August 03, 2020 10 min read

Types of CBD Products

The Hemp Farming Act of 2018 effectively legalized the cultivation of hemp, quickly leading to an influx of many different types of CBD products.

Now, CBD brands are fighting neck and neck to bring the “latest” CBD formulas to market.

For consumers, that means two things:

There are plenty of different types of CBD products to choose from, and finding a CBD product that suits your personal needs is definitely possible.

But there are a lot of options to consider, which can seem incredibly overwhelming for newcomers.

Luckily, understanding the similarities and differences behind each type of CBD product is simple. Just learning a few basics can get you on the fast track to a personalized CBD routine that meets your daily needs.

Table of Contents
Key Differences in Different CBD Products
CBD Product Types
Tinctures
Capsules
Gummies
Other Edibles
Vape Oil
Shatter and Powder
Other Concentrates
Topicals
Flower and Prerolls
Pet Products
Key Takeaways
Resources

Key Differences in Different CBD Products

When choosing a CBD product that meets your specific needs, there are multiple considerations to make. Luckily, they can be condensed down to a handful of defining factors, including the following:

Dosing Route

Each CBD product provides a different mode of delivery that may work for different wellness routines. For instance, some products are taken by mouth, while others are vaporized or smoked.

Some oral products are flavored while others are encapsulated to be taste-free. The dosing route affects the CBD routine in multiple ways, but the most significant effect is varying bioavailability.

Bioavailability

This refers to the amount of CBD that is absorbed by the body. In other words, 10mg with 100% bioavailability is a larger dose than 100mg with 1% bioavailability.

The only dosing method known to have 100% bioavailability is intravenous, or when CBD is directly injected into the bloodstream, which is limited to clinical applications.

Research in this department is limited, but some methods are frequently regarded as having a higher bioavailability than others.

For instance, tinctures are believed to have a higher bioavailability than capsules because they are taken sublingually, or under the tongue. This allows the tincture to bypass first-pass digestion, a phenomenon where some of a substance is degraded by digestion before it makes it to the bloodstream.

Hemp Formula

The hemp formula used by each brand varies, and brand’s often vary their formula product to product. The hemp formula is affected by the components and concentration of the original hemp material used and the extraction methods utilized to obtain the hemp extract.

The two most common hemp formulas chosen are CBD isolate and full spectrum CBD. Still, each formula may carry a different concentration of cannabinoids, terpenes, and lipids that is entirely unique.

Potency

Each product will offer a unique potency, and many brands offer multiple potency choices for each product.

The potency of a product is directly related to the hemp formula and extraction methods used, but the final product can be altered to meet the manufacturers desires. For consumers, this means there is a wide range of potencies available.

Some products, like concentrates, are incredibly potent and allow users to measure the dose each time. Others are pre-measured and may offer lower doses that fit easily into a daily routine even for new CBD users.

Ingredients and Additives

Some CBD formulas, like isolate powders or crude oil, may not contain any additives or ingredients besides the natural hemp extract. Others are used alongside a variety of flavorings, sweeteners, herbs, vitamins, and other additives to create unique, targeted CBD formulas.

Many of these formulas are useful and utilize only other natural compounds. Others may involve artificial additives or controversial ingredients, so it's important to ensure every formula meets your wellness needs.

CBD Product Types

  • Tinctures: wide variety of flavor and potency options/easy to adjust dose as needed
  • Capsules: flavorless/premeasured for consistent dosing routine
  • Edibles: tasty way to hide the flavor of hemp extract/usually portable and discreet
  • Vapes: fast acting/easy to stack small doses as needed
  • Concentrates: great for heavy dosing routines/generally lower cost-per-milligram
  • Topicals: often the best option for locallized skin ailments and muscle discomfort/ can be used alongside other CBD products

Currently, there is very little regulation regarding the types of products made from industrial hemp-derived CBD. There are easily hundreds of different types of CBD products on the market, with many variations of each product type available for users looking for different potencies, flavors, or effects.

Innovative brands are releasing new products everyday, but the most popular types of CBD products include:

Tinctures

A CBD tincture with dropper lid attached for easy dosingWhen extract is mixed with a carrier oil, like MCT oil, in a formulation meant to be taken orally, it's commonly called a tincture.

Tinctures are the most common form of CBD available, and they come in a variety of styles and potencies.

Manufacturers add all kinds of fun, useful things to tinctures to create unique flavors and targeted health benefits. It's common to see proprietary blends of CBD and essential oils, like lavender, or herbal blends, like turmeric.

The variety is a handy feature, but most people seek out tinctures for their unique, effective dosing style. Tinctures often come fit with a dropper syringe that makes it easy to measure or alter your CBD dose each time.


Most are designed for sublingual dosing, or dropping the CBD formula under your tongue. Some sources suggest this is more effective and provides faster acting effects because it allows CBD to be absorbed by the mucous membranes in the mouth, which means it bypasses the digestion process.

