The Difference Between Hemp Oil and CBD Oil

Hemp, Marijuana, and Cannabis are terms often used interchangeably even though, there are separate definitions for all in place.

Further confusion is brought about when considering the chemicals: CBD and THC.

First of all, it is important to understand that hemp oil and CBD oil are completely different.

Yes, they have some overlapping benefits but, for every illness, one will be better than the other. They can be considered as cousins.

Companies are duping customers by selling hemp oil products in the name of CBD oil. They are using the confusion surrounding hemp and CBD to their benefit.

The chemical make-up and effects in the body of hemp and CBD are significantly different.

This article will thoroughly explain the differences between hemp oil and CBD oil and hopefully, clear away any doubts you have so that, you can make well-informed choices when purchasing the products.

What is Hemp Oil?

Cannabis refers to a group of plants containing 3 scientifically recognized species – Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis.[1]

Within each species, there are different varieties of the plant.

This is due to environmental changes (water, soil, land) between each location where the plants are grown and differences in method of cultivation.

The differentiating factor between hemp and marijuana is very simple; it is just the total content of THC. [2]

Varieties of Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica and Cannabis ruderalis with a total THC content of less than 0.3% are regarded as hemp.

Those with a THC content greater than 0.3% are defined as marijuana.

You might be wondering what THC is and why it is so important.

THC is the psychoactive chemical constituent of Cannabis responsible for inducing the feeling of a ‘high’ upon smoking or ingesting marijuana.

As hemp contains less than 0.3% of THC by weight, it lacks the intoxicating properties seen with marijuana.

Hemp oil also known as hemp seed oil, is extracted from hemp seeds under very high pressures.

Hemp oil out-competes all plant-based products for its uniquely high omega-3 and omega-6 content. [3]

These nutrients are natural moisturizers and essential to maintaining healthy skin. Hemp oil only contains trace amounts of CBD.

Hemp is one of the strongest natural fibers on the planet. Mankind has been using it for many decades now as a building material.

More recently, hemp oil was discovered as a potent immunostimulant. The nutrients found in hemp can act as antioxidant, anti-microbial, anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory agents.

Furthermore, hemp oil has a very high nutritional value as, it provides healthy fats as well as a range of different vitamins and minerals.

The therapeutic uses of hemp oil are mainly centered around skin and hair diseases. Hemp oil shampoos and conditioners are widely available.

Whilst, the trend of hemp oil cosmetic products is yet to reach many developing nations, beauty stores in the USA, UK, and Europe are full of such products.

Before exploring the intrinsic chemical and therapeutic properties of hemp oil and CBD oil in further detail, let’s consider a brief overview of CBD oil as well.

What is CBD Oil?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the many chemicals found in Cannabis plants. CBD is extracted from Cannabis sativa plants.

Unlike hemp oil which is extracted just from the seeds of C.sativa, CBD is obtained after grinding up all parts of the plant (flowers, leaves, stalk and etc.)

The CBD is separated from other chemical constituents of C.sativa and then added to a base oil – generally, coconut or olive.

CBD oil products range from topical applications to oral supplements. Natural health stores will sell everything from CBD oil lotions, lip balms, gels, sprays to CBD-infused beverages and capsules.

CBD has gained massive popularity in a short span of time for its robust antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-epileptic and anti-pain properties.

CBD exerts its effects in the human body via the endocannabinoid signaling system.

This system is used by almost every organ in the body and it is essential to maintain to well-functioning systems.

Hemp oil has shown greater potential in alleviating and treating dermatological conditions. Whilst, CBD has become a popular choice for epilepsy, arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

In other words, CBD shows stronger effects in conditions related to severe pain and inflammation.

Skin and hair diseases require chemicals that can nourish the skin/scalp with vitamins, fats and proteins which is why hemp is the better choice.

The rest of this article will be comparing hemp oil and CBD oil side-by-side. If you are looking to find which is better for a certain illness, hopefully, this article will give you an answer.

Key Differences

In terms of chemical make-up, hemp oil offers a wider array of nutrients. Whilst, CBD oil takes just CBD from hemp and turns it into a much more concentrated form.

