There's no denying it. There's an overwhelming amount of cannabis/hemp CBD products out there, and an underwhelming amount of information helping you sort through them. Hemp oil, CBD oil, cannabis oil, full spectrum hemp oil, CBD isolate, gummies, and capsules. Also vape oil, vape juice, jape juice additive and wax. There are different methods of extraction that are safer than others. And there are ingredients you might want to stay away from in each category. We'll arm you with all of the information you need to make the right choice.
In this article we'll go over all of the different types of products. We don't talk about specific brands of products themselves. We make our recommendations in the Where to Buy CBD Products page.
Instead, we'll talk about the pros and cons of each consumption method, and characteristics you should look for in products in that category. But first, we will begin with how hemp extract, including full spectrum hemp oil, is made from cannabis.
Of course, feel free to skip ahead using the table of contents below.
Hemp extract is the full spectrum oil extracted from the seeds and stalks of industrial hemp plants. The full spectrum hemp oil typically contains not just CBD but also a host of other awesome benefits from the terpenes and a range of different cannabinoids, as well as the antioxidant benefits from Vitamin E and other vitamins and minerals contained naturally in hemp.
We think it's very beneficial to use a hemp extract that has the Vitamin E intact since high amounts of Polyunsaturated fat consumption has been linked to hormonal health issues. The presence of natural Vitamin E in the hemp actually helps to negate any of these bad effects, making the whole plant extract more valuable and healthier to consume regularly.
How Hemp/CBD Extract Products Are Made
Hemp oil (full spectrum CBD oil) is essentially a concentration of all the cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and hundreds of other compounds in hemp's resin.
There are several extraction techniques. Techniques range from ancient to modern, but they all fall in two categories: solventless extractions or solvent extractions.
Ideally, solventless extractions are preferred over solvent extractions when producing a final product that's going to be inhaled. It's difficult to get all of the solvent out of the extract, and it's hard to know if inhaling these solvents will affect us negatively.
We'll do everything to present the facts, including the risks and known adverse reactions. In the end it will be up to you to weigh the risks, benefits, prices. and urgency of your situation.
As always, if you need more help, don't hesitate to let us know.
These types of extractions use some kind of substance used to dissolve a solute. The substance, called the solvent, is usually a liquid, but it can also be a gas or even a solid.
The important thing to remember about these extractions is solvents are notoriously difficult to completely remove from the extraction without expensive professional equipment. Most of the solvents we use today are not explicitly toxic like some of the solvents used in the days of illicit cannabis. Even so, we don't know the exact effect of inhaling these solvents on our body.
Here are the primary modern methods of extraction you'll encounter when searching for cannabis, hemp, and marijuana extract products.
N-Butane & Propane Extractions
Butane extractions are the most common extraction technique. It's inexpensive and relatively safe when all of the solvent is removed. Most extracted waxes, budders, shatters, crumbles and honey oils fall into butane hash oil extractions.
Although butane is non-toxic, butane hash oil (or butane honey oil) products made using this method can be hazardous if toxic residue is left on the end product.
Supercritical Fluid Extraction
The most common supercritical fluid extraction is CO2 extraction. Carbon dioxide is used to separate the components in the plant using special properties of gas compression. This process, while highly involved and complex, is safe, non-toxic and results in high quality product when done by professionals.
See the below video for a short animation of CO2 extraction technology.
This process involves using high-proof alcohol or ethanol to extract cannabinoids and other active ingredients.
The alcohol plant mixture is stored somewhere dark for a few weeks and then strained, leaving a mixture of alcohol, cannabinoids, and chlorophyll that's subjected to low-pressure evaporation.
Solventless extractions are exactly what they sound like. They're concentrates of cannabinoids obtained without the use of an assisting solvent. These extractions are much less common in modern cannabis retail operations, but are popular as DIY extraction techniques due to their low-tech nature.
Many regular cannabis users are surprised when kief is listed as a concentrate, but that's exactly what it is. Kief is a concentration of trichomes. Trichomes are crystalline structures that coat the surfaces of dried flower. These trichomes are packed with cannabis's medicinal resin, and they're collected using various filtering screens. The result is a fine powder.
