January 29, 2023

What are the different types of CBD oil?

With the sheer number of products available, it can be hard to navigate the world of CBD. It can feel like a minefield of unfamiliar terminology, complex science, and wild health claims, but we’re here to guide you through.  

You may be surprised to find out that there isn’t one single “best” CBD product on the market. The truth is, every high-quality CBD product has its value, depending on your needs. So let’s take a deep dive into CBD oil, one of the most popular ways to take your daily plant-powered dose.  

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of over 100 natural cannabinoids found in the Cannabis sativa plant. Unlike the plant’s psychoactive molecule, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD cannot get you high. For this reason, it has become a hugely popular supplement on the health and wellness scene, as CBD has been shown to provide some of the medicinal benefits of cannabis, without the intoxicating effects.

So, what can CBD do? In the clinic, CBD – in the form of Epidiolex – is an accepted treatment for rare forms of epilepsy. It also shows promise in the treatment of anxiety disorders, as well as in various inflammatory health conditions. Beyond this, there is growing evidence for using CBD to relieve the symptoms of countless other mental and physical health conditions.   

How does it work?

CBD interacts with our body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), a complex cell-signalling network that coordinates numerous vital biological functions. By regulating our mood, appetite, sleep, pain levels, immune system, and much more, the ECS aims to maintain biological stability in the body.

Although the exact mechanisms of CBD’s action aren’t fully understood, it is thought that CBD can support the signalling of our body’s naturally-derived cannabinoids, termed endocannabinoids. Researchers believe that this then helps to support the vast array of biological functions coordinated by the ECS, which is why how CBD appears to have such widespread health benefits. 

What are the different types of CBD oil?

Oils are the most popular way to take CBD. A dose of CBD oil is taken sublingually, by placing a few drops under the tongue. This allows the CBD to quickly enter the bloodstream, so the effects can be felt almost immediately. 

When searching for a CBD product, the terminology can often be confusing. “CBD oil” has become an umbrella term for many different products, but it is important to know the difference between the main types of CBD oils. This is because they can have vastly different effects on the body, and consequently, our health and wellbeing.

Here, we explain the key differences between the three main types of CBD oil:

  • Isolate
  • Broad-spectrum
  • Full-spectrum

CBD isolate

This is the purest form of CBD on the market. It undergoes a specific extraction process to produce 99% pure CBD, without any other compounds found in the cannabis plant. The idea behind CBD isolate is that you are able to get a much higher dose of the active compound.

Although some users prefer broad- or full-spectrum products, CBD isolate may be most suitable for those new to cannabinoids or those looking to take a high CBD dose without any interaction with other compounds. It’s all personal preference, so it may be useful to try out different products to figure out what works best for you.

Broad-spectrum CBD

Broad-spectrum is effectively the middle ground of CBD. Unlike CBD isolate, the cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids are left intact. Broad-spectrum CBD, therefore, contains some other cannabis compounds, but it won’t contain any THC.

Since broad-spectrum CBD is consumed alongside other cannabinoids, it is believed to have some additional health benefits – but more about this later.

In rare cases, even trace amounts of THC can show up on a drug test, so broad-spectrum CBD is ideal for those who wish to gain some of the beneficial effects of whole-plant cannabis but wish to eradicate the risk of having THC in their system. 

Full-spectrum CBD

The sole difference between broad- and full-spectrum CBD is the presence of THC. Full-spectrum oil goes through the same extraction process and filtration, however, none of the other cannabis compounds are removed. It is, therefore, as close to the whole-plant extract as possible – cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids galore!

In regions without restrictions on THC, full-spectrum CBD may contain high enough concentrations of THC to have a slight psychoactive effect. However, in the UK, full-spectrum CBD products contain negligible levels of THC, less than 0.2%. 

The other plant compounds in full-spectrum CBD products are thought to enhance its therapeutic benefits through a phenomenon known as the “entourage effect”

What is the entourage effect?

In broad- and full-spectrum products, CBD is taken alongside its “entourage” of other cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids. 

Every chemical compound in the cannabis plant has its own benefits, but it is thought that the combined effect of these compounds is therapeutically more effective than the sum of its parts. Put simply, CBD may have more potent action when administered alongside other plant compounds, which all work in synergy to exert an effect on your body – the “entourage effect”.

Although this remains a theory, there is accumulating evidence to suggest that CBD is more effective when taken in conjunction with other plant compounds. In 2005, a study revealed that a full-plant extract was more effective than CBD alone in combatting inflammation. More recent research found that CBD-rich cannabis, containing terpenes and other cannabinoids, is 4x more potent than CBD alone. 

CBD oils vs tinctures

​​There are countless ways to get your daily dose of CBD in. This means that CBD oils and tinctures are often grouped together as one method of administration – but there are important differences between them. 

The difference between a CBD oil and a CBD tincture is the carrier, which is the base of the product and through which CBD is ingested. A CBD oil has an oil-based carrier, which could include hemp seed oil, olive oil, or MCT oil, among others. A tincture, however, uses an alcohol carrier. This means that tinctures tend to have a slightly longer shelf life than oils. 

Even within these two broad categories, the choice of products is near-endless, with many different strengths, flavours, or added ingredients available. 

How to choose a CBD oil

Now you might have an idea of which type of CBD oil will be best for you, let’s go over some key things to look out for when buying a CBD product. 

Lab reports

As with any supplement, it’s important that you know exactly what you’re putting into your body. CBD brands should disclose reports from third-party laboratory testing to ensure that their products contain no harmful ingredients.

This also provides a useful indication of the potency of the product, as you’ll be able to see exactly how much CBD the product contains and the exact concentration of any other cannabinoids, including THC.


Another crucial thing to consider is CBD traceability; as in, being able to trace the CBD back to its origin. This is because an untraceable supply chain could result in the presence of pesticides, heavy metals, and toxic substances in the product.

If a brand isn’t transparent about where its plants were grown or how the CBD was extracted, it’s time to look elsewhere.

Other ways to take CBD

Oils are only the tip of the CBD iceberg. There are loads of other ways to get your daily cannabinoid dose in, and here are just a few of our favourites:

CBD capsules

If you don’t fancy taking CBD oil sublingually, capsules offer the same benefits but in an encapsulated form. The key difference, however, is that they take slightly longer to kick in than a CBD oil, between 30 minutes and 2 hours. Also remember to take CBD capsules with food, so that the cannabinoids can be absorbed properly.

CBD gummies

If the taste of CBD oil isn’t for you, gummies are both an efficient and delicious way to take CBD. They give you a consistent daily dosage that builds up in your system over time, but they tend to contain slightly lower doses than oils can offer.

CBD vape

Vaping allows the CBD to quickly enter the bloodstream. As it’s easily transportable, a CBD vape can be used on the move for immediate relief. Though because the long-term effects of vaping are not fully understood, it is best to approach this method with caution.

Topical CBD

If you want to target the effects of CBD on a problem area, CBD-infused creams are a great option. They are applied to the skin, which provides local anti-inflammatory relief. However, only small doses of CBD can be absorbed by the skin barrier, so CBD oils are your best bet if you’re after a larger dose.

CBD skincare

With growing evidence to suggest that CBD can reduce redness and irritation in various skin conditions, the popularity of CBD skincare and cosmetics is on the rise. They are much less potent than CBD oils but are a great way to utilise the anti-inflammatory properties of this cannabinoid. 

If you’re keen to learn more about the wonders of cannabinoids, take a look at our beginner’s guide to CBD.

The different types of CBD oil, explained