Yes, There Is a Difference Between CBD and Hemp Oil—Here’s How to Tell

Experts explain the science behind both of these products.

With so much talk about CBD and hemp seed oil swirling around (not to mention newcomer Delta-8, which is actually derived from hemp), it’s easy to get confused about what’s what—and, even more so, why these compounds are worthwhile in the first place.

First things first, it’s important to know why these compounds are surging at this point in time—and it all comes down to the 2018 Farm Bill. With its passing came the legalization of industrial hemp, which made hemp seed oil and CBD (which is derived from hemp) available to the masses.

With that in mind, we decided it was high time to do a deep-dive into what sets CBD and hemp seed oil apart. Ahead, with the help of industry experts, discover the benefits of each cannabis Sativa-derived compound.

What’s the difference between hemp oil and CBD oil?

To kick things off, understand that both compounds come from the same plant family but they each come from different species within it.

“The Cannabis Sativa plant family has species that range from high THC/low CBD to high CBD/low THC and are both female and male,” explains Tariq Hasan, the founder and CEO of terraform, a CBD skincare brand. “The male species produce seeds which contain oil—much like any carrier oil from seed such as sunflower oil—and is where hemp seed oil comes from. The female species produce flowers, which contain potent cannabinoids such as CBD, CBG, CBC, CBN, and THC. The cannabinoids are predominantly found only in the female species with only trace amounts being found in the male species.”

In layman’s terms, CBD is extracted from the flowers of cannabis Sativa plants (though, some brands will state that it’s from the stalk and stems, which, while possible, only offer terrace amounts, and is often a scapegoat for brands looking to create CBD products in states where the flower is illegal), while hemp oil comes from the seeds. And, while both products come from the same plant, hemp plants contain a significant amount of CBD (compared to cannabis plants), while hemp seeds do not.

Since hemp seed oil (not to be confused with hemp plants as a whole) comes from the seeds, Ian Bush, the marketing director of HiiStick, a hemp-derived Delta-8 brand, says that it doesn’t contain any cannabinoids. “You’re really using hemp oil for its nutritional and anti-inflammatory benefits, which is why it’s popularly found in supplements and skincare products,” he explains. “CBD, on the other hand, is extracted from mature leaf [aka flower] that does contain cannabinoids, so when you ingest it through sublingual, transdermal, or other delivery methods, you can feel the effects. It’s known for its neuroprotective and anxiolytic benefits, so it’s ideal for mental health.”

What are the benefits of CBD and hemp oil?

Now that you know where each compound comes from, let’s talk a bit more about each of their benefits.


CBD is renowned for its calming effects, whether when applied to the skin (it can soothe acne, eczema, and psoriasis, just to name a few) or consumed in liquid, capsule, gummy, or vapor form.

While there is still so much research being done on CBD’s exact benefits, Hasan says that the most beneficial type of CBD oil is full-spectrum, which contains not only CBD but many of the other minor cannabinoids, such as CBG, CBC, and CBN—and sometimes even THC—as well. “These together provide the ‘entourage’ effect, which has an amplified benefit compared to using only CBD by itself,” he explains. “The main benefit many experiences is pain management, anxiety relief, better sleep, helping with acne, and helping with brain health, among a plethora of others.”

Hemp seed oil:

Hemp seed oil, on the other hand, is a quality choice thanks to its hydrating effect and fatty acid make-up.

“Hemp seed oil is like any carrier oil that will provide great hydration, helping to lock in moisture,” Hasan says. “In addition, hemp seed oil contains large amounts of omega-6 and omega-3 fats, which are two types of unsaturated fats, or ‘good fats,’ and all nine essential amino acids, the materials your body uses to make protein.”

Because of this, research has found that consuming hemp seed oil can help reduce the likelihood of heart disease. Who would’ve known?

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Is hemp oil the same as CBD?

While both CBD and hemp seed oil can be beneficial for the skin, Hasan admits that CBD goes beyond basic hydration and has the ability to more significantly help with inflammation, anti-aging, and cell protection. The trick is knowing just how much CBD to look for when the skin is your main priority, as well as which ingredient labels actually point to its use. This is important because, oftentimes, companies will create imagery that lends to the idea of CBD (which is more expensive) while only using hemp seed oil (which, while still beneficial, isn’t as topically beneficial as CBD).