August 03, 2020 8 min read

Hemp Oil has found its rightful place in the food and beauty industries, but there's still some confusion about what it really is.

Many brands market their hemp products in a way that suggests that hemp oil and CBD oil are the same thing, but the facts don't really add up.

In fact, hemp oil may not contain any CBD at all, which can be disappointing for those hoping to reap the benefits of the non-psychoactive cannabinoid.

On the other hand, hemp oil has some intriguing potential benefits of its own, and you don't have to pay top-dollar-CBD-prices to get it.

So, what is hemp oil and how is it used? And, most importantly, what makes it different from the CBD oil products flooding the hemp market?

Here, we'll cover the most important hemp oil facts and how it could fit into your diet and skincare routine.

Table of Contents

What is Hemp Oil?
CBD Oil vs Hemp Oil
Skincare Benefits of Hemp Oil
Nutritional Benefits of Hemp Oil
Cooking with Hemp Oil
Is Hemp Oil Safe?
Is Hemp Oil Legal?
Key Takeaways
Resources

What is Hemp Oil?

"Hemp oil" is a broad term that refers to the fatty oil extracted from any part of the hemp plant. More specifically, many hemp oil products are actually “hemp seed oil,” or the oil extracted from hemp seeds. This is because hemp seeds contain around 35% oil by weight.

Hemp oil can be used for cooking and food items, but is also frequently found in cosmetic and topical wellness products.

Hemp oil products range greatly, with the main distinguishing factor between hemp oil products being whether it has a "food grade" status or not.

Most hemp oil products, even those used in cosmetics, are considered "food grade."

Hemp oil may not be considered food grade for a number of reasons. Commonly, hemp oil will lack a food grade status if it's made for a use where it's unlikely to be consumed by humans, like topical application on pets.

Some hemp oil skincare products may also lack food grade status. Keep in mind that the hemp industry is still mostly unregulated, so the lack of "food grade" status may mean nothing at all.

In other cases, it may mean that the hemp oil was processed via harsh chemicals and might be unsafe for direct consumption.

It's always best to carefully vet the brand and it's manufacturing process before buying a hemp oil product, especially if you intend to use it in food.

CBD Oil vs Hemp Oil

Preparing a CBD oil tincture dose

Although hemp oil is frequently confused with CBD oil, the two are very different. Hemp oil is generally extracted from hemp seeds which usually contain less than 1% CBD.

While hemp oil is focused on extracting the fats from the hemp plants, especially it's essential fatty acid profile, CBD products focus on CBD (which hosts a wide range of potential benefits that you can learn more about here.)

It sounds obvious, but many manufacturers like to blur the lines between hemp oil and CBD products to make it seem like hemp oil may offer the same benefits as the heavily sought after cannabinoid.

The CBD industry's loose regulations make it easy for manufacturers to slap "CBD" on the label of products, even if they have an incredibly low CBD content. The caveat is that hemp oil is substantially cheaper to produce, and often contains only trace amounts of CBD, if any at all.

By tricking consumers into believing there are substantial "CBD benefits" to their hemp oil formulas, shady brands may be able to finagle prices that are substantially higher than the oil's manufacturing price (and substantially higher than what it's worth, when compared to other premium hemp oil products).

Fortunately, consumers are pretty wise. Thanks to popular demand, industry-leading brands usually supply details in the specific cannabinoid content of each product, backed by a third party lab analysis with potency information.

If a product comes without potency information, it's probably safe to assume it contains very little CBD at all and probably falls into the "hemp oil" category.

Skincare Benefits of Hemp Oil

A woman applying hemp oil as part of a skincare routine

These essential fats don’t just make hemp oil an effective nutritional supplement, they may also offer specific skin benefits both when applied topically and when taken by mouth.

One study suggests that hemp seed oil, when taken by mouth, may help reduce the appearance and symptoms of atopic dermatitis, a condition characterized by red, itchy skin. In fact, the fats found in hemp oil may play an important role in skin health, regeneration, and anti-aging when taken internally.

One of the omega-6 fatty acids found in hemp oil is gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which is known to potentially help provide skin hydration and increase elasticity. GLA may have anti-inflammatory effects that encourage new cell growth. It may even help diminish wrinkles and other signs of aging.

