Since 2018’s Farm Bill federally legalized CBD, the cannabinoid has grown exponentially in popularity – in fact, one survey in 2020 found that a third of Americans have tried CBD. However, with the number of different forms that CBD can take, some of the terminologies can sometimes be confusing.
One such term that CBD users should become familiar with is CBD distillate. CBD distillate is a form of CBD which is extracted from hemp plants in a complex process designed to eliminate other compounds from the extract, creating a high-quality, refined CBD product.
The main benefit of CBD distillate is that it removes almost all traces of THC, the psychoactive compound that gives other cannabis products their high. This means CBD distillate can safely and legally be used even in states where medicinal and recreational cannabis remains illegal. CBD distillate does not have intoxicating effects and will not get you high.
Another benefit is that CBD distillate contains very few impurities. It also has a very high CBD concentration, allowing it to be used in vape cartridges, edibles, and more. Like other CBD products, it offers a variety of potential health benefits, such as better heart health, reduced anxiety, and relief from chronic pain.
This guide will tell you all you need to know about CBD distillate – how it’s made, how it can be used, what makes it different from other CBD products, and the factors affecting how much it costs.
What is CBD Distillate?
CBD distillate is a purified form of CBD that undergoes a long extraction process, removing other cannabis compounds and impurities to leave a highly concentrated CBD extract. CBD distillate is normally at least 80% or 90% CBD, meaning it is much more concentrated than other CBD products.
In particular, CBD distillates remove THC from the hemp extract the distillate is derived from. This is important, as even though CBD is federally legal across all states, THC remains a controlled substance in certain states due to its psychoactive effects.
In many of these states, CBD must contain less than 0.3% THC content in order to be legal for sale. CBD distillate, therefore, ensures that the product falls under this threshold and is both legal and safe to consume without any risk of psychoactive effects.
As well as THC, the distillation process can remove other impurities within the hemp extract, creating a purer, safer product. On the other hand, distillation can also reduce or remove helpful secondary compounds such as terpenes which provide unique health benefits of their own.
Most commonly, CBD distillate takes the form of a CBD oil; however, distillate also serves as the base ingredient for many vapes, edibles, and tinctures.
In terms of appearance, distillate is a runny and translucent liquid. Unlike other forms of CBD, it is generally flavorless and lacks the distinct aroma of another hemp- or cannabis-based products.
Types of CBD distillates
CBD comes in a variety of different forms, and CBD distillates are no different. There are three categories to consider when it comes to CBD distillates: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and CBD isolates.
Full Spectrum CBD
Full-spectrum CBD isn’t actually a distillate – rather, it refers to CBD extracted from hemp without being distilled. As a result, full-spectrum CBD contains CBD along with all the other compounds present in hemp, which can include terpenes, secondary cannabinoids like CBG, and trace amounts of THC.
None of these other compounds are removed, allowing full-spectrum CBD to deliver the full effects of a variety of hemp compounds. However, this also means that full-spectrum CBD may not be legal in states which ban the use of medical or recreational marijuana, since the THC content of full-spectrum CBD products may be above the 0.3% threshold.
Broad Spectrum CBD
Broad-spectrum CBD is essentially another way of saying CBD distillate. These CBD products are made by distilling CBD from hemp extracts, removing secondary compounds like THC. This results in a much purer CBD oil than full spectrum products.
Different distillation methods may remove different compounds to different extents, but largely the goal of broad-spectrum CBD is to refine the CBD extract and remove THC to make the product legal in states where cannabis remains a controlled substance.
CBD isolate is an even purer distillation of CBD – not only is THC removed, but every other compound from the hemp extract is also eliminated, leaving only pure CBD. Unlike CBD distillate, which usually takes the form of an oil, CBD isolate is most commonly found as a powder.
CBD Isolate vs CBD distillate
CBD isolate and distillate are similar in that they are designed to be much purer forms of CBD. However, they also have some important differences.
CBD distillate mainly removes THC, but still contains small amounts of secondary compounds like terpenes. CBD isolates, however, are essentially pure CBD, with no other compounds whatsoever. This has important implications for the health benefits of CBD.
While CBD itself can deliver numerous potential health benefits, CBD products also benefit from the “entourage effect” – additional benefits provided by secondary compounds within the product. For example, D-limonene, one of the 200+ terpenes found in CBD oils, has been reported to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
CBD distillates can still receive the benefits of the entourage effect, as many of these additional compounds remain present within the distillate. CBD isolates, however, miss out on the benefits of the entourage effect as no compounds other than CBD is present.
The CBD distillation process
To create CBD distillates, a lengthy process is required in order to separate the CBD in hemp extract from other compounds. The initial extraction method involves the physical or chemical separation of cannabinoids from hemp plant matter. Physical separation can be carried out via sieving, or chemical separation may involve CO2 extraction or the use of a solvent.
Once the CBD has been initially extracted, there are three more stages to create a distillate: winterization, decarboxylation, and distillation.
No matter whether the hemp material has undergone a physical or chemical separation, the resulting extract will contain a variety of impurities and organic matter, including plant waxes, lipids, and chlorophyll. Winterization removes some of these impurities by further separating them from CBD and other cannabinoids.
The extract is mixed with a solvent such as ethanol and is then left in very cold temperatures for between 24 and 48 hours (hence the term winterization). During this time the impurities in the extract will begin to solidify and separate from the rest of the mixture, falling to the bottom of the mixture.
