What are The Different Types of CBD Oil? Know Before Buying

CBD, Cannabidiol, is a chemical compound naturally found in the Cannabis sativa plant. Some varieties of Cannabis are processed into marijuana – the most popular drug across the planet.

Marijuana gains its psychoactivity through one of its chemical constituents: THC. THC is a different kind of cannabinoid to CBD.

Varieties of C.sativa with a THC concentration greater than 0.3% are referred to as marijuana. [1]

C.sativa plants with a THC concentration smaller than 0.3% are recognised as hemp. Below 0.3%, THC is insufficient to produce intoxicating effects on the body.

Thus, hemp lacks the ability to produce the feeling of a ‘high’, unlike marijuana. [2]

CBD is extracted from the Cannabis sativa plant and dissolved in a base e.g. sunflower or olive oil.

Although THC was discovered prior to CBD, the latter chemical moiety has quickly gained massive popularity in the pharmacological, skin and hair care industries.

The oil’s robust antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-epilepsy, and pain-relieving properties have allowed it to emerge as one of the top contenders of the phytochemical drug industry. [3]

There’s a diverse range of CBD oil products currently being sold in the market. They can differ in form of:

  • Suitability to different illnesses
  • Application – topical or dietary supplements,
  • Origin – hemp-derived or marijuana-derived, and Quantity of CBD and THC.

CBD closely resembles some of the hormones produced in the body known as endocannabinoids.

This allows CBD to interact with the endocannabinoid signaling system in the body. [4]

CBD’s ability to affect many different parts of the body all together allows its therapeutic value to multiply.

The endocannabinoid system has many roles to play in humans with the most important being regulation of homeostasis i.e. house-keeping of the body.

It regulates body temperature, heart rate, cognition, memory, movement, hormone secretion, the release of pro-inflammatory responses and pain sensations. [5]

In addition to CBD, the hemp plant possesses many other cannabinoids and nutrients. These can be kept in the CBD oil or can be stripped away by chemical processes.

This article will explore the differences between the different types of CBD oil currently available in the market and hopefully give you a better understanding of which type of oil is more suitable for your condition.

Note: Hemp oil and CBD oil are not the same. Always check the ingredients of the product before purchasing.

The Different Types of CBD Oil

There are 2 ways to categorise CBD oils; either by their list of ingredients or their method of usage. This article will be focusing on the former criteria. There are 3 types of CBD oils.

If you have looked at websites selling CBD oils, you would have seen that most of the oils are described as full-spectrum, some as isolate and even fewer as broad-spectrum.

About 7-8 years ago, more than 80% of the oils would have been in the isolate form.

This article focuses on explaining the chemical differences between the oils and also their capacity in therapeutics.

First, let’s consider full-spectrum CBD oils.

1. Full Spectrum CBD Oil

Hemp plants are an extremely rich source of healthy fats: omega-3 and omega-6. Additionally, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in hemp plants is 3:1.

This is considered to be the ideal ratio for a healthy diet. [6]

The Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine recommends hemp oil supplements to pregnant women for their daily omega-3 intake. [7]

From the name of CBD oil, you would not expect it to carry the fats found in hemp plants. However, that is far from true for full-spectrum CBD oils.

Full-spectrum CBD oils contain small quantities of the omega-3 and omega-6 fats found in hemp plants.

Hemp plants are a rich source of healthy fatty acids (80% by volume) which are known to demonstrate strong anti-inflammatory effects. [8],[9]

Hemp plants are also considered to contain good amounts of vitamin E and other minerals like: magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, and zinc. [10],[11]

These can be transferred across to full-spectrum CBD oils during the production process.

The vitamins found in hemp plants are potent anti-oxidant agents. [12] Interestingly, CBD itself is a better antioxidant than vitamin C and vitamin E. [13]

In addition to CBD, CBD oils can also carry 60 – 80 other cannabinoids which are naturally found in hemp plants. [14]

THC is one of these cannabinoids. In order for the CBD oil to legal, it must contain less than 0.3% THC by volume.

The ingredient list for a full-spectrum CBD oil will showcase fats, vitamins, minerals, and cannabinoids in addition to CBD. Nonetheless, CBD is still in the highest quantity.

So, why were full-spectrum CBD oils developed? Why weren’t we just happy using CBD oils with only CBD in them?

The answer to these questions is the entourage effect. Scientists found that the omegas, vitamins, minerals, and cannabinoids can help enhance the therapeutic benefits of CBD.

Instead of removing these natural hemp constituents during the production process of CBD oils, keeping them in there could provide safer and more efficient medicinal properties.

CBD is still the protagonist/main character of full-spectrum CBD oils. It has a good number of sidekicks: healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and cannabinoids.

You can understand the entourage effect as the sidekicks promoting positivity in the main character and thus, allowing it to be more efficient at its job.

Scientific investigations have revealed that the entourage effect is important for the treatment of depression, anxiety, cancer, epilepsy, addiction, and cancers. [15]

Full-spectrum CBD oils are recommended for pain relief to arthritis patients. In comparison to CBD oils with just CBD, full-spectrum oils are likely to be better at reducing swelling and inflammation.