Hemp oil is generally preferred for skin and hair diseases. CBD oil completely outweighs hemp oil for alleviating symptoms of epilepsy and arthritis.

Topical applications of hemp oil are preferable for dermatological conditions. At present, oral CBD oil supplements have been more researched and are thus, more famous.

1. Ingredients

CBD oil:

We are first considering CBD oil because the answer is very simple.

CBD oils are the best way to get the most concentrated amounts of CBD as, CBD is the only cannabinoid in there. Cannabis sativa plants have over 60 different cannabinoids.

CBD is extracted from the plant and added to a base oil which is generally coconut or olive.

Hemp oil:

Hemp oil has a broader spectrum in the sense that it contains different types of nutrients.

The most abundant are fatty acids – omega-3 and omega-6. Approximately 56% of hemp oil is linoleic acid (a type of omega-6 fatty acid).

Hemp Oil ranks first amongst plant-based oils for proportion and quantity of healthy fatty acids. [4]

The omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are present in a low 3:1 ratio, which is ideal for a healthy balanced diet.

The oil contains a decent amount of vitamin E. Vitamin E is a strong anti-oxidant and is known to protect the skin from UV damage. [5]

Interestingly, CBD is an even better anti-oxidant than vitamin E and vitamin C. [6]

Nonetheless, hemp oil contains small amounts of many other anti-oxidant agents.

It is difficult for scientists to say which of hemp and CBD oils is the better anti-oxidant agent.

This is because in some illnesses CBD oil provides better anti-oxidant activity whilst in others, hemp oil is the better anti-oxidant agent.

Hemp oil is unique in the sense that it has a significant protein component unlike, many other plant-based oils.

The proteins are, edestin and albumin which can be broken down in the body to help make other proteins.

2. Usage

Hemp oil:

Most hemp oil products are for topical use. The oil can be bought as just an oil, or it can be an ingredient of cosmetic products, like: shampoos, lotions, gels and balms.

For topical application, you can use as much hemp oil as needed to cover all the areas of the skin and scalp. Use in moderation.

Dietary hemp oil will generally be available alongside topical applications. However, as most individuals use hemp oil for skin conditions topical forms are preferable as, they can reach the area of damage faster.

If considering hemp oil for overall health benefits and well-being, the dietary supplement is preferred.

The Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine recommends hemp oil supplements to pregnant women for their daily omega-3 intake. [7]

CBD oil:

One of the key reasons to develop CBD oils was that doctors wanted people to move away from medicinal cannabis to a safer option.

There is a greater variety in the product types of CBD oil. For cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy, the oral capsule form of CBD is more preferred.

Topical CBD oil can help relieve joint pain in arthritis patients. The oral form is also used in arthritis.

Skin diseases like: acne, epidermolysis bullosa and psoriasis can be better managed by topical CBD oil. For dermatological conditions, topical application has proven more effective than oral supplements.

Topical CBD oil will reach the area of damage faster and in greater quantity. This is why CBD oil products for skin conditions are generally sold in shampoo, lotion or just oil forms.[8]

For both hemp oil and CBD oil, we advise you to start with low doses (5 – 10 mg/kg) and then slowly increase it if you are experiencing positive results. [9]

3. Benefits

For Skin Conditions

Hemp oil imparts anti-inflammatory activity by increasing oxygenation and blood flow to the skin.

The omega-3, vitamin E and beta-carotene in hemp can deeply moisturize dry skin and help alleviate itching of the skin and scalp. [10]

The antioxidants in hemp regulate oil build-up in acne and may boost skin rejuvenation in sunburns, dermatitis and lichen planus. [11]

CBD oil can impart anti-inflammatory effects which, help relieve the skin of pimples and redness.

People are choosing to use topical CBD oil for treating acne after hearing about its positive effects in others.

