CBD oil is an umbrella term for any oily substance that contains:
- Therapeutic amounts of CBD (cannabidiol), and
- At most, 0.3% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).
CBD, the main constituent of CBD oil, is thought to have various health benefits.
But these points are really the only commonalities between all the different types of CBD oils.
What is CBD oil exactly? How is it produced? Is it legal? What are its benefits?
Today you're going to learn the most important facts about CBD oil …
And decide for yourself IF and what type of CBD oil is worth trying.
After reviewing over 50 different CBD oils, having had close contact with countless of CBD oil producers, and scrutinizing the results of 100+ scientific papers about:
- CBD oil,
- Hemp cultivation, and,
- Oil extraction processes,
we can confidently say that by reading this post you'll become an expert on CBD oil in less than 5 minutes.
Let’s get started.
What Is Cannabidiol (CBD)?
To understand what CBD oil is and why it's gaining so much popularity, first, we have to understand what CBD is.
CBD stands for cannabidiol.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the many cannabinoids found in Cannabis plants (in both Hemp and Marijuana variants of the Cannabis species).
Cannabinoids are a specific type of compound found in very high concentrations only in the Cannabis plant species. Cannabinoids have unique pharmacological effects that are associated with countless health benefits.
The most well-known cannabinoid is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid and causes the ‘high' you feel when you smoke marijuana.
But in the past decades, more and more scientific attention is given to a different cannabinoid: CBD.
Potential Health Benefits of CBD: The Reason Why CBD Oil is so Popular
In the past decades, research has shown that CBD has many potential health benefits including:
- Anti-inflammatory effects;
- Anti-anxiety effects,
- Pain-reducing effects,
- Sleep-improving effects, and many more effects that have the potential to be beneficial to your health.
The benefits of CBD, naturally extend to CBD oil and are THE reason why you are (or should) be interested in CBD oil. It has the potential to provide benefits like anxiety-relief and pain-relief in an all-natural way.
Because we already have a massive article where we reviewed the most important scientific articles that looked at the potential benefits of CBD, we won't dive deeper into its benefits here.
You can find this article by clicking the link below:
As explained before:
CBD isn't the only potentially beneficial compound that can be extracted from Cannabis plants.
Other cannabinoids like THC are associated with many health benefits as well. But CBD has one very big advantage compared to THC:
CBD has no psychoactive properties.
You can’t get ‘high’ with CBD. Although many health benefits have been associated with THC, the fact that it’s psychoactive has always kept products containing a high concentration of THC from becoming mainstream, widely legal products.
CBD does not get you ‘high'. Products with CBD and little to no THC are legal products in large parts of the world.
There are different CBD products you can use to experience the benefits of CBD …
But using CBD oil is without a doubt the most popular and effective way to experience the potential benefits of CBD.
When you extract cannabinoids from Cannabis plants (can be either Hemp or Marijuana plants), you get an oily substance that contains CBD.
What Is CBD Oil?
So is every cannabis-extract CBD oil?
For a cannabis-extract to be considered CBD oil it needs to contain ‘therapeutic' amounts of CBD and low amounts of THC.
But how much is ‘therapeutic amounts' of CBD and ‘low amounts' of THC exactly?
To answer this question we first have to understand the (legal) differences between ‘Hemp' and ‘Marijuana'.
Botanically, both Hemp and Marijuana are part of the Cannabis plant species and taxonomically they're the same plants.
The difference between Hemp and Marijuana is based on the legal definition of both plants.
The Legality of Hemp and CBD Oil
While Marijuana and its extracts are illegal on a federal level, the 2018 Farm Bill legalized the production and sale of Hemp and its extracts.
Legally, a Cannabis plant is considered ‘hemp' when it contains no more than 0.3 percent THC. Any Cannabis plant with more than 0.3% THC is classified as marijuana. And marijuana and its extracts are federally illegal. They're considered as Schedule 1 drugs by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
In the EU this limit is 0.2% THC.
