A field full of hemp plants and flowers.

In the last several years, the CBD industry has totally exploded into mainstream culture. A little-known cannabinoid only a decade ago, you can now find CBD products everywhere from upscale boutiques to gas stations.

Along with the growth of this industry, though, there’s also been a growth in confusion about what CBD and hemp are, exactly. If you do a cursory Google search for information about the hemp plant and its cannabinoids, you’re bound to find a wealth of conflicting information.

If you are thinking about taking CBD, you are likely doing your due diligence to find out whether or not this is a product you want to incorporate into your daily wellness routine. You will sometimes find the terms hemp and CBD used interchangeably, which can add to the confusion and your sense of certainty.

We’re here to put all that to rest. Are you wondering what the difference is when you compare hemp vs. CBD? Are you curious to learn what scientists know (and what they don’t know!) about cannabinoids and the hemp plant? Let’s take a deep dive to take a look at everything you need to know.

What Is Hemp?

Hemp (or industrial hemp) is the name for a specific class of Cannabis sativa. It’s thought that hemp is actually one of the earliest plants that humans cultivated. Between one and fifty thousand years ago, humans gathered hemp in order to make cloth way before societies became agricultural. (1)

There is quite a bit of confusion when it comes to the terms hemp, cannabis, CBD, and the names of other cannabinoids. You may sometimes hear the word “hemp” used in a way that is synonymous with the word “cannabis.” However, “hemp” can also refer to industrial hemp, which is how we are using the term here.

Industrial hemp is a type of Cannabis sativa cultivar that is cultivated specifically for medicinal or industrial use. It is used in a long list of different commercial items, including rope, clothing, paper, textiles, paint, biofuel, plastics, animal feed, and food. (2)

The United States government classified industrial hemp as cannabis that has a concentration of THC below 0.3%. This means that, though there might be trace amounts of THC in hemp products, there isn’t enough to create the psychoactive effects that are commonly associated with marijuana.

The leaves and the flowers of the hemp plant are often used to make CBD products. In the next section, we’ll discuss what CBD is before taking a look at what the difference is between hemp and CBD. Later on in the article, we’ll discuss the difference between hemp oil and CBD oil, as this is also a distinction worth making.

What Is CBD?

CBD is short for cannabidiol, which is a cannabinoid that naturally occurs in the cannabis (and hemp) plant. Cannabinoids are active compounds in the plant, of which there are at least 113 distinct types that have been isolated so far.

The most well-known of all of the cannabinoids is THC. Short for tetrahydrocannabinol, this cannabinoid is responsible for the high that is so frequently associated with cannabis.

The second most famous cannabinoid, though, as well as the second most prevalent in the plant, is CBD. In fact, up to 40% of the extract of the Cannabis sativa plant is this main non-psychotropic cannabinoid. (3)

CBD is present in both cannabis and industrial hemp. Most of the CBD products in the United States are extracted from industrial hemp in order to meet the requirement that there is less than 0.3% THC in the product. (4)

There is a long list of reasons why people use CBD products. While there is a lot more research that needs to be done about the potential therapeutic benefits of CBD, a number of studies have looked into the potential for CBD to be used in the treatment of pain, anxiety, cognition, movement disorders, and more.

Hemp Vs. CBD: What’s the Difference?

Basically, hemp is the plant that CBD is extracted from. As mentioned above, while CBD is naturally occurring in both cannabis and industrial hemp, many CBD products are made by extractions from industrial hemp in order to meet the requirements for the maximum amount of THC.

It’s important to understand, though, that hemp oil and CBD oil aren’t the same thing. They are both products that are available to consumers and serve many different purposes. However, you’ll want to make sure you understand what you’re purchasing before you press “buy.”

What’s the Deal With Cannabinoids?

There’s no getting around the fact that the science behind hemp is quite complicated. At this point, we’ve established that the compounds CBD, THC, and others are known as cannabinoids. However, there is a further distinction to be made between phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids. (5)

While the term cannabinoids refers to chemical compounds that act on an individual’s cannabinoid receptors, phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids are terms that further distinguish where these cannabinoids are coming from.

