.

Flavour and Appearance Differences

A key difference between hemp and CBD oil is their flavour and colour. Hemp oil is typically nutty, light green, and clear as a liquid. It looks like other vegetable oils like grape seed oil but with a green tinge. CBD oil on the other hand can vary in how it tastes and looks. It is usually darker and will often contain plant matter. This is particularly the case with full-spectrum CBD oil due to this type of CBD oil being less refined. Isolate CBD oils are generally clear and more similar in appearance to hemp oil as they undergo more refinement. CBD oil is usually more earthy in flavour than hemp oil and can have a musk to its taste. Usually, it is flavoured with vanilla or peppermint to mask this often unpalatable flavour. Hemp oil products are rarely flavoured.

Differences in Uses

Hemp oil and CBD oil are used for different reasons. Hemp oil has a rich amount of healthy fats and natural plant nutrients including vitamins and minerals. It also has an appealing nutty flavour. Because of this, it’s used for cooking and culinary purposes. It can be added to smoothies, salads, or other dishes to increase nutritional value. It’s typically not consumed by itself. Hemp seed oil is similar to other healthy plant oil products like olive oil. You can cook or fry with it like other plant oils such as canola.

This is different from CBD oil, which isn’t used for culinary purposes. CBD stands for cannabidiol which is just one of the many therapeutic cannabinoids in hemp. It’s employed by users for its therapeutic and health effects. By acting on the endocannabinoid system it helps users with arthritis, inflammation, pain, anxiety and even sleep. Many even use it for improving their sex life and helping with day-to-day mood. It can be taken as an oil, tincture, capsules, sublingual, via vaping, sprays, lozenges, balms and more. As opposed to adding it to food, it’s usually consumed standalone and dosages of it are carefully measured.

Differences in Health Benefits

CBD has greater health benefits and therapeutic effects than hemp oil because of its activity in the endocannabinoid system. Unlike hemp oil, it activates the endocannabinoid system which results in it having anxiolytic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic and homeostatic effects. It can correspondingly aid with many health conditions. These include physical ailments such as arthritis, inflammation, blood pressure, and pain. Its action on the brain’s CB1 receptors, GABA and serotonin receptors mean it can help combat mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, chronic stress and insomnia. 

CBD helps regulate and calm the nervous system, soothing the mind and improving the ability to relax and sleep. Our brain’s cannabinoid receptors release endogenous endocannabinoids when triggered by cannabinoids like CBD. These provide strong anti-inflammatory effects and help reduce neuroinflammation, offering neuroprotective properties. When cannabinoids like CBD are absorbed into CB2 receptors located throughout the body’s muscles and organs, it offers bodily effects like pain relief and improved recovery. It can be used topically for targeted pain relief or taken orally.

Hemp oil doesn’t have these capabilities as it contains no cannabinoids. It’s purely a dietary enhancement because of its high nutrient density. Some of these nutrients include vitamins, minerals like magnesium and zinc, omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, plus alpha and gamma linoleic acids. In combination, these make hemp oil excellent for immunity, heart and brain health, metabolic well-being and gut health. It has a superior healthy fat profile as a plant oil than many other plants like grape seed or rice bran oil. Its unique ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 has huge benefits for cardiovascular function and blood pressure. 

Hemp oil is also amazing for your hair and skin because of its healthy fat content. Its polyunsaturated fats support the natural sebaceous balance of your skin and prevent the overproduction of sebum. It can be used as a natural moisturizer for this reason. Both CBD and hemp oil can also help with immune and metabolic function, providing the nutrients and antioxidants your body needs to fight infections and keep itself healthy.

Stress and Anxiety Reduction

Research is showing that CBD oil can assist or mitigate the symptoms of anxiety and stress. Its efficacy has been shown in some studies, including one clinical trial that proved cannabidiol reduced anxiety markers across more than 70 subjects by up to 80%. A similar trial compared with a placebo group showed a direct reduction in anxiety and stress associated with CBD use. The cannabinoid is a natural anxiolytic compound meaning it fights symptoms of anxiety in the nervous system. It helps users attain calmness, leading to better recovery and sleep. Hemp oil is not known to have similar properties.

