An oil that's extracted from the aerial parts (leaves, flowers, and stems) of the almighty hemp plant, hemp oil can help promote calm and relaxation—without the psychoactive effects of marijuana (a totally different plant varietal than hemp).*
If you've heard the hype and are ready to dive into the world of hemp oil, here's a primer on what to look for on a label to make sure you're getting the purest, most effective product possible:
It should be full-spectrum.
First, let's clarify a point that can be confusing: Hemp oil is not necessarily the same thing as CBD oil. Full-spectrum hemp oil contains a wide variety of native plant compounds (phytocannabinoids) including CBD (plus other cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, etc.), while hemp-derived CBD isolate contains only one: cannabidiol (CBD).
Phytocannabinoids are the plant compounds that give hemp products their chill factor: They can help support a healthy response to stress1 and promote feelings of relaxation2 due to the unique way they interact with the body's endocannabinoid system.*
Emerging research is finding that the more types of these phytocannabinoids a product has, the better: "We know that phytocannabinoids are more effective and better tolerated when taken together and in concert with their co-occurring terpenes, flavonoids, and other phytochemicals than when they are taken in isolation,"* Jessica Knox, M.D., MPH, co-founder of the American Cannabinoid Clinics and a preventive medicine physician, recently told mbg.
Look for full-spectrum hemp oil that contains the full spectrum of phytocannabinoids to get the most active compounds for your buck.
It should be organic, non-GMO, and tested for toxins.
According to Carl Germano, R.D., CNS, CDN, the author of Road to Ananda: Simple Guide to the Endocannabinoid System, Hemp Phytocannabinoids/CBD, and Your Health, the use of pesticides, herbicides, and genetic modification is not uncommon in the hemp industry.
The fact that hemp is a bioaccumulator makes this trend concerning. This plant is super efficient at removing pollutants from the air, water, and soil—meaning if it's not grown carefully, its extracts could contain those accumulated toxins. Also, if not stored and handled diligently, hemp is prone to growing certain kinds of fungi3 that can produce aflatoxin, a substance that can cause liver damage and other health issues3.
All this to say, it's important to buy your hemp from a trustworthy source. Look for a certified organic, non-GMO product that's been tested for contaminants like pesticides and heavy metals.
It should be CO2 extracted.
Most reputable hemp oil companies extract the active compounds from a hemp plant using a premium process known as CO2 extraction, which uses pressurized carbon dioxide to weed out (no pun intended) those beneficial phytocannabinoids.
Germano explains that this tends to be more efficient than other extraction methods like ethanol and olive oil extraction, and cleaner too, as it doesn't leave any potentially harmful solvents behind on the product.
It should contain validated hemp strains.
Any time you're considering buying hemp oil from a new-to-you brand, Germano says it's important to dig into their sourcing practices. Since growing industrial hemp in the U.S. was illegal until relatively recently, there isn't much information in this country about the types of plants that are now being cultivated.
This is why Germano recommends looking for strains that have been deemed safe in the European Union, where growing agricultural hemp has long been legal. That way, you'll know your product is more established and has been subject to regulation and oversight over the years.
"The E.U. commissions website has certified, validated hemp strains that have been used by humans for decades," he says. Bonus points if your hemp oil has been DNA-tested and belongs to one of these strains that are validated safe.
It should come in a dark bottle.
Finally, hemp oil—like any other oil—can go rancid if it isn't stored properly. It should be encapsulated (if a capsule or softgel format) and packaged in a way that shields it from air, heat, and light.
Make sure yours comes in a dark, amber bottle that protects it from the elements, and store your hemp oil with care.
The bottom line.
Armed with this information, you're set to find a hemp oil that lives up to expert standards. mbg is proud to say that its calm+ supplement ticks all of these boxes. The full-spectrum hemp oil product is USDA and EU certified organic and 100% CO2 extracted. Grown from certified strains on an eco-friendly farm in Poland, it's also wholly traceable and DNA-tested. It combines phytocannabinoid-rich hemp oil with other ingredients that foster relaxation such as ashwagandha and lavender into a powerful formulation that eases stress and fosters a mood balance.*
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.
Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.