Hemp oil protects from dry skin by controlling abnormal water loss. [12]

The omega-3, vitamin E and beta-carotene in hemp can deeply moisturize dry skin and help alleviate itching of the skin and scalp. [13]

During psoriasis, patients experience bleeding skin and swollen joints. [14] Hemp oil can return abnormality in skin cells to normal. [15]

The proinflammatory responses are reduced so, the skin is no longer under immune stress and it can begin healing itself. [16]

Experimental evidence for treating this disease with hemp oil has existed for a while now as, in 2011 a Chinese medicine containing hemp oil was patented and sold in the market.[17]

Eczema is one of the most common types of skin disorders. The skin inflames and generates strong itching sensations. [18]

It can be caused by deficiencies in a specific type of omega-6 fatty acid called gamma-linoleic acid (GLA). [19] Hemp oil is abundant with GLA (55% of total fat content). [20]

A 20-week clinical trial found hemp oil was better than olive oil for treating eczema. [21] Patients reported back with reduced itching and dryness of the skin.

Further into the trial, patients took fewer conventional eczema medicines as, they could visually see and feel hemp oil’s effects.

Epidermolysis bullosa is a skin disease that causes easy blistering of the skin and makes the skin very fragile. Current treatments focus on caring for the blisters and preventing new ones. [22]

A very recent (May 2018) study published in Pediatric Dermatology followed 3 families who chose to use topical CBD oil on their young children battling with this disease. [23]

Topical CBD oil helped to reduce blistering, pain and itching in young children with epidermolysis bullosa. It produced no side effects. This is an ongoing area of research.

Which is the better option for skin?

Hemp oil products were developed much earlier to CBD oil products for skincare. Self-initiated use of hemp oil for common skin diseases produced highly positive reviews.

This includes: eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis. Hemp oil is the way to go for these diseases.

Scientists avoided spending time and resources in researching whether CBD oil was useful for the conditions which hemp oil had already shown positive effects in.

Rather they explored CBD oil for other skin diseases and found it to show high potential in epidermolysis bullosa.

For acne, both can be helpful and the opinions for which is better vary from person to person.

For Hair Conditions

In 2017, a hemp oil conditioner was patented on the basis of it providing protection from alopecia. It can nourish hair from the roots and eliminate inflammation-causing microbes.[24]

A very recent 2019 clinical trial published in the reputed Nature journal, found commercial hemp oil products to boost hair growth of participants within just 6 weeks. [25]

The products enhanced glossiness and smoothness of the hair whilst, reducing hair loss significantly.

Nowadays, hemp oil is listed alongside the traditional coconut and almond oils for hair benefits.

Hemp oil proteins could be used to build collagen. Collagen can improve the elasticity of hair so that, it feels lighter on the head and is more resistant to breakage. [26]

Vitamin E in hemp protects the cells providing color to the hair can and thus, greying can be prevented for longer. [27]

The omega-3’s in hemp oil supplements can help treating psoriasis – a skin disease that induces inflammation of the scalp and dandruff production. [28],[29]

Which one is better option for hair?

CBD oils have not been researched much for hair conditions. Hemp oil is the prefered one.

For Cancer

A 4-year clinical trial monitored the effect of CBD on breast cancer patients. [30]

An astonishing 92% of the patients showed evidence for slowed tumor growth and impaired spread of cancerous cells from the primary site of infection to secondary sites.

Melanoma is the most severe form of skin cancer. UV radiation from sunlight is the leading cause of melanomas. [31]

Skin culture studies found hemp oil provided protection from both UVA and UVB rays. Although most sunrays are UVA, both have the capacity to induce skin cancer. [32]

CBD has the capacity to block angiogenesis signals from tumors. [33] This results in very narrow blood vessels being constructed to tumors. [34],[35]

The cells are deprived of oxygen, which eventually leads to death.

A pathbreaking glioma mouse study revealed 0.5 mg CBD doses were adequate to invoke self-automated death of cancerous cells. [36]

A clinical trial with 48 leukemia patients found CBD safe to be used alongside conventional treatment drugs. [37]

CBD reduced the likelihood of patients developing more severe forms of this cancer and lowered relapse rate.

A 2012 study concluded CBD was able to reduce metastasis and invasiveness of human lung cancer cells implanted into mice. [38]

CBD concentrations as small as 0.01 micromolar were sufficient to cause these anti-cancer effects.

