As medical marijuana is becoming more widely available in the United States, so are studies conducted to further our understanding of the different therapeutic compounds found within.
CBD (cannabidiol) is the non-psychoactive therapeutic cannabinoid that originates from the Cannabis sativa plant, which includes both the hemp plant and the marijuana plant. With numerous studies suggesting a wide variety of uses for CBD hemp products with the lack of the “high” feeling that comes from THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), see THC vs. CBD, many consumers are left to try and figure out what cannabidiol product to purchase.
If you have decided to add a CBD supplement into your routine, you are likely wondering where to go next. Should you go to a local shop, or search online? Which CBD product is right for you, and which companies offer the highest quality products?
Rather than going from site-to-site to try to piece together this information, we have put together this article as a complete guide to help you through the entire process of purchasing your first CBD product, answering all of these questions and more.
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Things To Consider Before Buying A CBD Supplement
No matter what type of product you are looking for or what your desired outcome is, there are certain properties of CBD hemp oil products that you should be aware of.
Percentage of Active Ingredients
Cannabis sativa contains roughly 80 difference cannabinoids, with CBD and THC being the primary cannabinoids when it comes to therapeutic potential. (1)
Many companies will list something such as 25 mg of FSHO (full spectrum hemp oil), but may only contain 10-20% active ingredients.
We will go over more about the benefits of FSHO, but it is important to also know the percent of CBD, the main active ingredient in each product. When adjusting your dosage it is this number that you will want to go off of in order to find the right product and right dosage for your personal situation.
Full Spectrum vs. Isolates
Full spectrum hemp oil (FSHO) is a whole-plant extract from the Cannabis sativa plant. This means that full spectrum hemp oil contains not only cannabidiol, but many other compounds naturally found in the hemp plant as well, such as phytochemicals, numerous additional phytocannabinoids, vitamins, fatty acids, minerals, terpenes, and waxes.
CBD isolate is pure cannabidiol extracted from the hemp plant and refined to eliminate the other compounds naturally found in the plant.
So Which Is Better: Full Spectrum or Iolates?
Recent evidence supports the idea that the whole-plant hemp extract may offer an entourage effect where numerous compounds in the plant work synergistically, leading to better results than CBD alone. (6)
In 2015, researchers published a study in Pharmacology & Pharmacy to dive deeper into the difference between full spectrum oil and isolates in the anti-inflammatory and anti-nociceptive (pain relieving) effects on mice. (6)
The authors explain that many studies have found a bell-shaped dose-responsive effect of purified CBD on inflammation, anxiety, and other conditions. What this means is that there was a small therapeutic window where CBD isolates were helpful, but too much CBD would lead to reduced effectiveness.
In this study the researchers used an extract from Cannabis sativa L., clone 202, which contains very little THC and high quantities of CBD, along with the other naturally occurring compounds in the plant, and compared it to a CBD isolate.
Mice were given either the CBD isolate of the full spectrum plant extract either intraperitoneally (injected) or orally at a variety of doses, and the anti-inflammatory and anti-nociceptive responses were measured.
The researchers found that the full spectrum extract overcame the bell-shaped dose-response curve found for CBD only extracts. Rather than becoming less effective at higher doses, the whole-plant CBD oil became more effective until the effectiveness plateaued. What this means is that the full-plant extract was more effective at higher doses until no additional impact was found, but unlike the CBD isolate, it did not become less effective the more that was consumed.
While further research is needed to understand why full spectrum Cannabis sativa oil may be more effective at higher doses when compared to a CBD isolate, some speculate that it is likely due to synergistic or additive interactions between CBD and other trace cannabinoids, such as THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin), CBG (cannabigerol), and CBC (cannabichromene), or even non-cannabinoid compounds found in the whole-hemp plant extract.
Nano vs. Sublingual vs. Liposomal CBD
One crucial factor when considering what CBD product and dosage to choose is bioavailability. Bioavailability is simply the fraction of the CBD that is absorbed by our cells.
CBD, being an oil, is not water soluble, leading to a large percentage of orally consumed CBD passing through our bodies unabsorbed. The same thing is known to happen with a variety of natural substances as well as pharmaceutical drugs, and thus some of the strategies used to increase the absorption of other compounds are being used in the creation of CBD products.
Liposomal encapsulation, nano-cannabinoids, and sublingual CBD are three of these strategies, often used in concert, to increase the amount of CBD that our bodies are able to absorb.