Another study suggests that hemp oil may have “anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, anti-lipogenic, and collagen-promoting properties” that may help improve acne.

As a topical, hemp seed oil has a comedogenic rating of zero, which means it won’t clog pores.

The oil is also considered a humectant, which means it penetrates the skin instead of sitting on top.

For this reason, it's frequently referred to as a “dry oil,” and doesn't feel “heavy” on the skin. Because it’s a humectant, it actually attracts moisture to the skin instead of blocking it, which gives hemp oil significant moisturizing properties.

No adverse skin reactions to hemp oil have been reported, which makes it a well rounded option for topical use.

There is no shortage of hemp oil topicals, and you can find multiple unique products where hemp oil is used as a carrier oil for essential oils and other botanicals with targeted benefits.

Nutritional Benefits of Hemp Oil

Hemp oil can be used for cooking and in many different types of recipes, and it’s popular as a “health food” because it contains important essential fatty acids.

The hemp oil found in the hemp seed is made up of around 75-80% polyunsaturated fats (healthy fats) and only around 10% saturated fats.

Hemp oil contains as much as 70% linoleic acid (an omega-6) and 25% a-linolenic acid (an omega-3), which roughly matches our 3:1 nutritional needs for omega 6 and omega 3 fats.

These fats are essential for optimal health, and have their own health benefits. Omega-3 fatsmay lower the risk of heart disease, depression, arthritis, and dementia. Omega-6 may help lower bad cholesterol and regulate blood sugar.

In general, these fats are also important for the absorption of many fat-soluble vitamins, like Vitamins A, D, E, and K. In some CBD oil products, hemp oil is used as a carrier oil because it provides the essential fatty acids necessary for CBD’s absorption.

Since hemp oil has been outed for its nutritional benefits, it’s been used in the formulation of multiple different food items and dietary supplements. The most common way to find dietary hemp oil, however, is in an oil form similar to vegetable oil used for cooking.

Cooking With Hemp Oil

A woman preparing a meal with hemp seed oil

Food safe hemp oil made for cooking is incredibly versatile, which makes it simple for people to add hemp’s healthy fats to their diet without making many changes. The oil has a slightly grassy, nutty flavor, but it is frequently used to compliment both savory and sweet dishes.

The only limit to cooking with hemp oil is it’s low smoke point. Hemp oil smokes at only 332°F, which is substantially lower than many oils used for high-heat cooking, like olive oil, which has a smoke point of over 460°F. This means that hemp oil may not be best for high-heat applications, like sauteing.

Of course, there may be ways around this caveat. The essential fatty acids in hemp oil don’t change when exposed to high heat, and some sources suggest that mixing hemp oil with another oil that has a higher heat tolerance will increase the overall heat-tolerance of the hemp oil. Mixing hemp oil with avocado oil is frequently considered a solution.

Alternatively, hemp oil can be used for cold applications or for finishing certain dishes. This is when hemp oil is used to create foods that don’t need to be cooked, like a sauce or salad dressing, or when it’s simply drizzled on top of the final dish after cooking.

Is Hemp Oil Safe?

Although evidence is still limited, no severe reactions to hemp oil have been reported to date. Hemp has no documented allergies either as a dietary supplement or a topical.

The safety of hemp oil products may have more to do with the individual ingredients, such as additives or residual solvents left over from the extraction process. Poor manufacturing practices can also result in other contaminants, like mycotoxins and microbials, reaching the final batch material.

One significant concern is the presence of heavy metals in hemp oil products. This is because hemp is known for its abilities to leach toxins and metals from the soil.

One way to avoid some of these contaminants is to choose hemp oil made from hemp that is grown in the United States, which is known for having better soil quality than many foreign hemp markets.

To avoid pesticides, herbicides, and other harsh chemicals, look for organic hemp oil, which needs to be made from organically grown hemp.

You can also look for hemp oil made from hemp that is grown according to one of the various state-run hemp pilot programs, which usually have strict requirements regarding the manufacturing process and purity of the final hemp oil material.

