As part of the boom in the global CBD industry in recent years, we’ve seen a great deal of development in CBD products, as well as the technology used to produce them.
When browsing CBD products you’ll also find some common terms popping up all the time, such as “isolate” and “distillate”. So what is distillate? And are products containing CBD distillate better than other CBD products?
There are no easy answers to these questions. CBD distillate does have a number of advantages, but like anything, it has its pros and cons. It is also important to remember that distillate is simply a type of CBD extract, which does not guarantee the quality of the product you buy simply because it is labelled as “distillate”.
In this article, we’ll cover the different forms of CBD such as isolate and distillate, as well taking a deep dive into CBD distillate. We’ll also examine the various ways one can use it and its pros and cons.
But let’s start by clearing up the confusion between two common CBD terms.
CBD Isolate vs CBD Distillate
People often get CBD isolate and CBD distillate confused. This is not surprising, considering that they are both highly-refined, potent and concentrated types of CBD. However, there are some key differences between the two, and it is important to know the difference in order to make informed decisions as a consumer.
So let’s take a look at each in turn so we can understand the similarities and differences.
What is CBD Isolate?
CBD Isolate is a purified form of CBD obtained from the cannabis plant using a special industrial extraction process. The crystal form of CBD isolate is subsequently converted to a fine, white-coloured powder for consumption. It is highly refined and it is the purest form of CBD available, with at least 99.5% cannabidiol content.
This purity means CBD isolate does not contain any of the many other cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, including the psychoactive compound THC.This is often the selling point of CBD isolate. However, the absence of other cannabinoids means that you miss out on the “entourage” effect of the cannabinoids, which many believe is key to maximizing the benefits of CBD.
Since the THC content is almost zero, it is suitable for those who want to ensure the lowest possible THC concentration, for example those who may be worried about returning a drug test that is positive for THC. Although it is worth noting that all CBD products, not just those based on CBD isolate contain a concentration of THC that is so low it will not have any psychoactive effects.
In fact, this negligible concentration of THC is a requirement for any CBD product that is legally sold in the UK, the US and many other countries.
What is CBD Distillate?
CBD Distillate is another form of CBD that is also obtained from the cannabis or hemp plants through a specific extraction and refining process. Unlike crystalline or powdery CBD isolate, distillate is a viscous substance that is similar to honey in both colour and texture. Distillate is further refined compared to CBD oil, but not as refined as CBD isolate.
The different levels of refinement are:
- Cannabis flower: The natural flowering tops or buds on the hemp (or marijuana) plant.
- Crude extract: The raw extract from the cannabis plant, with a wide spectrum of cannabinoids as well as chlorophyll and fatty acids.
- Refined oil: The raw extract is refined and processed to create a refined oil that is decarboxylated and does not contain waxes or plant material.
- Distillate: Further refined CBD extract distilled into a fraction.
- Isolate: The single-molecule CBD extract, very, very close to pure CBD.
At the top of this list are the raw ingredients that contain a wider cannabinoid spectrum. As these are refined down, the substances have a narrower cannabinoid spectrum and a simpler chemical profile. This means they are stronger and more pure in terms of CBD, but with a lower potential for entourage effectiveness.
Sitting just above CBD isolate on the list, CBD distillate is purer than CBD oil though not completely pure, containing additional cannabinoids and other compounds. It is still highly concentrated, however, with 80% or more CBD content.
The remaining portion of CBD distillate is constituted of other components of the plant including cannabinoids, THC and other oils and terpenes. Since CBD distillate contains multiple ingredients from the plant, it can have a slight characteristic taste, unlike the odourless and tasteless CBD isolate.
Apart from such characteristic properties, it works more or less in the same way as the isolate because the major component is the same. CBD distillate is available in various forms and names with a range of constituents.
Cannabinoids in CBD Distillate
The hemp plant contains hundreds of cannabinoids. While CBD isolate has only the CBD compound, we’ve seen that distillate has around an 80% concentration of CBD. The remaining 20% is made up of a large range other substances, including other cannabinoids.
