What’s the Difference Between Hemp and CBD Oil?

Hemp oil and CBD oil are derived from the same plant source – cannabis sativa. This makes it easy to confuse these two products, however they have unique distinctions. Fundamentally hemp oil won’t contain cannabinoids like CBD or CBN. Hemp oil is produced to be a dietary or topical product. It can be added into foods as a condiment or enhancement, adding nutritional value through its omega 3, GLA, vitamin and nutrient content. Full spectrum or even isolated CBD oils on the other hand will contain different therapeutic cannabinoids. It has a much greater anti inflammatory effect for this reason, although can be inferior from a nutrition standpoint. Both of these oils are extracted and refined from the leaves, buds, seeds and stems of the hemp plant. Let’s cover their key differences and learn more about how you can easily distinguish them to avoid purchasing the wrong product.

What is Hemp Oil vs CBD Oil For?

Hemp oil and CBD oil are produced for differing reasons in Australia. Hemp or hemp seed 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 – you can add it into smoothies, salads, dips or more to increase nutritional value. It’s typically not consumed straight but as a healthy plant fat addition like olive oil. You can even cook or fry with it like other plant oils including rice bran or canola.

This is different to CBD oil, which isn’t used for culinary uses. It’s generally treated as a medicine, dosed carefully by the drop and is taken by itself (although it can be mixed with food). CBD isn’t just present in oil – it’s added into many different products including strips, balms, tinctures and capsules. CBD stands for cannabidiol which is just one of the many therapeutic cannabinoids in hemp. It functions with the endocannabinoid system to help users with arthritis, pain, anxiety or sleep. It can also be vaped or smoked when refined into a concentrated crystal form and combined with a vaping e-liquid. 

How is each made?

Both hemp and CBD oil are extracted from the cannabis sativa plant. The plant is stripped and broken down into its seeds, leaves, buds and stems. Hemp oil will only be produced from the seeds of the plant – these contain no cannabinoids but are rich in healthy fats, omegas and alpha linoleic acid. CBD oil on the other hand is produced from the entire hemp plant. It uses alcohol or CO2 extraction to strip the cannabinoids out of the plant in high concentrations to refine into a final oil for therapeutic use. CO2 or gas based extraction methods are superior to alcohol or other solvent based methods, as there is no risk of contamination with the solvents.

A key difference between the two is also their flavour and colour. Hemp oil typically is nutty, light green and clear as a liquid. It looks like other vegetable oils you’ll know well like grape seed oil but with a green tinge. CBD oil on the other hand can vary. It is usually darker and will often contain plant matter for full spectrum oils due to being less refined. Isolate CBD oils are generally clear though as they undergo higher refinement. These oil types are usually more earthy in flavour and can have a musk to the taste. Usually CBD oils are flavoured with vanilla or peppermint to mask this taste. On the other hand hemp oil products are rarely if ever flavoured.

What’s in Hemp vs CBD Oil?

As we mentioned, hemp oil won’t contain cannabinoids like CBD. This is the largest single difference versus CBD oil products. Trace cannabinoids may occur in this oil but they will generally be less than 0.1% concentration and won’t cause any risk of failing a drug test. CBD uses parts of the hemp plant with the highest cannabinoid concentration – the buds and leaves. Because of this it will usually contain multiple cannabinoids like THC, CBN, CBDA, CBG and other minor cannabinoids. Each of these has its own benefits but using a full spectrum CBD oil often means risking drug test failure as it can contain above trace levels of THC. There are 3 types of CBD oil and they vary in their chemical makeup. Usually these are combined with a carrier oil like MCT or olive oil to suspend the liquid more evenly.

  1. Isolate oils – contain CBD only and are more refined, stripping out other cannabinoids, terpenes, plant matter and antioxidants from the final product.
  2. Full spectrum oils – is the opposite of isolates. This oil is more raw and unrefined containing all the cannabinoids to get the full spectrum of benefits across each. It will also contain terpenes – the plant pheromones naturally occurring in hemp which cause the entourage effect and increase the effectiveness of cannabinoids.
  3. Broad spectrum oils – contain some but not all cannabinoids. Usually it will target heightened levels of CBN or CBG to derive particular effects to the user such as inflammation or arthritis reduction.

Hemp oil only comes in its one form, although it is often advertised as cold pressed which can mean better purity and antioxidant content. Both hemp and CBD oil are usually produced from the same industrial hemp plants. It’s a low THC variety of hemp, containing less than 0.2% THC. CBD oils are typically ‘whole plant extracts’ though – they use the entire hemp plants parts. This is to get the best mix of nutrients and cannabinoids which can vary across the plant. Hemp oil is only made from the seeds of the plant. You might also see it labeled phyto cannabinoid or terpene rich, which are plant nutrients that add to the health benefits of the product.

Where Can I Buy Each?

Hemp or hemp seed oil can be bought in any supermarket, health food store or vegan shop. It’s generally much less used than similar vegetable oils like olive oil, making it a bit harder to find. You can also buy it online in Australia. Usually you’ll see this called hemp seed oil – it will mention omega 3 and 6 fats on the label.

CBD oil is restricted from purchase. You’ll need to get a hold of a doctor’s prescription for your condition being treated if you wish to obtain and use it. 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. In 2020 laws changed for CBD, enabling it to be purchased over the counter. Over time the TGA in Australia has decriminalized CBD as it is non psychoactive but highly helpful with arthritis or anxiety. Today CBD is offering many alternatives to pharmaceuticals. It is greater in many ways due to being natural and non addictive, having very minimal side effects but still being potent as an anti inflammatory.

What are their benefits?