Rosin obtains cannabinoids by applying high amounts of pressure and heat to dried cannabis flowers. It can be done using an industrial heat press, but most rosin is made in people's living rooms using a flat iron (the kind used to straighten hair).
This type of concentrate is the oldest, most used, most historically referenced method of extracting the medicinal components of the cannabis plant. There are different ways to make hash. Regardless of the method used, the result is a sticky resin made up of trichomes that's usually compressed into a mass.
Your final cannabis product is going to be a result of one of the above extraction methods. Most likely the solvent-based extraction methods. If you're inhaling cannabis products, even hemp oil, it's important to make sure all solvents were removed later in the process. This is difficult to know given the lack of transparency in the market. Your best bet is to go with CO2 extracted oils if you're worried about left over solvents in your inhalation product.
There's one more important topic we need to cover before we move on, and that's the difference between full spectrum extracts (FSE), and isolate extracts.
Full Spectrum Extracts vs. Isolate CBD Products
Most people are intent on finding the purest, most concentrated CBD product on the market, thinking that pure CBD will get you where you want to go faster. This is categorically not true for cannabis products.
Because of the entourage effect (i.e. cannabinoids work better when they're together), products that have not isolated CBD have been shown to work better than CBD isolate products.
Don't get me wrong. CBD by itself works. It simply does not work as well as the synergistic combination of all cannabinoids working in tandem to bring your body back to center. For more information about the entourage effect, check out our article on general cannabis, hemp, marijuana, and CBD information.
It's important going forward you keep in mind that all product types mentioned on this page can come as either full spectrum or isolate.
A Note on Terminology on The Universal Plant
For the sake of simplicity (and sanity), The Universal Plant will refer to the nonpsychoactive varieties of cannabis as hemp, and the psychoactive varieties as marijuana. While technically incorrect, the scientific nomenclature is too confusing for our purposes.
Next, we're going to talk about consumption methods. After cannabinoids are extracted into one form or another, they're ready for consumption. Actually, cannabis, even hemp, can be consumed without extraction by either eating the raw flower, smoking the flower, or using a vaporizer. This is usually not the preferred method for medical patients, as the taste, dry mouth, lung irritation, and smell can leave the user with a negative experience. This is one of the reasons so many alternative consumption methods have been developed.
Let's go over a summary each consumption method. After that, we'll talk about specific products for each consumption method.
The delivery method is going to have a huge impact on your experience with your medicine. Each consumption method comes with its own benefits and drawbacks that are not trivial. There's no one method that is right for everyone.
You should read through each method carefully and choose the one that's best for your situation.
This method involves taking smoke or vapor into the lungs.
Smoking cannabis products (hemp flower or marijuana flower) is controversial in the medical community. Smoking involves heating up the flower to a temperature that causes combustion. This combustion releases cannabinoids, but it also creates carcinogens that are toxic.
In general, smoking should be done as rarely as possible. Even though it's been indicated that cannabis smokers do not get cancer (even lung cancer) at a rate any more frequent than non-smokers, it can't be good for you to inhale combustion byproducts.
The other method of inhalation, vaporizing, involves heating cannabis or it's extracts to a temperature just below combustion. It allows the release of cannabinoids without the negative effects of combustion.
A cannabis product is ingested if it involves the digestive system and the liver. Products that are ingested include masticated edibles, capsules, softgels, and some tinctures.
The most important aspect of the ingestion delivery method to remember is that the effects can take up to 2 hours to take effect. In some rare cases, it can take longer. Because of this, it's hard to get the dosing just right, and modify the treatment on the fly. This method is good when you want the effects to last a long time, as ingested cannabis can remain effective for up to 8 hours.
The other element that's important to remember is that cannabinoids are lost and broken down in the stomach. Some cannabinoids end up leaving your system without being processed at all. When dosing, it's important to keep in mind that not all of the cannabinoids will be absorbed.
Ingested Cannabis Is Up To Four Times Stronger
Eating cannabis is not just for the experience. When cannabinoids pass through your liver, they're converted into their 11-hydroxy form. This form is at least twice and up to 5 times more psychoactive than cannabinoids consumed in other ways.
