Understanding Cannabis Terminology: Industrial Hemp and Oils

As a chemist and medical doctor I found the lack of proper nomenclature to be a hindrance in defining how cannabis preparations can help treat medical disorders. For the consumer, it’s very important to know and understand what these terms indicate.

The most compelling reason is that many patients seeking medical applications for their particular condition need to know if they are taking the right medicine for the right job.

For example, what’s the difference between hash oil, cannabis oil, Rick Simpson oil, hemp oil, hemp seed oil, and CBD oil? Can they all treat cancers, what about PTSD, insomnia, or skin rashes? When do we need THC in our preparations, when don’t we? We’ll cover industrial hemp products today, followed by CBD oil in my next article. In a separate piece I’ll review cannabis oil, what it is, why we need it, and how to make it.


From the Hemp Industries Association website:

The term “Hemp” refers to the industrial use of the stalk and seed of certain varieties; Cannabis or “marijuana” refers to the smoking or ingesting of the flowers and leaves of certain other varieties.

Psychoactivity requires high levels of THC — Tetrahydrocannabinol. Cannabis contains 5%-10% THC

[or much more]

. Industrial hemp contains only .3%-1.5% THC, yet has a higher concentration of Cannabidiol, or CBD, which maintains an inverse relationship with THC and tends to moderate its effects.[ref](http://www.thehia.org/faq7.html) 06/10/2015[/ref]

Hemp is a schedule 1 substance meaning it has a high abuse potential with no medical uses. Yes, I’m laughing too but that’s what happens when uninformed politicians make our laws. You could smoke hemp all day and have nothing to show for it but kennel cough and a migraine.

The seed products are legal in the US and UK. There are hemp seed products sold as food, they are: whole seed, shelled seed, seed oil, seed meal and presscake. In addition the plant provides non-food oil as lubricants, and many forms of fiber for making paper and textiles. It’s most underutilized application is for fuel. The hemp landscape is slowly changing as several states have legalized growing hemp in the US but it’s off to a glacial pace.


The main problem is the confusion between hemp oil and cannabis oil which has emerged as states passing medical marijuana laws allow for the use of varietals of marijuana that are low in THC and high in CBD.

One example is the varietal called Charlotte’s Web which is quite high in CBD and low in THC. It was bred to be high in CBD for treating “status epilepticus” (seizures that do not respond to conventional therapy). It is not psychoactive. You may or may not achieve success treating seizures using simple CBD oil verses this product.


Consumers often confuse hemp oil with cannabis oil and with CBD oil. CBD and hemp oil are both much lower in THC and contain CBD. CBD oil is supposed, by definition, to be much higher in the CBD fraction than any other type of oil, hence its name.

Hemp oil sold in stores is hemp seed oil. Rick Simpson calls his cannabis oil “hemp oil.” See how easy it is to get confused?

CBD is not a product or component of hemp seeds, and labeling to that effect is misleading and motivated by the desire to take advantage of the legal gray area of CBD under federal law.[ref]http://www.mintpressnews.com/hemp-oil-versus-cbd-oil-whats-the-difference/193962/) 06/10/2015[/ref]

With the market ablaze, and growing at an alarming rate, it’s crucial that consumers know the difference between hemp oil and CBD extracts. Eric Steenstra, executive director of Hemp Industries Association, had this to say:

Though hemp oil does contain low levels of CBD, typically less than 25 parts per million (ppm), CBD extracts “are produced either directly from cannabis flowers that are up to 15 percent CBD (150,000 ppm), or indirectly as a co-product of the flowers and leaves that are mixed in with the stalks during hemp stalk processing for fiber.[ref]http://www.mintpressnews.com/hemp-oil-versus-cbd-oil-whats-the-difference/193962/) 06/10/2015[/ref]