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Types of CBD

A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding the Different Types of CBD

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Types of CBD

Introduction to CBD Varieties

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a compound found in the cannabis plant that has gained popularity in recent years for its potential health benefits. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, CBD does not cause intoxication or a “high”. There has been growing interest in CBD because of its potential to treat various conditions such as chronic pain, anxiety, epilepsy, and more.

There are a few key differences between hemp and CBD that are important to understand:

Clarification of hemp versus CBD terminology

  • Hemp refers to strains of the cannabis plant that are grown specifically for industrial purposes. Hemp is naturally high in CBD and contains only trace amounts of THC (less than 0.3%).
  • CBD stands for cannabidiol, which is one of over 100 cannabinoids found in cannabis. CBD can be derived from both hemp and marijuana.
  • While marijuana also contains CBD, it is higher in THC compared to hemp. Marijuana is bred for its psychoactive effects while hemp has no psychoactive properties.

Unlike THC, CBD does not cause any feelings of being “stoned” or “high”. This allows CBD to be used widely without any intoxicating effects for people who want to avoid those side effects or must pass regular drug tests.

The legal status of CBD is complex. While CBD derived from hemp containing less than 0.3% THC is legal at the federal level, there may be additional restrictions at the state level. It's advised to check your own state's laws regarding CBD oil.

Overall, high quality CBD products extracted from hemp and containing less than 0.3% THC are federally legal but may still be restricted in some states.


Exploring the Main Types of CBD Extract

CBD, or cannabidiol, is extracted from the flowers and leaves of the hemp plant. There are a few main methods used to extract CBD oil, including CO2 extraction, ethanol extraction, and carrier oil extraction. The method impacts the quality and purity of the final product.

Description of the extraction process from hemp plant to CBD

CO2 extraction uses pressurized carbon dioxide to pull CBD and other compounds from the plant. It is considered the gold standard for producing high quality CBD oil. Ethanol extraction uses ethanol alcohol to strip CBD and other cannabinoids from the plant material. Carrier oil extraction infuses plant material in a carrier oil, like olive or coconut oil, to absorb the CBD content.

Comparison of whole-plant, full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, narrow-spectrum, and no-spectrum (isolate) extracts

  • Whole-plant extracts contain all the naturally occurring compounds in the hemp plant, including CBD, THC, terpenes, and more.
  • Full-spectrum CBD contains all compounds from the plant, including up to 0.3% THC.
  • Broad-spectrum CBD contains various cannabinoids and terpenes, excluding THC.
  • Narrow-spectrum CBD contains certain cannabinoids and terpenes, but lacks others compared to broad-spectrum products.
  • CBD isolate is pure CBD with no other plant compounds present.

While whole-plant and full-spectrum CBD provide an "entourage effect" from all the compounds working together, broad spectrum or isolates may be preferred by those wanting to avoid THC entirely.

Whole-Plant Extracts

Whole-plant CBD extracts, also known as crude CBD extracts, contain all of the naturally occurring compounds found in the hemp plant, including cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, plant waxes, and fatty acids. This results in an extract that most closely resembles the chemical profile of the living hemp plant.

The main benefit of using whole-plant extracts is that they contain a wide array of plant compounds that may work synergistically to enhance the effects of CBD, a phenomenon known as the "entourage effect." The variety of compounds allows whole-plant extracts to target multiple pathways and receptors in the body.

However, whole-plant extracts also contain higher levels of plant waxes and chlorophyll which some users find unappealing. The crude nature of the extract also means less consistency batch-to-batch. Furthermore, whole-plant extracts contain trace amounts of THC which could cause users to fail a drug test.