In this delivery system, cannabinoids are introduced into the blood stream via small capillaries in the mouth. Extracted cannabinoids are put on top of or under the tongue, where they are absorbed quickly. Most people feel the effects within 2 minutes, if not sooner. Products delivered in this manner include sublingual sprays, lozenges, oral tinctures, and edibles like suckers or hard candy.
Transdermal application of cannabinoids is difficult since most cannabinoids are not easily water soluble and therefore have a hard time penetrating the skin. Most transdermal consumption methods are coupled with a delivery system such as a patch to aid absorption into the blood stream.
The exception to this is transdermal delivery through suppositories or vaginal applications. These methods are great when oral applications are not possible.
Topical cannabis products are applied locally to the skin for immediate local effects. Since cannabinoids have a hard time getting into the blood stream through skin application, topical applications are great for skin issues, or local pain.
Topical products include lotions, lip balms, salves, pain rubs, body butters, shampoos, serums, and other cannabinoid infused creams. Endoca has some great CBD-rich topicals that are completely organic. They say you can even eat them.
WARNING: Some people, like myself, have skin that is allergic to cannabis. First apply to a small area and see how it goes. If you're allergic, you'll feel itching and redness almost immediately.
Choosing a Delivery Method
You might be wondering which method is right for you. It's not an easy decision to make. Each delivery method will affect you differently.
While the choices are overwhelming, there are a few rules of thumb you can use to choose which method you want to go with. Then, you can decide which product type you think will work best for you. After that, you can choose a specific brand to buy.
First, let's go over choosing a method of consumption that fits your needs.
Why are You Using CBD/Hemp Oil?
The product you choose with depend mostly on the condition your treating and how quickly you want the medicine to kick in.
For example, inhaled products are better for people looking for quick relief, or who can't be confident they can keep oral medications down.
If you're treating psoriasis, you'll obviously want to choose a topical product.
And if you want to treat a sleeping disorder, it's better for you to take an edible, as digested cannabinoids (or cannabinoids administered by bypassing the liver) have a prolonged effect over cannabinoids delivered by other means.
Are You Comfortable With Cannabis Smoke or Vapor?
Some people aren't comfortable with any kind of byproduct, vapor or smoke. Sometimes it's due to old prejudices, and sometimes it's simply a personal preference or a dislike for the smell of terpenes in cannabis.
If you find yourself in this camp, other delivery methods will also provide instant relief. Methods such as sublingual delivery systems can substitute for inhaled cannabis for almost any individual.
Hemp Extract Product Choices
So far, we've learned how cannabis, or hemp/CBD products, are extracted, and how those extractions are delivered to the human body.
Now let's take a look at the individual products available for each delivery method that we mentioned in the previous section.
We'll begin with tinctures.
One simple and direct way to consume cannabinoids is to consume raw flower. Either by smoking it, or by eating it.
Smoking can take many forms. You can use any number of different kinds of pipes, or you can use a vaporizer. Consuming flower in this form is usually only feasible for THC-dominant strains of cannabis.
While eating flower will not give you the same cannabinoid profile as smoked flower will (because of decarboxylation), you can still reap the medical benefits of these cannabinoids most present in flower before decarboxylation.
Technically, tinctures are the result of soaking a plant or other medicinal substance in alcohol. Wikipedia defines a tincture in the following manner:
A tincture is typically an alcoholic extract of plant or animal material or solution of such, or of a low volatility substance. To qualify as an alcoholic tincture, the extract should have an ethanol percentage of at least 25–60%.
However, cannabis/hemp CBD products have adopted the term for pretty much any solution that can be sublingually or orally administered in concentrated form.
Oil tinctures are exactly what they sound like. They're just like alcohol tinctures, but they're made with oil. In our opinion, the best oil tinctures are made with hemp seed oil. Other common oil tinctures include MCT oil and olive oil.
These tinctures are made with some sort of glycerin. The most common type of glycerin use is vegetable glycerin (VG).
Alcohol tinctures are very common and easy to make at home. They're the oldest type of tinctures, and therefore one of the most trusted. Some recommend diluting DIY tinctures with juice to supplement the taste, or to reduce mouth irritation.
Other Sublingual/Oral Mucosal Delivery Products
Under The Tongue Sprays
A newer delivery system comes in the form of sprays you can apply directly under the tongue or in the mouth for fast absorption and accurate dosing.