Full-spectrum CBD oils have the capacity to provide overall health benefits. This is because omega-3, omega-6 and vitamin E have strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

They can help maintain well-functioning cardiovascular and respiratory systems as well as keep blood sugar and cholesterol in control. [16]

The obvious alternative to full-spectrum CBD oils would be a CBD oil with only CBD in it. Such oils are called CBD isolates. Let’s explore them in further detail now.

2. CBD Isolate

The purpose of CBD isolate oils is to achieve maximal CBD concentrations. Isolate oils can contain up to 99% CBD. [17]

Other natural hemp derivatives (fats, vitamins, minerals, and cannabinoids) are removed during the production process of CBD isolate oils. CBD isolate oils will contain no THC.

This makes them suitable for use by athletes as, THC is included in the anti-doping rules.

Individuals trying to overcome a cannabis addiction are only advised to use isolate oils. Additionally, people that are hesitant to consume THC can use this form of CBD oil.

Many doctors would like to use CBD but avoid THC in the treatment of patients. Thus, CBD isolate oils are a suitable option in such cases.

CBD is extracted from the C.sativa plant. It is turned into a solid white power which, is called a CBD isolate. The isolate is then dissolved in a base oil.

The purpose of both CBD isolate oils and full-spectrum CBD oils is the same.

They are both used for their robust anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects which can help alleviate the symptoms of a wide range of diseases.

Both isolates and full-spectrum oils were found to have greater anti-inflammatory activity than Aspirin. [18]

Consuming CBD isolates in reasonably large doses was not considered a problem as, CBD doses of up to 1500 mg per day can be well-tolerated by humans. [19]

However, scientists were finding that CBD isolate oils only produced effective responses in a limited dose range. There were no beneficial effects at doses lower or higher than that range.

There were no dose-dependent responses to the isolate. At a certain dose you would reach maximum efficiency.

So, even if you increased the dose further, the efficiency would not increase. Rather it would start to drop.

A 2015 mice study done in Israel changed the future of CBD oils. [20] It was truly a ground-breaking moment for the science of Cannabis.

They found that the full-spectrum CBD oil can produce dose-dependent responses. So, if you increase the dosage of the oil, the efficiency also increases. No maximum efficiencies were seen.

Furthermore, they saw that when both the full spectrum oil and isolate were taken at equal dose, the full spectrum oil produced greater anti-inflammatory effects.

This is likely to be due to the entourage effect.

So, larger doses of the isolate are needed in comparison to the full spectrum oil for equal responses. There is greater risk of side effects with larger doses.

Greater precautions and care need to be taken with isolates. The risk of harmful drug-CBD interactions is greater when consuming isolates in comparison to full spectrum. [21]

After 2015, pharmaceutical companies directed all their resources into making full-spectrum CBD oils. The craze for isolates died down quickly.

But, this brought forth a new problem. What about those people who could not consume THC.

It would be unfair to keep them on CBD isolate oils when scientists had agreed that the entourage effects were highly desirable.

The pharmaceutical industry came to the rescue. The solution was simple. Take a full-spectrum oil, remove the THC from it and there you go. They named this kind of oil the broad-spectrum CBD oil.

3. Broad Spectrum CBD Oil

Broad-spectrum CBD oils are essentially full-spectrum CBD oils with the THC component removed.

The highest CBD concentration available in the market right now for a broad-spectrum oil is 80%. [22]

Special industrial processes are conducted on the full spectrum starting material in order to remove the THC.

This type of CBD oil is optimal for athletes and patients who cannot consume THC as part of their treatment.

The omegas, vitamins, minerals and other cannabinoids remain in the broad-spectrum oil. They can continue giving the entourage effect.

Thus, this type of oil can also continue providing overall health benefits to a normal individual.

In current times, the broad-spectrum CBD oil is regarded to be a better therapeutic than the isolate oil.

4. CBD Oil Products

After the oil is made it is generally processed into another product. Currently, the most common CBD oil products are: tinctures, massage oils and oil-based capsules.

All the 3 types of CBD oils we discussed above can be turned into such products. To make a tincture, the CBD oil is dissolved in ethanol or sesame oil.

The tincture mixture is placed under the tongue from where it can be absorbed into the bloodstream. [23]

Massage CBD oils are for topical application. They are suitable for use when treating skin or hair diseases and can help to reduce joint pain in arthritis patients.

They provide quick localized relief and so, must be applied directly onto damaged areas of the skin.

Oil-based capsules are more desirable for overall health benefits and when the disease is not related to the skin i.e. cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy.


There are 3 types of CBD oils. The oldest and most concentrated type is known as the CBD isolate. CBD isolate oils only contain CBD and carrier oil.

Next, the full-spectrum CBD oil was developed. This variety retains the healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and cannabinoids found naturally in hemp plants.

Together they produce an entourage effect which, can increase the medicinal value of the CBD oil by making it a better anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant agent in comparison to the isolate oil.

The full spectrum oil, however, contains THC. Athletes and some patients cannot consume THC. So, the third type, a broad-spectrum CBD oil, was developed for them.

The broad-spectrum oil is essentially a full-spectrum oil but with the THC removed. It can continue providing the entourage effect.

The full spectrum CBD oil is considered to be more effective for diseases like arthritis, multiple sclerosis, eczema, psoriasis and cancer than the isolate.

All 3 types of CBD oil are safe to be used for topical application or consumed orally. There is great variety in the types of products containing CBD oil nowadays.

Check the product label to find out which type of CBD oil it contains.