Liposomes are tiny spheres that are water soluble on one side and fat soluble on the other. Like-dissolves-like, meaning that water-soluble substances mix with one another, as do fat-soluble substances, but water-soluble and fat-soluble substances don’t mix with one another.
Our digestive tracts and blood vessels are watery, with our cell membranes being made of fat. By encapsulating CBD in a liposome, more of it is thought to be absorbed rather than being excreted through the body. This is especially true for topical CBD use. (7)
Nanoemulsions of CBD increase the bioavailability through allowing the CBD molecule to be absorbed orally and through the skin, allowing these products to bypass traditional digestion, where much of the CBD can be broken down.
Nanoemulsions do this by breaking down the CBD into very small particles known as nano-cannabinoids. These nano-CBD compounds are also water-soluble, which means they can be mixed into drinks and absorbed by our bodies.
Both liposomal delivery and nanoemulsions are frequently paired with sublingual delivery, where you keep the product in your mouth under your tongue to allow it to be absorbed before swallowing.
Types of Products
There are a wide variety of CBD products which differ in how they are made, how they are taken, their bioavailability, and how quickly they kick in.
Oral bioavailability of traditional CBD oil is low and ranges from about 6% in humans to roughly 33% in dogs. (8) Bioavailability may be increased through the strategies discussed above of sublingual, nanoemulsion, and liposomal delivery.
Alternative forms, such as topical application and smoking, can alter the bioavailability when compared to eating CBD.
Here we will discuss the details of the different forms of CBD products so that you can make a decision based on the effects you desire.
Pure CBD Oil – Raw, Decarboxylated, and Filtered
Pure CBD oil is generally highly concentrated, containing high quantities of CBD without any emulsifiers or fillers. It is very simply the hemp oil that’s extracted from the Cannabis sativa plant. This is great for those who are wanting something strong, simple, and a good value in terms of cost per serving.
There are three types of raw hemp oil: raw/green, decarboxylated/blue, and filtered/gold.
Raw (green) hemp oil is the least processed and contains plant matter, plant terpenes, and cannabinoids. While still termed “oil,” this product is actually a thick, earthy paste.
Decarboxylated (blue) hemp oil is the product that comes from heating and filtering the raw/green hemp oil, leaving the end product with a higher concentration of CBD. While still a paste, raw blue CBD oil is slightly less thick.
Filtered (gold) hemp oil is the product that comes from fully filtering out the plant matter from the raw/green hemp oil, making it the most concentrated for the raw CBD hemp oils in terms of CBD and other cannabinoids.
Raw CBD oils can be added to food or simply eaten as-is! As this type of CBD product is highly concentrated, be sure to start with a small amount and build up from there.
CBD Oil Tinctures
In order to make a tincture, green or blue hemp oil is taken and emulsifiers, carrier oils, and flavorings are added to make the final product more enjoyable to consumers. This final product is placed in a container with either a spray top or dropper to help you measure how much CBD you are taking.
When we swallow CBD, some of the compound is broken down upon digestion.1 Tinctures are unique because they may help to increase the bioavailability by allowing the cannabinoids to be absorbed through our oral membranes. Because of this, it is recommended to place the oil under your tongue for a number of seconds before swallowing it.
With hemp oil tinctures, you may take the hemp oil directly and place it under your tongue, or you may also add drops of the oil into any beverage, however remember to allow the oil to sit in your mouth before swallowing to allow sublingual absorption.
CBD tinctures come in a wide variety of flavors, such as peppermint, maple, vanilla, and cinnamon. Many of us are more likely to take a supplement regularly if it is tasty – think about gummy vitamins versus traditional pill vitamins. Seeing as daily supplementation of CBD oil is the way that countless studies have found beneficial health impacts, a flavored tincture may be a good way to ensure your regular compliance. (10,11)
A delicious and discreet way to add CBD into your day, edibles come in a variety of forms, such as gummies, cookies, tea, and chocolate, among many others.
They are formed by adding blue or green CBD oil to a form of food or beverage. While very enjoyable to eat, these are often the most expensive per dose form of CBD oil. Given this, these can be great as a treat with other forms more often being used for a daily supplement.
When you think of taking a daily supplement, you probably imagine popping a pill. If this is already in your wheelhouse, capsules may be the easiest way for you to add a daily CBD supplement.
CBD pills are made from powdered hemp oil that contains high concentrations of CBD.
The benefits of pills are that they are easy to take with you, they are odorless and tasteless, and you always know how much you have taken.
That said, when introducing CBD into your daily supplement regimen, it is recommended to start small and increase until you find the best dosage for you. This can be difficult with hemp oil capsules as in order to increase your dose you will have to double it, rather than increase incrementally.