Any CBD oil extracted from marijuana (cannabis plants containing more than 0.3% THC), is federally illegal. CBD oil extracted from Hemp, in contrast, is legal on a federal level.
In some states where marijuana is legal on the state level, it's possible to buy CBD oils extracted from marijuana plants. But for the most part, CBD oil is extracted from Hemp plants, which are Cannabis plants that contain no more than 0.3% THC.
And while the THC-content of a CBD oil is legally defined …
‘Therapeutic amounts' of CBD, which is another important characteristic for any cannabis-extract to be considered “CBD oil”, is more of a gray area.
How Much CBD Should CBD Oil Contain?
There are no standardized industry-wide rules as to how much CBD a CBD oil should contain. But at Herbonaut, the minimum amount of CBD a CBD oil should contain before we even consider it to be a true CBD oil is 3%.
Any “CBD oil” that contains less than 3% CBD, we don't consider to be a true CBD oil.
This brings us to 3 most important characteristics that define a cannabis-extract as “CBD oil”:
- CBD oil is almost always extracted from Hemp plants.
- CBD oil contains at most 0.3% THC.
- CBD oil contains at least 3% CBD.
Now that we understand what characteristics define CBD oil, let's take a closer look at which factors make CBD oils differ from each other.
The 5 Factors That Determine the Biochemical Make-Up of Your CBD Oil
A CBD oil can contain many different Hemp-derived compounds. The most important and most beneficial of these are:
- Cannabinoids, and;
Which Hemp-derived compounds are in your CBD oil and in what specific concentrations is dependent on five things:
- Which strain of Hemp is used for the extraction;
- Which parts of the Hemp plant are used for the extraction;
- What extraction method is used for the extraction;
- What filtering process is used to create the final product, and;
- What decarboxylation process is used to convert CBDA into CBD.
Why does this matter?
The biochemical make-up of your CBD oil matters because many Hemp-derived compounds, but mainly cannabinoids and terpenes, have beneficial effects …
PLUS many Hemp-derived compounds work together with CBD to enhance its beneficial effects.
How the Strain of Hemp Influences the Bio-Chemical Make-Up of Your CBD Oil
Different strains of Hemp have different cannabinoid- and terpene-profiles.
Some strains of Hemp contain more THC than others (never more than 0.3% however).
Some strains contain more CBC and CBG (other beneficial cannabinoids).
Strains also come with their different and unique terpene-profiles.
Even though all CBD oils contain CBD, you can see that biochemical make-up between CBD oils can differ widely based on the strain of Hemp that's used for the extraction.
How the Parts of Hemp Used for the Extraction Influence the Bio-Chemical Make-Up of Your CBD Oil
The majority of pharmacologically active compounds (cannabinoids and terpenes) in Hemp plants are found in the resin-rich flower parts.
The resinous flower of a Hemp plant contains way more beneficial compounds compared to the stalk and stem.
Although you can extract CBD from the stalks and stems of Hemp plants, other beneficial compounds will be mostly absent.
How the Extraction Method Influences the Bio-Chemical Make-Up of Your CBD Oil
Different extraction methods have different efficacy in stripping the cannabinoids and terpenes from Hemp plants.
The two main methods used for extracting CBD oils are:
- CO2-based extraction, and;
- Ethanol-based extraction.
Ethanol-based extraction is more effective in extracting especially terpenes, but an ethanol-based extract needs a more extensive filtering process.
You can read more about the different extraction methods used to produce CBD oil a bit later in the article.
How the Filtering Process Influences the Bio-Chemical Make-Up of Your CBD Oil
Every CBD oil that's sold to consumers in its final form starts as a raw unfiltered Hemp-extract.
This raw Hemp-extract contains a wide variety of Hemp-derived compounds like:
- Other cannabinoids,
- Chlorophylls, and
Some of these Hemp-derived compounds like waxes, chlorophylls, and lipids, make this raw Hemp-extract inconvenient to consume. They have a bitter taste and make the extract extremely thick and sticky.
