Understanding the Difference Between Hemp and CBD


The legalization of marijuana for recreational use is sweeping across the United States with now 21 states plus the District of Columbia making the use of cannabis in all forms legal. Additionally, 38 states have approved cannabis for medical use.

Along with this has come an array of products made from cannabis that range well beyond just a substance for getting high. Cannabis products include foods, cooking oils, clothing, health supplements, soaps, candies, animal feeds, textiles – even plastic!

Hemp, Marijuana, and CBD

As legalization opens up the cannabis market, more people are looking at these products for the first time. This had led to some confusion, however. For example, what is hemp and how is it different from marijuana or cannabis? And what’s this new CBD product everyone is talking about? Let’s talk about that.

Hemp vs Marijuana

Both marijuana and hemp are the same species of plant called cannabis sativa. Plants of the same species can have small to large differences. For example, think of all the different kinds of wheat — bulgur, farro, freekeh, spelt, buckwheat, red wheat, and einkorn. They are all different, but they are all wheat!

The most notable difference between hemp and marijuana is a psychoactive component called THC, which stands for tetrahydrocannabinol. That is the substance that makes people high when they smoke or eat marijuana. Hemp also has some THC but in very tiny amounts.

Hemp contains 0.3% or less THC so it simply can’t make a person get high.


CBD is a compound found in both hemp and marijuana. CBD stands for cannabidiol. There are hundreds of kinds of cannabidiols including THC. But CBD which is made from hemp is a highly valuable substance with many known health benefits. Because it comes from hemp, it can be used without the intoxication of marijuana-derived CBD.

Researchers believe CBD is effective because it interacts with human cell receptors that influence a variety of functions, such as appetite, anxiety, depression, and the sensation of pain. Clinical research has shown that CBD may be effective in treating seizure disorders like epilepsy. Other studies – although some scientists claim these studies are not yet conclusive or rigorous enough – show that CBD is an effective agent for treating pain.

Hemp Oil vs CBD Oil

This tends to be an area of major confusion because hemp oil and CBD are both oils, but they are two very different things.

For example, many supermarkets now sell hemp oil alongside all the other common cooking oils, such as olive oil, sunflower oil, canola oil, and so on. Hemp oil is used for cooking and salads like the other oils.

But hemp oil does not contain CBD! Hempseed or hemp oil is made by cold pressing only the seeds of the hemp plant.

CBD oil, on the other hand, is a complex compound made from all parts of the cannabis plant. One quick way to tell the difference while shopping is to look at the price. A small one- or two-ounce bottle of CBD oil is far more expensive than, say, a liter-sized bottle of hemp seed oil.

The careful shopper should always check the ingredients listed on a product. For example, some gummies are billed as “hemp gummies” but do not contain CBD. If you want to make sure you are getting gummies, oils, or other products with active CBD, make sure the ingredient list on the package specifies CBD not just hemp oil.

One last thing to remember: CBD may not be sold in the form of oil at all. It is made into pills or supplements, vaping juices, gummies, teas, and other products.

By: Katherine Robinson, a writer for Nothing But Hemp

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