Hemp Oil vs CBD Oil: What's The Difference?

Alternaleaf Team
Written by
Alternaleaf Team
May 29, 2023
Last updated:
Dec 15, 2023

There’s been a surge of interest in both hemp oil and CBD oil in recent years. However, while many believe that hemp and CBD are interchangeable, this isn’t correct. While there’s overlap between the two products, they are different in both biology and effect – and if you’re going to use one or the other, then you’ll need to be aware of these differences.

In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at hemp and CBD oil, outlining the key differences, the types of products available and the potential benefits of taking each.

Definition of Hemp Oil and CBD Oil

First, let’s get a deeper understanding of both hemp oil and CBD oil.

Both hemp and CBD come from the cannabis sativa plant species, which is why so many people think that they’re the same thing. But while they’re from the same species, they’re sourced from different chemotypes (basically a subspecies that produces different levels of certain chemicals). Hemp plants have THC levels of less than 0.3%, while cannabis plants have more than 0.3% THC  

Hemp oil comes from the seeds of the cannabis plant. If you cold-press hemp seeds, then you’ll get hemp oil, a dark liquid rich in antioxidant vitamins, essential fatty acids and amino acids.

CBD oil comes from the leaves of the hemp or marijuana plants. CBD is extracted from the leaves and then added to a carrier oil. While it’s extracted from cannabis plants, there’s a crucial difference between CBD oil and other marijuana products: there is no (or very little) THC in CBD oil, which means the product will not get you “high.”

The Legal Status of Hemp and CBD in Australia

While both are technically legal, the way hemp and CBD is treated in Australia is very different.

Though laws differ slightly from state to state, hemp oil is generally considered legal. In most cases, the requirement is that the hemp oil contains less than 1% THC. But by definition hemp oil never contains more than 1% THC – all commercially available hemp oil products need to fall within the legal limit as a requirement of sale.

It’s a different story with CBD oil. Full-spectrum CBD oil containing one percent or less of THC is technically legal to buy over the counter in Australia, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find it at your local chemist.

This is due to the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) requirement for sufficient data to be supplied before a product is made available for sale. Conducting the research required for this data is costly and time-consuming and something only very few pharmaceutical companies can afford to do. It’s hoped that there will be over-the-counter CBD oils available in-pharmacy by the end of 2023.

But in the meantime, you’ll need to go to your doctor to get a prescription for full-spectrum CBD oil, even if the THC content is below one percent.

Hemp Oil vs CBD Oil

While hemp oil and CBD oil both come from the same plant species, the way they’re processed is different and that leads to different outcomes. Whether one is better than the other depends on the reason you’re taking the oil.

As a general rule, if you’re taking the oil for nutritional purposes you’d select hemp oil. If you’re looking to manage conditions such as anxiety or depression, then you’d choose CBD oil. You can also take CBD oil for pain relief purposes, though hemp oil may be able to help with this too.

Types of Hemp and CBD Oil Products

There’s a growing list of hemp and CBD oil products on the market, with more product types available for CBD than hemp. For hemp, producers often process the substance into seeds, seed extracts and oils.

The main CBD products you’ll find include topicals, gummies and oils, with oils being the most broadly prescribed. (Gummies and other edibles are not currently available in Australia.) When researching different CBD oil products, you’ll find that they’re referred to as full-spectrum, broad-spectrum and isolates.

Full-spectrum CBD oil involves processing the whole plant and contains small traces of THC (between 1–3%). Broad-spectrum CBD oil is just full-spectrum CBD that has been through an additional filtering process to further lower the amount of THC. CBD isolate oil contains only CBD, without any THC.

Medical Benefits of Hemp and CBD Oil

The research into the medical benefits of hemp and CBD oil is still young, but early findings have shown that both products offer a high number of benefits.

Hemp seeds and oil is predominantly used as a dietary supplement rich in omega-3s. Omega-3s have been shown to protect the brain against neurological conditions, improve heart health, reduce inflammation and improve skin conditions.

CBD oil may be beneficial in the treatment of depression, anxiety, epilepsy, chronic pain, IBS, inflammation, PTSD and fibromyalgia.

Safety Concerns and Side Effects of Hemp and CBD Oil

In general, both hemp oil and CBD oil are considered to be safe, with most people experiencing no side effects. However, using CBD is not recommended if you are pregnant or nursing.

CBD is metabolised through the liver and there are instances where its use is not recommended for people with liver disease, or who are using alcohol or sedative medications, but this is determined on a case-by-case basis and is best discussed with your doctor.

Some reported side effects of hemp oil include, nausea, dizziness, drowsiness, decreased appetite and dry mouth.

Some common side effects of CBD oil include, appetite changes, diarrhoea and drowsiness

If you experience any side effects after taking either CBD or hemp oil, then consult with your doctor.

The Final Word On Hemp & CBD

There is an overlap between hemp and CBD, but there are key differences to be aware of and different reasons for taking one or the other. If you’re looking for nutritional benefits, then hemp oil is the way to go. If you’re looking for help managing depression, anxiety and sleep, then CBD oil will be best.

But before embarking on a new treatment plan, the best option is, as always, to consult with a doctor first.

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