Reduced Inflammation

CBD is great at mitigating inflammation. This is because of the ability of endocannabinoids to modulate and normalise immune system activity. Most inflammation is caused by inflammatory agents like cytokines and prostaglandins. By reducing the production of these agents, cannabinoids like CBD help reduce inflammation in the body. This is excellent for many inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, colitis, Alzheimer’s and atherosclerosis. 

These conditions occur from chronic inflammation where the body’s immune system dysfunctions and attacks healthy tissue. Over time it causes disease from the degradation of cells. CBD has been shown through scientific studies to reduce symptoms of inflammatory conditions like arthritis and colitis. But not only does it assist with the inflammation itself through the endocannabinoid system, but it also provides analgesic effects by limiting the perception of pain. CB2 receptors in the ECS can modulate the nervous system’s pain-signalling pathways. In doing so, it lowers our perception of pain which is useful for painful issues like arthritis.

Hemp oil offers some similar benefits here through its antioxidant content. Antioxidants like beta-carotene reduce the inflammation caused by oxidative stress from pollution, sun exposure, and chemicals that damage our cells. They can prevent and reverse this damage, leading to reduced inflammation. This is useful in helping to mitigate the effects of chronic inflammatory conditions. But antioxidants are not as potent as cannabinoids like CBG or CBD in lowering inflammation as they don’t directly influence immune system activity. 

Neuroprotection Benefits 

Cannabinoids like CBD lower neuroinflammation and can protect neurons. This is different to hemp oil products which can’t offer this benefit. It is the most well-studied and understood effect of CBD. It can reduce the frequency, length, and impact of seizures in epilepsy patients. This has been clinically proven amongst both adults and children in many trials. In 2020 a study examined the capacity of CBD to reduce seizures in children. 150 children participated in the trial, being split into placebo and test groups. Those dosed with CBD had an 84% reduction in seizure frequency. 11% saw a complete cessation of seizures which was an astonishing result. How cannabidiol delivers this protective effect is not yet fully clear. It is likely to do with its functioning in the brain’s CB1 receptors. Hemp oil can’t lay claim to this effect. It does contain high quantities of omega 3 which is beneficial for brain health and cognition, but won’t aid with protecting neurons like CBD can.

Benefits for Skin and Hair

While both CBD and hemp oil offer strong health benefits in strengthening and protecting the hair and skin, hemp oil is more effective in this area. It contains high quantities of polyunsaturated fatty acids like omega 3 and 6, GLA, and ALA. Each has antioxidative effects but also aids with skin moisture and sebum balance. These support less oily or dry skin, better skin moisture and reduced skin inflammation. CBD oil is also great for the skin but primarily for inflammation reduction. 

Skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema can be mitigated or even resolved in some cases through CBD application. It helps calm the inflammatory response in the skin to prevent the dryness, irritation, and redness these conditions cause. Both hemp and CBD oil can be applied to the hair, skin, and lips to help with dryness and improve moisture and complexion. The same applies to the hair where it can be topically applied to aid the strength of hair keratin. Alternatively, you can seek out skin or hair products like shampoos or balms that contain these helpful natural oils. 

Different Nutrient Content

Another area hemp oil is better than CBD is its dietary nutrient content. It is similar to grape seed, coconut, and other healthy plant oils that contain long and medium-chain triglycerides (fatty acids). Hemp oil from hemp seeds in particular is extremely rich in nutrients. Hemp seeds contain the highest nutrient content of any part of a plant. That’s because they’re specifically created to feed young and developing plants into germination. It has a high content of amino acids and essential fatty acids like omega 3 and 6. In addition, it is rich in vitamins like E and B, plus contains plant fibre and proteins. Furthermore, it contains trace minerals like zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium which your nervous system needs to function. Minerals can also aid in lowering stress, plus aiding with mood and energy.

Differences in the Types of Hemp and CBD Oil

Both CBD and hemp oil have several different product types. Each type is still extracted from cannabis but has distinguishing factors in how they are made, plus what nutrients or cannabinoids they contain. 