Before we get too deep into it, it’s worth understanding that all humans (and other mammals) have what is known as an endocannabinoid system. This is a physiological system that is responsible for regulating a number of important bodily processes, including:

  • Immune function
  • Pain
  • Memory
  • Temperature regulation
  • Sleep
  • Mood
  • Digestion
  • Appetite
  • Motor control
  • Pleasure/reward
  • Reproduction/fertility
  • Inflammation, including neuroinflammation

Researchers have divided the endocannabinoid system into three different parts. These are:

  • Endocannabinoids
  • Enzymes that break down cannabinoids and endocannabinoids
  • Nervous system receptors that cannabinoids and endocannabinoids bind with (6)

Basically, the endocannabinoid system is absolutely vital to homeostasis. Homeostasis can be defined as the efforts of your body to keep all bodily processes in the right zone of function. It is the process by which your body tries to keep the environment inside your body both optimal and stable.

Interested in learning more about cannabinoids? Check out our full guide here.

What Are Endocannabinoids?

Endocannabinoids are similar to phytocannabinoids, except that they are produced by your body. You might also hear these referred to as endogenous cannabinoids.

There are two key endocannabinoids that researchers have identified so far, which are called 2-AG (2-arachidonoylglyerol) and AEA (anandamide).

Your body has endocannabinoid receptors throughout. If the ECS needs to take action, endocannabinoids will bind to the various receptors in your body. So far, it is known that there are two main receptors, which have been named CB1 and CB2.

CB1 receptors are largely found in the body’s central nervous system. CB2 receptors, on the other hand, are mostly found in your body’s peripheral nervous system. This is particularly the case in your immune cells. (7)

What Are Phytocannabinoids?

Phytocannabinoids are cannabinoids just like endocannabinoids, except they are produced by the cannabis or hemp plant rather than your body. Most of the phytocannabinoids in the plant are concentrated in the hairy outgrowths of the female plant’s flowering heads, known as the glandular trichomes. (8)

What Is Hemp Oil?

Before we define hemp oil, we’ll need to talk about some problems with the language here. Basically, hemp oil can refer to two different types of extractions. While they are both thought to be beneficial, they aren’t the same, so it’s important to understand what you’re looking for before you go shopping.

Some people might use the term hemp oil to refer to the oil made from hemp seeds. This is more properly referred to as hemp seed oil, since it helps to reduce the confusion about what is being spoken or written about.

However, hemp oil can also be used to discuss a full-spectrum extraction of the industrial hemp plant. In this case, the phrase would be synonymous with what is also called “full-spectrum CBD oil.” We’ll discuss the difference between full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and CBD isolate in the section entitled “what is CBD oil?”

What Is Hemp Seed Oil?

Hemp seed oil is a product that is made by cold pressing the seeds of the hemp plant. While it is rich in vitamin E and essential amino acids such as Omega-3 fatty acids, (9) there aren’t any cannabinoids in hemp seed oil.

Some of the nutrients that are in hemp seeds in addition to those listed above include:

  • Iron
  • Calcium
  • Vitamin C
  • Gamma-linolenic acid
  • Magnesium
  • B vitamins
  • Arginine

Most of these nutrients help to contribute to overall health as well as provide the body with necessary minerals. Hemp seed oil actually contains 20% of your recommended daily dose of iron, which can help prevent anemia (iron deficiency).

There are a number of potential benefits of hemp seed oil. Some of these are similar to the proposed benefits of CBD oil, however, again hemp seed oil and CBD oil are two separate products made from different parts of the hemp plant.

The Potential Benefits of Hemp Seed Oil

It is thought that hemp seed oil can help contribute to good cardiovascular health. The thought here is that it can help to improve low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides.

Beyond potentially helping with heart health, it is thought that hemp seed oil can help with:

  • Improving skin conditions
  • Modifying the immune system
  • Relieving constipation
  • Improving gastrointestinal conditions

It is also thought that hemp seed oil potentially has antioxidant effects, anti-cancer effects, and anti-aging effects. Let’s take a deeper dive into some of the possible benefits of hemp seed oil for a variety of health issues.

