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What is Hemp Extract & What are the Benefits Everyone is talking about hemp, hemp extracts, CBD, and the perceived health benefits of it. There is very little scientific research to support Find out what the research says about hemp oil, who should avoid it, and how it may affect your health. Tests, comparisons, and reviews of CBD oils and hemp extract supplements, lotions, and balms by ConsumerLab. See CL's Top Picks for best quality, lowest cost CBD. Learn what to look for on labels when choosing CBD and information on what CBD does, dosage, and side effects.

What is Hemp Extract & What are the Benefits

Everyone is talking about hemp, hemp extracts, CBD, and the perceived health benefits of it. There is very little scientific research to support claims, but users are reporting very positive results. If you’re not sure what hemp extracts are, keep reading!

What is Hemp?

The hemp plant is closely related to the cannabis plant. They are from the same genus of plant species and are often confused with each other. Very simply, cannabis contains higher levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), while hemp has higher levels of CBD (cannabidiol). THC is what gets people high, while CBD has no properties to make users high. Of course, there are several other differences between each plant, but we’ll just keep it simple here. According to United States law, hemp is not allowed to have more than 0.3% THC in it.

As a plant, hemp has a myriad of uses, from paper, to building materials, to soaps, lotions, and balms. Hemp clothing is becoming more and more popular since it gets softer with each wash! However, in this article, we’ll stick to hemp extracts and their benefits.

What is Hemp Oil vs. Hemp Seed Oil?

Hemp oil is typically (not always) the oil derived from the entire plant – leaves, buds, stems. Hemp seed oil is the oil pulled from the hemp seeds and typically has a lower CBD content than the buds. It does offer health benefits though and is certainly worthwhile adding to your morning breakfast cereal or eggs!

The Benefits of Hemp Oil

Very little formal research has been done on the hemp plant and its properties, but what has been done shows promising results, showing all kinds of benefits, cosmetically as well as from a health standpoint. Many people use CBD as an alternative to over the counter medications that are manufactured, and therefore considered unnatural. Since CBD is plant-derived, it has a reputation as being healthier because it’s natural. However, as with anything, the source should be considered – a plant contaminated with pesticides is going to be more harmful to the consumer than an over the counter medication that has gone through rigorous testing and is categorically safe for the consumer. Once the industry is better regulated, CBD products will undergo the same rigorous testing, so consumers can rest easy, knowing they are not ingesting contaminants, either from the plant or from the extraction process.

Pain relief: People use CBD/hemp oil for pain relief, but all the studies have been on mice so far. More human testing will back up the findings and results won’t be available for a while. In the meantime, however, people do use CBD oil to reduce pain caused by inflammation.

Muscle pain/tension: CBD has also shown interesting results and has helped some people with muscle strains. It’s tied into the anti-inflammatory properties of the plant.

Skin problems: CBD is also used for treating acne. A scientific study has been done and the results are very promising. Click here to read the full study. This sort of study is what’s needed across the board to lend credibility to claims made.

Clearer thinking: Some people claim that CBD helps them focus and concentrate better.

Insomnia: Limited studies have shown that it helps promote a deeper, more relaxing sleep.

CO2 Extracted Oil

Most hemp farmers send their feedstock to a processor, who will extract the oil from the plant, package it and sell it as CBD oil. The oil is extracted using a solvent – for hemp, it’s usually ethanol because it’s a very quick method of extraction. However, more people are turning to CO2 because of its tunability and its reputation as a clean method of extraction. What’s not considered is tFhat ethanol is still introduced at the post processing stage and must be removed before being sold to customers. Provided the ethanol used is food grade, trace amounts are not harmful to the end user.

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The plant material is fully dried before being ground up and placed into an extraction system. The solvent then flows over it and extracts the oil. The solvent is under high pressure and temperature, which converts it into a powerful solvent – it’s not quite liquid and it’s not quite gas. It’s sort of a milky, hazy substance. This is CO2 at the supercritical stage. Once the solvent has passed through the feedstock, it moves into the next chamber, called the extraction vessel, and depressurizes. In doing so, the solvent stream changes back to a gas, dropping the oil from the stream, where it falls down the extraction chamber, and into a collection cup. The solvent stream continues through the system and through the plant stock, over and over, in a closed loop, until the run is over.

Hemp Oil: Is It Good for You?

Hemp oil, also known as hemp seed oil, is made from hemp, a cannabis plant like the drug marijuana but containing little to no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical that gets people “high.” Instead of THC, hemp contains cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical that has been used to treat everything from epilepsy to anxiety.