To remove these unwanted compounds, this raw extract then undergoes a filtering process like distillation or winterization.
This filtering process is another step that can result in CBD oils having a widely different biochemical composition.
This filtering process can go so far that in the end, only the CBD is left, and every other compound that was in the original Hemp extract is filtered out.
How the Decarboxylation Process Influences the Bio-Chemical Make-Up of Your CBD Oil
Then there's the decarboxylation process that can determine the CBDA vs CBD ratio of a CBD oil.
Let me explain.
In short, what happens in the decarboxylation process is the following:
By heating the Hemp-extract, the CBDA, which is CBD in its acidic form and the precursor of CBD, turns into CBD.
Fresh and raw Hemp contains a lot more CBDA than CBD, and for an oil to be sold as ‘CBD oil’ it needs to contain high levels of CBD and not necessarily high levels of CBDA. But the exact CBDA to CBD ratio varies from CBD oil to CBD oil.
Most CBD oils sold today are broad-spectrum oils, which means, besides CBD, they can contain various other compounds that are extracted from the Hemp plant, like other cannabinoids and terpenoids.
But broad-spectrum oils don’t contain the full spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes as found in the resinous flowers of Hemp plants (more on that later).
Most CBD oils also contain a carrier oil like olive oil or MCT oil, to improve taste and increase the bio-availability of the CBD.
That said …
Let's take a closer look at the different types of CBD oils that are categorized and sold by different CBD brands.
The Different Types of CBD Oils
Based on how the CBD oil is exactly manufactured, you can get qualitatively very different products.
Let's recap what factors influence the biochemical make-up of CBD oil:
- Which strain of Hemp is used for the extraction;
- Which parts of the Hemp plant are used for the extraction, and;
- What extraction method is used for the extraction;
- What filtering process is used to create the final product, and;
- What decarboxylation process is used to convert CBDA into CBD.
All CBD oils are sold under the following three (3) categories:
- Full plant extract/full-spectrum CBD oils;
- Broad-spectrum CBD oils;
- CBD isolate or purified CBD oils;
Let’s dive a bit deeper into these.
Full Spectrum/Full Plant Extracts CBD Oils
Full plant extract/full-spectrum CBD oils are as the name implies, an as complete as possible extract from the Hemp plant, containing:
- A full spectrum of cannabinoids including other cannabinoids than CBD like CBC, CBG, THC (although in much lesser concentrations);
- A full spectrum of terpenes, and potentially also;
- Vitamins, and;
- Other anti-oxidants naturally occurring in Hemp plants.
A full plant extract CBD oil can either be a CBD oil in its raw/crude form (the first unaltered extract from the plant), or a very sparsely distilled or winterized CBD oil.
A full plant Hemp extract in its raw/crude form is often extremely thick, sticky and fragrant and there aren’t many sellers that sell these types of oil.
Most full-plant extract/full-spectrum CBD oils are distilled or winterized to remove waxes, lipids, and phosphides while keeping a full spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes.
Full-Spectrum CBD Oil and the Entourage Effect
Since a true full-spectrum CBD oil contains the full spectrum of cannabinoids AND terpenes of its source Hemp plant, a full-plant extract makes the best case for the so-called ‘entourage effect’. This effect refers to the fact that all various Hemp-derived compounds enhance CBD's beneficial effects.
In fact, a recent study has found that a full-plant extract CBD oil can have the same effects as a purified CBD product, with a dose that’s 4-times smaller.
Now, since a true full-plant extract CBD oil should contain the full spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes, PLUS in relatively high concentrations, full-spectrum CBD oil, is best made from the flower of high-resin Hemp plants.
The flower of a Hemp plant contains significantly more beneficial compounds than its stems and stalks. The trichomes which are packed with cannabinoids and terpenes are mainly found inside the flower.
