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Hemp Flower vs CBD Flower Differences

 hemp flower oil and cbd flower oil

The stem of the Cannabis sativa plant stretches to great heights, branching out into a plethora of serrated leaves that grow upwards in a spiral pattern. It’s dioecious, meaning there are female and male varieties. 

Male cannabis plants grow pollen sacs, while their female counterparts yield buds, otherwise known as flowers. These flowers contain the highest concentration of terpenes, flavonoids and cannabinoids, like CBD. Accordingly, they’re often considered the most valuable component of the cannabis plant and are harvested to create a bevy of cannabinoid products.

...both hemp flowers and CBD flowers can undergo processes to secrete a concentrated oil that can then be used in CBD edibles and CBD topicals.

That said, what’s the difference between a hemp bud and a CBD flower? We’re harvesting our cannabis expertise to weed out the myths and deliver top-quality cannabis know-how. 

Hemp 101

While Cannabis sativa plants are primarily grown to harvest and distribute the cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the hemp plant is a variety of Cannabis sativa (Cannabis sativa L.) that is grown for industrial purposes. This includes the production of fiber, paper and textiles.

As of 2018, Cannabis sativa and hemp became legally differentiated when hemp was taken off the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) list of controlled substances. Subsequently, manufacturers began cultivating and harvesting hemp plants for cannabidiol (CBD). 

Cannabis sativa is still classified as a Schedule I controlled substance. 

Legally, what differentiates hemp from Cannabis sativa is its THC concentration. Per the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp plants cannot contain more than 0.3% of THC to ensure they will not produce psychoactive effects. 

Any strain that contains more than 0.3% of THC is considered non-hemp cannabis, or marijuana, under federal law.

Physically, what differentiates hemp from Cannabis sativa is its stature. While sativa strains typically grow tall and slender, the hemp strain often results in plants that are short and bushy and that produce wider leaves.

All that said, is hemp flower the same as CBD flower? Let’s explore.

What Is a Hemp Flower?

A hemp flower is a reproductive structure that can be found on female Cannabis sativa L. plants with 0.3% or less THC content. They contain many trichomes — crystal-like appendages — that cover the entirety of the flower and protect the plant from predators, thanks to their bitter taste and strong aromas. 

And the more trichomes, the higher the CBD potency. 

Hemp flowers also contain a full–spectrum of other cannabinoids beyond CBD. These include:

  • Cannabigerol (CBG)
  • Cannabinol (CBN)
  • Cannabichromene (CBC)
  • Cannabidivarin (CBDV)
  • Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV)
  • Trace amounts of THC

Hemp flowers are only produced once the female plant reaches full maturity, which can occur anywhere from 100 to 120 days after it’s planted. 

During this development phase, the plant will begin to produce the cannabinoids above, as well as flavonoids and terpene compounds, which contribute to the plant’s aroma, flavor and potential health benefits.

To harvest the hemp flowers, farmers must work carefully to ensure the trichomes, terpenes and pistils of the flower are intact. Failure to do so may reduce its potential effects and decrease its value on the market. 

Using machetes or shears, the hemp plants are cut at the stalks and moved to an area where they can dry to lock in potency. Oftentimes, they’re stored in a barn or warehouse.

Once harvested and dried, hemp flowers are highly potent and, unlike CBD oil, they don’t require an extraction process. Rather, whole hemp flowers are often used for smoking or vaping purposes. 

However, manufacturers can also infuse hemp flowers into edibles through a process called decarboxylation. This involves heating the flower to activate the cannabinoids and then infusing the flower into a carrier oil, such as:

  • Coconut oil
  • Olive oil
  • Avocado oil

This increases the bioavailability of the product.

To add hemp flower to topicals, such as lotions and salves, the hemp flower does have to undergo an extraction process to produce a concentrated hemp oil. The oil is then mixed with a carrier oil and added to the product.

What Is a CBD Flower?

Oftentimes, “hemp flower” and “CBD flower” are used interchangeably, but they’re not exactly the same thing. 

So, what is CBD flower? While a CBD flower can be classified as a hemp flower, it’s oftentimes specially cultivated to contain higher levels of CBD than a hemp flower. Accordingly, it’s highly potent in CBD and may have stronger effects when smoked, consumed or applied topically onto the skin. Is CBD flower legal? Federally, it is legal to use CBD flowers. However, regulations may vary by state.

Potential Benefits of CBD

So, what exactly are the effects of CBD?

