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Types of CBD: Which Product Is Best for Me?

Which type of CBD for me?

When buying CBD it can be easy to get overwhelmed by the vast range of product types and the confusing words used to describe them.

This article will help you understand some of those words, explain the main differences between the main types and assist you to work out which one is best for you.

What is the difference between Hemp and CBD?

The words hemp and CBD often appear on product labels. Sometimes they’re used interchangeably but they can also refer to different things:


This is the name given to cannabis varieties that have low levels of THC.

Some parts of the hemp plant are rich in the non-intoxicating cannabinoid CBD but other parts like the stalks and seeds are generally CBD free. Hemp is the name for the plant.

CBD (cannabidiol)

CBD is an active cannabinoid found in the flowers of the hemp plant.

It’s not intoxicating and won’t get you high.

It’s present in most cannabis varieties, but generally only extracted from hemp varieties that don’t exceed 0.2% THC.

What are the main Types of CBD Extract?

Before CBD can be used to make a final product it must be extracted from the hemp plant.

Different extraction methods produce different types of extract and contain a different range of plant substances.

To extract CBD, hemp leaves and flowers are harvested, dried and finely milled.

Then they’re exposed to a solvent in a controlled environment.

The solvent lifts the cannabinoids, terpenoids, flavonoids and other plant substances out of the raw hemp.

Whole-Plant (crude)

A whole plant extract contains most of the cannabinoids, terpenoids, flavonoids and plant substances found in the hemp plant.

This type of extract is the first step in the extraction process and commonly known as ‘crude’.

Products made with crude are usually dark in colour, intensely bitter and may still hold small particles of waste plant material.


  • Contains a range of cannabinoids and terpenoids


  • Usually has an intensely bitter flavour
  • Contains particles of plant waste material
  • Contains THC which makes it illegal in the UK
  • Risk failing a controlled drug test


When crude is refined, the waste plant substances are removed until it contains only the cannabinoids and terpenoids.

This full-spectrum extract has all the cannabinoids present from the hemp plant including traces of THC.

Full-spectrum and whole plant extracts are less common now in the UK because it’s easier to comply with the UK legal limit of 1mg of controlled cannabinoids per container if they’re completely removed.


  • Includes CBD alongside several other minor cannabinoids
  • Produces the entourage effect


  • Some people are put off that it contains traces of THC
  • Most full-spectrum products are illegal in the UK
  • Products made with a full-spectrum extract are getting harder to find
  • Risk failing a controlled drug test


Further refining of the extract removes the controlled cannabinoids.

A broad-spectrum extract still contains a wide range of cannabinoids but no THC is detectable.

The entourage effect theory suggests that when several cannabinoids are consumed together, they each influence how the others interact with your body.

This means that CBD products with more than one cannabinoid are likely to produce a more diverse and effective range of results.


  • Contains CBD alongside several other minor cannabinoids
  • Produces the entourage effect
  • It’s THC free
  • Pass a controlled drug test


  • Some broad-spectrum products can be more expensive than those made with isolate.


A narrow spectrum extract has been overly refined, most of the other cannabinoids have been removed and only CBD and one or two others remain.


  • It might produce the entourage effect to a small extent
  • THC-free


  • Doesn’t contain as many beneficial cannabinoids or terpenes

No-Spectrum (CBD Isolate)

With isolate, all the other substances have been completely removed and only CBD is left.

Products made with isolate are usually more affordable but don’t provide the benefits provided by the entourage effect.


  • Isolate products are usually more affordable
  • THC-free


  • It won’t produce the entourage effect
  • Effectiveness is biphasic

Alternative types of CBD

Most CBD products are likely to contain one of the extract types outlined above. However, there are a couple more that are not as common but are increasing in popularity:

Synthetic CBD

Synthetic CBD is produced in a lab and not extracted from a hemp plant.

One way it can be made is by lab-controlled processes involving yeast. The GMO yeast is adapted to produce a cannabinoid that’s biologically identical to natural CBD.

It’s likely we’ll see more products like this in the future because the process can be conducted without the need for huge fields of hemp. Also, the CBD is automatically an isolate without the need for complicated extraction processes.


  • THC-free
  • Cheaper to produce


  • Not naturally produced by hemp plants
  • Yeast is a GMO
  • No Entourage effect
  • Doesn’t always exactly mimic the natural hemp molecule

Water-soluble CBD

CBD is usually added to oil because it’s made up of fat-soluble molecules and won’t dissolve in water.

However, some brands have developed ways to treat the CBD and make it mix into water.

This makes it more pleasant to consume and there is growing evidence that water-soluble CBD may be significantly more bioavailable than oils.

Different brands make their water-soluble products in different ways. The main types you’re likely to see in the UK are:

Nanoemulsions - These are made when microscopic droplets of CBD oil are mixed into water. Small amounts of natural surfactants are added to stop the drops from joining back together.

Microemulsions - These are made with slightly larger droplets that require large amounts of chemical emulsifiers to keep them mixed with the water.

