What's the Difference? | CBD Oil vs. Hemp Oil

Short answer: CBD is for medicinal use and hemp oil is for nutritional use.

CBD oil and hemp oil at first glance may seem to be very similar products that can be used interchangeably, however they are drastically different. Both oils originate from the same plant species which is cannabis sativa; the difference is which part of the plant is used to formulate the oils. Hemp oils are produced from the seeds of the plant while CBD oils are produced from the flowers, leaves and stocks (2). The main difference you will see between the two oils are their respective uses.

A very important point to discuss is that cannabis sativa contains cannabinoid components that affect receptors in the brain. Two major cannabinoids THC and CBD are most relevant in this case, as high THC correlates to intoxicating strains as seen with recreational marijuana use and high CBD strains correlate with medicinal uses. Strains differ by the amount of each cannabinoid they possess. CBD oil contains high CBD but low THC which differs from recreational strains that contain high THC. Hemp oil is different because it contains low cannabinoid levels overall with less than 0.3% THC compared to CBD oil which contains 1-5% THC (1). Hemp oil also has a low CBD content of around 3.5% this is what makes the usages of CBD oil and hemp oil so much different (3).

The difference in cannabinoids gives hemp oil and CBD oil their different uses. The presence of CBD in CBD oil is what allows it to affect cannabinoid receptors in the brain so that CBD oil can be used medicinally. Hemp oil is more similar to olive oil and is used in food preparation for its nutritional benefits. It provides nutritional support that is rich in vitamin E, vitamin B1 and B2, polyunsaturated fats, potassium and magnesium. It may also provide moisture to skin, promote the immune system and lower blood fat levels. Not only is there a nutritional appeal to hemp oil, but it is also used industrially to manufacture shampoos, soaps, fuel and plastics (2).  

Another difference to note is the way in which both oils are made. CBD is made by solvent extraction which uses a solvent such as alcohol or carbon dioxide to go through the plant to separate the compound. The solvent can then be evaporated to leave the concentrated oil for use. Hemp oil is produced by pressing the hemp seeds to extract the oil which is similar to some other oils used in food consumption(2).

Overall, the main differences between hemp oil and CBD oil are the cannabinoid content, the production method, their usages and what the benefit is to using each product. This shows the versatility of botanicals and how one plant can produce two different products that have unique benefits. When looking for a nutritional benefit hemp oil may be a good addition to your diet, but if you are looking for medicinal benefit and relief of symptoms, CBD oil may be a good addition to your lifestyle.


  1. Farinon B, Molinari R, Costantini L, Merendino N. The seed of industrial hemp (cannabis sativa L.): Nutritional quality and potential functionality for human health and Nutrition. Nutrients. 2020;12(7):1935. doi:10.3390/nu12071935
  2. Franciosi A. Hemp oil vs. CBD oil: What's the difference? Honest Marijuana. https://honestmarijuana.com/hemp-oil-vs-cbd-oil/. Published April 3, 2020. Accessed February 26, 2022.
  3. VanDolah HJ, Bauer BA, Mauck KF. Clinicians’ guide to Cannabidiol and hemp oils. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2019;94(9):1840-1851. doi:10.1016/j.mayocp.2019.01.003



This article was edited by Dr. Swathi and was written by Element Apothec Scientific Communications Intern, Caroline Cassol. She is a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) student at University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy in Storrs, Connecticut.

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