Hemp Oil CBD vs. Cannabis Extract: What’s the difference?


Let’s discuss hemp oil CBD vs. cannabis extract, shall we?

Well, no. First, let’s discuss CBD oil in general because it’s about as hot ‘n trendy as it gets right now. And it’s also about as confusing as trying to explain what Joel does for a living to my grandma.

But before I begin, I have to say, holy shit.

There’s just so much to talk about when it comes to CBD oil and cannabis in general. Too much for one post. I mean, it took me two full days of research and one evening of blabbing on the couch to Joel before I was able to even start writing this post. And it’s just about CBD, one corner of the larger medicinal cannabis picture.

So Let’s Begin with a Quick Personal Rant

If you’re a square and easily offended, then know up front that, yes, this post is, in part, about weed, ganja, marijuana, Mary Jane, the reefer. But full disclosure, I don’t even smoke weed. Or ‘do marijuana’ as Kath (my mom) would say. Trust me, I’ve tried. I’m just not very good at it.

Sure, I’ve had one or two good experiences with it, which may or may not have included my entire extended family on a deck in North Carolina one August evening. But mostly, I just get paranoid and feel as though I may have peed my pants. No, I’m not kidding. That’s a real thing. Whenever I tried to smoke weed in high school I’d start getting paranoid that I’d peed my pants. If my best friend Molly is reading this, she’s totes rolling her eyes at how annoying it was for everyone involved.

But I digress… all of this to say, I really don’t care about cannabis in a recreational capacity. I prefer Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand as a personal vice. But I also have zero judgement around it either. I sort of wish I could enjoy it. But I’m def not a pothead.

So this post is not about getting high.

And it’s also not about the debate regarding its legality here in the States. Although, for the record, I personally believe it’s a steaming pile of bullshit that cannabis is not legal in all 50 states. There are ill-intended, money-making industries suppressing the widespread use of and research into this potentially life-saving medicine, from private prisons to the pharmaceutical industry.

This post is about the medicinal properties of the cannabis plant. And specifically the difference between hemp CBD and cannabis extract. Because I had a lot of questions and if you’re reading this, I’m assuming you do too.

Questions I’ll Attempt to Answer in This Post

  • What is CBD oil?
  • What’s the difference between hemp oil CBD and cannabis extract?
  • Is it legal?
  • Where can I get it?
  • What is it good for?
  • Does it work?
  • How do you use it?
  • Can you suggest any brands to try?

What is CBD oil?

CBD stands for cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant. It is found in both marijuana-producing cannabis indica and hemp-producing cannabis sativa plants. CBD oil is the extract.

It’s said to have significant medicinal benefits on its own, including relief from inflammation, pain, anxiety, seizures, insomnia, muscle spasms and other conditions. In conjunction with other medicinal compounds in cannabis, or “full extract”, it has been reported to treat all of the above and, more specifically, severe seizure disorders and cancer.

CBD oil products are booming right now. Companies are creating a variety of ways to consume it. From oils and extracts, to edibles like gummies and even body lotion.

What’s the difference between hemp oil CBD and cannabis extract?

Hemp CBD is derived from industrial hemp, or cannabis sativa. It contains trace amounts of THC, the psychoactive compound found in marijuana that dictates legality here in the States.

Hemp CBD is legal at the federal level. The ability to produce it depends on licensure and varies widely state-to-state. The legal limit to be considered hemp CBD is .3% THC. Anything above that level is not considered hemp and is potentially illegal depending on your state’s laws.

CBD on its own, in this form, in the absence of THC above .3%, is reportedly effective at treating anxiety, sleep issues, pain and inflammation and other moderate, chronic ailments. It also produces no psychoactive side effects.

Cannabis Extract is derived from the marijuana plant, typically cannabis indica, and contains CBD as well. But it also usually contains greater amounts of THC, among hundreds of other compounds, making it “full extract”. The name was confusing to me at first because, technically, hemp is cannabis too. But when people say ‘cannabis CBD’ or ‘full extract’ they are referring to marijuana, not hemp. Though I guess it’s also technically possible to make CBD oil from the marijuana plant, as long as the amount of THC is reduced to below .3%. (I know, I told you it was a little confusing.)

The legality of CBD oil derived from marijuana, that includes THC, is fledgling here in the U.S.. If you’re lucky enough to be in a state where marijuana is legal across the board, cannabis CBD would be legal too. If you’re in a state where only medical marijuana is legal, full extract CBD for medical purposes would be legal too. If you’re in a state that has a Jeff Sessions* attitude toward the whole thing, then you’re shit out of luck, as it’s definitely illegal.

[*If you’re not from the U.S., Jeff Sessions is our Attorney General who really, really hates weed and people who smoke it.]

The Big Difference

Apparently cannabis CBD, or “full extract”, has increased medicinal potential because of something called the ‘entourage effect’ or, as Leafly.com puts it “the interactive synergy between cannabis compounds”.

Like so many things in nature, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. It seems there are healing properties not only in the compounds themselves, but in how they interact with one another that we still don’t fully understand. Basically, CBD extracts that also contain THC, and hundreds of other cannabis compounds, are a more potent form of medicine than CBD oil extract in isolation.