Alternatively, some brands may provide a detailed description of the hemp manufacturing process and extraction methods to provide transparency to consumers. Some may even provide batch tests results to verify the absence of common contaminants.

In general, hemp oil is considered safe so long as it is sourced from a reputable manufacturer.

Is Hemp Oil Legal?

Because hemp oil is derived from the cannabis family of plants (and cannabis is still illegal in many parts of the country), people often wonder about the legality of buying and possessing hemp oil.

It's complicated, but hemp products (including oil, seeds, textiles, and more) have been available in certain variations since 2014, when updates to the Farm Bill allowed some manufacturers to grow hemp under restricted, state-run hemp pilot programs.

Eventually, the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 solidified hemp's legality nationwide. Now, hemp oil is more accessible than ever before.

The only caveat is that hemp oil must be made from a type of cannabis plant classified as "industrial hemp."

Industrial hemp strains, by definition, contains less than 0.3% THC, the cannabinoid responsible for the psychoactive "high" associated with cannabis.

Some local legislation may have restrictions against hemp products containing CBD, even in trace amounts. Often, hemp oil products contain no THC at all, but it's important to check the product's specific details and your local regulations just in case.

Key Takeaways

Hemp oil is the fatty oil extracted from the hemp plant. The most common type of hemp oil is hemp seed oil, because hemp seeds contain around 35% oil by weight, making it easy and cost effective to manufacture hemp oil from seeds.

Hemp oil has a fatty acid content that is similar to humans’ nutritional needs, which is why it has a wide range of uses as a food ingredient, cooking oil, or topical product.

Many of hemp oil’s internal benefits also impact the skin, and multiple studies have researched the link between hemp oil as a dietary supplement and the improvement of skin health.

Hemp oil is sometimes confused for “CBD oil,” which is more specific and often more expensive because it focuses on extracting hemp’s active compound, CBD. Hemp oil may not have any CBD at all.

Avoid brands who try to blur the lines between these two types of products. Instead, look for brands that offer complete transparency about each product and it’s unique benefits.

In general, there may be benefits to using both hemp oil and CBD products in a well-rounded wellness routine.

Resources

  1. “Hemp Seed” https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/hemp-seed#:~:text=Hemp%20seed%20contains%20about%2030%E2%80%9335%25%20oil%20by%20weight.&text=Because%20hemp%20oil%20is%20considered,mainly%20by%20cold%2Dpressing%20methods.
  2. “Efficacy of dietary hempseed oil in patients with atopic dermatitis” http://www.davoil.ro/documente/efficacy-of-dietary-hempseed-oil-in-patients-with-atopic-dermatitis.pdf
  3. “Skin Issues, Just One Sign of a GLA Deficiency”https://www.weightandwellness.com/resources/articles-and-videos/skin-issues-just-one-sign-gla-deficiency/#:~:text=GLA%20can%20be%20most%20effective,dermatitis%2C%20incontinence%2C%20and%20asthma.
  4. “GLA: Fit for a King?” https://www.healthline.com/health/gla-fit-for-a-king
  5. “The ameliorative effect of hemp seed hexane extracts on the Propionibacterium acnes-induced inflammation and lipogenesis in sebocytes” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6110517/
  6. “What You Need to Know About Omega-3s” https://www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-omega-3-health-benefits#:~:text=Omega%2D3%20fatty%20acids%20help,of%20blood%20fats%20called%20triglycerides.
  7. “No need to avoid healthy omega-6 fats” https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/no-need-to-avoid-healthy-omega-6-fats
  8. “Fat-Soluble Vitamins: A, D, E, and K” https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/nutrition-food-safety-health/fat-soluble-vitamins-a-d-e-and-k-9-315/
  9. “The 2014 Farm Bill Expired: What Now for Industrial Hemp?” https://harrisbricken.com/cannalawblog/the-2014-farm-bill-expired-what-now-for-industrial-hemp/#:~:text=Broadly%20speaking%2C%20the%202014%20Farm,their%20state%20department%20of%20agriculture.&text=However%2C%20until%20they%20do%2C%20no%20farm%20bill%20technically%20exists.
  10. “Hemp Farming Act of 2018” https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/5485

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