Skin Disorders

Hemp seed oil might be helpful in treating a variety of skin conditions. Researchers believe this is because of the omega-3s and the omega-6s prevalent in the oil of hemp seeds. Studies have found that acne, eczema, psoriasis, and lichen planus might be improved with the use of hemp seed oil.

Menopause and PMS

One study from 2011 found that the emotional and physical symptoms that are associated with PMS might be caused by low prostaglandin E1 and a resulting sensitivity to prolactin, which is a hormone. A study from the previous year also found that the complications of menopause could be protected against in rats by the use of hemp seed.

The Antibacterial Properties of Hemp Oil

Hemp oil is known to have antibacterial properties. One study from 2017 found that various types of bacteria had their activity inhibited by hemp oil. This includes the bacteria known as Staphylococcus aureus, which can cause infections of the bone, skin, and heart valve in addition to pneumonia.

What Is CBD Oil? 

CBD oil is extracted from the hemp plant or the cannabis plant. (10) However, pretty much any CBD that you buy from a store or site that isn’t a dispensary will be extracted from the hemp plant. There are three different types of CBD oil that you can find on the market today.

Full-Spectrum CBD Oil

Full-spectrum CBD oil is the simplest extraction of the hemp plant. All of the cannabinoids found in the hemp plant will end up in the extraction, including THC. However, in order to be legal under the Farm Bill of 2018, CBD products must have less than .3% THC content.

There are some theories that taking CBD and THC together, even if only a small amount of THC, creates a result where each cannabinoid produces more results than taking either of them on its own. This is known as the entourage effect.

However, some people don’t want to take CBD oil that has any amount of THC. There are a number of different reasons why this might be the case. For example, some people need to ensure that they won’t have a drug test come back negative, while others might be worried that they are sensitive to THC and don’t want to risk having any mind-altering effects.

Broad-Spectrum CBD Oil

Broad-spectrum CBD oil is a type of CBD oil that has many other cannabinoids beyond CBD but doesn’t have any THC. Basically, this type of CBD oil is made by separately extracting each desired cannabinoid and mixing them together into one oil base.

CBD Oil Isolate

CBD isolate is the choice for many purests. If you’re interested in the benefits of CBD but don’t want to worry about ingesting THC or the potential effects of other cannabinoids, this is the choice for you.

Why Do Some CBD Oils Have More than 0.3% THC?

Almost all of the CBD oil you can purchase in the United States is going to be made from industrial hemp. This means that the product contains less than 0.3% THC.

However, in states where cannabis is legal, you will find products at dispensaries that have high amounts of both CBD and THC. You won’t legally be able to find CBD oil with high levels of THC outside of dispensaries in the states.

What Are Some of the Other Cannabinoids in Full and Broad Spectrum CBD?

There are thought to be more than 100 cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. On top of that, there are also roughly 300 non-cannabinoid chemicals in the plant.

Most of the cannabinoids are present at trace levels. This makes it really hard for researchers and scientists to accurately detect them. On top of that, there are different amounts of each cannabinoid in different strains of hemp and cannabis.

However, there are some major cannabinoids that are worth knowing about. It’s worth noting that the world of hemp research is still in its infancy. While there need to be more studies done about CBD and THC, there are even fewer to be found regarding less common cannabinoids.

The most well-known and prevalent cannabinoid is THC. This is also the only plant cannabinoid that is known to have an obvious intoxicating effect all on its own. The presence of other cannabinoids, however, can influence the effects that people feel from THC.

As mentioned above, CBD products contain 0.3% THC or less in order to ensure that they are not intoxicating. Some CBD products, such as those made with CBD isolate, don’t contain any THC or contain very trace amounts.

CBC is another one of the major cannabinoids. The third most common cannabinoid found in cannabis and hemp, this compound was first discovered way back in 1966.

One study from 2013 that was published in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology found that CBC could help to encourage new cell growth in mice that had skin tumors and inflammation.