True full-plant extract CBD oils are made from the flower of Hemp plants that are:
- Have a wide cannabinoid-profile and high cannabinoid content,
- Have a wide terpene-profile and high terpene-content,
- Are low in THC, and;
- Preferably organically cultivated
Of all types of CBD oils, full plant extracts, or full-spectrum CBD oils, are closest to the source plant in the biochemical make-up.
Because of the entourage effect, true full-spectrum/full-plant extract CBD oils are our preferred CBD oils.
Classic example full-spectrum CBD oil:
Broad-Spectrum CBD Oils
Broad-spectrum CBD oils are in some ways similar to full-spectrum CBD oils:
Besides CBD, they can contain additional Hemp-derived compounds like cannabinoids and terpenes.
But unlike full-spectrum CBD oil, broad-spectrum CBD oil doesn't contain the full spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes found Hemp plants. Usually, they contain CBD, plus a few other cannabinoids and/or terpenes in low concentrations.
A full-spectrum CBD oil turns into a broad-spectrum CBD oil when it undergoes a process of distillation or winterization where some types of cannabinoids and/or terpenes get removed completely.
Or the CBD inside the raw hemp extract gets decarboxylated through a heating process and the terpenes evaporate (which could later be reintroduced in the oil if they are captured).
Most ‘full spectrum’ CBD oils being marketed as such are in reality, broad-spectrum CBD oils.
Keeping especially a full spectrum of terpenes inside the end-product is difficult and requires a very delicate manufacturing process from the moment a high-resin Hemp plant gets harvested to the last step that's involved in producing the end-product.
Terpenes are highly volatile compounds that not only evaporate very quickly but also degrade quickly if Hemp isn’t handled and stored properly.
The taste of broad-spectrum CBD oils can be very good because the producer is basically free to remove any compounds that might have a negative effect on the taste of the oil.
As explained before, most broad-spectrum CBD oils get advertised as ‘full spectrum’.
What some CBD sellers refer to as ‘full spectrum’, is just that their CBD oil contains other compounds extracted from the plant besides CBD …
But not necessarily the full spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes (like you would have with a full-plant extract)!
Important to note here is that what CBD oil sellers usually mean with ‘broad-spectrum' is that their CBD oil contains other cannabinoids besides CBD, but no THC.
A true full-spectrum CBD oil contains:
- The full spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes found inside the resinous flower of Hemp plants, and;
- Contains these in high detectable concentrations (not just trace elements).
A broad-spectrum oil contains:
- CBD, plus;
- A limited set of cannabinoids and/or terpenoids in, usually, low concentrations, and;
- Is THC-free.
Classic example broad-spectrum CBD oil:
Isolate/Purified CBD Oils
Isolate CBD oils are oils that only contain purified CBD and a carrier oil like olive oil or MCT oil.
Basically, you’re only getting CBD and nothing else. The source of a purified CBD product isn’t really important because:
The chemical make-up of a CBD molecule is always the same. It doesn’t matter whether it comes from the flower of an organically cultivated high-resin Hemp plant or from the stems and stalks of an industrially cultivated Hemp plant. The quality of a CBD molecule is always the same.
If you’re going for a purified CBD product like a CBD isolate oil, just go for the cheapest you can find. Just make sure the carrier oil is of good quality.
The quality of the plants used to produce a CBD oil and the extraction method are most important when it comes to full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD oils.
In general, CBD isolate oils are cheaper than full-plant extracts or broad-spectrum oils, but also less potent because they won’t provide any of the afore-mentioned entourage-effect.
But here's the deal:
If you want to test out CBD in its purest form (most CBD-related studies tested a purified form of CBD), this is the type of product you should get.
Classic example purified CBD oil:
What's the Difference Between Hemp (Seed) Oil and CBD (Hemp) Oil?
The main difference between hemp seed oil and CBD oil is that hemp seed oil doesn't contain therapeutic amounts of CBD, and CBD oil does.
When looking for places to buy CBD oil, you might come across products called ‘Hemp oil' or ‘Hemp seed oil.'