CBD, or cannabidiol, is currently being studied for its potential health benefits. While there is still more research to be done, some possible benefits of CBD are starting to emerge. These may include:

  • Relief from aches or physical discomfort – CBD may interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which helps the body process physical sensation. Consequently, smoking CBD flowers or adding a CBD-rich product to your daily routine can help ease discomfort and return your body to equilibrium. 
  • Elevated moods – CBD may also help regulate the neurotransmitters in your brain to help support a more positive outlook. Specifically, the cannabinoid is believed to increase the availability of serotonin to alleviate feelings of sadness. 
  • Improved sleep – The cannabinoid may also be effective in supporting healthy sleep cycles because it can promote feelings of relaxation and ease feelings of nervousness that may contribute to nightly tossing and turning. 
  • Heart health – CBD may have a protective effect on the heart; however, research is still in its early stages. It’s also believed that CBD can support healthy blood sugar levels to improve heart function.

Hemp Flower vs CBD Flower: How to Choose

So, what’s the difference between hemp flower extract and CBD flower extract?

As previously explored, both hemp flowers and CBD flowers can undergo processes to secrete a concentrated oil that can then be used in CBD edibles and CBD topicals. This oil is often referred to as hemp extract.

That said, hemp flower extract and CBD flower extract differ in their extraction methods and overall composition:

  • Hemp flower extract – Using a solvent, such as CO2, oil is extracted from the flowers of the hemp plant. This type of extract is full-spectrum and contains a range of terpenes, flavonoids and cannabinoids. As such, it may contribute to what’s called the “entourage effect,” where the combination of cannabinoids and other plant compounds work together to enhance the potential therapeutic effects.
  • CBD flower extract – CBD hemp flower extract, on the other hand, contains higher levels of CBD and may not contain as many compounds as hemp flower extract since it’s highly concentrated.

In summary, if you’re looking for a more potent CBD product, look for one that contains CBD flowers. That said, CBD hemp flower products may contain higher levels of THC as well. As such, you’ll need to choose a product with a cannabinoid profile that meets your needs. But, does CBD flower expire? While CBD flowers do have a shelf life, they can last anywhere from six months to a year if stored properly. 

For those looking for a full-spectrum of cannabinoids, flavonoids and terpenes, hemp flowers may be the best option.

In addition to paying close attention to the differences in potency between the two cannabis flowers, you can also make an informed decision when buying CBD products by:

  • Reading the label and ingredients – Analyze the label carefully to understand the ingredients and the CBD concentration in the product to ensure it's right for you and your body.
  • Choosing the right type of CBD – There are three types of CBD: full spectrum, broad spectrum and isolate. Full-spectrum CBD is a good choice for those looking to experience the “entourage effect,” while broad spectrum can offer the same effects, without the presence of any THC content. Isolate CBD, on the other hand, contains only CBD and may be the best option for those who regularly undergo a drug test.
  • Ensuring the product comes with a COA – A COA, or Certificate of Analysis, is a document issued by an independent, third-party laboratory. It provides a detailed analysis of the contents of a product, including the levels of various compounds, contaminants and other substances. It’ll also indicate the levels of present cannabinoids. 
  • Educating yourself on growing practices – Choose a product that has been grown organically without using harmful pesticides and chemicals.
  • Considering consumer reviews – Check reviews and recommendations from other users who have tried the product. Oftentimes, you can find reviews on the brand's website or on third-party websites.
  • Consulting with your healthcare provider – If you plan to use hemp flower or CBD flower for therapeutic purposes, consider consulting with your healthcare provider before adding a CBD product to your daily routine. They can help determine if CBD is safe for you to use and provide guidance on the appropriate CBD dosage and potential drug interactions.

Find High-Quality Hemp Extract at Zebra CBD

With so many CBD products available, like CBD gummies and topical CBD oil,  it can be challenging to differentiate between the different types, especially when it comes to hemp flower versus CBD bud. Although both varieties come from the hemp plant, hemp flower typically contains a full-spectrum of cannabinoids, terpene compounds and flavonoids, while CBD bud is known for having a high CBD concentration. 

At Zebra CBD, our full-spectrum CBD products are made with premium hemp extract to ensure you benefit from every drop. We offer CBD premium oils, CBD topicals, CBD chewable tablets and CBD gummies to help your health and vitality bloom. 


USDA. Hemp.

Leafly. What are trichomes and why do they exist on cannabis?

British Heart Foundation. CBD: What is it, and can it help the heart?.

Healthline. 6 Health Benefits of CBD Oil — and a Look at Side Effects.

Co-founder of Copycat Copywriters, Adam has written for dozens of CBD and cannabis companies on a wide array of topics, including regulations, economics, farming practices and biochemistry.

About the Author

Adam Biederman Image

Adam Biederman

As co-founder and lead writer of Copycat Copywriters, one of Adam’s primary areas of expertise is within the budding CBD and cannabis space. He has written for dozens of CBD and cannabis companies, producing a collection of white papers, press releases, blog posts, articles and ebooks about a wide array of industry-related subjects, including regulations, economics, farming practices and biochemistry.

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