Here is a snapshot of a few of the cannabinoid compounds typically present in CBD distillate:
Cannabigerol, of CBG, is a cannabinoid that can be obtained from CBD oil by a fractionating process, or directly extracted from CBG hemp. CBG distillate usually has between 50% and 75% concentration of CBD. It can be used to produce CBG capsules and vaping products which can support better health and wellbeing in a similar way to CBD. It doesn’t have psychoactive properties, similar to CBD, and it can also be used as the raw substance used to extract CBD, THC and CBC.
Though CBC is not as popular as some other cannabinoids, it is known its similar beneficial properties as CBD.
Cannabinol is yet another cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant and a component in CBD distillate. It is currently being studied to better understand its effects, but is believed to have sedative properties.
Cannabidiolic Acid (CBDA)
Cannabidiolic acid is also an important compound found in the hemp plant. It is usually converted to CBD over time and with exposure to heat. When consumed, it can encourage the endocannabinoid system to suppress the COX-2 enzyme, which could be useful in managing inflammation.
While cannabinoids can each have individual impacts and effects on the human body, these compounds can also work together in what is called the “entourage effect”.
What is the Entourage Effect?
As mentioned, the cannabis plant contains not just CBD and THC, but a large variety of different similar compounds. These compounds are unique to the cannabis plant and are collectively known as cannabinoids. THC is well known for its psychoactive effect: that feeling of being “high”. CBD, on the other hand, works on the body quite differently. For more on how CBD works exactly, check out this guide.
In the same way that CBD and THC work differently in the human body, every distinct cannabinoid compound has its own effect. However, it is also believed that they can work together to support one another to deliver even more powerful effects. This is what we call the entourage effect.
This can be compared to how people work better as part of a team, and the team is greater than the sum of its parts. You may be able to achieve one thing on your own, and your colleagues can also complete tasks on their own. But when you come together as a team, you can complete much bigger projects then would have been possible with each of you working separately.
In the same way, taking CBD on its own, such as in the form of CBD isolate, will deliver a range of benefits, supporting the endocannabinoid system. However, taking a full spectrum or broad spectrum product with a number of cannabinoids will likely be much more beneficial.
Full Spectrum vs. Broad Spectrum Distillate
Within CBD distillate, there are two main-subcategories of this form of CBD: full spectrum distillate and broad spectrum distillate. Let’s take a look at each to give a clear idea of what they mean and how they differ from each other.
Full Spectrum Distillate
Full spectrum CBD distillate is essentially a CBD distillate that contains all the cannabinoids of the hemp plant, except, of course, from psychoactive THC. This means it can be used for its various benefits without having to endure its psychoactive properties. CBD is the major active ingredient in full spectrum CBD.
Of course, the presence of this wide range of different cannabinoids means that full spectrum distillate is more likely to provide the entourage effect that we discussed above. This could also include small concentrations of THC, though these need to be in very small quantities to comply with legal requirements, specifically set to be low enough that they do not have psychoactive or addictive properties. Some also argue that the presence of compounds and impurities can give full-spectrum distillate a leafy or earthy taste.
Broad Spectrum Distillate
Broad-spectrum distillate is similar to full-spectrum distillate, but it is further refined. It still contains a range, or “broad spectrum” of cannabinoids, but some of the cannabinoids found in full-spectrum distillate have been eliminated or reduced. Specifically, THC is generally refined out to non-detectable levels. This is sometimes labelled as NDT, or non-detectable THC.
Broad-spectrum distillate, as a more refined product, may also have fewer impurities compared to some full-spectrum products, as well as being more likely to be completely tasteless.
Broad-spectrum distillate can be prepared in two ways. It can be made by adding the required components to CBD isolate to achieve the desired entourage effect from the various cannabinoids, but without any impurities. The final product will only contain pure CBD plus whatever ingredients are added to it.
The second method is to further process the full-spectrum CBD to remove THC from it. However, in this case, other components and impurities may remain present in the final product, depending on the quality of the distillation process.
How is CBD Distillate Made?