Here's the deal:
In the majority of cases, products called ‘Hemp oil' are ‘Hemp seed oil.'
Hemp seed oil is another super-healthy oil.
But if you're looking for the therapeutic effects of CBD, there are some critical differences between these oils, which make them completely different.
Hemp seed oil is a useless product if you're looking for the benefits associated with CBD.
The critical differences between these oils:
1. The difference in the Natural Source of the Product
Although in rare cases CBD oil is produced from high CBD / low THC marijuana strains, in the majority of cases, CBD oil is produced from the Hemp plant.
Hemp (seed) oil is produced from the seeds of the Hemp plant.
The Hemp plant has a very different biochemical makeup than its seeds, which you'll learn about next.
2. The Difference in the Bio-Chemical Make-Up
The major difference in biochemical make-up between the Hemp plant and its seeds is that the Hemp plant contains CBD.
This means the only way to create CBD oil, is to extract CBD from either Hemp plants or Marijuana plants.
It's simply impossible to extract therapeutic amounts of CBD, from Hemp seeds.
That, full-spectrum CBD oil (extracted from the Hemp or Marijuana plant) contains many other beneficial compounds which can't be found in the Hemp seed, like:
- Other cannabinoids than CBD, like CBC, CBN;
- Terpenoids, and;
Hemp seed oil contains many beneficial compounds as well, but no (therapeutic amounts) of CBD whatsoever!
3. The Differences in Effect
Now you'll also understand why these oils have a different effect on you and your body.
Starting with CBD oil:
CBD oil directly influences your endocannabinoid-system. This means it can directly help you with a variety of conditions like:
- Insomnia, and more.
CBD has shown to have the potential to be beneficial for a wide variety of conditions and unique beneficial properties for your health in general.
Hemp seed oil cannot provide you with these!
The Pros and Cons of Different Extraction Methods to Produce CBD Oil
On CBD-selling websites, you’ll find that extraction methods are sometimes being used as a unique selling point or a strong point of marketing.
For example statements similar to:
Our CBD Oil is CO2-extracted and leaves behind no toxins!
Our CBD oil is food-grade ethanol extracted and is truly full spectrum!
But what difference is there exactly between all these extraction methods? And how do these differences matter for you, the consumer?
CO2 Extraction of CBD
Supercritical/subcritical CO2 extraction refers to an extraction method that extracts the goods out of the Hemp plant with the use of carbon dioxide and the manipulation of temperatures and pressure.
Although CO2 extraction is very clean and non-toxic, it’s not the best method to extract especially terpenes from Hemp.
Although there are CBD oil producers that make it work, for a full-spectrum CBD oil, CO2 extraction isn’t the best extraction method. For any other type of CBD oil, whether that’s a broad-spectrum CBD oil that doesn’t contain a full spectrum of terpenes or a purified CBD product like CBD Isolate, CO2 extraction generally works fine.
One benefit of CO2 extraction is that you can be relatively sure that no residual solvents are left inside your end-product, without any test results showing you that.
The methods that extract terpenes and cannabinoids in the most efficient and effective way (the full spectrum of them and in high amounts) are solvent-based extractions.
Solvent-Based CBD Extraction
Solvent-based extraction refers to extracting the goods out of the Hemp plant with the use of organic solvents like:
- Propane, or;
And while butane and propane are extremely effective in stripping the Hemp plant of its most essential compounds like cannabinoids and terpenes, these solvents aren’t interesting to most large-scale CBD oil manufacturers because propane- and butane-based solvent extraction is difficult to scale. Therefore, you won’t find many butane- or propane-extracted CBD oils being commercially sold.
That leaves us with ethanol-based extraction. Ethanol is, just like butane and propane very effective in extracting cannabinoids and terpenes, but there's a catch:
Because ethanol is an extremely polar solvent, it’s also highly effective in extracting other ‘unwanted’ compounds from the Hemp plant, like waxes, lipids, and chlorophylls. This means that ethanol-based Hemp extractions often undergo an additional distillation process to:
- Remove these unwanted compounds like waxes, lipids, and chlorophylls, and;
- Because ethanol has a relatively high boiling point, remove the ethanol itself from the end-product.