Hemp is increasingly popular as a remedy for a range of conditions including skin issues and stress. It may contain properties that contribute to reduced risks of illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease and cardiovascular disease, though additional research is necessary. Hemp oil may also reduce inflammation in the body.

In addition to CBD, Hemp oil contains large amounts of omega-6 and omega-3 fats, which are two types of unsaturated fat s, or “good fats,” and all nine essential amino acids, the materials your body uses to make protein. Here’s more information about nutrients in hemp seed oil and how they may benefit your health.

Nutrition Information

Hemp oil is made from hemp seeds. In one serving of hemp seeds (3 tablespoons), you’ll find the following:

  • Calories: 170
  • Calories from fat: 108
  • Total fat: 12 grams
  • Saturated fat: 1 grams
  • Trans fat: 0 grams
  • Cholesterol: 0 grams
  • Sodium: 0 grams
  • Total carbohydrates: 5 grams
  • Sugars: 1 grams
  • Protein: 10 grams

Hemp seeds also contain these minerals and hemp nutrients:

Many of these nutrients provide the body necessary minerals and also contribute to overall health. Note that hemp seeds contain a significant amount of iron (20 % of your recommended daily diet). This helps prevent iron deficiency, or anemia.

Potential Health Benefits of Hemp Oil

Hemp seed oil is used as a remedy for a range of conditions. Some studies show that its nutrients and minerals can contribute to better skin and heart health as well as reduced inflammation. Here’s a deeper look at what the research says about the potential health benefits of hemp oil:

Improved Cardiovascular Health

The amino acid arginine is present in hempseed oil. Studies have shown that this ingredient contributes to a healthy cardiovascular system. Consuming foods with high arginine levels can help decrease the risk of heart disease.

In studies, the CBD in hemp oil has been shown to reduce seizures in rare types of childhood epilepsy that are resistant to other treatments, Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. Regularly taking CBD can also reduce the number of seizures brought on by tuberous sclerosis complex, a condition that causes tumors to form throughout the body.

Reduced Inflammation

Over time, excess inflammation in your body can contribute to a variety of diseases including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and asthma. It has been suggested that gamma linolenic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid found in hemp, acts as an anti-inflammatory. Studies have also linked the omega-3 fatty acids in hemp with reductions in inflammation.

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Healthier Skin

Spreading hemp oil on your skin as a topical application can also reduce symptoms and provide relief for several types of skin disorders. One study showed that hemp oil can act as an effective acne treatment, though more research is needed in this area. In addition, consuming hemp seed oil was found to improve symptoms of atopic dermatitis, or eczema, due to the presence of the “good” polyunsaturated fats in the oil.

Potential Risks of Hemp Oil

Although hemp and marijuana come from the same species of cannabis plant, hemp has little to no THC. This means that consuming hemp is legal in the U.S. and will not cause you to become intoxicated or impaired.

In general, hemp seed oil is safe to ingest or use topically, but there are a few things to note if you decide to start taking hemp oil. Pay attention to the following potential risks of hemp oil:

Some people experience skin irritation when using topical oils containing CBD, possibly due to an allergy. Start with using a small amount to see how your skin reacts to it, and keep an eye on any changes.

Digestive Issues

It’s possible that ingesting CBD-containing oils like hemp oil can cause an upset stomach or diarrhea. Again, when you’re first introducing hemp oil into your diet, start small to see how it impacts you. Reactions may be different from person to person.

Show Sources

Brain, Behavior, and Immunity: “Omega-3 Supplementation Lowers Inflammation and Anxiety in Medical Students: A Randomized Controlled Trial.”

Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment: “Scoping paper on the potential adverse effects of CBD products.”

Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports: “Cannabis for the Treatment of Epilepsy: an Update.”

Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology: “Gamma linolenic acid: an antiinflammatory omega-6 fatty acid.”

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon: “Hemp Oil.”

GW Research Ltd.: “A Randomized Controlled Trial of Cannabidiol (GWP42003-P, CBD) for Seizures in Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (GWPCARE6).”

Harvard Men’s Health Watch: “Iron and your health.”

Journal of Clinical Investigation: “Cannabidiol exerts sebostatic and antiinflammatory effects on human sebocytes.”

Journal of Dermatological Treatment: “Efficacy of dietary hempseed oil in patients with atopic dermatitis.”

Mayo Clinic Proceedings: “Clinicians’ Guide to Cannabidiol and Hemp Oils.”

Nutrition & Metabolism: “The cardiac and haemostatic effects of dietary hempseed.”

CBD & Hemp Extract Supplements, Lotions, and Balms Review

Make sure you’re choosing the best CBD and hemp extracts approved in our tests!