Types of Hemp Oil

For hemp oil, there are 2 main types you can find. Each can be found in refined or unrefined versions.

Refined Versus Unrefined Hemp Oil

For any oil extracted from plants, the level of refinement applied to the oil will determine the quantity and types of nutrients it contains. With refined oils, some form of heat, solvent, or gas is employed to distil it into a more pure form. When these distillation techniques are applied, they can incidentally remove much of the helpful nutrients contained in the product. Solvents may also alter the colour of the final product and remove some of the green tinge it has. This may eliminate valuable phytocompounds that have health benefits. For example, the omega 3 and 6 fatty acids contained in unrefined hemp oil are largely destroyed during refinement as they break down under heat or solvent exposure. 

Unrefined hemp oil is usually cold-pressed. This term comes from the fact that it is extracted at low temperatures of below 40 degrees. It retains much higher quantities of healthy fats, antioxidants, nutrients, and vitamins than its refined counterpart. So why would anyone use a refined hemp oil over an unrefined one? There are several reasons. Refined oils have much longer expiry periods and won’t spoil as fast. They can also have advantages for cooking purposes like deep frying, where plant nutrients are less important. Some people also prefer using products that have less scent, colour, and minimal presence of plant matter as this appears more ‘pure’. Be aware of the trade-offs when considering which hemp oil to buy.

Hemp Extract Oil

Most hemp oil is extracted from hemp seeds, but this isn’t a hard rule. ‘Whole plant extract’ Hemp oil differs as it is produced from all parts of the hemp plant, instead of the seeds alone. Each part of the plant contains different types of nutrients. While the seeds will contain the highest concentration of healthy fats like ALA, GLA, and omegas, the leaves and buds are rich in antioxidants, terpenes, and phytonutrients. For this reason, you may wish to select this type of oil if you’re looking for amplified health benefits and greater nutrient variety. It can be inferior in taste and culinary value though due to containing less of the rich healthy fats contained in the seeds of hemp.

Hemp Seed Oil

As the name would suggest, the hemp seed oil is produced purely from hemp seeds. It contains very high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids which are antioxidative, help in managing cholesterol, and aid with cardiovascular health. Some of these fats even aid in brain function. Omega 3 is one of these fats. It can reduce neuroinflammation and assist neurons in functioning, supporting improved cognition over time. It also helps prevent arterial plaque and improves heart function. On the flip side, hemp seed oil contains a lower variety of plant nutrients like beta-caryophyllene. It is still rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants like lignans, however. 

Types of CBD Oil

There are 3 main types of CBD oil and they vary in their characteristics. Usually, these are combined with a carrier oil like MCT or olive oil to suspend the liquid more evenly and improve the taste. Most CBD oils are typically ‘whole plant extracts’, extracted from all parts of the hemp plant.

CBD Isolate Oil 

Isolate CBD oil contains CBD only and is highly refined. In this type of oil, all plant matter is filtered out of the extract. It’s this plant matter which is rich in many of the health-promoting nutrients that make hemp and CBD oil so great. Some of these include antioxidants like beta-carotene, cannaflavins, vitamins like E and K, minerals including manganese and phosphene, chlorophyll, fibre, and terpenes. Because it’s more refined, many of the helpful cannabinoids that break down under heat are also removed like CBDa, CBG, or CBC. Eliminating minor cannabinoids from the final product means a reduced spectrum of beneficial health effects. 

Full-Spectrum CBD Oil 

Full-spectrum CBD products are the least refined version of CBD. These retain a large amount of raw hemp plant matter. They’re called ‘full-spectrum’ due to their containing the ‘full spectrum’ of cannabinoids and nutrients that hemp offers. This oil is rich in terpenes, the natural plant pheromone compounds present in many plants like tea trees and lavender. Terpenes from hemp amplify the uptake and absorption of cannabinoids like CBD, improving their effectiveness. They’re thought to synergistically act on the endocannabinoid system and its receptors in conjunction with cannabinoids. This is called the ‘entourage effect’ and is largely what makes full-spectrum products superior from a health standpoint to isolate oils.

