Dr. Sarah Brewer February 13, 2018

Non-drug varieties of Cannabis sativa plants, known as industrial hemp, have been used as a source of food, fibre and vegetable oil for thousands of years (1). The two main oil products from industrial hemp, known as hemp seed (or hemp) oil, and cannabidiol (or CBD) oil, are derived from different parts of the plant and used for different purposes.

Hemp seed oil

Hemp seed oil is a deep green oil obtained by pressing the seeds from non-drug strains of hemp plants. These strains have naturally low levels of cannabinoids - substances that interact with your own endocannabinoid receptors. The hemp seeds used to make food supplements are raw, the oil is cold-pressed, and certified organic and non-GMO.

Hemp seed oil is considered a healthy, nutritionally-balanced oil, as it provides a high level of monounsaturated fats, and the essential fatty acids linoleic acid (55%), and alpha-linolenic acid (16%) with a low level of saturated fat (9%). Hemp seed oil provides the optimum balance of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, and just one tablespoon (15ml) provide the daily requirement for essential fatty acids.(2)

Hemp seed oil is also rich in cholesterol-lowering plant sterols (e.g beta-sitosterol and campesterol) and vitamin E. It is a popular food supplement in capsule form.

Hemp seed oil is also used in the kitchen for its nutty, earthy flavour. Hemp seed oil is great to drizzle over food, add to salad dressings or to use in dips and pesto sauce. As hemp seed oil has a low smoke point, don’t use it for cooking or frying.

Hemp seed oil is also used to make soaps, skin lotions, shampoo and bio-fuels.

Cannabidiol oil

When conducting your own research on industrial hemp you will have come across CBD. But what is it and what does it stand for? Cannabidiol, or CBD is a substance classed as a cannabinoid, which is extracted from the flowers and leaves of non-drug strains of industrial hemp. These strains have been bred to produce naturally high levels of cannabidiol (CBD) but very low levels of the psychoactive cannabinoid (THC) found in medical marijuana. As cannabidiol is oil-soluble, it is combined with oils (eg olive oil, coconut oil, hemp seed oil) to produce cannabidiol oil for optimum absorption into the body. 

Neither hemp seed oil nor cannabidiol oil contain significant levels of the psychoactive substance THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is found in marijuana. Both hemp seed oil and cannabidiol oil are therefore legal to take and are rapidly growing in popularity.

The following table summarises the main differences between hemp seed oil and cannabidiol oil.

Feature Hemp Seed Oil Cannabidiol Oil
Plant species of origin Industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa) strains with low CBD content Industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa) strains with high CBD content
Parts used to produce oil Hemp seeds Hemp flowers, leaves
Method of production Cold pressing CO2 (non-toxic) solvent extraction
Purified Filtered Yes
Independent laboratory analysis and certification Not on THC content, but on fatty acid profile Yes on CBD and THC content
Cannabinoid content Low CBD Rich CBD, Low THC
Does it produce a 'high'? No (THC not present in the seeds) No (Guaranteed low levels of THC)
Is it a legal food supplement? Yes Yes

Do not use CBD during pregnancy or breastfeeding


1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24422510
2 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4490476/

Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn't possible, supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.



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