Walk into any health food store and you’re likely to be greeted by a variety of different “essential” oils. You may even find them in a rack right next to CBD oil products.
Essential oils have a long history which may stretch back as far as Ancient Egypt. These oils have been put to use by both modern and ancient people for a variety of reasons.
Some are used for aromatherapy. Others are infused into skin creams and cosmetics. Certain edible essential oils can even be used as ingredients in foods.
On the surface, essential oils and CBD oils seem quite similar. After all, they are both oils which have been extracted from a plant. What’s more, they are often put to similar uses.
But there are quite a few differences between CBD oil and essential oils. Let’s take a look.
Where Essential Oils and CBD Oils Come From
Essential oils are made from a variety of different plants. Some of the most common plants used to extract essential oils are rosemary, lavender, peppermint, patchouli, tea tree oil, and citrus fruits.
There are a variety of different techniques used to extract the essential oils from the plants, but the most common are distillation methods.
Distillation relies on passing hot steam through the plant matter, which extracts the essential oils as it passes through. This steam is then collected and allowed to condense, with the resulting mixture being high in these desirable essential oils.
Another method for plants which naturally contain high amounts of oil (such as citrus fruits) is called expression. With expression, the plant material is squeezed in a press to express the essential oils, which can then be collected for use.
Some other methods, such as solvent extraction, are also sometimes used to create essential oils.
All of these methods are very similar to the techniques used to extract CBD oil from the hemp plant. In fact, you can use all of the methods described above to create CBD oil.
However, the highest quality CBD products on the market today use an altogether more high tech method of extraction known as CO2 Extraction.
CO2 extraction is a process where gaseous CO2 is heated and compressed into a “supercritical” state where it turns from a gas into a liquid. This liquid CO2 can then be used as a solvent, which carries with it waxes, oils, resin, and precious CBD from the hemp plant.
This CBD extraction method could also be used to make your run of the mill essential oils, but is a far more high tech and precision extraction technique compared to old school distillation or expression methods.
Part of this is because CBD oil -- unlike many essential oils -- is extracted for human consumption as a supplement in the form of tinctures. Where many essential oils are used only for external applications or aromatherapy and not meant to be consumed, higher standards of quality need to be met for CBD tinctures.
As a result, some added scrutiny is also applied after the extraction. CBD should be stringently tested by laboratory analysis before being made into products, to ensure its quality and give precise measurements of the CBD concentration. This is a process which very few essential oils are subject to.
The Big Difference: Ingredients
The most desirable ingredient in most essential oils are a class of compounds known as terpenes.
Terpenes are responsible for the many pleasant aromas we find in the plant world. You can find terpenes in almost any type of plant. They are what make lemons smell like citrus, they are the richly aromatic compounds which give pine trees their scent, and they are the tantalizing molecules responsible for the sumptuous smell of roses and other flowers.
Not only do they smell good, terpenes have been investigated for their different effects on biological systems.
For the most part, it is these terpenes which fans of essential oils are seeking when they pick out those little vials of oil from their favorite plants.
CBD oil also contains terpenes, which are a natural component of the hemp plant and responsible for the distinctive smell of hemp. Hemp plants can vary widely in their terpene profile, with cannabis plants containing hundreds of different types of terpenes.
However, when it comes to CBD oil, these terpenes are more of a footnote than anything else.
That’s because the star of the show is CBD itself, which is not a terpene at all! Instead, CBD is part of a class of compounds known as cannabinoids.
The type of hemp plant used to make CBD oils is bred specifically for its high CBD content. Unlike terpenes which are strikingly common across the natural world, CBD and other cannabinoids are a bit harder to come by, with the most potent source of these cannabinoids being their namesake, the cannabis plant.
When selecting CBD oils, you’re likely to find the terms “Full Spectrum” or “Isolate.” This refers to the cannabinoid content of the oil. Full Spectrum CBD Oils contain traces of every cannabinoid found in the hemp plant (and there are over 120 different cannabinoids which can be found in hemp!)
Although essential oils do contain contents other than terpenes, for the most part it is the aroma of the essential oils and the delicious scent of terpenes which are being sought after by essential oil advocates. In contrast, CBD oil has an entirely different set of active ingredients.
Hemp Oil vs CBD Oil
So, is CBD oil an essential oil?
Not really. Two simple reasons:
- The extraction and testing process is far more intricate than for essential oils
- The high concentration of cannabinoids differentiates it from essential oils, which are casual extracts from a variety of plants
However, you may find on the market some products labeled as “hemp oil” or even “cannabis essential oil.”
These products are typically made with a steam distillation process. Unlike CBD oil, they are unlikely to contain any significant concentrations of cannabinoids.
While CBD oil could be referred to as “hemp oil” or “hemp extract,” what differentiates it is its high concentration and precise dosage of CBD.
If you’re looking for CBD oil and hoping to experience the effects of CBD as a supplement, steer clear of “hemp oil” and “hemp essential oils.” These won’t have the high concentration of CBD necessary for it to be used as a supplement.