CBD E-Liquid Vape Oil
CBD vaporizers are similar to other vape products, such as e-cigarettes and e-pens. You take a CBD vaporizer and add a CBD cartridge that contains the CBD oil. The vaporizer works by heating up the hemp oil until it becomes a vapor that you inhale.
Studies have shown smoking to be the most effective way to boost plasma CBD levels. (3) Not only is it the most effective, but the peak effects are very rapid when compared to other methods.
In a 1986 study published in Biomedical Environmental Mass Spectrometry, five human volunteers each smoked a cigarette that contained 19mg CBD. (4) The peak plasma level of CBD occurred at 3 minutes at an average of 110 ng/mL, with the half-life of 31+/- 4 hours.
Compare this to a 1981 study published in Experientia in which 12 volunteers were given chocolate cookies containing a blend of 20 mg THC and 40 mg CBD. Peak plasma levels for CBD were at roughly 5 ng/mL between 1.5 and 3 hours. (5)
Comparing these studies demonstrates just how effective smoking CBD is in boosting plasma CBD levels quickly and how smoking once per day would lead to elevated plasma CBD levels throughout the full day.
CBD vaporizers are usually rechargeable via USB, making them easy to charge, just like your cell phone.
Topical CBD is often advised for those suffering from muscle or joint pain and comes in lotions, creams, and balms.
Many companies utilize things such as liposomal delivery in order to increase the ability of CBD to penetrate the skin, so if you are looking for relief of pain or stiffness through the skin, it is best to use topical products specifically and not other CBD oil products.
One study found that, because of its polar properties, gels of CBD in ethanol appear to be well-absorbed through skin. (2) This is of great benefit for those who are suffering from stiffness or pain in just one area and would like a concentrated dose of CBD to that exact area.
CBD For Pets
It is hypothesized that CBD in other mammals may offer similar benefits as does CBD in humans.
Researchers have found that there are more cannabinoid receptors in the brains of dogs than those of humans, and it has been hypothesized that they may be more susceptible to the toxic effects of cannabinoids than humans. (9)
Because of this, it is especially important to start any animals on very small amounts of CBD oil with frequent monitoring before building to larger amounts. THC can be toxic for dogs, so you want to be sure to be giving dogs a product that does not contain THC.
- Hammell D.C., Zhang L.P., Ma F., et al. Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviors in a rat model of arthritis. European Journal of Pain. 2016 July; 20(6): 936-948. doi 10.1102/ejp.818
- Stinchcomb AL, Valiveti S, Hammell DC, et al. Human skin permeation of Δ8-tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol and cannabinol. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2004; 56:291–297
- Ujváry I, Hanuš L. Human metabolites of cannabidiol: a review on their formation, biological activity, and relevance in therapy. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2016; 1:90–101. doi: 10.1089/can.2015.0012.
- Ohlsson A, Lindgren J-E, Andersson S, et al. Single-dose kinetics of deuterium-labelled cannabidiol in man after smoking and intravenous administration. Biomed Environ Mass Spectrom. 1986; 13:77–83
- Agurell S, Carlsson S, Lindgren JE, et al. Interactions of Δ1-tetrahydrocannabinol with cannabinol and cannabidiol following oral administration in man. Assay of cannabinol and cannabidiol by mass fragmentography. Experientia. 1981; 37:1090–1092
- Gallily R, Yekhtin Z, Hanus L. Overcoming the Bell-Shaped Dose-Response of Cannabidiol by Using Cannabis Extract Enriched in Cannabidiol. Pharmacology & Pharmacy. 2015; 6:75-78
- Lodzki M, Godin L, Mechoulam R, et al. Cannabidiol — transdermal delivery and anti-inflammatory effect in a murine model. Journal of Controlled Release. 2003 December: 93(3):377-387.
- Paudel K, Hammell D, Agu R. Cannabidiol bioavailability after nasal and transdermal application: effect of permeation enhancers. Drug Development and Industrial Pharmacy. 2010: 36(9):1088-1097
- Gyles C. Marijuana for pets? The Canadian Veterinary Journal. 2016 Dec; 57(12): 1215-1218.
- 3rd EAN Congress Amsterdam 2017, Abstract Nicolodi, et al. Therapeutic Use of Cannabinoids – Dose Finding, Effects and Pilot Data of Effects in Chronic Migraine and Cluster Headache
- Hill KP. Medical marijuana for treatment of chronic pain and other medical and psychiatric problems: a clinical review. JAMA. 2015;313:2474–2483