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CBD oils and hemp extracts compared in this review:

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Bluebird Botanicals Hemp Extract Classic

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CBDFX Gummies 300 mg – Mixed Berries

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Charlotte’s Web 17 mg – Mint Chocolate Flavor

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Curaleaf Hemp Lotion – Lemongrass

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Elixinol Organic Balance

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Garden of Life Dr. Formulated CBD + Sleep

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Garden of Life Dr. Formulated CBD 30 mg – Softgel

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Garden of Life Dr. Formulated CBD 50 mg – Liquid

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Green Roads Relax Bears 300 mg – Sweet & Relaxing

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Lord Jones Hemp-Derived CBD Tincture -Naturally Flavored Peppermint

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Manitoba Harvest CBD

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Nature’s Love Topical ReLeaf Salve

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NuLeaf Naturals CBD Maximum Strength – 240 mg CBD per bottle

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Plus CBD Oil Hemp Softgel 15 mg

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Plus CBD Oil Hemp Softgel 5 mg

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Swanson CBD 15 mg

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Swanson CBD Full Spectrum 150 mg Balm – Mint

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Swanson Extra Strength CBD Full Spectrum 25 mg Oil Drops – Mint

Summary

  • What is CBD? CBD (cannabidiol) is a compound derived from hemp and marketed as a supplement despite the U.S. FDA’s position that CBD is not a dietary supplement. (See What It Is).
  • Does CBD work? CBD taken orally has been shown to reduce the frequency of certain types of seizures, and preliminary evidence suggests it may also help with anxiety, schizophrenia, and other conditions. However, most of these effects have involved large doses of CBD — hundreds of milligrams per day, which is more than in many marketed CBD supplements and products. CBD applied to the skin (such as CBD creams, gels, and lotions) may modestly reduce some forms of pain (See What It Is and What It Does).
  • What did CL’s tests of CBD products find? ConsumerLab found significant amounts of CBD in all of the products but the cost to obtain an equal amount of CBD from each product ranged more than 10-fold, from just 24 cents to $2.67 per 10 mg. Interestingly, there were many good, lower cost products available on the market than ConsumerLab found in its last Review in 2018. Levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, a psychoactive compound) also tended to be much lower, with THC not detectable in most products. (See What CL Found and use the Results table to compare the amounts of CBD and other cannabinoids in products).
  • Best CBD Oil? Based on quality and value, ConsumerLab selected several Top Picks including an overall Top Pick as well as high, medium, and low-dose picks for oral use, a Top Pick among topical lotions and balms, and a Top Pick for Pets based on top quality and value.
  • How to choose a CBD product: If you seek CBD, look for products that list the amount of CBD or cannabidiol per serving (and don’t confuse that with the amount per entire bottle). If a product lists only “cannabinoids” it may contain some CBD but you won’t know how much. Products may still have significant amounts of CBD if they list “hemp extract” as an ingredient, but don’t expect much CBD if “hemp oil” is the only ingredient. Hemp extracts are more likely to contain a range of cannabinoids in addition to CBD (although it’s not clear if this provides added benefit) and this is what is meant by the term “full-spectrum” on labels — but full-spectrum products may or may not contain THC. If you want to avoid THC, look for products that claim to be “THC-free.” (See ConsumerTips)
  • How much CBD to take and when to take CBD: Most of the research with CBD has involved high doses (several hundred milligrams daily). However, many CBD products on the market are lower dose and it is not clear if this dosing is effective. Nevertheless, to greatly increase CBD absorption, take it with or shortly after a fatty meal. (See ConsumerTips: Dosage)
  • CBD safety, side effects and drug interactions: High-dose CBD can cause a range of side effects (particularly gastrointestinal) and affect certain medications. For details, see Concerns and Cautions.
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In addition the results of its expert testing, ConsumerLab uses only high-quality, evidence based, information sources. These sources include peer-reviewed studies and information from agencies such as the FDA and USDA, and the National Academy of Medicine. On evolving topics, studies from pre-print journals may be sourced. All of our content is reviewed by medical doctors and doctoral-level experts in pharmacology, toxicology, and chemistry. We continually update and medically review our information to keep our content trustworthy, accurate, and reliable. The following sources are referenced in this article:

You must be a ConsumerLab.com member to get the full test results along with ConsumerLab.com’s Top Picks and ConsumerTips on how to choose and use CBD. You’ll get results for 18 popular CBD products (including oils, capsules, lotions, balms, and one for pets) including 10 selected by ConsumerLab.com based on reader requests and 8 tested through our voluntary Quality Certification Program.

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