Research regarding the bioavailability of sublingual methods is limited, but it’s predicted to have a similar absorption rate to the oromucosal route (absorbed by cheeks and mouth tissue). This is the method used for Sativex, a GW Pharmaceuticals cannabinoid formulation that is sprayed into the mouth. Research suggests this route has an absorption rate of 12%-35%.

Some people are put off by the taste of tinctures and prefer other dosing methods instead.

Because full spectrum products are not always stripped of all plant compounds (like waxes, lipids, or chlorophyll), they may have a slightly herbal, "hempy" flavor. Many people describe the taste as "nutty," and flavor additives may solve this issue for many people. 

Alternatively, tinctures made from CBD isolate usually have no hempy flavor and are generally well tolerated.

Capsules

A close up of CBD gel capsulesCapsules are often chosen because they offer a convenient, pre-measured dose, but many people prefer capsules because they are tasteless and easy to swallow.

Generally, capsules are very similar to tinctures, and can also be made from isolate or full spectrum extract. The main difference is that the hemp oil material is encapsulated.

Not all capsules are gel capsules, though. Some use a powdered form of hemp extract, and even other powdered herbs or MCT oil, to offer a dry capsule instead.

Regardless of the formulation, the idea is the same. CBD capsules are a convenient, pre-measured dose of CBD hemp extract that can be easily swallowed with no taste, smell, or measuring included.

They come in a variety of potencies and styles, so there's like a CBD capsule that will be perfect for you regardless of your needs They don't, however, work well for people who need to adjust their dose in small increments.

The bioavailability of oral products is dependent on a wide range of factors and is estimated to be between 4% and 20%. One major factor in oral dosing routes is first-pass digestion, a phenomenon where CBD is metabolized in high quantities by the liver, reducing the concentration of CBD that reaches the blood.

Gummies

A close up of two CBD gummiesCBD gummies are an increasingly popular, fun dosing style.

Gummies also offer the convenience of pre-measured, mess-free dosing, but may work better in some cases for incremental dosing since they can be halved or cut.

These gummies come in all sorts of varieties, including endless flavors and textures, and regular gelatin and vegan formulas. 

The chewy, sweetened formula does a great job of hiding the hempy flavor of full spectrum oil, and they can also be made from CBD isolate formula to create a completely THC-free gummy that is accessible across the board.

Gummies are not the only kind of CBD edibles available, but they deserve their own section because they are easily the most popular.

Other Edibles

CBD cookies and the hemp flower they're made from.Full spectrum hemp oil or CBD isolate can be used in almost any food or drink.

The list is truly endless and includes things like candies, suckers, cakes, protein bars, peanut butter, honey, beverages, and more.

Raw hemp flower is even blended with other herbs and tea leaves to create “CBD tea” that can be steeped at home. Some edible products, like CBD honey, make it easy to create your own CBD treats at home.

All of these different products range in potency and may be pre-measured or sold in bulk-form. It varies brand to brand and product to product, but the method is the same. Edibles need to be eaten (of course!), and the CBD needs to be processed by the digestive process.

There’s quite a bit of argument as to how long the effects will take to kick in, but it likely depends on a range of biological factors and the CBD formula uses. Still, edibles are known to take longer to kick in than, say, tinctures or vape oil.

Vape Oil

A CBD vaporizer in use.Hemp material can also be combined with a variety of ingredients to create CBD isolate or full spectrum vape oil.

The ingredients in vape oils vary greatly, and some include controversial additives, so it’s important to research vape products carefully.

Many vape products contain carrier oils and flavor additives (either from artificial or natural sources, like terpenes), so they offer a lot of variety and options for users.

CBD vape oil is also available in different forms depending on your needs. Vape oil liquid is frequently chosen by people who have a vaping device and refillable tank, but many companies add their CBD vape oil to disposable vape pens or cartridges designed to screw into your portable vape battery.

Vaping is a popular choice because many people believe it to be the fastest dosing option. A 2018 study regarding different cannabinoid delivery systems suggests that “cannabis-related effects generally begin within a few minutes of the first inhalation (smoked or vaporized)” and “a peak value is reached after 10min.”

CBD Shatter and Powder

CBD shatter is a concentrated product that comes in multiple forms, but is most often made from CBD isolate. Sometimes, terpenes or other plant compounds may be added.

When made from pure CBD, shatter may also be called CBD isolate crystals. These are hard, crystallized pieces that are entirely tasteless and odorless.

It is highly refined and concentrated, meaning that 1 gram of CBD isolate powder will contain about 1,000mg of CBD.

The crystals can be used whole (shatter), which makes them easy to vaporize. Usually, though, they are ground down into a fine, white powder that is highly versatile and can be taken orally, added to food and beverages, and even vaporized, either by way of a dab rig or vape pen.

This versatility is the reason that CBD isolate powder is used to make a massive variety of different products. Products made from CBD isolate are the most common types of products found on the shelves today.

