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CBD Oil vs. Hempseed Oil: How to Know What You’re Paying For

In 2018, a farm bill passed that made the production of industrial hemp legal in the United States. This has opened doors for the legalization of the cannabis compound cannabidiol (CBD) — although you still need to check your local laws for legality in your area.

There’s been a “green rush” of cannabis-inspired products flooding the market, including beauty products. While CBD is a new ingredient to many consumers, hempseed oil has around for decades. It’s sold at health food stores and is used in both cooking and skincare.

When CBD oil and hempseed oil are put side by side, a lot of misleading labeling happens.

To filter out the CBD marketing, here’s a cannabis breakdown: Cannabis (often referred to as marijuana) and hemp are two varieties of the same plant species, Cannabis sativa.

Since they share the same species name, they’re often lumped into one big family, and there seems to be a lot of confusion around their differences.

Averaged about 17% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound that makes a person feel “high,” in 2017

Has to contain less than 0.3% THC to be sold legally

Averaged less than 0.15% CBD in 2014

Cannabis has medicinal and therapeutic uses for chronic pain, mental health, and illnesses

CBD oil and hempseed oil are both trendy ingredients used in topical skincare products.

Hempseed oil, in particular, is known for not clogging pores, having anti-inflammatory properties, and providing superior moisturization to keep the skin looking and feeling supple. It can be added to a product or just used on its own as a face oil.

New research is coming out all the time about the skin-related benefits of CBD. What we know so far is it’s been shown to be a powerful anti-inflammatory, like its cousin hempseed oil. It reportedly helps in healing:

  • acne
  • sensitive skin
  • rashes
  • eczema
  • psoriasis

CBD also has a ton of antioxidants. But are CBD beauty products actually more effective or worth paying more for?

It’s still too early to tell, and results can vary depending on the person. If there’s a beauty brand making major claims, you may want to do extra consumer research. Brands aren’t obligated to tell you how much CBD is in a product.

With the “green rush,” some brands are jumping on the chance to sell their cannabis-infused beauty products but mixing the terms CBD and hemp seed up — intentionally or not.

Since CBD and hempseed oil are in the same cannabis family, they’re often incorrectly marketed as the same thing. Why would a brand do this?

One reason is that consumers are willing to pay more for CBD oil, which is a pretty expensive ingredient compared to hempseed oil.

It’s easy for a brand to add hempseed oil to a product, adorn it with marijuana leaves, and highlight the word cannabis to make consumers think they’re purchasing a CBD product when it contains no actual CBD at all. And paying a premium!

Some brands may also market their products as hempseed-based to avoid Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations on cannabis- or marijuana-derived products.

So how can you tell what you’re purchasing? It’s pretty simple, actually. Check the ingredient list…

Hempseed oil will be listed as cannabis sativa seed oil. CBD will usually be listed as cannabidiol, full-spectrum hemp, hemp oil, PCR (phytocannabinoid-rich) or PCR hemp extracts.

While companies aren’t required to list the milligrams of CBD or hemp on the bottle, it’s become a common practice to do so. If they’re not listed, you should wonder what’s in that bottle you’re paying for.

The FDA has sent warning letters to some companies for illegally selling CBD products and falsely advertising them as safe or as effective medical treatments. That’s another reason why doing your own consumer research is vital.

It’s so important to be an educated, savvy consumer. Don’t fall into the trap of weedwashing (hemp-based product hype)!

Is CBD Legal? Hemp-derived CBD products (with less than 0.3 percent THC) are legal on the federal level, but are still illegal under some state laws. Marijuana-derived CBD products are illegal on the federal level, but are legal under some state laws. Check your state’s laws and those of anywhere you travel. Keep in mind that nonprescription CBD products are not FDA-approved, and may be inaccurately labeled.

Dana Murray is a licensed aesthetician from Southern California with a passion for skin care science. She’s worked in skin education, from helping others with their skin to developing products for beauty brands. Her experience extends over 15 years and an estimated 10,000 facials. She’s been using her knowledge to blog about skin and bust skin myths on her Instagram since 2016.

