09 Oct What is Hemp Oil Made From?
Wondering what hemp oil is made from is a natural response to all the information available out there that hail the benefits of consuming the stuff. Now that hemp oil is legal and widely available, there are a lot of manufacturers producing a lot of different products. If you are trying to understand all your options, it can be a bit overwhelming.
Hemp oil, Hemp seed oil, CBD oil, full-spectrum or broad-spectrum hemp oil… there are a lot of different products and as a consumer, you want to be well informed. One of the most common questions out there is “What is hemp oil made from?”
Hemp oil is made from the Cannabis Sativa plant, specifically from the hemp-type variety that contains less than 0.3% THC. Hemp oil can be extracted exclusively from hemp flowers or by pressing the parts of the entire hemp plant – flowers, leaves, stems, and the stalk.
Full Spectrum hemp oil will contain whatever CBD, trace amounts of THC, other cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, chlorophyll, and all the other compounds the hemp plant contains.
What is Hemp Oil Made From? Hemp!
So, what is hemp? Is hemp the same thing as marijuana? Hemp is, technically speaking, the same thing as marijuana though it is better to think of them as cousins in the same family. Cannabis is divided into two different varieties – C. Indica and C. Sativa. While THC containing marijuana can be of the c.indica or c.sativa varieties, hemp is exclusive of the c.sativa branch of the cannabis family. Hemp-type cannabis plants, by law, must contain less than 0.3% THC, the psychoactive compound that gets you high.
Hemp-type marijuana plants contain all the same compounds that the drug-type marijuana plants have, minus the THC. This means that they contain all of the medicinally beneficial cannabinoids (compounds found in the THC plant that interact with the endocannabinoid system) and will not get you high.
There are, however, varieties of hemp oil that are derived from THC-containing marijuana plants. These oils are typically referred to in the industry as “cannabis oil”. Cannabis oils are derived from cannabis plants that contain more than the legal limit of 0.3% THC and typically contain a higher amount of both CBD and THC. Despite this, there are varieties of cannabis oil that offer very low THC levels (just higher than the <0.3% required for it to be labeled as “hemp”).
If the label says “hemp oil” you can be confident that it will contain only trace amounts of THC.
Which Part of the Hemp Plant is Hemp Oil Made From?
Depending on the manufacturer, hemp oil can be made from different parts of the hemp plant.
Hemp Flowers: In the world of plant diversity and genetics, certain varieties of hemp plants have been developed to have a particularly high CBD content. This CBD is most concentrated in the resinous flowers of the female plant. Many hemp oil manufacturers press their hemp oil exclusively from hemp flowers to assure a high CBD-content oil.
Leaves, Stems and Stalks and Seeds: Many full-spectrum hemp oil producers utilize the whole plant to extract hemp oil. The leaves, upper stems, seed containing flowers, and sometimes even the main stalk are all put through the extraction method simultaneously.
Depending on what parts of the plant are used, the oil will have a distinct flavor and compound profile.
Pure flower hemp oil tends to have a higher concentration of CBD and contains all of the other flavonoids, terpenes, and other cannabinoid compounds. The oil extracted from pure hemp flowers (or buds as they are often referred to) is considered to be of higher quality due to its lack of plant particulates that can contribute to a bitter tasting hemp oil. Most hemp oils made from pure hemp flowers are clearly labeled as such.
When hemp oil is made from the flowers, upper stems, and leaves it is generally labeled as a full spectrum hemp oil. This type of hemp oil is the most common and easily available to find. The hemp used to create hemp oil is typically of the industrial variety and may have not been specifically bred to have very high CBD content. However, some manufacturers work specifically with hemp varieties that are high in CBD compounds. All the same, hemp oil made from the whole plant is considered by some to be a superior product due to the diverse compounds found in the oil including flavonoids, terpenes, chlorophyll, plant particulates and all of the cannabinoid compounds.
What, Exactly are Terpenes?
When you wonder ‘what is hemp oil made from?’, you are opening a door to discover what hemp oil is made of and what compounds it contains. One of those compounds, or rather, families of compounds are called “terpenes.”
Terpenes are actually more abundant in hemp-type cannabis than there are cannabinoids. More than 150 terpenes have been identified in hemp and are considered by many to be very important in the cannabis “entourage” for their distinct healing and beneficial effects.
Terpenes are generally considered to be the compounds responsible for the taste and smell of cannabis family plants. Different terpenes and their concentrations vary depending on the particular strain of hemp. There are, however, certain terpenes that are considered universal in hemp-type cannabis. Myrcene, as well as β-caryophyllene and α-humulene, are common throughout most strains of hemp along with other terpenes (known as monoterpenes) called a-pinene, limonene and linalool.
Some studies dispute the curative role of terpenes while recognizing their role in taste and smell. Other studies insist that terpenes do indeed play a key role in the entourage effect and have very specific healing qualities and beneficial characteristics.
What is undisputed is that terpenes are a major factor in the taste and smell of hemp oil and are a fundamental compound found in full spectrum hemp oil.