CBN is another cannabinoid worth knowing about. Short for cannabinol, this cannabinoid is created when THC degrades due to exposure to light or age. This compound has a relaxing, sedative effect.

While there are many more cannabinoids we could touch upon, CBGa is the last one we’ll explore in this article. As the precursor to all of the other cannabinoids, this is sometimes called the mother of all cannabinoids.

Why Do People Take CBD Oil?

It’s important to understand that it has only been recently that scientists have had easier access to hemp and cannabis for research purposes. Because of strict federal laws regarding the drug, researchers used to have to jump through a lot of hoops in order to study these plants. Even when they were able to perform research, there were serious limitations that made the process difficult and the results less than optimal.

All that being said, there have been a number of studies that look at the potential benefits of CBD. On top of that, there are a number of surveys and anecdotal claims that help us understand why people choose to take CBD oil as a part of their daily wellness routine.

According to a 2019 Gallup poll, 14% of Americans said that they used CBD products personally. Considering the growing market and popularity of this cannabinoid in the United States, one can assume that the percentage is quite a bit higher these days.

In this poll, it was found that most of the people who use CBD products are between the ages of 18 and 29. However, there were healthy amounts of all age demographics using CBD products.

The largest percentage of CBD users can be found in the western part of the US, with the South coming in second. Both the East and the Midwest used CBD products about the same amount as each other.

According to this survey, the most common reason to use CBD products was for nonspecific pain. The next most common reasons were:

  • Anxiety
  • Sleep and insomnia
  • Arthritis
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Stress
  • Soreness and muscle spasms
  • General health
  • PTSD, neurological disorders, ADHD, and other mental health issues

If you are thinking about taking CBD for a specific purpose, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor first. While taking CBD is generally considered to be safe, it is known to have some contraindications with other medications. This means that if you take any other medicine, there could be a negative reaction between it and the cannabinoid.

Your physician should be able to help you determine whether taking CBD oil is a good idea for you. They can also help guide you when it comes to a good dosage to start at and any other questions you might have.

What Does the Research Say About CBD Oil?

When you look into the research behind CBD and cannabinoids, you’ll find that many of the studies that have occurred so far have been animal studies. This means that further research is needed in order to fully understand the potential therapeutic benefits of CBD for humans.

As noted by the Gallup poll above, one of the most common reasons that people use CBD products is to help deal with pain. Interestingly, the hemp and cannabis plants have been used for thousands of years in order to treat pain in particular as well as a number of other disorders.

Might Help Manage Chronic Pain

There have been a handful of studies that show that CBD might help to reduce chronic pain. It is believed that CBD impacts the activity of one’s endocannabinoid receptors, which then helps to reduce inflammation among other things.

It is thought that CBD might help with certain types of pain more than others. These include back pain and nerve pain.

So far, studies have pointed to the notion that combining CBD and THC makes them both more effective. This theory is known as the entourage effect.

There have also been human studies that show that a combination of THC and CBD can help to treat pain that results from arthritis and multiple sclerosis (MS).

Fibromyalgia patients also might find some relief through the use of CBD. Some research has pointed to the notion that the symptoms of a number of rheumatic diseases could be relieved with this cannabinoid.

Could Help Reduce Mental Health Disorder Symptoms

A person’s overall health and wellbeing can be seriously negatively impacted by mental health disorders such as anxiety disorders. One of the most common ways to treat these disorders is with prescription drugs. However, patients are increasingly wary of the unpleasant side effects that can accompany these medications.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has stated that animal studies have shown that CBD can reduce stress in animals. Beyond generalized anxiety disorder, some experts believe that CBD can help with the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social anxiety disorder, (SAD), and other anxiety conditions.

One study published in Neurotherapeutics found that CBD might play an anxiolytic role, though they note that more human studies are needed.

Might Have Neuroprotective Properties

Some researchers believe that CBD might benefit individuals who have neurological disorders. This is because of the way that CBD acts on brain-signaling systems including the endocannabinoid system.