After the impurities have solidified at the bottom of the mixture, it is strained to remove the resulting solids, leaving a mixture of ethanol and cannabinoids. The ethanol is then removed via evaporation.
Decarboxylation is the next step, and essentially is a method of “activating” the cannabinoids within the extract. At this stage there are few active cannabinoids actually present; instead, they are found in an acidic form – THC is tetrahydrochloric acid (THCA), CBD is cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), and so on.
These Cannabidolic acids have little effect when ingested, but have been shown to be quite effective in anti-inflammatory, anti-seizure, and more.
Decarboxylation uses heat to separate the carboxylic acid from the cannabinoids, allowing them to readily interact with and bind to the CB1 and CB2 receptors within the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). This interaction with the ECS is what produces the effects of CBD, THC, and other cannabinoids when ingested. Ingesting CBD and other cannabinoids often prolongs the effects of cannabinoids.
Different cannabinoids decarboxylate at different heats; however, it’s generally preferred to decarboxylate CBD extracts at lower heats for longer amounts of time in order to avoid damaging the terpenes found within the extract.
Finally, once the extract has been heated enough to decarboxylate the CBD within, it can be distilled to further purify the resulting CBD oil. This again relies on heat.
Different cannabinoids and secondary compounds within the extract evaporate at different temperatures. By heating the extract to specific temperatures, it’s, therefore, possible to separate CBD from THC and other compounds like terpenes.
For further control, distillation usually takes place in a vacuum, where pressure can be controlled and increased in order to force the cannabinoids to evaporate at lower temperatures. This avoids damaging the compounds through excess heat, therefore maintaining potency.
Is CBD distillate regulated?
As of 2018, hemp and hemp-derived products were made federally legal across the US thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill. In other words, hemp-derived CBD products are now legal in every state, on the condition that they have no more than 0.3% THC content.
CBD products with higher than 0.3% THC are still allowed in certain states that allow the use and sale of medicinal and/or recreational marijuana; however, for the most part, CBD products must fall below the 0.3% THC threshold to be legal.
Because of this, CBD distillates are easier to make legal than other forms of CBD, since the distillation process allows the removal of THC.
However, while CBD has been taken off the list of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) controlled substances list as a result of the Farm Bill, CBD distillate has not yet received official approval from the FDA.
As a result, CBD distillates, like other unapproved CBD products, have not been tested by the FDA to ensure their contents match what is stated on the label. For this reason, it’s best to buy CBD oil from a trusted, highly-rated seller to ensure you receive a high-quality product.
How is CBD distillate used?
CBD distillate is often used as the basis for other CBD products, thanks to two factors: its high purity, and its lack of flavor or aroma. Its purity means it is safe and ready for consumption, while its tastelessness means it can easily be added to a variety of products like vapes or edibles without affecting their flavor.
Vaping (vape cartridges)
CBD distillates can be vaped as they are, producing a nearly odorless vapor and very quick effects, or may be used as the basis for flavored CBD vape cartridges. CBD distillates can also be used with dab rigs for similar effects.
Production of edibles
Distillates are a great choice for making CBD edibles since their lack of flavor means you can more easily control the taste of the edible. Distillates also make it easier to dose edibles accurately, since they should come with a stated CBD content (or you can easily work it out yourself) which allows you to measure out precisely the amount of CBD you want.
For similar reasons, CBD suppliers often use CBD distillates as the basis for the edibles they produce, such as gummies, chocolates, and drinks.
CBD distillates can also be used to make topicals – creams or ointments that can be applied to specific areas by rubbing them into the skin. CBD topicals are useful for targeting specific areas of the body; for instance, they can be applied to acne-afflicted areas to promote healthier skin, or used for targeted pain relief for injuries or chronic conditions like arthritis.
CBD distillate pricing
There’s no single answer to how much CBD distillate will cost you, as its price is affected by a variety of different factors. If you want to get a good idea of whether you’re getting value for your money, compare the price per mg of CBD content between different suppliers.
Factors affecting prices
CBD distillate prices vary greatly from state to state, partly due to structural factors like hemp supply, and partly due to legal factors like differing tax rules on CBD and other health supplements.
Type of CBD distillate product
Different CBD products cost different amounts; full spectrum (i.e non-distilled) CBD is likely to be cheaper as it requires less processing and is, therefore, cheaper to produce, while broad-spectrum (distilled) CBD is more expensive due to the lengthy, costly distillation process.
CBD isolate is likely to fall somewhere between the two – it requires some processing which makes it more expensive than full spectrum CBD, but since it contains none of the secondary compounds found in CBD distillate it is likely to be sold at lower prices.
The stronger the distillate you buy (i.e the higher its CBD concentration), the more expensive it is likely to be.
Often CBD distillate is made from high-quality hemp since it is easier to extract large amounts of CBD from it. Lower-priced distillates likely use lower-quality hemp in their production.
Is CBD distillate the same as CBD oil?
CBD distillate is one of the most commonly produced types of CBD oil; however, not all CBD oils are distillates. Not all CBD oils go through the distillation process – for example, full-spectrum CBD oils are not distilled as they are designed to retain all the secondary compounds found in the hemp plant.
In short, while all CBD distillates are oils, not all CBD oils are distillates.
CBD distillate is a highly effective and versatile method of enjoying CBD, thanks to the variety of uses it can be put to such as vaping, edibles, and tinctures. It strikes a good middle ground between full-spectrum and isolated CBD products – it avoids the impurities and THC content of full-spectrum CBD, while still allowing you to take advantage of the entourage effect from additional beneficial compounds found in hemp.