Lozenges & Sublingual-Dissolvable Strips
These sublingual 'strips' usually take the form of a film that is put under your tongue and dissolved. They dissolve within minutes to provide fast acting relief that can last up to 8 hours.
Lozenges are hard sucking candies that deliver medicine through the buccal tissues. You can find lozenges that are flavored or unflavored, and they come in many different concentrations for beginners and more experienced users.
They're discreet, and they can dissolve in minutes to provide a slow-to-medium release to mouth tissues.
By definition, edibles are any product that is processed by your liver. Edibles can take many different forms, and with legalization sweeping the country, we only expect there to be more and more options as time goes on.
Capsules & Softgels
Capsules and softgels are filled with oils or powders that contain cannabinoids. They're usually not vegan/vegetarian, but you can find capsules that are made of non-animal products.
Until pretty recently, it wasn't thought that cannabinoids could be dissolved in water-based liquids because most of them are hydrophobic. Recently, cannabis beverages, including water infused with CBD, have come out on the market.
Other beverages such as Hemp Bombs' Chill Shot have popped up all over the industry, and there's probably many more to come.
Masticated Edibles: Gummies, Candies, and More
The digestion process for these types of edibles starts in the mouth with chewing. These edibles are virtual indistinguishable from any food you might eat on a daily basis. This makes integrating them into your life more natural and less disruptive.
THC-infused edibles come in almost any form you can think of. Chocolates, gummies, granola bars, hot sauces, and water flavoring are all common. On the other hand, most of the edible products on the market for CBD-dominant hemp extracts are capsules/softgels, or gummies. Some THC-dominant marijuana extract companies have started infusing their edibles with more CBD, and expanding the choices but, at least for now, the options are pretty limited.
These types cannabis/hemp CBD products come in many different forms. You can find general body butters, or body sticks made to ameliorate pain. There are serums for your face as well as chapsticks for your lips.
As mentioned previously, these products are better when the affliction is local and cannabinoids do not need to enter the blood stream.
Concentrates at it relates to products are basically the substance that's left over after the extraction process. Instead of mixing the product into a tincture, topical, edible, or other product, the extraction is packaged for use on its own.
Cannabis concentrates can be consumed in a variety of different ways. One easy and popular method is via vape. Usually it's consumed in a vape pen, either as a cartridge or via direct contact with a vapor coal.
Waxes, Budders, & Shatter
These extractions are more popular with THC-rich cannabis extracts from marijuana than CBD-rich hemp products.
Most people consuming hemp extract do so for the medical benefits it provides. They're not usually recreational cannabis consumers. Dabbing is a common consumption method for these types of concentrates, and it feels way too illicit for new users to consider. Other ways to consume these are via vaporizers.
Vape oil is the most popular type of hemp-based concentrate made and consumed. They usually come in single use cartridges, but you can also find syringes that will allow you to fill up multi-use cartridges multiple times.
You can get vape oil cartridges that are flavored with normal food-grade flavoring, or with extracted terpene profiles. The terpenes mimic popular strain flavors without the THC.
The best quality vape oils are made via CO2 supercritical extraction. They have no additional products, like carrier oils, and they're cleaner than other solvent extractions. Other extractions produce an oil that's too thick to be vaporized by most vaporizers, and therefore they need to be diluted with oils like MCT or with PG or VG.
Choosing a Cannabis or Hemp/CBD Product
Now that we've gone over the different products for each delivery method, it's time to talk about how to make a final choice about which cannabis, marijuana, or hemp/CBD product to buy.
In order to help facilitate this decision, we've identified several important considerations you should spend time thinking about before making your final choice.
Consider The Cannabinoid Concentration
All manufacturers should indicate the amount of cannabinoids in the product. The cannabinoid content is usually indicated in milligrams. Cannabis, and especially hemp/CBD products range from a concentration 100mg-4000mg per 15mL-120mL.
This is a huge variance!
If you're first starting out, you'll want to start small. The smallest initial dose is about 2mg. Choose a product that will give you the ability to make nuanced changes to your consumption. It's unlikely you'll be able to achieve a dose this small with concentrate products or highly concentrated tinctures, so keep that in mind while shopping around.
