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Hemp Oil—What Is It and Where Does It Come From?

Updated: Aug 17, 2018

Hemp oil has been all the rage in consumable goods lately. You may have noticed an influx of hemp infused products on the shelves of your favorite local specialty store. You know, the ones vegans and hipsters like to frequent. However, you may not realize just how much you come into contact with hemp even if you shop at big brand stores. Hemp milk, hemp coffee, hemp flour, and hemp clothing are all products that aren’t too difficult to find if you’re looking. Hemp is extremely versatile, but mostly misunderstood by the general public. We’re here to clear up some misconceptions and provide some information on this super-product.

What is Hemp Oil?

One misconception many have is that they think hemp and cannabis are the exact same plant. While hemp may come from a cannabis plant, to be classified as hemp, the plant must contain less than 0.3% THC. So, very little to no drug is present in a hemp plant. Hemp oil is extracted from the stalks of the of the hemp plants. Consumers wishing to avoid the psychoactive effects of THC, but still enjoy the other benefits of cannabis plants have found their compromise in hemp oil or hemp seed oil.

Hemp Oil, Hemp Seed Oil, CBD Oil, and Cannabis Oil

Hemp oil from the stalks can contain CBD but won’t have more than 0.3% THC. Hemp seed oil also doesn’t contain more than 0.3% THC, but it doesn’t contain much CBD either. Instead, hemp seed oil is extracted for its fatty acids. You can think of hemp seed oil like coconut oil. Some people use it for ingestion, others use it to heal skin remedies, and some use it for its anti-inflammatory and hormone balancing properties.

CBD oil is extracted from the whole plant. However, it is mainly extracted from the stalks in states where cannabis is illegal. Users in states that have legalized recreational cannabis can even find some CBD oil with THC in it, although most consumers prefer their CBD oil to be THC-free. Cannabis oil does contain THC and CBD, as it’s made from the whole plant, including the flower. Consumers won’t be able to find cannabis oil in states that have not legalized cannabis, and it is not allowed to be transported across state lines.

Methods of Extraction

To get hemp oil out of the plant, there are a few different methods producers use. Each one includes their own benefits and risks.

  1. CO2. This is one of the more expensive methods due to high pressure and low temperature controlled environment. It’s also relatively slow, so that also increases the cost. It does preserve the natural elements, but oils from this method will be on the expensive end.

  2. Ethanol. Ethanol is the type of alcohol you find in alcoholic beverages. It’s safe to use for extraction and non-toxic in smaller amounts. It will evaporate in the extraction process, so consumers can’t get drunk off of hemp oil. Ethanol can also break down the oil waxes, so the user may not experience the total range of benefits they might from an oil extracted with a different method.

  3. Butane/Hexane. These are the most efficient extractors, but some of the solvent can remain in the oil. These are harmful if inhaled, so it’s best not to use them in a vaporizer.

  4. Olive Oil. This method produces a mixture of olive oil and hemp oil, so it won’t be pure hemp oil. These products must be stored in a dark and cool place or the oils may turn rancid. Besides these drawbacks, it is one of the safest and cheapest methods for extraction.

What to look for when buying hemp oil

With all of the different products on the market and different methods for extraction, it can be confusing to know which will suit your lifestyle the best. When looking for a hemp product, make sure the plant was grown without pesticides, the oil was extracted with a method you agree with or matches your budget, take care not to use a product on or in the body that has been extracted with butane or hexane, and ask for analysis paperwork if you are concerned with the source of the oil.

Some oils can contain contaminants if handled improperly or extracted using amateur techniques. Remember to always purchase hemp oil from a certified retailer and don’t use without talking to a knowledgeable physician if you suffer from any medical conditions or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. If you are using hemp oil to treat symptoms of an ailment or disorder, only do so under supervision of a licensed physician.

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