Which one is better for cancer?

Clinical trials and mouse studies reveal that the amount of CBD needed to show effective anti-cancer effects can be found within hemp oil.

However, to get the benefits of CBD for breast, glioma and lung cancers, scientists would recommend using CBD oil instead of hemp oil.

This is because in CBD oil, the CBD is not mixed with other nutrients which, may not be useful in these cancers.

Additionally, through CBD oil patients will be able to administer higher doses as the CBD is more concentrated.

For melanomas, the vitamins and fatty acids found in hemp oil can be useful. So, hemp oil would be more preferable.

For Side Effects of Cancer

Chemo and radiotherapy cause extensive damage to the hair and immune system.

One particular study found that even CBD could effectively kill cancerous cells and not weaken the hair or immune system.

Although hemp oil contains enough CBD to showcase benefits according to this study, a CBD oil product is likely to be more effective as, it contains more concentrated and pure forms of CBD.

Chemotherapy produces severe side effects, including dizziness and vomiting. [39] CBD doses of 5 to 10 mg/kg can help alleviate these side effects. [40],[41]

Cisplatin is widely used in chemotherapy of lung and ovarian cancers. [42] A third of patients taking this drug experience harmful effects on kidney function. [43]

When CBD was given alongside cis-platin to mice, inflammation of the kidneys was reduced, and their function was less impaired. [44]

Which one is better?

Experts would recommend CBD oil over hemp oil for alleviating side effects of cancer.

In fact, CBD supplements have become an approved form of treatment for the side effects of chemo and radiotherapy in some countries/states.

To Reduce Seizures in Epilepsy

The vitamins, proteins and healthy fats in hemp oil have shown no advantages for this condition.

Only CBD can help reduce seizures in patients with epilepsy. Thus, CBD oil is the only way to go.

CBD oral supplements have been approved for the treatment of Dravet Syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome.

CBD works by reducing hyperexcitability in patients, which may allow seizures to slowly fade away.

CBD oil has shown clinical success in reducing seizures amongst drug-resistant childhood epilepsies.

The anti-anxiety, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of CBD oil could be used to improve quality of life in epilepsy patients.

Which one is better?

CBD oil completely outweighs hemp oil in this case.

For Arthritis

Arthritis is a condition in which individuals experience inflammation of one or more joints. This leads to symptoms like: swelling, pain, stiffness, redness around joints and disrupted motion. [45]

Current arthritis medications help reduce inflammation of the joints. The vitamins and minerals in hemp oil offer strong anti-oxidant activity.

However, for this particular condition the anti-oxidant properties of CBD are better.

CBD oil can help reduce inflammation in the joints of arthritis patients. By reducing inflammation, CBD oil can automatically provide pain relief.

Medicinal cannabis is commonly used amongst arthritis patients to reduce pain. CBD oil may do a better job as, it does not cause the side effects seen with medicinal cannabis.

Although, mouse studies show high potential for CBD oil in arthritis, before it can become an approved treatment option, trustworthy human clinical trials must be done to evaluate the safety and effectiveness.

Which one is better?

For arthritis specifically, the anti-oxidant effects of CBD are greater than the anti-oxidants effects of hemp oil. Thus, patients want maximum access to just CBD.

In such cases, CBD oil is the preferable option as, it will offer high quantities of CBD and in more concentrated forms.


Hemp oil provides a broader spectrum of beneficial nutrients and chemicals of which CBD is one. CBD oil takes the CBD from hemp plants purifies it and concentrates it.

Since CBD oil has been discovered to provide potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects on its own, it has stolen away from the limelight from hemp oil.

However, hemp oil is still preferred for skin and hair diseases as, the healthy fats and vitamins in the oil are essential to moisturize and promote rejuvenation of the skin.

CBD oil can be highly effective for reducing pain in arthritis patients.

Oral CBD supplements have been approved by the US FDA for 2 types of epilepsies; in which, CBD helps reduces seizure frequency.

They are both available for oral consumption and topical application.

Hopefully, this article has helped you understand that there is a clear difference between what each oil can offer and that for a certain illness, one will be better than the other.