Look At The Ingredients
As we've mentioned, not all cannabis, i.e. hemp CBD products, are made equally.
Most companies use carrier oils to thin out the highly viscous oil that results from the extraction of pure cannabinoid (i.e. trichome) resin. If you're inhaling this product, it's important to know which carrier oils are involved in the making of the product. Some carriers are safer than others, and certain carrier oils have been known to cause adverse side effects.
If you've decided on trying edibles, check to make sure the ingredients live up to your standards. If you're not a fan of high-fructose corn syrup or other sugars, this is especially important for you.
Consider Your Optimal CBD:THC Ratio
Experts believe that the CBD:THC ratio is the future of cannabis medicine (along with terpenoids). Hemp/CBD products have a very low THC content and, because of governmental regulation, they probably always will. There are other products being developed (especially edibles) with different ratios. It's not uncommon to see products with a 10:1 CBD:THC ratio, or a 1:1 CBD:THC ratio sitting on the shelves of dispensaries all over the U.S.
Finding the best ratio for you will take a good amount of experimenting, but the benefits are worth it.
Can CBD stop you from getting high?
According to Cannabis Pharmacy, a book edited by a cannabis doctor, an 8:1 ration of CBD to THC typically eliminates THC psychoactivity altogether. A 3:2 CBD to THC ration will have some psychoactivity, but of a distinctly clearheaded variety.
How Much Do You Want To Pay?
These products aren't cheap. They should be a commodity, but they're not. Regulations have driven prices sky high. Gone are the days when cannabis legalization activists give out pounds of medicinal marijuana to the needy. Now programs for medical patients and individuals with financial difficulties are tied to dispensaries.
Additionally, most online retailers offer bundle discounts, or subscription discounts. If you plan on integrating cannabis into your life, these are great options to save some money.
In this industry, you mostly get what you paid for. Low quality cannabis and CBD products are cheap and easy to find. High quality cannabis extracts are less common and more expensive. If you can afford it, go with the highest quality products you can find. This doesn't always mean the most expensive, but it does mean it probably won't be cheap.
The Future of Hemp/CBD Products
As the evil weed loses its status as public enemy #1, more research will be done to discover better, more effective, and safe delivery methods for this important medicine.
This is where pharmaceuticals may have an edge on boutique cannabis providers. The impossibility of patenting an herb makes the entrance of big companies into the legal cannabis market unlikely. They will try as hard as they can to ensure the plant stays illegal so they can use their extensive laboratories create synthetic versions of natural cannabinoids. As long as the plant doesn't remain illegal, it's likely that they'll turn to applying their technology to come up with sophisticated methods of delivery.
As time goes on, we must not get complacent about our medicine. Cannabis has been a political hot potato and football since the dawn of the 1900's. It's naive to think that will stop once legalization is thoroughly underway. In the future, we need to continue looking at the ingredients in our medicine, their origin, and we need to continue evaluating the claims made by companies delivering these medicines.
Conclusion & Next Steps
Now that you're all done learning about the different kinds of products to choose from, it's time for you to go ahead and choose. If you have more questions, go ahead and reach out and we'll get answers to them ASAP. There's no question too daunting for our researchers here at The Universal Plant.
If you're ready to make a choice, check out our where to buy page for unbiased information on the top hemp/CBD product manufacturers on the market today.
Or, if you're short on time, sign up for updates from The Universal Plant, and we'll periodically send you information and updates about cannabis, hemp, and CBD products.
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Discover More Categories on The Universal Plant
If you're looking for information about what hemp is, where it came from, whether or not it's legal, or anything else you can think of related to hemp, this is the place for you. You'll find answers to questions like:
- What's a terpenoid, and do I need them?
- The history of cannabis
- Much more!
Using Hemp As A Medicine
If you're looking for information about how CBD can help you feel better, this is the place for you. Here you'll find thoroughly researched and meticulously cited information on:
- Whether or not hemp/cbd extract can work for you
- What kinds of suffering hemp/CBD extract has been shown to alleviate
- How hemp/CBD extract helps bring balance and homeostasis back to your body
- How to take hemp/CBD extract
- Any topic on using hemp to live a full life again