Characteristics and components of whole-plant (crude) CBD

  • Contains the full spectrum of cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, fatty acids, etc. found in hemp
  • Higher levels of plant waxes, chlorophyll, and other compounds
  • Trace amounts (less than 0.3%) of THC may be present
  • More variation between batches in terms of exact chemical makeup

Pros and cons of using whole-plant extracts

  1. Pros:
    • Contains a diverse array of plant compounds ("entourage effect")
    • Most closely resembles the natural chemical profile of hemp
  2. Cons:
    • Higher levels of chlorophyll and waxes can alter taste/texture
    • Less consistency between batches
    • Trace THC could lead to failed drug tests

Full-Spectrum CBD

Full-spectrum CBD contains all of the naturally occurring compounds found in the cannabis plant, including THC, CBD, other cannabinoids, terpenes, and essential oils. The presence of these compounds is thought to produce an "entourage effect" that enhances the overall effects of CBD through synergistic action. There are several key benefits associated with full-spectrum CBD:

Pain and Inflammation Relief

The combination of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other plant compounds in full-spectrum CBD may help reduce inflammation and ease pain more effectively than CBD isolate. Studies suggest full-spectrum CBD offers enhanced effects due to the entourage effect.

Reduced Anxiety and Depression

Compared to CBD isolate, full-spectrum CBD has been found in studies to further reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression through its influence on 5-HT1A receptors in the brain.

Better Sleep

The sedative properties of THC and other cannabis compounds may help improve sleep quality when using full-spectrum CBD, especially for those with insomnia or sleep issues.

While hemp-derived CBD products are legal in the UK as long as they contain less than 0.2% THC, the presence of THC in full-spectrum CBD still carries some legal risk and stigma. There remains confusion among consumers and authorities over CBD legality.

Potential for Failed Drug Tests

Even small amounts of THC in full-spectrum CBD carry a risk of triggering positive drug tests. Those subject to regular drug screening for work or other reasons may wish to avoid THC altogether.

Broad-Spectrum CBD

Broad-spectrum CBD contains all of the compounds found in the cannabis plant except for THC. By removing THC, broad-spectrum CBD products aim to provide the benefits of the "entourage effect" while avoiding the legal and safety issues associated with THC.

Advantages of THC-free broad-spectrum CBD

The main advantage of broad-spectrum CBD is that it contains no THC, making it legal and accessible. It will not cause any psychoactive effects or show up on drug tests. Broad-spectrum CBD still contains beneficial terpenes and minor cannabinoids that work together to enhance the effects of CBD through the entourage effect. This creates more potent therapeutic benefits compared to CBD isolate alone.

Broad-spectrum CBD allows consumers to experience the entourage effect from the array of compounds in the hemp plant, just without THC. Research shows that CBD works better when taken with other plant components like terpenes and flavonoids. By keeping the other compounds but removing THC, broad-spectrum CBD offers legal access to these enhanced benefits for more people.

  • Broad-spectrum CBD has no risk of intoxication or failed drug tests that exist with full-spectrum products containing THC.
  • The variety of plant compounds still present provides better overall effects than CBD isolate through the entourage effect.
  • People hesitant about THC exposure can still access CBD's benefits legally through broad-spectrum products.

Narrow-Spectrum CBD

Narrow-spectrum CBD extracts contain a limited range of cannabinoids and other compounds from the cannabis plant. Unlike full-spectrum and broad-spectrum extracts, narrow-spectrum CBD has gone through additional processing to remove unwanted compounds like THC while retaining others like CBD and minor cannabinoids.

Understanding narrow-spectrum extracts and their uses

The defining characteristic of narrow-spectrum CBD is that it contains CBD plus select additional cannabinoids and terpenes, but with THC specifically removed. This allows consumers to benefit from some degree of the "entourage effect" while avoiding the psychoactive effects and legal issues associated with THC.

Common uses for narrow-spectrum CBD extracts include:

  • Anxiety, stress, and depression management
  • Chronic pain relief
  • Improved sleep
  • Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties

The tailored cannabinoid and terpene profile makes narrow-spectrum CBD desirable for consumers who know exactly which effects they want to achieve.

Limitations compared to broader spectrum options

While narrow-spectrum CBD offers more precise targeting of effects, it does come with some limitations compared to full and broad-spectrum extracts:

  1. Reduced entourage effect - With fewer cannabinoids and terpenes present, the compounds don't work together as synergistically
  2. Higher cost - Additional processing increases production expenses, raising consumer prices
  3. Less customization - More limited cannabinoid/terpene profiles restrict personalization options

Ultimately, narrow-spectrum CBD sits in the middle between isolate and full/broad-spectrum extracts. It provides more benefits than pure CBD alone, but has less customization flexibility compared to other options.