As the name itself suggests, the CBD distillate production is, at its core, a distillation process. However, there is more to this process than simply distillation, and a number of other steps are involved, from extracting CBD and other cannabinoids from the raw hemp plant to the final distillate. The extracted substance needs to go through further purifying and activating processes before it is finally distilled to obtain the CBD distillate.
Let’s take a look at each step of the process.
The extraction process is usually carried out with a solvent like carbon dioxide (CO2) or ethyl alcohol (ethanol), to extract various cannabinoids and terpenes without themselves attaching to the resulting substance. CO2 is used after converting the gas into a ‘supercritical state’ wherein it exhibits characteristics of both liquid and gas simultaneously. Unlike CO2, ethanol can be directly used as it exists in liquid form at room temperature.
The extracted product is further mixed with ethanol in a container and kept chilled for two days. This helps to solidify impurities so that they will separate from the required components and settle at the bottom.
The decarboxylation process activates the cannabinoids in the distillate, ‘waking up’ the CBD and other cannabinoids. The process also gets rid of certain elements that give the distillate a leafy taste.
4. Final Distillation
The final step is the ultimate distillation which removes any further impurities from the product by heating the distillate in a vacuum chamber that lowers the boiling point. The vapour produced is condensed to obtain the final product.
How to Use CBD Distillate
CBD distillate, once produced, can be integrated into a number of products in order to take advantage of the benefits of this powerful form of CBD.
One of the most common ways to take CBD distillate is in the form of oil. CBD oil is easy and convenient to take: it can be consumed as is, or added to foods or beverages, and distillate oils are highly concentrated and therefore powerful. It is important to understand the difference between CBD oil and CBD distillate. CBD distillate can be an oil, but not all oils are distillates.
Vapourising or vaping is another common way to quickly and easily take CBD distillate. Dedicated devices like vaporisers, vape pens, cartridges and e-cigarettes including those designed to be used with CBD distillate are widely available on the market.
CBD can be mixed with your favourite dishes and consumed as normal, delivering the same benefits of CBD as when taken directly.
CBD distillate can be applied in the form of creams, lotions, or other topicals on to your skin. You can buy CBD creams and so on already made, or prepare your own topical at home by mixing the distillate with ingredients such as coconut oil. It will be absorbed by the body when you apply it over your skin.
Pros and Cons of CBD Distillate
Like any process or product, CBD distillate has its own pros and cons. The process of drawing extracts by distilling the raw material to obtain the final CBD distillate can have certain negative effects on the final product. However, this is a generally efficient and effective process to achieve a highly concentrated, powerful form of CBD.
With the various types of CBD products available, it is important to consider the advantages and disadvantages of each in order to decide which is the best for you. So let’s take a look at the pros and cons of CBD distillate.
The pros of CBD distillate include:
- High potency: As CBD distillate is a concentrated substance, it can be used to manufacture highly effective products. This also means that you don’t need very much CBD distillate to have a powerful effect.
- Versatility: CBD distillate is highly versatile and flexible to use, being generally tasteless and odourless. It can be consumed in various methods and can be easily made into a wide variety of products.
- Broad and full-spectrum: CBD distillate contains a range of other cannabinoids to deliver the entourage effect, with broad spectrum options with extremely low levels of THC.
On the other hand, some disadvantages of CBD distillate may be:
- Component degradation: The distillation process can degrade or take away the quality of certain components in the CBD. Manufacturers sometimes add extra terpenes to compensate for those lost as a result of the process. These added terpenes may not deliver the exact effect as naturally occurring ones.
- Cost of equipment: The production of CBD distillate requires expensive lab equipment, making the end product more expensive than less pure CBD products.
CBD distillate is a concentrated and powerful form of CBD. It is less pure than CBD isolate, though still boasts impressively high CBD concentration of around 80%. Additionally, the presence of other cannabinoids and compounds supports the arguably beneficial “entourage effect”.
As with any CBD product, it is important to do your research and make sure you only buy quality distillate from a trusted vendor. You can read more on protecting yourself from CBD-related scams and misinformation here.
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