Is Your CBD Oil a Scam? How to Know Before Your Buy

RxLeaf October 14, 2021 8 comments

So, you tried it and nothing happened. Is your CBD oil a scam?

First, it’s important to start at the beginning. To know the answer to, “Is your CBD oil a scam,” you have to know what to realistically expect from this product. CBD oil covers a lot of ground and what that terrain looks like depends on where you live. In Canada, for example, CBD oil refers to a cannabis oil that is high in CBD. In America, CBD oil specifically refers to an oil that derives from hemp. Further, some hemp seed oils will be marketed as CBD oil, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. So, what is the difference?

Well, hemp is a type of cannabis. But, when we say ‘cannabis’ we typically really mean ‘marijuana.’ You know, the plants that have THC levels higher than 0.3%. Both plants, however, have the same genus and species – called Cannabis sativa. But, while nomenclature doesn’t differentiate between the two, the human body certainly does.

What is the Difference Between Hemp and Cannabis?

There are two things that determine the course of what a Cannabis sativa plant grows up to be: environmental conditions and genetics. To dig a little deeper, while each plant has its unique genotype, the phenotype is the bit we’re concerned with. The phenotype is how the plant expresses its genes. So, if you grow in poor soil, in drought conditions, that little cannabis plant is never going to grow up to be all that it can be, rich with lush trichomes.

While one cannabis plant has the genetics to grow 1%THC, another may have the potential to be 25% THC. How that pans out in the end product, depends on environment. Basically, the genotype determines the potential phenotype, but the environment has the final say in what this plant can do.

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is your cbd oil a scam represented by field of hemp

What does Science Say About CBD Oil?

The reason patients choose CBD vary, from pain management to sleep, and much more. The officially accepted uses include (depending on your region, of course): spasticity in multiple sclerosis, arthritic inflammation, as a mild anti-psychotic, insomnia, anxiety, nausea or vomiting associated with cancer treatment, seizure, addiction, and for headache.

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CBD, or cannabidiol, does not appear to bind directly to the CB receptors. Instead, it modulates receptors, which means it affects how cannabinoid interact with them. In fact, one of the prescribed reversals for taking too much THC is to add CBD as this will prevent further THC binding and thus lower the psychoactivity.

This non-psychoactive cannabinoid also appears to inhibit fatty acid enzymes (FAAH), resulting in increased levels of anandamide and 2-AG. The effect of increasing these endogenous cannabinoids is to ease and calm the mind.

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What is Hemp Oil?

The term “hemp” refers to the industrial variety of Cannabis sativa. It has a wide variety of potential uses – from housing to clothing to bioplastics and biofuel.

However, you can also create hemp CBD oil from this plant. Whether or not a Cannabis plant is going to be called hemp depends on the levels of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) it contains. In fact, many hemp farmers have been dinged by stringent state laws that state any hemp crop ‘running hot‘ must be destroyed. This term refers to a hemp crop that has THC levels greater than 0.3%. CBD oil in America is largely from the hemp plant.

It’s important to read the fine print, so to speak. There are difference types of hemp oil (Credit: Matt Weeks)

Hemp Oil/Hemp Seed Oil: made from cold-pressed hemp seeds. This will contain very few cannabinoids and is not worth purchasing if you are looking for medicinal treatment. If you are looking to boost your health, by all means, take it daily as if it were a vitamin should you see benefit in consuming extra plant-based protein. If you were sold this oil as a CBD oil, you definitely were scammed.

Hemp Extract Oil: full spectrum oil is made from the whole plant. We caution you to know your producer. Many hemp extract oils that are currently on the market are filled with hemp seed oil (read above) with a tiny bit of hemp extract mixed in. Some are even mixed with vegetable oil!

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Hemp Extract: is the real deal, the full complement of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. The only consideration you would have here is asking the producer what their extraction methods are. You want to have a properly prepared product free of solvents.

Is Your CBD Oil a Scam: Confusing Terms

The terminology is definitely confusing. And, especially so when people misuse the terms. Even worse, there are no standardized definitions. For example, it is also possible to mislead consumers by publishing the ratio of CBD to THC instead of the overall content for these cannabinoids.

Importantly, hemp varieties have a very high ratio of CBD to THC, yet this is not because CBD levels are high, but because THC levels are extremely low. While some therapeutic effect may result, it is not nearly as efficient or effective as obtaining CBD from a variety cultivated specifically for high CBD levels, by weight.

Some retailers may sell a “hemp oil” as a medicinal product. However, this is most misleading. As mentioned, technically hemp oil is a product of the hemp seeds. It inherently has a very low cannabinoid content.