So What About Hemp Seed Oil?
When one investigates what hemp oil is made from you will most commonly find the answer describing hemp seed oil. It is very important to understand the difference between the two!
Hemp seed oil is also a very well known and widely available product. Hemp seed oil is, as stated in its name, made exclusively from the seeds of the hemp plant. These seeds are pressed much in the same way that sesame seeds, sunflower seeds or even olives are pressed to extract their oils. Hemp seed oil is considered particularly healthy due to its high concentrations of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Hemp seed oil does not contain significant levels of CBD, THC or other cannabinoids, though is sometimes used as a carrier oil for CBD or THC extract. Unrefined, it is greenish in color and has a rich nutty flavor. Refined hemp seed oil, oil that is transparent and has little flavor, is available as well though is more widely used in beauty care products.
How Is Hemp Oil Made?
The processing of hemp into hemp oil is yet another factor to consider when thinking about what hemp oil is made from. Certain extraction methods can potentially leave your hemp oil with potentially toxic residues. As a consumer, it is important to understand how hemp oil is made to make the best decision for yourself when purchasing a hemp oil product.
There are four extraction methods that a hemp oil producer will use to extract full spectrum hemp oil:
- Steam Distillation – In this process, hemp oil is made from taking a large amount of plant matter and subjecting it to steam distillation – a process of passing high-temperature steam through the plant material causing the oil vapors to separate from the plant.
While this process is a completely natural and more organic approach to extracting hemp oil, it is considered inefficient by many manufacturers of hemp oil because of the large amount of plant matter required to produce a smaller amount of oil. The hemp oil, while definitely considered full spectrum, contains smaller and inconsistent amounts of CBD.
There are also certain concerns for consistent product quality because overheated steam can cause damage to the chemical properties of the extracted oil.
- Carbon Dioxide Extraction – This process, also known as CO2 or Supercritical Fluid Extraction (SFE), basically consists of forcing highly pressurized CO2 through the plant matter that is contained in a pressurized chamber. The CO2, when passing through the plant chamber, causes the plant matter to break down and release its oils. The oil is then carried into a third chamber together with the CO2, which is then allowed to dissipate, leaving behind a highly concentrated full spectrum hemp oil.
This method is probably the most preferred method used by manufacturers. The hemp oil that is extracted contains a much higher concentration CBD.
The equipment, while extremely expensive, is also highly specialized and exact allowing manufacturers to achieve very specific CBD concentrations by adjusting pressure and CO2.
- Hydrocarbon Solvent Extraction – This particular process requires the use of hydrocarbon solvents such as propane or butane to extract the oil from the hemp. If you are concerned about what hemp oil is made from, you may want to avoid products using this extraction method.
Hydrocarbon Solvent Extraction is very similar to steam distillation but instead of steam, a hydrocarbon solvent is passed through the plant matter at high temperature to separate the oil. The oil is then mixed with the solvent, which will then evaporate leaving a pure hemp oil. Unfortunately, different residues from these solvents can remain in the hemp oil, potentially causing health problems for the consumer in the future.
- Natural Solvent Extraction – Considered a more natural alternative to hydrocarbon solvent extraction, this process uses a natural solvent such as olive oil or even ethanol to extract hemp oil. Using the same process as the hydrocarbon solvent extraction, the resulting hemp oil from this process is free of toxic residues.
The downside of using natural solvent extraction is the same as with steam distillation – the concentrations of CBD that are extracted into the oil are not as high or consistent in quality.
At the end of these processes, you get the same final result – full spectrum hemp oil. Obviously, the hemp oil resulting from each of these processes varies in quality and potency (referring to CBD content). If the manufacturer of the hemp oil product you are considering does not openly publish their process for extraction, be sure to ask. It is important to be an informed consumer and know exactly what it is you are purchasing.
So What Now? What Happens to the Hemp Oil?
Once manufacturers have the full spectrum hemp oil processed from the hemp plants, they have quite a few options as to what to do with it. You are probably familiar with the variety of hemp oil products available: edibles such as gummies, baked goods or hard candies, CBD isolate or tinctures, vaping oil, capsules, and even skin creams and topical ointments.
Oil tinctures, meant to be taken sublingually, often have the full-spectrum oil diluted into a carrier oil such as hemp seed oil or coconut oil. This ensures a consistent measurable dose and helps to improve the flavor.
If you are looking to consume your hemp oil by vaping, take note that you should not vape pure hemp oil. Hemp oil must be added to propylene glycol and vegetable glycerine to make it safe for inhalation.
CBD isolates are derived from full spectrum hemp oil that is further processed, removing any compound that is not CBD. This leaves a 100% pure CBD powder or crystal that can be used by the consumer in any number of ways.
Now that we have answered the question ‘what is hemp oil made from’, explained how it is made, and what products can be made from it, you can consider yourself a more informed consumer. Keep in mind that it is always best to carefully read the labels of any products you are considering purchasing. You know yourself and your situation better than anyone else and are the only one who can make the decision about which hemp oil product is best for you.