Actually, neurological disorders such as MS and epilepsy are some of the most studied areas when it comes to potential uses for CBD. More research is needed in this area of study, however, there have been promising findings so far.

So far, only one drug that includes CBD has been approved by the FDA as a medical treatment. This is a prescription cannabidiol product known as Epidiolex, which is prescribed to treat a number of different seizure disorders.

Might Help Cancer Patients With Certain Symptoms

Some of the symptoms of cancer as well as the side effects of treatment might be alleviated by the use of CBD, according to research. The symptoms include vomiting, nausea, and pain. At this point, though, there is a need for more research to be done in order to determine the potential uses of CBD for cancer patients.

May Boost Heart Health

There have also been some studies that suggest CBD could be useful in supporting the heart and circulatory system.

For one, CBD might be able to help lower high blood pressure. Since high blood pressure is connected with a number of serious health problems including heart attack, stroke, and metabolic syndrome, managing blood pressure levels is important to one’s overall health.

There is also some evidence that CBD might help to improve artery function. In one study that involved 26 healthy men as participants, it was found that CBD could improve blood flow through the arteries and reduce arterial stiffness.

Potential Anti-Psychotic Effects

CBD might also help to reduce the symptoms of psychosis. More studies are needed in this area, however, there is some interest in whether CBD could be helpful to people with mental health conditions such as schizophrenia.

Could Help Treat Substance Abuse

CBD is known to have a number of different therapeutic properties that could be potentially useful in the treatment of substance abuse disorders. While more studies are needed, there have been animal studies that show CBD might have effects on psychostimulant and opioid addiction. Additionally, some human studies have put forward preliminary evidence that cannabis and tobacco dependence could be impacted positively by CBD.

Might Help People With Sleep Disorders

So far, there have been a number of initial studies into whether CBD can help people with sleep disorders. More research is needed in this area, and not everyone reacts to CBD the same way. Additionally, some studies have found that smaller doses of CBD can be stimulating to people, while higher doses can be more relaxing and sedating.

CBD might help people with sleep issues indirectly through its potential ability to alleviate symptoms of chronic pain, anxiety, and other conditions. The idea is that some individuals might have sleep problems because of their anxiety or chronic pain, and treating the symptoms of these disorders can help them fall asleep and stay asleep easier.

There is also some research that points to potential benefits of using CBD for people with REM sleep behavior disorder, excessive daytime sleepiness disorder, and insomnia.

If you’re considering taking CBD oil for the first time, take a look at our CBD user guide.

Hemp Oil, Hemp Seed Oil, and CBD Oil: What Are the Differences?

Let’s take a look at hemp oil, hemp seed oil, and CBD oil to ensure that the difference between these different oils are clear.

Hemp seed oil is an oil made from the seeds of the hemp plant. This means that, while there are many potential benefits due to the vitamins and minerals in hemp seeds, there aren’t any cannabinoids in hemp seed oil products.

Hemp oil can sometimes be used to refer to hemp seed oil and sometimes to CBD oil. You will want to look into the details of any product labeled “hemp oil” to make sure it is the type of product you are looking for.

CBD oil is a product made using the extraction of cannabinoids from the hemp flower. CBD oil can contain all of the cannabinoids in a plant, all of the cannabinoids except THC, or just pure CBD. These are known as full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate, respectively.

The History of Hemp

Hemp is a plant with an incredibly long history. One of the fasted growing plants on the entire planet along with bamboo, it’s thought that hemp has been used by humans as long as 50,000 years ago. (11)

It’s possible that hemp was one of the first plants that humans purposefully grew. Long before agriculture, though, humans gathered hemp fiber in order to make clothing.

The use of hemp can be archaeologically dated in China back to the Neolithic Age, as pottery dating from the 5th millennium BC has been found with hemp fiber imprints from the Yangshao culture. (12) It’s also known that the Chinese used hemp to make shoes, clothes, ropes, and an early kind of paper.

There are bits and pieces of evidence that hemp was used in classical Greece, Neolithic Northern Europe, second-century Palestine, as well as other historical locations.