Other Concentrates

CBD concentrate in a syringeConcentrates are the most potent form of full spectrum CBD that you can buy.

In fact, many concentrate formulas (which are often a thick oil product) are just basic hemp extract—the thick, highly concentrated material used to make tinctures, edibles, and other full spectrum products.

Although isolate crystals are considered the “standard” form of isolated CBD, other types of concentrates can be made with different hemp formulas. 

These products generally contain added terpenes or other lipids in order to create the correct consistency for CBD shatter or wax. Therefore, they are unlikely to have 99% purity, but they may still be highly concentrated and/or THC-free. Shatter and wax is designed to be vaporized. 

Concentrates can also be made from a full spectrum formula. These concentrates most frequently come in "crude" oil form, meaning it’s mostly unrefined after extraction. These concentrates are often packed in a syringe (similar to Rick Simpson Oil) for measuring convenience.


Topicals

A person using CBD lotionHemp extract can be added to topical formulations alongside carrier oils to create CBD topicals like lotions, skin serums, balms, bath products, and more.

Full spectrum topicals may offer the benefits of the “entourage effect” even to THC-restricted consumers. According to a 2017 study, THC applied to the skin cannot be found in the bloodstream or urine afterwards.

More research is needed to understand how the entourage effect of full spectrum products may benefit the skin, but these phytocannabinoid-rich applications are often chosen for skin ailments and muscle and joint discomfort.

However, CBD topicals are most frequently made with CBD isolate.

There have been no human studies to indicate the bioavailability of CBD in topicals, but a 2018 review suggests “transdermal CBD gel and topical creams have been demonstrated to be successful in animal studies.” Animal studies have also shown that topical CBD applications may have therapeutic value for managing arthritis.

Flower and Prerolls

A close up of raw hemp flowerJust like cannabis flower can be smoked to reap the effects of THC, hemp flower can be smoked to absorb it’s rich, CBD-dominant cannabinoid profile.

Hemp flower and pre-rolls are naturally full spectrum products because they are unrefined. Hemp flower generally undergoes very little processing between the time it is harvested and the time it is packaged for sale.

Many people prefer smoking or vaping hemp flower because it offers the same fast-acting effects of vaporizers, but without any additives. In fact, smoking fresh hemp flower is the most natural way to intake full-spectrum CBD. 

The same bioavailability factors that apply to vaping generally apply to smoking hemp flower. However, some of the cannabinoid concentration is generally burned away when the hemp material is exposed to the high temperatures needed for combustion (smoking).

Pet Products

A pup and his CBD oil doseResearch has shown that most animals, particularly mammals, have an endocannabinoid system that is similar to humans. In fact, most existing CBD-related research involves animal studies, and most human applications are just now beginning to be investigated.

For this reason, pet owners are particularly interested in the potential benefits of CBD for their pets, especially for conditions like pain, nausea, high or low weight, or anxiety.

More research is needed to understand the full potential of CBD for pets, but the lack of THC in most CBD products may make it a more suitable choice (since animals are much more sensitive to psychoactive effects).

CBD pet products come in a variety of different forms, including tinctures, treats, chews, and topicals. Most are marketed towards cats and dogs, but some brand’s have begun to market CBD for horses and a variety of other pet and farm animals.


Key Takeaways

Industrial hemp derived CBD can be extracted and formulated in multiple different ways, resulting in a variety of different types of CBD products for consumers to choose from.

For new CBD consumers, the amount of options can easily be overwhelming.

CBD products vary greatly and each utilize a different delivery route, like oral consumption, inhalation, or topical applicationsand in turn each deliver slightly different onset times, durations, and bioavailability (absorption rate).

Fortunately, these different formulations serve an important purpose

Different products are also more suitable for different potency needs (like choosing concentrates when you need high doses). 

Most products types can be made from either full spectrum or CBD isolate hemp formulas, with the exception of CBD isolate powders and hemp flower pre-rolls. 

Ultimately, the product type that works best will depend on a variety of unique factors, like desired dose, portability needs, taste preferences, and more. 


Resources

  1. “Subjective and Physiological Effects of Oromucosal Sprays Containing Cannabinoids (Nabiximols): Potentials and Limitations for Psychosis Research” https://www.researchgate.net/publication/227707569_Subjective_and_Physiological_Effects_of_Oromucosal_Sprays_Containing_Cannabinoids_Nabiximols_Potentials_and_Limitations_for_Psychosis_Research
  2. “Human Cannabinoid Pharmacokinetics” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2689518/
  3. “First Pass Effect” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK551679/
  4. “Cannabinoid Delivery Systems for Pain and Inflammation Treatment” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6222489/
  5. “Topical Application of THC Containing Products Is Not Able to Cause Positive Cannabinoid Finding in Blood or Urine” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28122323/
  6. “A Systematic Review on the Pharmacokinetics of Cannabidiol in Humans” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6275223/
  7. “Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4851925/
  8. “The Endocannabinoid System of Animals” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31527410/

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