The potential benefits of CBD oil and other CBD supplements have been discussed extensively in recent years. Some claim CBD helps them with pain, or helps them relax and get a better night’s rest. Others take CBD as a daily supplement to boost overall wellbeing. Regardless, finding the right CBD product isn’t always easy.

The many varieties of CBD oils, hemp oils, cannabis oils, CBD tinctures and whatnot available today can make it difficult to decide what to get. A lack of regulatory guidelines and misleading information (sometimes intentional!) don't help matters much. So, what’s up with CBD oil vs cannabis oil? Aren’t they the same thing?


Well, to make a long story short: no—CBD oil is not the same as cannabis oil. Although both are derived from the same species of plant (Cannabis sativa), CBD oil and cannabis oil are extremely different, and also fall under completely different laws. Moreover, CBD oil and cannabis oil are usually consumed for different purposes. Here's the scoop on them:


CBD oil is most often made from industrial hemp. Hemp isn’t a different species than recreational cannabis, but it does feature one very significant difference: negligible amounts of the psychotropic constituent THC. Hemp does, however, contain CBD and other cannabinoids such as CBDA, CBC, CBGA, CBN, and CBCA. CBD oil often features all (or most) of these cannabinoids, minus the THC. Some CBD oils also have hemp seed oil or olive oil carriers added to increase bioavailability (rate and efficacy of the formula) and flavour.

Throughout much of Europe, hemp must contain no more than 0.2% THC to be considered legal. This threshold is increased slightly in the US at 0.3% THC. As these already minuscule amounts are further reduced during the production of CBD oils, there is essentially no THC in these products at all. CBD oils made from hemp cannot get you high. Because of that, CBD oil is legally available throughout the EU and in other nations.


When you’re shopping for CBD oil, you may come across the phrases “full spectrum” oil or “CBD isolate”. What do these terms mean?

• Full spectrum CBD oil

Full spectrum CBD oil doesn’t contain just CBD, but also other cannabinoids like CBN, CBDV, CBG, CBC, and CBDA. It also contains flavonoids and terpenes, the substances that give cannabis its flavour and colour. Why is this important? It is believed that these “minor” cannabinoids and other substances work in synergy to support a phenomenon known as the “entourage effect”. In essence, the active chemical constituents in hemp can work together to produce an effect that’s greater than the sum of its parts. As a result, full spectrum oils have become popular among those looking to benefit from the entourage effect.

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• CBD isolate

CBD isolate, on the other hand, doesn’t contain any other cannabinoids, flavonoids, or terpenes, as it is an almost pure form (99.9%) of CBD.

So, which one is better? Full spectrum or CBD isolate? There is no definite answer to that. CBD isolate has the advantage of being the purest form of CBD. There is no risk of psychotropic effects, and a drug test won’t show anything. CBD isolate is also tasteless and odourless, which can make it more suitable for adding to recipes. However, among consumers in the know, full spectrum CBD oils tend to be more popular as we learn more about the potential of these so-called “whole plant” formulas.



Now that you know what CBD oil is, and the different kinds within that category, we can move on to an explanation of cannabis oil. This substance is a whole different story. To start, the terms “cannabis oil”, “marijuana oil”, or “THC oil” all mean more or less the same thing (you can thank a lack of regulation for this confusion). However, as you can guess from the names, all of these products share one major similarity: THC.

Not only does cannabis oil contain more (usually much more) THC than CBD oil, but it is also derived from recreational/medicinal cannabis as opposed to industrial hemp. As products containing high levels of THC are still considered narcotics in many countries, you will have a hard time accessing cannabis oil unless you live somewhere with an established cannabis market, like Canada for example. Of course, this is not to say that a manufacturer couldn’t just label their CBD oil as “cannabis oil” in hopes of getting more customers, and unsurprisingly, this is indeed happening. But for our purposes, when talking about cannabis oil, we do mean the “real thing” that contains high levels of THC.

Given the different cannabinoid profile, people who take cannabis oil tend to do so for different reasons than those who use CBD oil. Some take it for recreational use (to get high) while others feel that THC-rich formulas help them with issues like pain and insomnia. Both recreational and medicinal users may prefer this “liquid cannabis” for all kinds of reasons; for starters, it’s deemed healthier than smoking. Plus, cannabis oil doesn’t make you smell like weed, it's easier and more precise to dose, and its effect can be stronger and longer-lasting.


We hear about the benefits of CBD all the time, but there is now evidence[1] that cannabis may exert more of its beneficial effects when both major cannabinoids (CBD and THC) are present. Likewise, research suggests[2] that for treating certain types of pain, an added dose of THC may be more effective than CBD alone. In other words, there are justified reasons why a patient would want cannabis oil that contains THC.

Because of its legal status, you won’t find cannabis oil on eBay or at your head shop around the corner. However, there are exceptions where one could legally obtain cannabis oil for medicinal uses: For instance, if you’re a patient in Germany or happen to live in another country where medicinal cannabis is legal, a doctor can prescribe you cannabis oil or you can get it with your medical card at a dispensary. In theory, this sounds great. In practice, however, many doctors will not give out cannabis prescriptions left and right for anyone who comes to their office and asks nicely. Many times, they will prescribe cannabis only if other treatment methods haven’t proven effective.


As if the situation wasn’t confusing enough, you can also find “hemp oil”. So, what the heck is that?

    Hemp oil

    Hemp oil (or hemp seed oil) is what you can find in health food stores and nice supermarkets, right beside the sunflower, sesame, or jojoba oil. Hemp seed oil is the cold-pressed extract from hemp seeds. It contains absolutely no cannabinoids, so there’s no CBD or THC in it. But this isn’t to say that hemp (seed) oil is useless; on the contrary! As a superfood rich in antioxidants, omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, and protein, it is very healthy in its own right, and can be used to provide extra nutritional value to your diet. Hemp seed oil is also widely used in cosmetics and beauty products as it moisturises and softens the skin. While you wouldn’t use hemp seed oil for the same reason(s) you’d use CBD or cannabis oil, each has its purpose. Moreover, as mentioned above, CBD oil is often infused with hemp seed oil to boost its effect.

      CBD tinctures

      Some manufacturers market CBD tinctures as “CBD oil”, which technically isn’t correct. Whereas CBD oils contain olive, hemp seed, or some other type of carrier oil for cannabinoids to bind with, tinctures use alcohol (or glycerine). These products can be quite similar to both CBD oil and cannabis oil (depending on cannabinoid content), but are not ideal for everyone. For instance, tinctures used topically may irritate the skin, and oftentimes tinctures are less regulated, chiefly because they’re not as popular as CBD or cannabis oil. Ultimately, it comes down to personal taste and reason for use.

        Rick Simpson oil (RSO)

        Rick Simpson oil (RSO) is another cannabis concoction, this time popularised by former engineer turned cannabis advocate, Rick Simpson. Simpson developed a method for extracting cannabinoids using alcohol, then using a rice cooker to evaporate the alcohol to leave behind a potent extract. The exact cannabinoid profile of this concoction varies, but it’s known to contain both THC and CBD. RSO is also fairly easy to make at home, but you do need a rice cooker. For the most part, what makes Rick Simpson oil different is that it is a highly potent cannabis extract containing a significant amount of THC.

        External Resources:
        1. Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects
        2. Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain
        This content is for educational purposes only. The information provided is derived from research gathered from external sources.

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