It’s known that hemp was used in Europe at the time of Christopher Columbus, as many of the ropes on his ships were made with hemp fibers. Hemp first traveled to the Americas by the Spaniards, who started growing it around 1545 in Chile. (13) Though there were attempts to grow the plants in Colombia, Peru, and Mexico, Chile was the only land where hemp thrived successfully.

The History of Hemp in early America

There are also reports that the indigenous people of Cape Cod and Plymouth Bay used hemp and grass in order to make clothing. In 1645, it’s known that the Puritans grew hemp in New England. (14)

Hemp was a cash crop in the colonies, used to make both fabric and rope. George Washington, the nation’s first president, encouraged the growth of this useful plant. He even grew it himself, (15) noting in his diary both the time of year that he sowed the seeds as well as when he harvested the crop.

There is some evidence that George Washington was even trying to grow female hemp plants in order to access the THC that can be found in the buds. In his diary, he discusses the act of separating the male and the female plants. (16) However, some experts believe that he was performing this task in for the quality of the plant in industrial purposes rather than recreational.

There are a number of other American presidents who are known to have cultivated hemp as well. These include James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, (17) Zachary Taylor, Andrew Jackson, and Franklin Pierce.

The History of Hemp in the 19th and 20th Century

A big part of the antebellum economy of Kentucky was made up by hemp production. (18) It wasn’t until the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 that the relationship with the plant began to change in the nation. At this point, anyone who dealt commercially with hemp had to pay a tax. (19)

There are some theories that this tax was used in order to destroy America’s hemp industry. During World War II, however, the tax on hemp cultivation was lifted.

The U.S. Navy had still been using cordage on their ships made out of hemp, however, it was sourced from Indonesia and the Philippines. (20) When Japan cut off these supply lines, the United States took the tax away to start producing hemp at home once again.

Rope, canvas, and uniforms were widely made with hemp during the Second World War by the United States. A good portion of this hemp was grown in the Midwest and Kentucky. In 1942, there was even a campaign to ramp up hemp production to 36,000 acres.

The result of this meant that there was more than 20 times more hemp produced in the United States than there was before the war began.

The 2018 Farm Bill

Hemp cultivation suffered in the United States as a result of the illegality of cannabis as a Schedule I drug. However, the Farm Bill in 2018 directed the United States Department of Agriculture to build a framework in order to accommodate hemp production. (21)

It’s this legislative act that changed the world of hemp in our modern times. By removing it from the Controlled Substances Act and redefining hemp as a type of agricultural product, it allowed American farmers to grow and sell hemp. Under the act, the concentration of THC must be no more than 0.3 percent based on the dry weight.

Before this act, there had been a Farm Bill passed in 2014. However, this focused on allowing universities as well as state departments of agriculture to cultivate hemp as a part of pilot programs or research efforts. (22)

The History of CBD

In the 19th century, there were efforts to isolate the ingredients in cannabis that were active. CBD is thought to have first been studied in both the resin of Egyptian Cannabis indica and wild hemp from Minnesota. It wasn’t until more than twenty years later that both the stereochemistry and structure of CBD were determined.

After the 2018 Farm Bill, the commercial and therapeutic markets of CBD have both grown and diversified. This has led to increased selective breeding of cannabis and hemp plants for CBD percentages.

Are you curious to know which CBD products are the most popular? Check out our handy infographic and guide.

Knowledge Is Power: Understanding the Difference Between Hemp Vs. CBD Can Help You Make the Right Decisions for Your Overall Wellness

As you can see, the world of hemp and CBD isn’t exactly straightforward. Since the world of cannabinoid research is still really in its infancy, we can expect that scientists will make further discoveries about these chemicals and the plant they come from in the future. That being said, many of the results of the animal and human studies that have been conducted thus far have been quite promising.

If you are thinking about taking hemp oil or CBD oil, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor first. They will be able to help guide you when it comes to potential contraindications as well as a proper starting dose.

Are you searching for CBD products that are hemp-derived? If so, check out our online store here!