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What is the difference between CBD extract and hemp extract?

If you’ve been tracking the rise and rise of CBD throughout the world, you’ll see that CBD extract has been added to an ever-growing line-up of products. A well as the natural CBD flowers and oils, you can now find CBD gummies, creams, sprays and even products for pets. The fact that CBD has benefits for everything from insomnia to muscle pain and psychological uses means its popularity is unlikely to wane.

When it comes to hemp, on the other hand, the industry is much older. For centuries, hemp has been grown specifically for its practical uses, particularly for the textile industry. You might be aware that both hemp and CBD come from cannabis, but what is the difference between hemp oil and CBD oil?

What is hemp?

We use the word hemp to refer to many different products, so it’s understandable that there is some confusion around the definition of the word. The USA’s 2018 Farm Bill defines hemp as:

“the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.”

In easier to understand terms, it’s any Cannabis sativa L plant (or part of that plant), that contains less than a certain amount of THC. As you see in the US, that’s 0.3%, but the value can vary by country. In the UK it’s 0.2% – the same as much of Europe – but it can be as high as 1% as seen in Switzerland.

So yes, hemp and cannabis are the same plant, but the levels of THC in the different strains make them completely different in terms of what they are used for. This is why you might see hemp referred to as industrial hemp – it’s grown for use in everything from paper to clothing and even biodegradable plastics.

What is CBD?

CBD is short for cannabidiol and is one of more than 100 chemical compounds that are known as cannabinoids.  These cannabinoids are found naturally in all kinds of cannabis plants, meaning what we refer to as hemp, as well as those that we consider to be marijuana. Hemp strains tend to have low levels of THC and high levels of CBD, while the opposite is true for marijuana.

The importance of these cannabinoids, especially CBD, is the way that they interact with our bodies. All animals have an inbuilt cell-signalling system known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a very recent discovery – identified only in the early 1990s – but turns out to be incredibly important to nearly every aspect of our body’s functions. It’s been found to act as a kind of regulator for everything from sleep and appetite to mood and stress response.

CBD interacts with the ECS in the same way as our own natural endocannabinoids. By influencing the receptors that are found all through our body, it restores balance to the way we function. We are still discovering more about how this works, but research has shown that CBD can impact chronic pain, inflammation and immune response, motor control, learning and memory, nerve function and much more.

CBD and hemp extracts

This is where thing get a little confusing when it comes to comparing hemp extracts and CBD. In one case we are talking about a chemical compound, and in the other, we are talking about the plant itself.

CBD extract is derived from the leaves and flowers of cannabis. This can be extracted from any kind of cannabis plant, but it usually comes from hemp as the concentration of CBD is higher, and the THC levels are lower. The raw material has to go through a highly involved production process to separate the cannabinoids from the rest of the plant.

The resulting CBD extract can be:

CBD isolate – containing pure CBD only

Broad-spectrum – containing most of the plant’s cannabinoids, but with the THC removed

Full-spectrum – containing all of the natural cannabinoids, including trace amounts of THC

This extract is highly concentrated, so it is usually added to a carrier oil to create the final CBD oil. This not only makes it easier to measure doses but allows the adjustment of the CBD potency in each product.

When we talk about hemp extract, what it usually means is hemp seed extract. Cannabis plants grow as both male and female varieties, and while the flowers come from the females, the males produce seeds. These seeds are very low in cannabinoids and are used for nutritional benefits rather than medicinal ones. The seeds can be dried and eaten as is, or they can be pressed to produce hemp seed oil. Hemp seed oil (or hemp extract) can be used in place of other vegetable oils, but also has industrial applications.


To sum it up, CBD and hemp extracts both come from hemp plants, but from different parts of the plant. The versatility of this plant allows it to produce hemp fibre that can be used for clothing, hemp extract from the seeds, which can be used for cooking, as well as CBD extract from the leaves and flowers, which have a wide range of benefits for health and wellbeing.

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