What is hemp oil? Everything you need to know

February 04, 2019

Both CBD oil and CBD hemp oil have gained a lot of attention lately, exploding into the media and making a big splash in the market. Since they hit the shelves and made a big name so quickly, a lot of people have been left confused by what they are and what they do.

If you have seen CBD hemp oil advertised lately and if you were unsure about what it is, then this article is for you. Here is a complete guide on CBD hemp oil.


First of all, it’s necessary to know what hemp is. Hemp is a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant, which has quite a notorious reputation. This is because another variety is marijuana, a variety which is known for getting people high when used recreationally.

Although the laws surrounding cannabis are difficult due to this assumed ability to get people high, hemp does not actually possess this trait. The high is caused by a compound called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC); hemp only contains less than 0.3% THC, meaning that it lacks enough to produce any psychoactive effects. Instead, hemp is high in other, more beneficial cannabinoids.

Hemp is a naturally occurring plant that has evolved over hundreds of years. It naturally grows in the northern hemisphere, but thanks to the clever cultivation techniques of humans, we now grow it in various places across the globe.

Back in the day, before hemp was criminalized alongside marijuana, it was eaten in many places. In fact, it was mandatory for farmers to grow it when people first colonized the USA, because it was an excellent nutritional food source. Furthermore, the hemp plant is incredibly hardy and can survive in harsh environments, meaning that it was a good fallback plan in case of famine. The leaves can be ingested, but usually people eat the seeds instead, which are full of amino acids and essential fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6.

A lot of hemp-based protein products are also available, as it is considered one of the best plant protein sources around.

Hemp is sometimes used by farmers to clean up the soil and protect other crops, as hemp can absorb toxins and keep agricultural land clean. This is why, if you’re buying hemp-derived products for consumption, it’s important that they were grown on clean farmland.

And it doesn’t just have nutritional benefits. The fibers of hemp stalks can be used in construction and textiles – it really is an amazing plant!


Now that hemp is out of the way, let’s talk about the most important part of CBD hemp oil: CBD. Cannabidiol, more commonly referred to as simply CBD, is a cannabinoid, meaning that it is one of the chemical compounds found in cannabis plants. There are estimated to be over one hundred cannabinoids, with the most attention paid to THC and CBD.

Cannabidiol, unlike THC, is non-psychoactive, meaning that taking it will not get you high. According to the World Health Organization, CBD is generally well-tolerated in humans and does not have the potential to be an addictive substance – in other words, it’s completely safe!

There is a growing body of research into the potential therapeutic benefits of CBD, as it is increasingly being used as an alternative treatment to reduce in a number of symptoms; we’ll get into that later.


While CBD is generally well-tolerated, some consumers do experience side effects, especially during their first time using cannabidiol. Side effects usually include a dry mouth, light headedness (caused by a lowered blood pressure), drowsiness, and sometimes nausea. All of these symptoms are not fatal and can be fixed quickly.

This list of minor side effects is often the reason people switch to CBD – traditional pharmaceuticals often have a much longer list of side effects, all of which are more concerning!


No. CBD is not psychoactive and will not make you high if you take it. This is because CBD does not bind directly to the cannabinoid receptors we have in our body. THC binds directly to the CB1 receptors which are found predominantly in the brain, explaining why THC promotes intoxication.

CBD, however, indirectly influences our endocannabinoid system (ECS), stimulating the creation of endocannabinoids (yep – we make our own cannabinoids!) which bind to corresponding cannabinoid receptors.

Through this indirect influence, CBD can promote health and wellbeing, but since it does not bind to the CB1 receptors, it won’t make you high.


There are many ways to produce CBD hemp oil. Hemp oil itself is usually made from cold pressing the seeds to produce hempseed oil. This oil is very healthy since it contains all the nutrients and minerals found within hempseeds, plus it only contains healthy, unsaturated fats.

As for the CBD, it needs to be extracted from the hemp plant. This can be done in a variety of ways. For small-scale production, solvents like butane can be used to extract cannabinoids from the plant, and some people even use olive oil! These processes both have their drawbacks, though, as butane is not good for human health and sometimes remnants manage to find their way into the final product.

Nowadays, most companies opt for supercritical CO2 extraction. Although it is more expensive to buy the machinery and hire people with the expertise to operate it, CO2 extraction results in a safe final product that is of high quality.

This process works by heating carbon dioxide to its critical temperature at 31.10˚C and increasing the pressure to 1071 psi (pounds per square inch), putting CO2 into its supercritical state. At this point, it possesses the properties of both a liquid and a gas and can act as a solvent.

In the extraction process, raw plant material is placed into an extraction chamber. Supercritical CO2 is then flooded into the chamber where it can draw the cannabinoids and terpenes out of the plant. After this has been done, the substances are separated – the extracted cannabinoids enter a collection chamber, the plant material is either discarded or sold on to be used as textiles, and the supercritical CO2 is returned to its normal state to be used in the process over and over again.

The cannabinoids are then suspended in an inert oil, usually hemp or coconut oil.