Broad-Spectrum CBD Oil

Is partially refined but still retains a significant quantity of hemp’s potent phytonutrients and minor cannabinoids. It’s usually processed and refined in a way to increase the concentration of specific helpful cannabinoids like CBN or CBG. Some cannabinoids are specifically desired by certain users to aid with particular health outcomes or conditions. For example, CBN is desired by many for its ability to aid with sleep and insomnia. CBG is often sought out for its powerful anti-inflammatory effects which are great in mitigating arthritis and many other inflammatory conditions. 

How to Tell CBD and Hemp Oil Apart

A few key factors will help you distinguish between hemp and CBD oil to avoid purchasing the wrong item and wasting money. This can be harder than it seems. Both products are often labelled as organic, GMO-free, pesticide-free, and terpene rich. Confusingly many CBD providers also label their products as hemp oil or hemp extract. So what are the best ways to tell them apart?


Checking the label will help you quickly identify CBD and hemp oil products. Hemp oil will not list any cannabinoids like CBD on the ingredients or nutrient information. It will typically highlight nutrients like omega 3, GLA, and other healthy fats. CBD products on the other hand will always list CBD or other cannabinoids in their labelling. Always check the labels of what you’re purchasing to understand the ingredients used to produce the product, plus what nutrients it contains. The label may also make note of compounds like terpenes plus the carrier oil the product uses such as coconut oil or MCT.

CBD products should list the quantity of cannabinoids like CBD they contain in milligrams. Unlike hemp oil, it will usually come with a certificate of analysis from a lab which provides a high-accuracy cannabinoid content breakdown. It should also describe the purity of the product and the concentration of each cannabinoid so you can understand product strength. You can often find this report on the provider’s website, packaged with the product, or sometimes in the store it’s sold. As hemp oil contains no cannabinoids it won’t come with a similar lab report.


CBD oil is much more expensive than hemp oil. It’s harder to produce, has a lower supply in Australia, and has a much higher therapeutic value. You can typically expect to pay more than $100 to buy CBD in Australia for high-quality products. Hemp oil will usually be less than $40 on average for an equivalent bottle. If you see a very cheap CBD oil you should avoid it. It will likely be low quality, potentially be contaminated and may not even contain CBD. Ensure you confirm your product is real by seeking out a certificate of analysis. Many fake products are sold as CBD oil and contain no cannabinoids.

Place of Purchase

Hemp oil can be bought in any supermarket, health food store, or vegan shop. It’s much less popular for cooking than comparable vegetable oils like olive oil, making it more expensive and challenging to find. You can also buy it online in Australia. CBD oil is restricted from purchase in Australia. You’ll need to get a hold of a doctor’s prescription if you are looking for high-strength CBD products. For low-strength CBD products, you can purchase these in pharmacies over the counter after laws in Australia were changed in 2021. 

It can also be purchased online from many providers although this is considered the black market and not advised. Many products here can be mislabelled, not contain CBD, or be at risk of containing contaminants like pesticides due to poor quality control. Over time the TGA in Australia has decriminalised CBD as it is non-psychoactive but highly helpful with conditions like arthritis or anxiety. Today CBD is offering a natural alternative to pharmaceutical medicines for inflammation and pain. It is superior in many ways due to being less impactful on the liver and non-addictive. It also has far fewer side effects than pharmaceuticals, particularly when used over long periods.


Hemp and CBD oil are completely different, even though they may come from the same plant. They’re both produced differently, have differing appearances and flavours, distinct uses and benefits, differing product types, plus differing nutrient and cannabinoid content. Hemp oil doesn’t contain CBD or other cannabinoids. It’s most often extracted only from hemp seeds but can be taken from the whole hemp plant. CBD oil undergoes a different refinement process to retain high concentrations of cannabinoids like CBD. This cannabinoid is therapeutic and can help with arthritis, anxiety, and depression. Hemp oil is only a dietary product. It can be added to food to improve its nutritional value or taken standalone for more healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. You can tell the difference between these two products from their labels, prices, place of purchase and lab test results.