Now, if in this distillation process, any cannabinoids or terpenes get permanently removed, it ceases to be a full spectrum product and becomes a broad-spectrum product.
Also, important to mention is that for a true full-spectrum CBD oil to stay full spectrum, it can’t be heated at high temperatures and/or for long periods of time.
Terpenes are highly volatile compounds, and easily evaporate when heated. When you lose the terpenes, the CBD oil ceases to be a full spectrum product. Terpenes are essential to a full-spectrum CBD oil.
Brings us to the next point…
Decarboxylation of CBD
Cannabinoids like CBD can be found in raw and fresh Hemp, largely in their acidic form. In the case of CBD, its acidic form is called CBDA. CBDA becomes CBD when it undergoes a process of decarboxylation. The decarboxylation process already starts at room temperature, but processes at a very slow speed at this temperature. To speed up the decarboxylation process, you need to heat up the CBDA.
By why would you want to decarboxylate the CBDA in the first place? Well, 95% of research in the past decades has focused on CBD and found many potential benefits related to CBD and not necessarily CBDA.
Does this mean that CBDA doesn’t have any benefits?
Not at all. In fact, more and more research is showing that CBDA could have even more potent benefits than CBD itself. But research on CBDA is new and rare, especially human studies are extremely rare. What this means is that most CBD manufacturers decarboxylate their CBDA by heating it.
Now, depending on the temperatures and timestamps CBD manufacturers use to decarboxylate the CBDA to CBD in their raw Hemp extracts, it could mean that during the decarboxylation process significant concentrations of terpenes evaporate.
This, in turn, means that a true full-spectrum CBD oil, can’t have undergone a decarboxylation process involving high temperatures, unless the manufacturer captured these evaporated terpenes through condensation and re-introduced them into the final product.
How can you know if your ‘full spectrum’ CBD oil truly contains the full spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes of a high-resin Hemp plant? Well, either:
- You fully know and understand the implications of the manufacturing process of your CBD oil provider, or;
- You have a clear lab-test report showing you cannabinoid and terpene-profiles and contents.
Just realize that these lab-test reports usually don’t show all terpenes and cannabinoids, but they can give you a good indication as to the ‘full spectrumness’ of that particular CBD oil.
Unheated CBD Oil vs. Heated CBD Oil
A study which looked at peak plasma concentrations of CBD in a comparison of capsules filled with either unheated or heated cannabis extracts containing 10 mg THCtotal (THC + THCA) and 10–15 mg CBDtotal (CBD +CBDA), found that peak plasma CBD concentrations were 4 times higher in the unheated extract!
The unheated CBD extract contained:
- A much higher concentration of CBDA than the heated CBD-extract, and;
- A lower CBD concentration than the heated CBD-extract.
Further research should confirm these results, but if based on this study we can conclude that you would benefit from having a high concentration of CBDA in your CBD oil as well.
And the only way to keep a high concentration of CBDA in your CBD oil is by not processing with high temperatures that transform the CBDA into CBD.
Today you’ve learned everything there is to know about CBD oil.
You now know more about CBD oil than 95% of CBD oil consumers and that puts you in the spot to buy the best possible CBD oil based on your wants, needs, and budget…without any outside help.
When in doubt about a particular CBD oil, never hesitate to contact the manufacturer and ask questions that force them to go deeper into their cultivation, storing, or extraction processes.
If you’re interested in the CBD oils that we currently recommend, check out our list of:
If you’re interested in vaping CBD, check out our list of:
If you’re interested in what potential health benefits science has associated with CBD, check out our article on the:
If you’re interested in unofficial and subjective dosage guidelines based on data from scientific research, check out our:
And if you’re interested in how to use CBD oil for specifically anxiety or pain, check out our articles on: