Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) and CBD oil are both made from the whole cannabis plant. That similarity aside, the two cannabis oil products are quite different.
Whereas CBD oil has high CBD (cannabidiol) levels and is legal to use in many countries, RSO oil is high in THC and remains illegal in many places. They also differ in other ways, such as their most common uses.
With more people using cannabis-based products to support their health, it’s important to understand the difference between the many available options. Here’s everything you need to know about CBD oil, RSO, and their differences.
What is Rick Simpson Oil?
Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) is a special type of cannabis oil created by Canadian medical marijuana activist Rick Simpson. RSO is a thick, resin-like oil known for its high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): the main cannabinoid responsible for the intoxicating effects of cannabis.
RSO is made from Indica strains of marijuana, a variety of cannabis with high THC and low CBD levels, by extracting the plant with alcohol. RSO is a whole-plant preparation, which means it contains not only THC but also CBD and other minor cannabinoids such as CBG and CBN.
Rick Simpson developed the oil in the 2000s to treat skin cancer on his face and neck after standard medical treatment proved unsuccessful. The cancerous spots allegedly disappeared within a few days, and Simpson later used the oil to help over 5000 cancer patients.
As a result, RSO gained recognition as an alternative treatment for cancer sufferers and there have been numerous anecdotes of cancer remission.
There’s also a 2013 research paper that details the case of a 14-year-old girl with cancer who didn’t respond to standard treatment and was given RSO as a last resort. Although she still passed away, the RSO treatment was effective in suppressing the disease.
RSO is also used to help with many other conditions, including multiple sclerosis, arthritis, asthma, infections, inflammation, high blood pressure, depression, and insomnia. It can be applied topically or ingested.
Rick Simpson does not sell the oil himself and recommends that people create their own RSO. It usually comes in syringes because of its thick consistency.
What is CBD Oil?
CBD oil is a cannabinoid-rich extract made from hemp, a variety of cannabis with high CBD and low THC (>0.2%) levels. The resulting CBD-rich extract is processed and mixed with a carrier oil that helps the body absorb CBD, and sold in a tincture bottle. Similar to RSO, CBD oil contains multiple cannabinoids (except for products made with pure CBD). In the UK, CBD oil is limited to a maximum of 1mg THC per finished product container.
CBD oil is a popular dietary supplement used to support overall health and wellness. It’s typically taken by placing a few drops under the tongue and letting the CBD diffuse directly into the blood vessels. It can also be ingested and applied to the skin.
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What’s the Difference Between CBD and RSO Oil?
Now that we have a solid understanding of RSO and CBD oil, we can highlight what sets them apart. Without a doubt, the main difference is that RSO is made from marijuana and has high THC levels, whereas CBD oil is made from hemp and has high CBD levels.
In that sense, RSO and CBD oil are polar opposites: one is high in THC and low in CBD, whereas the other is high in CBD and low in THC. In the UK, CBD oil is limited to a maximum of 1mg THC per finished product container (not enough to get you high).
As a result, RSO can not only produce psychoactive effects but is also illegal in most parts of the world, including the UK. Rick Simpson himself ran into legal trouble with law enforcement because marijuana was illegal in Canada at the time. Consequently, it’s difficult to access RSO unless you live in a country or state where marijuana is legal.
By comparison, CBD oil is non-intoxicating, which means you won’t get high from using it. Its THC content is too low to cause any unwanted mind-altering effects. CBD oil is legal in the UK as long as it’s made from hemp: cannabis containing no more than 0.2% THC (and less than 1 mg in the finished product).
Another notable difference is in how the two are used. Whereas RSO is mostly utilized by cancer sufferers as an alternative to prescription medication, CBD oil is mainly taken in hopes of relieving everyday health issues and supporting general well-being.
The way they’re taken also differs. Although CBD oil can be ingested and applied to the skin similar to RSO, the main method of using it is sublingual: letting the CBD absorb into the blood vessels under the tongue.
Another lesser-known difference is that full-spectrum CBD oil contains terpenes, natural compounds that play a big role in the effects of cannabis.
Terpenes are mostly missing from RSO because the last step in creating it involves heat, which evaporates these volatile compounds.
Lastly, getting your hands on CBD oil is far easier than RSO. Thanks to the ongoing legalization of hemp across the world, hemp-derived CBD oil can be purchased from a wide variety of online and physical retailers in the UK and many other countries.
By comparison, RSO can only be legally purchased in places where marijuana is legal.
CBD and RSO: Not the Same Thing
In sum, we can see that RSO and CBD oil are quite different and one cannot be substituted for the other.
Whereas RSO is psychoactive, illegal in most places, and used for serious conditions such as cancer, CBD oil is non-intoxicating, legal in most countries, and used mostly for everyday symptoms and general health benefits.
Indeed, the only major similarity between the two is that they’re both whole-plant cannabis extracts with an oil-like consistency containing CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids.
Most people opt for CBD oil because it’s legal and won’t get you high. Having said that, there is anecdotal evidence that RSO is also used to help with many other conditions, including multiple sclerosis, arthritis, asthma, infections, inflammation, high blood pressure, depression, and insomnia. Plenty of anecdotal examples of helping people but there are no medical trials. It can be applied topically or ingested.