Liposomes - These are double-layered spheres of fats with a small amount of water trapped in the centre. They also need lots of emulsifying chemicals to remain mixed into the water.


  • Easier to swallow
  • It’s easier to add flavouring
  • It may be more bioavailable


  • They’re often more expensive
  • Some types will need higher levels of chemical surfactants
  • Nano sized particles could be hazardous

Types of CBD Products available in the UK

You can buy CBD in hundreds of different products from nail polish to hemp-infused pillows.

However, there are a few that have been popular since cannabidiol was first available.

They’re now among the most common ways to use it:


Bud & Tender CBD Oil

Simple and effective, CBD oil is by far the best way to buy CBD.

It’s a simple blend of hemp extract and a carrier oil that can be swallowed, added to food or allowed to dissolve under your tongue.

If you choose to swallow CBD oil you can expect to notice the effects between 1 and 2 hours.

Interestingly only about 10% to 20% of the cannabinoids will make it to your bloodstream to be transported around your body. This makes eating CBD one of the least bioavailable ways to take it.

If you place a few drops under your tongue the CBD will be absorbed through a thin membrane into your sublingual blood vessel.

You’ll likely notice effects in 10 minutes to half an hour with between 25% and 35% of the cannabinoids being available for use in your body.


  • It’s simple to use
  • Has up to 35% bioavailability when you hold it under your tongue
  • It’s exceptionally versatile and can be used in several different ways
  • A very clean and natural way to consume CBD


  • If you swallow CBD oil the bioavailability can be as low as 10%
  • Some oils can taste intensely bitter

CBD Capsules

CBD Capsules

Capsules usually contain a precise measure of CBD in powder form or as an oil.

They’re easy to use as you can swallow them with a sip of juice or water.

There’s no chance that they’re going to leak so they’re ideal to carry in a pocket or bag for use on the go.

Another benefit is that because each capsule holds a specific amount of CBD it’s simple to ensure you get exactly the same amount every day.

The major drawback is that most capsules can only be swallowed.

This means that only 10% to 20% of the CBD will reach your blood.

Some options to increase this is to choose a capsule that holds oil, bite it open and let the liquid dissolve under your tongue.

You could also take your capsule alongside a fatty meal; research indicates that this can enhance the absorption of CBD through your gut wall.


  • They don’t leak and can be carried easily in a pocket
  • They contain a precisely measured amount of CBD
  • They’re usually tasteless with none of the bitterness you can get from some oils.


  • Swallowing CBD means that as little as 10% could reach your blood

CBD Gummies

CBD Gummies

CBD gummies are small gelatinous sweets that contain CBD.

They’re ideal if you don’t like the taste of CBD oil as they’re often sweet and fruity.

Like capsules, they have a specific amount of the active ingredient per gummy which makes it easy to take the same amount each day.

Because they’re designed to be eaten the bioavailability of the CBD is low so they’re best used as an addition to your existing CBD routine.

You could drop some CBD oil under your tongue then enjoy a gummy or two.


  • They don’t leak and can be carried easily in a pocket
  • They’re sweet and tasty
  • They contain a precisely measured amount of CBD


  • Swallowing CBD means that as little as 10% could reach your blood

CBD e-liquids

CBD E Liquid


CBD e-liquids are designed to be used in a vaporiser (vape).

The e-liquid is heated until it forms a vapour that can be inhaled.

CBD then passes into your bloodstream via your lungs.

This is one of the most effective methods because it’s easy for the active ingredient to go straight into your blood.

You may notice effects within just a few minutes and up to 56% of the CBD can be used in your body.

The major drawbacks are that you need to purchase a vape and some people prefer not to inhale substances.


  • e-liquids can have up to 56% bioavailability
  • Products with high bioavailability are often more cost-effective


  • You need to pay for a vape before you can use e-liquids
  • Some people prefer not to inhale substances

CBD topicals

CBD Topical

Topicals are any CBD product that can be applied directly to your skin, like balms, cream and cosmetics.

Unlike everything else on this list they’re designed to work on the area they’re applied to so they don’t need to reach your blood to be transported around your body.

Some people use CBD topicals on problem areas of their skin and others rub them into tired muscles.

Topicals can be vastly different from one brand to the next. They often include several other ingredients including additional active substances chosen for their effect on skin.


  • They can be applied directly to your skin
  • They often include a range of other beneficial ingredients
  • You can apply as much or as little as is required


  • The quality and effects can vary greatly from one topical to the next

How to choose the right type of CBD for me?

With all these different types of CBD available, it can be hard to find the right one for you.

Start by thinking about what you want to use it for and when you will use it:

  • If you want to buy just one product and you will be mainly using it at home, the best option is a CBD oil.
  • If you want something extra to use discreetly when you’re on the go or at work you might like to get a jar of capsules or gummies.
  • If you need something to apply for your skin, look for a high-quality, general-purpose CBD balm.

We also recommend that you look for products made with broad-spectrum extract. This means you’ll get the benefit of the entourage effect and there will be no detectable THC.

Lastly, always check to see if lab reports are available to demonstrate the correct amount of CBD is present and that it’s clean and safe to use.