What are the different types of CBD?

CBD has been all over the news and social media in the past couple of years. This non-psychoactive cannabis molecule could have wonderful benefits for many different types of conditions, including:

  • Pain
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle cramps
  • Insomnia
  • Seizures
  • Inflammatory and autoimmune conditions

As CBD grew in popularity, CBD products also became a lot easier to find. Nowadays, CBD oil, gummies, or vapes are all over health shops and online stores.

When you look at these products, you might see a couple of phrases you don’t understand. For example, labels show that CBD products are made with “CBD isolate”, “full spectrum CBD”, or “broad spectrum CBD”. But what does that actually mean? What are the different types of CBD? And which one should you go for? 

What is CBD?

First things first, let’s take a closer look at the cannabis molecule Cannabidiol (CBD). CBD is naturally found in cannabis plants, as one of the main “cannabinoids”. Simply put, cannabinoids are cannabis molecules that have the ability to interact with the human endocannabinoid system.

Most people mainly know of one cannabinoid: THC. THC is the molecule that gives marijuana its psychoactive properties (it’s what makes people “high”!) CBD is very different from THC. First of all, it’s a completely non-psychoactive molecule, which is actually legal all over the Western world. And whereas many people use THC for recreational reasons, CBD is mainly used in a therapeutical setting. Here’s how:

The Benefits Of CBD

Many people see CBD as a new molecule or as a trendy ingredient because of its sudden rise in popularity. However, scientists have already been researching CBD for several decades. 

One of the first uses of CBD was to treat certain types of epilepsy, such as Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. Today, we also know that CBD has many other uses, such as relieving pain, inflammation, and even mental symptoms like anxiety or depression. 

Three Different Types of CBD

Technically, there is only one type of CBD: the cannabidiol molecule. However, there are many ways to extract that molecule from the cannabis plant. This is what gives us three different types of CBD: CBD isolate, broad spectrum CBD, and full spectrum CBD. 


1- CBD Isolate

As its name suggests, CBD isolate is what you get from “isolating” cannabidiol from all other cannabis compounds. 

To obtain CBD isolate, the CBD molecule has to be separated from other cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, fat molecules, chlorophyll, and other types of plant matter. The resulting product contains over 98% CBD molecules. 

When doing research on CBD, scientists often use CBD isolate. As the “purest” form of CBD, isolate doesn’t contain other compounds which could also have an effect on the human body. CBD isolate makes it easy to see just how CBD impacts the human body. But for therapeutic purposes, it might not be the best type of CBD out there. 

How is CBD Isolate Extracted?

How do CBD manufacturers go from cannabis plant matter (flowers, leaves, stalks) to a pure CBD powder? There are two main methods of extraction used to produce CBD isolate: 

CO2 Extraction

CO2 extraction is probably the best method to obtain CBD isolate. Unlike solvent extraction, it guarantees that the final product won’t contain any traces of alcohol or other solvents. 

CO2 extraction uses both pressure and temperature to transform cannabis into pure CBD powder. Temperature is necessary for the process known as “decarboxylation”. For cannabis to develop CBD molecules, it needs to be heated up past a certain temperature. Once this has been done, CO2 gas is used to separate CBD molecules from the plant matter. 

Whereas CO2 extraction tends to use high temperatures, subcritical CO2 extraction works with lower temperature. This latter method is more advanced and expensive. However, it’s also a lot better, since it preserves more of the terpenes found in cannabis. 

Ethanol Extraction 

Ethanol extraction uses grain alcohol to extract CBD from hemp flowers. It’s a relatively easy and cost-effective way of getting CBD isolate. However, there is always the risk that the final product will contain traces of alcohol. This could give it an unpleasant taste, and make it less “pure”. 

The Uses of CBD Isolate

Both methods result in an odorless, tasteless white powder called CBD isolate. This powder is usually mixed in with other ingredients. For example, it can be mixed with a topical cream to make CBD balm, or added to other ingredients to create CBD gummies. Manufacturers can also put pure CBD isolate into capsules to create 100% CBD softgels. 

CBD isolate is also the best form of CBD to create products such as sublingual strips or transdermal patches. 

As we mentioned previously, CBD isolate is often used in research. Compared to broad spectrum CBD which contains a lot of terpenes, CBD isolate doesn’t contain any. It’s useful for scientists as it allows them to see exactly what CBD does to the body. For example, when they find out that CBD isolate cream relieves topical inflammation, they know that this effect wasn’t caused by limonene or pinene instead.

For consumers however, CBD isolate might not be the best option. The effects of CBD are much stronger when the molecule is taken together with other cannabinoids or terpenes. In that sense broad or full spectrum CBD is more effective than CBD isolate for the same dosage. 


2- Full Spectrum CBD


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