Consumers looking to explore the potential benefits that cannabidiol (CBD) promises are often confronted with some confusion when it comes to terminology.
Often housed in 1-ounce glass bottles, CBD oil products can list a variety of names on the label. Hemp-derived CBD oil, full-spectrum hemp extract, and CBD isolate are just a few examples. Then there's the issue of the ubiquitous “hemp oil,” which may not mean what you think. Shoppers walking through their local health food store may encounter yet another label ingredient – hemp seed oil.
There are two main sources of CBD oil – hemp and marijuana plants. Molecularly, it makes no difference if the CBD is extracted from hemp or marijuana. However, it's not that simple.
Are hemp oil and Hemp seed oil the same?
No. At the center of the confusion is the definition of hemp oil. The term “hemp oil” often is used to refer to the CBD-rich product extracted from the flowers and leaves of the hemp plant – which is CBD oil. But it is also used to refer to hemp seed oil, which contains no active CBD. While CBD oil is derived from marijuana or hemp plants and can be consumed in tincture or capsule form for medicinal purposes, hemp seed oil is derived specifically from hemp seeds and can be used in food for its high nutritional value. Hemp seeds contain protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and a mix of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Hemp seed oil can be part of a meal, such as in salad dressing, and is often found next to flaxseed and fish oils in health food stores. Hemp seeds can also be consumed in cereals and smoothies.
In addition, hemp seed oil production requires cold-pressing of the seeds to obtain the oil. CBD oil is extracted from parts of the hemp plant other than the seeds. Though hemp seed oil may contain a tiny amount of CBD, it is so insignificant that it's considered virtually non-existent in the product.
Whether hemp oil and CBD oil are the same thing is dependent on whether the oil was derived from the hemp plant or from the hemp seeds. Oil from the hemp seed is not CBD oil, but the hemp plant's leaves and flowers are one source of CBD oil.
Hemp vs. marijuana plants
CBD oil is derived from both hemp and marijuana plants. Both hemp and marijuana are cannabis plants – they are just different varieties. For thousands of years, hemp plants have been used for their fiber, seeds, oil, leaves, and flowers to make paper, textiles, building materials, and food and dietary supplements. In the United States, industrial hemp – as hemp is often called – refers to a variety of the plant Cannabis sativa L. that contains a THC concentration of no more than 0.3%; marijuana is legally defined as cannabis that contains more than 0.3% THC.
Other countries define hemp differently. The European Union sets the limit at 0.2% THC content. Though many U.S. states have decriminalized marijuana use, it is still listed as a Schedule I drug under the Federal Controlled Substances Act, which has stalled research on cannabis in general.
Another difference between hemp and marijuana is the resin content. Because marijuana generally contains much more resin than hemp, marijuana plants potentially provide more CBD than hemp.
What are the types of CBD oil?
Whether it's derived from hemp or marijuana, CBD oil is available in full-spectrum (whole plant), THC-free distillate, and CBD isolate varieties, according to Katie Stem, CEO of Peak Extracts, a cannabis extraction company in Oregon.
She said CBD extract can be made using ethanol; hydrocarbons such as butane, propane, or hexane; or supercritical carbon dioxide (CO2). In unrefined form, they all will contain some amount of THC.
“Despite the Farm Bill legalizing hemp and its derivatives, many states still consider even minute amounts of THC to be completely illegal, regardless of source,” Stem said. “Therefore there has been a great demand for THC-free distillate and CBD isolate.”
THC-free distillate is made by distilling unrefined extract under high heat and vacuum pressure to capture the CBD and leave the other components behind, Stem said. Isolate goes one step further: It is refined using pentane, causing the CBD to crystallize. It is then filtered and dried, and creates a product that is up to 99.9% pure CBD, she said.
What type of CBD oil is best?
“From a quality perspective, I personally prefer non-refined extracts,” Stem said. “This whole plant extract contains minor phytocannabinoids – like CBG, THC, CBC, etc. – and a range of terpenes, many of which have established effects in their own right, and contribute to what is called the entourage effect.
The “entourage effect” is the notion that the cannabinoids and terpenes in whole-plant extracts work together to provide a superior result over an isolate.
But, Stem added, if the hemp is of poor quality, or improperly stored, the only way to avoid rancidity is by purification through a refining process.
“In addition, to ensure safety from legal repercussions in unfriendly states, you must stick with a product made from THC-free distillate or CBD isolate,” she said.
Pesticide contamination and poor-quality sourcing can be an issue with any CBD product. Following the adoption of the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp is enjoying a renaissance. Farmers are growing high-CBD strain of so-called craft hemp, often on a small scale, to better reap the compound's therapeutic potential.
Ideally, all CBD oil products are tested by a third-party lab to ensure quality and purity. Quality products should have a thorough product label though dosing is, unfortunately, still up to the consumer since government regulations have stunted research that might determine suggested doses. Remember to shop specifically for CBD oil, not hemp seed oil. Don't let the popular term “hemp oil” fool you.