In the medical marijuana world, there seems to be some confusion regarding the difference between hemp oil and CBD (cannabidiol) oil. As both products gain notoriety, more research is pursued, more doctors make recommendations, and more consumers turn to and experiment with these oils as alternative therapeutic treatments for a varying number of diseases, the need to inform the public is crucial. In 2009, in an attempt to respond to the mis-branding of CBD products as hemp oil, the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) asserted, “Our Hemp Industries Association position regarding this distinction calls on makers of CBD products to brand and market their products truthfully and clearly, so as to not further the confusion surrounding CBD products in the marketplace. Confusion not only stems from mis-branding, but some suppliers use these terms interchangeably or conflates them, which is misleading and possibly negligible to consumers. CBD oil and hemp oil have very distinctive differences in terms of origin and properties.
Cannabidiol (CBD) oil and hemp oil are named according to the plants from which the extracts are taken. Marijuana (also called cannabis) and hemp are different strains belonging to the same species of plant, Cannabis sativa L, which is known to have a wide range of cannabinoid concentrations, such as THC and CBD of varying compositions. The cannabis plant may grow up to 5 feet in height, tends to be bushy with plenty of leaves and buds, and a single plant needs space to grow well. Hemp plant, on the other hand, can reach up to 15 feet, with long, narrow, hardy stalks, and can thrive together in a bunch as it grows. Hemp oil is produced from the seeds of the hemp plant, while CBD-rich oil is taken from the flowering buds and leaves of the cannabis plant. In the practical realm of things, hemp is produced for industrial purposes and can be used to make a number of products, but it’s the only plant that’s extracted specifically for hemp oil. Conversely, cannabis is generally grown for recreational purposes such as smoking. However, their therapeutic potential is an increasing interest of research, discussion, and alternative treatments, hence hemp and CBD oils.
Difference in the Cannabinoids
Cannabis and hemp contains roughly 400 different cannabinoids (chemical compounds), but THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD are the focus in the cannabis industry, as well as the focus of most studies. THC is the psychoactive chemical that is known to produce a high or “stoned” feeling when smoked by users. CBD, however, is non-psychoactive as a result of a lack of affinity for CB1 receptors in the brain. The levels of THC and CBD in both hemp and cannabis vary which make the oil extracts two very different products.
According to the HIA, “Hemp oil…contain low levels of CBD, typically less than 25 parts per million (ppm). In contrast, CBD extracts are produced either directly from cannabis flowers that are up to 15% CBD (150,000 ppm). The presence of CBD in hemp is one of the main reasons that hemp oil is being marketed by some as CBD oil. Hemp also naturally contains very minimal levels of THC (between 0.3%-1.5%), which is not enough to trigger a psychoactive response when consumed. In contrast, CBD-rich oil naturally has higher levels of CBD than hemp which would require a considerable amount to extract a useful amount of CBD. Hence, industrial hemp is not an optimal source of CBD-rich oil, despite the presence of CBD in the natural growing hemp plant. However, there have been references to CBD-rich hemp oil that is extracted from hemp plants (flowers) that are specifically and uniquely bred to produce potent natural occurring CBD. Limited information is available to establish credibility, but if such is the case, it is imperative that consumers do their own research when considering using hemp oil to treat one ailment or another.
While both hemp oil and CBD oil are derived from plants belonging to the same species, their respective properties set them apart. To prevent confusion and misuse, consumers should educate themselves and also pay close attention to the list of ingredients that are used in manufacturing these cannabis oil products. Consumers should also take care and be cautious since hemp and marijuana are still guided by strict federal laws in the U.S, with grey areas that are seemingly exploited by suppliers in the marketplace. While CBD oil and hemp oil may provide effective therapeutic relief in one form or another, they are not one in the same, and consumers should be diligent in their own education about these products.