CBD Oil vs Hemp Oil vs Cannabis Oil

Cannabis and its constituent cannabinoids are appearing in products everywhere, from shampoos and toothpaste to skin balms and food. However the reasons behind ingesting cannabis, hemp or any other derivative like CBD vary from product to product.
Written by 
Dr Shane McKeown, Acute Internal Medicine (AIM).
|Last Updated:
CBD Oil vs Hemp Oil vs Cannabis Oil

Confusingly, terms like Cannabis oil, hemp oil and CBD oil are used interchangeably by the media and in online discussions. This really isn’t helpful as the proposed effects and benefits of each are quite different, you don’t want to purchase one thinking it is the other.

The hemp and cannabis plants are the same species, with the same scientific name of Cannabis Sativa.

So why do people refer to the same shrub in different ways?

Originally Hemp was the most widely grown form of Cannabis, otherwise known as industrial hemp. Alongside bamboo it is one of the fastest growing plants and has been used as a constructive fibre for over 50,000 years.

A key point is that industrial hemp lacks the THC that gives you the psychoactive high. Rather it is used across industry in making textiles, clothing, rope, paper and food. The oil has been used in much the same way, oxidised into other forms so it can be used as a health food, the basis of paint as well as in skin moisturizers and plastics.

Interestingly, in 2003 a study of hemp seed in Europe found that over 95% of it was used as animal and bird feed.

Hemp Seed Oil Today

Today hemp seed oil carries on the tradition of not having any psychoactive components. Rather they contain a healthy mix of protein, fat and other nutrients which contribute to its high nutritional value.

This is the main focus of hemp seed oil: it’s dietary components and health benefits. Hemp seed oil is not taken for THC or CBD.

In particular, it is thought that their high omega-3 and omega-6 content can have beneficial effects on our cardiovascular health. To be clear, what current research and data shows is that hemp seed oil shows promise to be beneficial to heart disease patients. Unfortunately there is no definitive research as of yet.

One standout study looked at the effect of hemp seed oil on atopic dermatitis or eczema. It was found to not only change the plasma fatty acid profiles of patients but also improve the clinical symptoms of their atopic dermatitis.

CBD oil

Once we start talking about CBD oil, there is a big change in function and purpose of the oil.

While hemp seed oil is made from hemp seeds, both CBD oil and cannabis oil are both made from the whole cannabis plant.

CBD oil contains little to no THC and tends to come in 3 main formulations

Full Spectrum CBD Oil

There are numerous compounds in the cannabis plant, and we enjoy what is known as the entourage effect when we ingest more than one at a time. This includes cannabinoids like CBD, THC (in low amounts) as well as others like CBC and CBG, all which come with their own health benefits. These are backed up by other therapeutic compounds like terpenes and flavonoids which completes the cannabis therapeutic profile.

The entourage effect mentioned is the fact that these chemicals seem to work synergistically together, providing the user with even more benefits than if they had been used in isolation.

Bear in mind although the THC is low at less than 0.3% this has the potential to cause issues with drug tests and international travel.

Buying full spectrum in a country or state where cannabis is legal could mean you inadvertently buy a CBD product with a noticeable amount of THC within it.

Broad Spectrum CBD Oil

Broad spectrum tries to get around the above issues mentioned by including all the great therapeutic compounds found in cannabis but with zero trace of THC to be found.

This is a great option for those who don’t want a level of psychoactive compound in their body, noticeable or not. It maybe of particular use to servicemen and women or veterans who want to use CBD products for pain but do not want to be caught out legally or professionally with a THC containing product.

CBD Isolate

This is as the name suggests pure CBD without any other cannabinoids, terpenes or other cannabis derived compounds.

While it does rid you of the extra benefits and the entourage effect as well, it takes a lot of guesswork and worry out of the process.

With a CBD isolate product you will certainly avoid all traces of THC, being able to get direct experience of CBD without worrying about the impact of CBC, CBG and others which may cloud the effect you are looking for.

CBD isolates tend to be a flavorless and odorless product unless the manufacturer has added these in themselves.

Cannabis oil

At times cannabis oil is used as a term to mean CBD oil. But this clearly isn’t ‘cannabis oil’ as it contains a limited amount of the compounds that make up the plant.

However the media both online and offline think that they are the same thing. In fact, typing ‘cannabis oil’ into Google will not lead you to sites about recreational oils containing THC and CBD but instead redirect you to ‘CBD oil’ pages.

Just remember that ‘real’ cannabis oil will have significant levels of THC within it, designed to be psychoactive and utilized as a recreational drug as well as a therapeutic medicine.


Until the world adjusts to the legalization of hemp, cannabis and its constituent components we are likely to still have some confusion and mislabelling of certain products. As more is brought under proper legislation and begins to be regulated, we will then begin to see for standardisation across the board.

For newcomers to the world of CBD oils, perhaps the most important point to note is whether you will be consuming THC or not. If so, is it at a level where you will begin to see psychoactive effects. This is a personal and also legal choice for many, so knowing the difference between the oils is important.

For those who are more experienced with CBD oils and are searching for certain therapeutic benefits, a more thorough understanding is needed to optimise both CBD delivery and the promotion of any health benefits.


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Dr Shane McKeown
Dr Shane McKeown
Acute Internal Medicine (AIM)
Dr Shane McKeown is a UK clinician with experience in both Medicine and Surgery. With a strong background in education, he currently teaches all grades of doctor and sits as examiner for foreign medical staff looking to work in the United Kingdom. Working within rehabilitation and therapy, he utilizes complementary treatments like CBD to provide holistic care where it is most effective. His expertise with CBD continues to be called upon by numerous brands to optimise their product offerings.

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