You may see it called CBD oil – a commonly marketed product that consists of concentrated CBD dissolved in oil (which may or may not be derived from extracted hemp oil). CBD oil is one way to take CBD for medicinal purposes, so the expectation is that the levels of CBD would be high in this product. In the US, different states have specified the THC or CBD content that could qualify a product as high CBD. However, these range from having CBD levels as low as 3% to 15% CBD, by weight.

is your cbd oil a scam represented by oil next to hemp seed

FDA Warning: Is Your CBD Oil a Scam

The FDA has issued several warning letters, in the past, to producers of CBD oil. This was in response to finding incorrectly labeled products, and many that actually have very low CBD levels. Some mislabeled products even had high THC levels!

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Consumers should be wary and ask to see actual numbers in terms of weight or percent by weight. There has been a call to standardize terms and products in the cannabis industry in order to address these issues. The ASTM has formed a committee to discuss cannabis products and propose a series of standards for the industry. They will be advised by groups that have been working on this issue for several years now such as the Foundation of Cannabis Unified Standards (FOCUS).

Different countries or regions have different legal definitions of hemp based on THC levels, expressed as percent by weight of plant material (flowers, upper leaves, stems). In Europe, those plants with no more than 0.2% THC are hemp. In Canada no more than 0.3% THC. At this time in the U.S. tops out THC levels at 0.3%. Standardization will go a long way to helping consumers avoid the purchase of useless products.



  1. Barbara Miller

    What should I look for? I want buy CBD oil for my chronic pain and anxiety and get off the pharmaceuticals I take, but I never know what I am getting. I got the hemp one time and it does absolutely nothing. Then one time I had a cbd oil, but it was so expensive and I had to take so much of it to get it to work, it wasn’t worth it. I can’t figure it out. I am 60 years old, and don’t buy anything in my limited budget, because I don’t know what to buy.
    Can you please help me?

    • RxLeaf

      The best CBD is derived from the whole cannabis plant. Look for cannabis oil at 26 mg/ml CBD and taking anywhere from 0.5-1 ml twice per day. You have to look for CBD derived from the whole cannabis or hemp plant and it is always worthwhile to get it from a GMP certified producer if you can. CBD oil from hemp seeds (versus the plant) does not contain much CBD at all. Just because a product is labelled CBD does not necessarily mean it contains any useful concentration of the cannabinoid. Hope this helps.

    • Jennifer Grant

      Hi Barbara – Full Extract Cannabis Oil is what you want to look for. Try to find a cannabis physician in your region to help you with dosing. You may benefit from a tiny bit of high THC oil for pain…but that can also heighten anxiety. Best to work with a doc close to you. Cannabis medicine can definitely be pricey. Find out if there are any “compassionate pricing” dispensaries in your area. They will be able to provide a reduced price, but you often do need to have a medical cannabis card/prescription to access them.

  2. Ed

    A former cancer survivor. Also, I suffer from osteoarthritis in which every joint in my body seems to hurt beyond description and to compound the pain I also have degenerated discs in my back, so needless to say not a day goes by that I can say is a good day. But my dilemma is I reside in Indiana, CBD is now legal (0.3%) would it be worth buying CBD oil for relief or would it be a waste of money because the content is not high enough to help? Also, could you recommend a viable product that would actually be worth the money and work? I’ve tried some and unfortunately the results were neal… Any honest feedback would be appreciated!
    Thanks, Ed

    • RxLeaf

      Hi Ed – CBD derived from hemp seed oil has very little CBD content. The best CBD is derived from the whole cannabis plant. In Canada, patients are getting great relief from cannabis oil at 26 mg/ml and taking anywhere from 0.5-1 ml twice per day. You have to look for CBD derived from the whole cannabis or hemp plant and it is always worthwhile to get it from a GMP certified producer if you can. Just because a product is labelled CBD does not necessarily mean it contains any useful concentration of the cannabinoid.

    • Jennifer Grant

      Hi Ed – this is likely hemp oil which may not have enough cannabinoids to help with that level of pain. You can check out Mary’s Medicinals, who ship throughout the US. Many patients recommend this company as reputable.

  3. Raymond Blanton

    I live in TX where cannabis is illegal, but CBD is legal. I am a chronic pain patient and would to supplement my pain meds with CBD. The problem is I cannot, CAN NOT, fail a UA, ever because I’m on a pain contract, and regardless of what folks may think, my opioids help me to live. So I need serious, professional, medical advice. What do I do?

    • Jennifer Grant

      It is highly unlikely that you would fail the UA on CBD, but there is 0.03% THC even in hemp-based CBD oil. So, there is no guarantee. The test does not look for metabolites of CBD. Why are you not permitted to take a legal product (CBD)?