The most common way to take CBD oil is sublingually. Most CBD oils come with a dropper that you use to place a few drops of the oil beneath your tongue. Here, the cannabinoids are absorbed directly into your bloodstream through the capillaries and arteries. This is why CBD oil taken sublingually is so fast-acting and effective – it goes straight into your blood.

Some people don’t like the taste of CBD oil though, as it is quite earthy. It is possible to cook with CBD oil. If this is the case, you can’t cook with it in the same way as you would vegetable oils, as it has a lower evaporation point. However, you can drip some of it into your sauces, drinks, or other foods. This masks the taste of CBD oil, but it does make it less potent as the CBD passes through your liver and it does take longer for the effects to kick in.


CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) by indirectly stimulating the creation of natural endocannabinoids. These bind with their corresponding cannabinoid receptors, promoting your health by helping your body to heal naturally.

There have been numerous studies into different therapeutic effects that CBD may have, including the ones listed below.


CBD has proved to be good at reducing inflammation and thereby relieving pain. Of course, inflammation is a natural part of the body’s pain response, but it is important that it doesn’t stick around too long and that it doesn’t cause more pain. While the ECS is supposed to regulate this, it doesn’t always do an excellent job.

Most studies relating to CBD have been conducted on animals, usually rats or mice. A 2017 study conducted at a university in Brazil investigated CBD for the treatment of pain in response to surgical incision. The rats in the study experienced less pain after using CBD.

It is thought that THC is also a good pain reliever, which is why some medications contain both CBD and THC. You can’t necessarily buy this if you live in a state with restrictions on THC, but it is used to treat certain conditions. Sativex, for example, is an oral spray containing both cannabinoids. In a study of 47 people with multiple sclerosis (MS), people who used Sativex for one month experienced a significant improvement in pain, walking and muscle spasms when compared with a placebo group.


The endocannabinoid system actually plays a large role in regulating mood. Endocannabinoids can bind with receptors and stimulate the release of compounds like dopamine and serotonin, which are mood-boosters.

Mood disorders like anxiety and depression are usually treated with pharmaceutical drugs that have significant, unpleasant side effects. Some are even addictive and have potential for abuse.

However, CBD might actually be a natural way to tackle these disorders. A well-known 2011 study by the University of Sao Paulo investigated the use of CBD for social anxiety. In the study, 24 people with social anxiety disorder received either 600 mg of CBD or a placebo before delivering a public speech. The group who took CBD had significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment and discomfort during their speech when compared to the placebo.

It is also thought that CBD could be used for depression and PTSD.


Many people will suffer from acne in their lives, as well as other common skin conditions like psoriasis. Some skin conditions are caused by underlying inflammation, which of course can be fixed by CBD as we have already mentioned.

Others, like acne, might be caused by the overproduction of sebum from glands in the skin. In 2014, a test-tube study found that CBD oil prevented the sebaceous gland cells from secreting excessive sebum. It also prevented the activation of inflammatory cytokines, which can cause acne.

It’s also possible that CBD might help with other skin conditions like psoriasis. A 2007 study by JD Wilkinson and EM Williamson found that cannabinoids (including CBD) inhibit keratinocyte proliferation. The researchers concluded that, due to this, it could play a role in the treatment of psoriasis.


CBD is a patented neuroprotectant in the United States. Cannabis has been established as a potential treatment for epilepsy for some time now, but part of this ability to prevent seizures is down to CBD. Usually, THC is usually included in epilepsy treatments as well, but CBD is still important.

There are many studies on the matter. For one, a 2017 study by a vast team of researchers found that CBD oil significantly reduced seizure activity in children with Dravet syndrome. Another study administered 214 people with severe epilepsy 0.9-2.3 grams of CBD oil per pound of body weight. Their seizures were reduced by a median of 36.5%.

It could also help in the treatment of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s. A long-term study published in 2014 administered CBD to mice that were genetically pre-disposed to Alzheimer’s, finding that it helped to prevent cognitive decline.


Since CBD stimulates the endocannabinoid system, it could in theory help with any problems related to any of the functions the ECS controls. With the ECS having such a large role in the body, this makes CBD a pretty powerful substance.

There have been suggestions that it could help recovering addicts from substance abuse, as well as help with appetite regulation and promote heart health. Overall, it appears that CBD has great potential as an alternative treatment for a vast range of conditions, and it can even be taken to promote general wellbeing.


Theoretically, CBD hemp oil is legal in all 50 states as long as it contains less than the maximum allowed amount of THC. Laws vary from state to state, so it is important to know about the laws where you are. Furthermore, it can sometimes be tricky to buy CBD products from outside your own state and have them shipped to you, so it’s best to avoid this where possible unless you know that it is legal to do so.

A word of caution

CBD oil can be made from marijuana as well as hemp, and this often contains a lot more THC. If you live in a state where THC is legal, then this is fine and you can probably even purchase it from a licensed dispensary. However, if you live in a state where THC is illegal, then it is important that you buy CBD hemp oil.

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