CBD Isolate

CBD isolate is the purest form of CBD available. It contains no other compounds from the cannabis plant and is extracted through refinement processes after initial CBD extraction. The purity of CBD isolate makes it an appealing option for those looking to try CBD while avoiding even trace amounts of THC.

The purity and applications of no-spectrum CBD isolate

As a crystalline powder, CBD isolate contains 99% pure CBD with no other cannabinoids, terpenes, or plant compounds. This high level of refinement gives CBD isolate versatility for use in vaping liquids, tinctures, capsules, and more. The lack of odor and flavor allows CBD isolate to be added to foods, beverages, and topical products without altering taste or aroma. With no THC, CBD isolate can provide health benefits without any chance of impairment.

Discussion on affordability and lack of entourage effect

The intensive processing required to produce CBD isolate makes it more affordable than whole plant or full spectrum products. However, some research indicates CBD may be more effective when taken with other cannabis compounds like terpenes in an "entourage effect." While CBD isolate offers purity, it lacks the additional therapeutic benefits from these other plant elements. The decision between affordability and potential synergy depends on the consumer's budget and desired effects.

Alternative CBD Types

There are a few less common forms of CBD that offer unique benefits. Synthetic CBD is produced in a lab to have the same chemical structure as plant-derived CBD. The main advantage is that synthetic CBD can be made very pure and affordable. However, some research suggests it may be less effective due to the lack of other cannabis compounds that normally work synergistically with CBD.

Water-soluble CBD has also grown in popularity recently. It utilizes nanotechnology to break down CBD molecules so they can dissolve in water-based products like beverages. The main pros are better absorption rates since the CBD does not have to pass through the digestive system. Cons include higher costs and questions around the safety of nanotechnology.

Pros of Synthetic and Water-Soluble CBD

  • Very pure and consistent CBD content
  • More affordable than most plant-derived products
  • Water-soluble CBD has higher bioavailability

Cons of Synthetic and Water-Soluble CBD

  • May be less effective without entourage effect
  • Safety concerns around synthetic production and nanotechnology
  • Often more expensive than full-spectrum extracts

While these alternative CBD options can offer unique advantages, most experts recommend starting with more traditional, plant-based CBD extracts like full or broad-spectrum. Synthetic and water-soluble CBD may suit some individual situations but likely provide fewer overall benefits for most consumers.

Types of CBD Products in the UK Market

There are several types of CBD products available in the UK market, with the most popular options being CBD oils, capsules, gummies, e-liquids, and topicals.

CBD Oils

CBD oils are the most common CBD product in the UK. They typically contain a CBD extract suspended in a carrier oil, such as hemp seed oil or coconut oil. CBD oils can be taken sublingually by placing drops under the tongue, allowing for quick absorption into the bloodstream. They are also easy to incorporate into foods or beverages.

The bioavailability of CBD oils ranges from 13-35%, meaning only a fraction of the CBD actually enters your system. However, oils tend to have higher concentrations of CBD compared to other products.

CBD Capsules & Gummies

CBD capsules and gummies are popular alternatives to oils. They are discrete, portable options often preferred for convenience and ease of use. Both capsules and gummies must pass through the digestive system, so they have lower bioavailability than sublingual oils.

However, many people appreciate the pre-measured doses provided by capsules and gummies. This can make dosing easier compared to oils that require measurements.

CBD E-Liquids

CBD e-liquids, also known as vape oils, are designed specifically for use in e-cigarettes or vape pens. By vaporizing and inhaling CBD e-liquids, CBD can enter the bloodstream faster than most other methods.

Vaping CBD provides higher bioavailability, allowing your body to absorb 56% of the CBD according to some estimates. However, research on the long-term health impacts of vaping is still emerging.