Last medically reviewed on December 23, 2019

While CBD is a new ingredient to many consumers, hempseed oil has been around for decades. Put side by side in the beauty space, it’s easy to be misled. Here’s how to shop smarter.

Hemp sativa

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Hemp, (Cannabis sativa), also called industrial hemp, plant of the family Cannabaceae cultivated for its fibre (bast fibre) or its edible seeds. Hemp is sometimes confused with the cannabis plants that serve as sources of the drug marijuana and the drug preparation hashish. Although all three products—hemp, marijuana, and hashish—contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a compound that produces psychoactive effects in humans, the variety of cannabis cultivated for hemp has only small amounts of THC relative to that grown for the production of marijuana or hashish.

Physical description

The hemp plant is a stout, aromatic, erect annual herb. The slender canelike stalks are hollow except at the tip and base. The leaves are compound with palmate shape, and the flowers are small and greenish yellow. Seed-producing flowers form elongate, spikelike clusters growing on the pistillate, or female, plants. Pollen-producing flowers form many-branched clusters on staminate, or male, plants.

Cultivation and processing

Hemp originated in Central Asia. Hemp cultivation for fibre was recorded in China as early as 2800 bce and was practiced in the Mediterranean countries of Europe early in the Christian era, spreading throughout the rest of Europe during the Middle Ages. It was planted in Chile in the 1500s and a century later in North America.

Hemp is grown in temperate zones as an annual cultivated from seed and can reach a height of up to 5 metres (16 feet). Crops grow best in sandy loam with good drainage and require average monthly rainfall of at least 65 mm (2.5 inches) throughout the growing season. Crops cultivated for fibre are densely sowed and produce plants averaging 2–3 metres (6–10 feet) tall with almost no branching. Plants grown for oilseed are planted farther apart and are shorter and many-branched. In fibre production, maximum yield and quality are obtained by harvesting soon after the plants reach maturity, indicated by the full blossoms and freely shedding pollen of the male plants. Although sometimes pulled up by hand, plants are more often cut off about 2.5 cm (1 inch) above the ground.

Fibres are obtained by subjecting the stalks to a series of operations—including retting, drying, and crushing—and a shaking process that completes separation from the woody portion, releasing the long, fairly straight fibre, or line. The fibre strands, usually over 1.8 metres (5.8 feet) long, are made of individual cylindrical cells with an irregular surface.

Products and uses

The fibre, longer and less flexible than flax, is usually yellowish, greenish, or a dark brown or gray and, because it is not easily bleached to sufficiently light shades, is rarely dyed. It is strong and durable and is used for cordage—e.g., twine, yarn, rope, cable, and string—and for artificial sponges and such coarse fabrics as sacking (burlap) and canvas. In Italy some hemp receives special processing, producing whitish colour and attractive lustre, and is used to make fabric similar to linen. Hemp fibre is also used to make bioplastics that can be recyclable and biodegradable, depending on the formulation.

The edible seeds contain about 30 percent oil and are a source of protein, fibre, and magnesium. Shelled hemp seeds, sometimes called hemp hearts, are sold as a health food and may be eaten raw; they are commonly sprinkled on salads or blended with fruit smoothies. Hemp seed milk is used as an alternative to dairy milk in drinks and recipes. The oil obtained from hemp seed can be used to make paints, varnishes, soaps, and edible oil with a low smoke point. Historically, the seed’s chief commercial use has been for caged-bird feed.

Other hemps

Although only the hemp plant yields true hemp, a number of other plant fibres are called “hemp.” These include Indian hemp (Apocynum cannabinum), Mauritius hemp (Furcraea foetida), and sunn hemp (Crotalaria juncea).

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Melissa Petruzzello, Assistant Editor.

Hemp, cannabis plant cultivated for its useful bast fiber and nutritious edible seeds. The variety of cannabis cultivated for hemp fiber and hemp seeds has only small amounts of psychoactive THC relative to cannabis grown for the production of marijuana or hashish.