To read more about the Entourage Effect of cannabis compounds, check out this article on Leafly.com (if you’re over 21 of course). Cannabis’s Entourage Effect: Why the Whole Plant Matters.

Which is better: hemp or cannabis?

In researching all of this, my first question was is cannabis extract inherently better than hemp CBD? The is answer yes. If by better, you mean more potent. But I’d ask what your goal is in consuming it in the first place. You might not need the whole plant potency, perhaps hemp CBD will work just fine, as it does have healing properties on its own.

For instance, Joel’s thinking about taking hemp CBD as a way to ward off his gout attacks vs. taking the prescription after they begin. I’m considering taking it at night to combat my difficulties sleeping. Bridget’s experimenting with it for anxiety. I was going to get my grandma something for her arthritis. For all of these things, I’d say that hemp CBD is probably fine. Especially if you’re not interested in the psychoactive side effects of cannabis. Or if you’re in a state where you just can’t get it.

But if I myself, or a family member, were battling something more serious (According to the National Cancer Institute, cannabis has been shown to kill cancer cells in the laboratory!), I’d likely be looking into the full extract oil. It seems that they’re already producing very high CBD/low THC marijuana for medicinal purposes, so as to avoid the psychoactive side effects but maintain the potency of a full extract. And even if you can’t totally eradicate the psychoactive side effects, you can manage them by starting with lower doses and working your way up.

Jenny’s Dad

Our fellow Integrative Nutrition Alumna, Jenny Sansouci over at Healthy Crush, is bravely documenting her father’s battle with pancreatic cancer. It seems that hemp CBD oil first helped to alleviate his joint pain after just a few days. And then she was able to get him a medical marijuana card in Massachusetts. With the O.K. from his oncologist, and under the supervision of a medical marijuana doctor, he’s been taking full marijuana extract in small doses a few times a day. They have relieved him of his nausea and appetite loss from chemo, which has in turn helped him regain his strength and energy. If you’d like to read more about their journey, check out her awesome article: Let’s Talk About Cannabis. She’s got tons of great resources and info over there. (And I’m sure you’ll join us in sending them good vibes and lots of love.)

Charlotte’s Dad

Charlotte Figi was a little girl who had a big problem. A seizure problem. She was having about 300 of them a week. After conventional treatments and the keto diet eventually failed her (and caused other problems after long-term adoption) her father found some hope … in cannabis. He read an article about another kid being treated for seizures with cannabis, went to Colorado, worked with a cannabis producer and created a cure for her with a high CBD/low THC strain of cannabis. With the success of her treatment – reducing her seizures to just 2 or 3 a month in her sleep – others started reaching out to find a cure for their children too. Since medical marijuana, and the exact concoction Charlotte was given, isn’t legal or widely available, the Stanley Brothers (the cannabis producers) then created a below .3% THC CBD product (and then line of products) to make it in some way available to others. The brand has taken off. (Also, are the dudes in this photo male models? Or the actual Stanley Brothers? Asking for a friend named Bridget.)

So yeah, it seems that both hemp CBD oil and full marijuana extract are really onto something here.

Beware the Snake Oil Salesman

One important note I’d like to make here is that there is one other crucial difference between cannabis extracts and hemp CBD oil: regulations. In a good way.

Hemp CBD is technically a dietary supplement, meaning there’s very little regulation around ingredients, production and processing here in the U.S. It’s harder to tell whether or not you’re getting a high quality, potent hemp CBD product. This is where you’ll want to do some of your own research and find quality brands you trust.

Cannabis extract however, is highly regulated in the states where marijuana is produced and sold. There are lab testing requirements and red tape to go through.

For hemp CBD, you’ll have to do your research, it’s definitely not all created equal. But because of stringent laws, testing requirements and strict production guidelines, with cannabis extracts you’ll likely be getting exactly what you’re paying for.


After doing all of this research I’m excited to start testing out some of the CBD products we’ve got over here. Bridget’s already got Charlotte’s Web. I’ve got some Lord Jones candies and we’ve both got some samples of SupHERBals as well. (I’ll be doing a followup article on how to safely choose a high quality CBD oil product, as there are some shady, shady characters hocking whack ass stuff out there. So stay tuned for that! We’re not ready to recommend any brands just yet.)

It seems that the cannabis plant in general is likely a magical healing powerhouse. We’d probably be a lot further along in reaping the benefits of it as a society if Jeff Sessions and the powers that be would go ahead and get their shit together. 

For now though, to treat mild to moderate ailments like those listed above we feel pretty confident in suggesting you research the benefits of a high quality hemp CBD oil. And for more serious ailments, especially severe seizure disorders or cancer, it might make sense to reach out to a medical marijuana doctor if that’s available to you. The future of cannabis as a potent medicine sure does seem promising. 

What are your thoughts? We’d really love to hear them? Anything to add? Have you used CBD oil products? Have you had a personal experience with healing medical marijuana? Leave a note in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

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Author Dana

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