CBD Topicals

CBD topicals include balms, salves, lotions, and creams meant for external use on the skin. Topicals cannot enter the bloodstream but may provide localized benefits by interacting with nearby cannabinoid receptors.

CBD topicals are not bioavailable through typical absorption methods, so dosage precision is less important. Instead, topicals provide CBD directly to affected areas for focused relief.

How to Choose the Right Type of CBD

When selecting a CBD product, there are several key factors to consider in order to find the right fit for your needs:

Usage Context

Think about when and why you plan to use CBD. Are you looking to promote general wellness, address a specific health concern, or simply relax at the end of a long day? The usage context can help guide your product selection.

Desired Effects

Different types of CBD can produce different effects. Full-spectrum CBD contains a small amount of THC and other cannabis compounds which may help enhance therapeutic effects. CBD isolate products contain pure CBD only. Consider your desired effects when choosing an extract type.

Dosage Method

How you take your CBD also matters. Oils placed under the tongue offer quick absorption. Edibles and capsules release CBD slowly over hours. Topicals target the skin. Choose a method based on convenience and your needs.


Pay attention to the actual CBD content listed on product labels. Dosages for oils often range from 100-1500mg of CBD per bottle. Start low with dosage and adjust as needed to find your optimal amount.

Third Party Testing

Reputable CBD companies provide up-to-date Certificates of Analysis from independent labs verifying contents, purity, and safety. Only purchase products that make third party testing reports easily accessible.

Hemp Source

Quality CBD comes from organically grown domestic hemp. Hemp absorbs toxins from soil so it's important CBD extracts come from plants grown using responsible farming practices.

The Importance of Lab Reports and Product Quality

As the CBD industry grows, it's crucial for consumers to verify the quality and safety of the products they purchase. High-quality CBD products should have lab reports from independent third-party testing facilities. These reports confirm the amount of CBD and other cannabinoids in a product while screening for contaminants like heavy metals, pesticides, and bacteria.

Emphasizing the need for lab verification of CBD content and safety

Without lab testing, CBD companies could exaggerate concentration levels or hide potentially dangerous contaminants. Reputable brands post recent Certificates of Analysis (COAs) from ISO-certified labs so customers can confirm a product's cannabinoid profile and purity for themselves.

When reviewing a COA, check that CBD, THC, and other cannabinoid levels match what's advertised. Screen for unsafe levels of contaminants like heavy metals, pesticides, microbes, and residual solvents from the extraction process. If any results concern you, avoid purchasing that product.

Only buy from brands that provide up-to-date COAs from reputable third-party labs. Cross-check the lab's certificate number, testing methods, CBD quantities, and contaminant levels against what the company claims.

Also research the brand's manufacturing standards. Do they grow USDA organic hemp and extract CBD in GMP-certified facilities? Do they submit to regular audits and quality checks?

Taking these steps helps ensure the safety, potency, and legality of CBD products.

Conclusion: Navigating the World of CBD

As we have explored throughout this guide, there are many different types of CBD available, each with their own unique properties and applications. Understanding the distinctions between full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, isolate, and other variants allows consumers to make informed decisions about the right CBD product for their needs.

When navigating the growing CBD market, it is important to keep a few key points in mind:

  • Consider why you want to use CBD and what effects you hope it will provide. This will help determine whether an isolate, broad-spectrum, or full-spectrum product is best suited.
  • Research companies thoroughly and look for independent third-party lab testing to verify the contents and safety of any CBD product before purchasing.
  • Start slowly with lower doses when trying a new CBD product and adjust the amount gradually as needed.
  • Keep track of how different types of CBD make you feel. This can provide valuable insight into what works best for your individual endocannabinoid system.

While CBD holds great promise and most types are legal in the UK, there are still many unknowns. It is wise to educate yourself, begin cautiously, and document your experiences. An open dialogue with your healthcare provider can also help guide your supplemental CBD regimen.

By understanding the science behind CBD and the available options, consumers can cut through the hype and make the most informed decisions. There is no "one size fits all" approach to CBD, so take the time to explore what feels right for your body. When selected consciously, CBD can be a beneficial addition to supporting health and overall wellbeing.