CBD activates the endocannabinoid system as mentioned which results in it being therapeutic and able to reduce the symptoms of many conditions. It is known to be able to treat many conditions and improve symptoms. These include both physical ailments such as arthritis, inflammation, blood pressure and aches or pains, as well as mental issues like depression, anxiety, stress plus insomnia. CBD acts on the parasympathetic nervous system, calming us and improving our ability to relax, sleep or recover. It does this by stimulating the CB1 and CB2 receptors located across the brain, CNS and body. These cannabinoid receptors actually release endogenous endocannabinoids when triggered, resulting in strong anti-inflammatory responses from the body. It can be used topically for targeted pain relief or taken orally.

Hemp oil doesn’t have this ability – it contains no cannabinoids. It’s purely a high quality dietary addition. It does contain numerous helpful nutrients like vitamins, minerals like magnesium and zinc, omega 3 and 6 fatty acids which are great for the heart plus alpha and gamma linoleic acid. It has a much better 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 a huge benefit for your brain and cardiovascular function. Hemp oil is amazing for your nails, hair and skin because of this. Its oils support the natural sebaceous balance of your body and prevent overproduction of sebum or dry skin. 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 healthy fats your body needs to fight infections and keep itself healthy.

To summarize the key difference in their benefits, CBD oil can provide:

  1. Improved mood and anxiety reduction

Research is showing that CBD is able to assist or mitigate the symptoms of anxiety and stress. Its efficacy has been shown in a number of studies, including one clinical trial that proved cannabidiol reduced anxiety markers across more than 70 subjects by up to 80%. A similar trial against placebo baseline states proved the reduction in anxiety and stress associated with cbd oil. CBD is a natural anxiolytic compound meaning it fights symptoms of stress and anxiety in the nervous system, halting them from causing mental discomfort.

  1. Reduced inflammation

Both in dogs and humans, the effects of arthritis develop in many people – up to half the population will suffer from this ailment. It causes significant inflammation in the joints. Over time our bodies decline in their ability to repair and reduce inflammation. CBD oil has been shown through scientific studies to reduce gut inflammation as well as assist in helping to manage pain within arthritis patients. Both through topical application and oral consumption, it has been shown CBD can help to prevent and ongoingly reduce the symptoms of physical inflammation and its associated markers.

  1. Neuroprotection 

Probably the most proven health effect of CBD oil is its capacity to reduce the frequency, length and impact of epilepsy in patients. This has been the most studied and clinically shown effect of CBD, amongst both adults and children , which is extremely promising and indicates its properties for neuroprotection and ensuring the brain can function correctly along neural pathways. It may 

Hemp oil can’t make claims to any of these health effects. Its primary benefit and usage comes as a health food due to its broad and healthy nutrition improvers.

Hemp oil can provide:

  1. Nourishing benefits for skin and hair

One of the most breakout products for skin and hair in recent years has been argan oil – derived from the seeds of the argan plant. Like many seeds and nuts, argan has a huge amount of healthy fatty acids and nourishing vitamins and minerals. Hemp seed oil is very similar – it can be applied to the hair, skin and lips to help with dryness, improve moisture delivery and retainment as well as improve the strength of hair keratin and the skin. 

A number of studies suggest hemp seed products can assist with extreme dryness associated with skin eczema, can help with sebum and improve management of cutaneous oil content. In addition, they may help with overall skin complexion and health. It’s highly likely this is because of its immense healthy fat and omega content.

  1. Healthy fats, vitamins and minerals like other plant seeds

Similar to grape seed, coconut and other healthy fat oils that contain long and medium chain triglycerides (fatty acids), hemp seed is akin to the seed family of foods in terms of its nutrient profile. What’s important about seeds is that they contain the highest nutrient contents of any part of a plant – that’s because they’re specifically created to feed the young and developing plant into germination.

Hempseed is no different – it has a very rich content of essential fatty acids (omega 3 and 6 – great for brain health) as well as vitamins like E and B, in addition to containing the plant fiber and proteins that ensure you get a well rounded, full blend of plant nutrients in every serving of hemp oil. Similarly it contains trace minerals of zinc, phosphorus, magnesium and other key helpful electrolytes your body needs.

How to tell the difference between Hemp and CBD Oil

A few key factors will help you distinguish the two types of oil to avoid mis-purchasing the wrong item or 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.

  1. Price – CBD oil is much more expensive than hemp oil. It’s harder to produce, get a license for in Australia and has much higher therapeutic value. You can typically expect to pay more than $100 AUD to buy CBD in Australia for higher quality oils. Hemp oil will usually be less than $20. If you see a very cheap CBD oil you should avoid it – it will likely be low quality, potentially contaminated and may not even contain CBD.
  2. Labelling – look for cannabinoids like CBD on the label which will indicate whether a product contains these chemicals. Hemp oil will never list a cannabinoid on the label. Usually you’ll see terms such as phyto cannabinoids, terpenes or CB2 on the label.
  3. Test results – CBD oils from strong brands often come with a quality assured lab report. This will show the levels of cannabinoids like CBD contained in the oil. It’s a clear differentiator against hemp oil products from groceries which won’t ever provide a lab report. You can often find this report on the providers website or sometimes in the store it’s sold.


There’s no doubt that hemp and CBD oil are completely different products, even though they may come from the same source. They’re both produced differently, with hemp oil coming from the seeds of the plant only while CBD varieties being drawn from all parts of the hemp plant. Their extraction and usage is also different – CBD undergoes a different refinement process to retain cannabinoids it its final oil form. This influences the benefits they provide – CBD 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. Don’t be fooled by sellers who mislabel or advertise hemp as CBD oil – there are a number of methods you can use we’ve outlined to distinguish the two and avoid wasting money.