Making Sense of Cannabidiol Products: Formulations & Types of CBD

To say there are plenty of CBD product choices on the market today is perhaps a slight understatement. There are thousands of CBD brands, each offering a plethora of product formulations made with various types of CBD.

Given the array before you, it can quickly get confusing or overwhelming. We’re going to resolve that here and now!

In this post, you’ll learn about:

  • The three types of CBD
  • Different product formulations
  • Picking the right products for yourself

CBD Basics

Before diving into the types of CBD and forms of products, it’s imperative that you have a solid understanding of CBD fundamentals.

What is CBD?

CBD (aka cannabidiol) is a naturally-occurring cannabinoid found in cannabis plants like hemp and marijuana. Cannabinoids are a kind of plant compound that can support and improve many mental and physical health and wellness conditions.

How Does CBD Work in the Body?

Everyone has something called the endocannabinoid system (ECS) running throughout their body. The ECS is a network of endocannabinoids, receptors, and enzymes. Many of your body’s systems and functions — like sleep, metabolism, and immunity — are governed or modulated by the ECS.

Cannabinoids affect changes in your body via the ECS. They interact with the receptors and/or endocannabinoids to send signals to the brain, which then dispatches instructions for how to respond to the rest of your body.

The 3 Types of CBD: Full-Spectrum CBD, Broad-Spectrum CBD & CBD Isolate

CBD comes in three distinct varieties: full-spectrum CBD, broad-spectrum CBD, and CBD isolate. Knowing what’s what will make you a safer and savvier CBD shopper and consumer.

Let’s examine each one more closely.

Full-Spectrum CBD

As the name implies, full-spectrum CBD maintains all aspects of the original CBD extract. Nothing is stripped out of the oil. This means that along with the CBD, there's also other cannabinoids — like THC — as well as terpenes, flavonoids, and other phytocompounds in your CBD oil.

Full-spectrum CBD:

  • Has entourage effect potential. Because full-spectrum CBD preserves all the inherent cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other plant goodness (like minerals and vitamins) it offers the best potential for the entourage effect. As such, there's a chance that full-spectrum CBD could be more potent or more effective than other types of CBD.
  • Is minimally processed. Refining CBD oil often requires using chemicals (like solvents). Plus, the more processing of the CBD oil extract, the more opportunity to introduce contaminants. Of the three types of CBD, full-spectrum CBD is the “closest to the earth.”
  • Is fairly easy to find. Many CBD retailers carry a variety of full-spectrum CBD products.

However, it's important to note that full-spectrum CBD may contain more than the federally-legal amount of THC (0.3%). And, since there’s potentially more THC in full-spectrum CBD:

  • You may notice some of the effects of the THC — like a slight euphoria.
  • There’s a greater chance you’d fail a drug test.(1)
  • It’s illegal in some states (even if it’s made from hemp and has 0.3% THC or less).

And, because full-spectrum CBD is more natural, it may also retain an earthy smell and taste than more processed types of CBD.

Broad-Spectrum CBD

Like full-spectrum CBD, broad-spectrum CBD features a vast array of cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other plant substances. The key difference is that broad-spectrum CBD has undergone additional processing to remove the THC. While there may still be trace amounts of THC loitering in your broad-spectrum CBD oil — there should be no more than 0.3% THC.

Broad-spectrum CBD:

  • Isn’t as processed as isolate CBD. Again, the less refined the CBD extract is, the fewer chemicals involved and lower the risk of inadvertently tainting the CBD oil.
  • Still has entourage effect potential. With broad-spectrum CBD’s full complement of phytocompounds, there’s a good chance you may experience this beneficial synergy.
  • Won’t cause any THC-related intoxication. THC in such low quantities is unlikely to spark any THC-induced psychoactive effects.
  • Is widely available. Broad-spectrum CBD can be found in practically every corner of our country in about a million different incarnations.
  • Is federally legal. Thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp-derived CBD with a maximum of 0.3% CBD is lawful to make, sell, transport, buy, own, and use. However, state rules may vary….

Keep in mind, though, that broad-spectrum CBD might:

  • Still have some of the signature weedy flavor and aroma of cannabis.
  • Be illegal in some states. Certain states have CBD rules that are more restrictive than the federal regulation, making CBD with any amount of THC fall on the wrong side of the law.
  • Show up on a drug screening. That minute bit of THC could trigger a positive result.

Isolate CBD

CBD isolate has had everything but the cannabidiol — all other cannabinoids and phytocompounds — removed from the extract. So, this means that isolate CBD:

  • Is pure, crystalized cannabidiol. There’s no THC whatsoever.
  • May be less likely to have environmental contaminants. (But it could still have residuals from all the processing it’s been through.)
  • Won’t be an issue if you take a drug test. Drug screenings react to the THC metabolites, which you won’t have without THC.
  • Has virtually no taste or scent. It’s pretty much a blank slate.

What else should you know about CBD isolate?

  • The odds of an entourage effect are zero. It’s impossible without other substances in CBD’s posse.
  • It won’t have the mind-altering effects of THC. CBD is 100% non-psychoactive.
  • It’s a highly-processed version of CBD extract. It goes through additional steps which can degrade the integrity of the CBD.

Infinite CBD Product Formulations

The current options are staggering; the possibilities for future CBD products are limitless.


While certain forms are more common than others, you’ll see CBD oil made into the following kinds of products:

• CBD oil tinctures, drops, & water solubles• CBD softgels and capsules
• CBD gummies and jellies• CBD-infused foods (like butter) & beverages
• CBD chocolates and candies• CBD lozenges
• Dissolvable CBD strips• CBD transdermal patches
• Topical, oral, and nasal CBD sprays• CBD topical creams, lotions, roll-ons, and ointments
Infused cosmetics• Infused hair, skin, and other beauty care items
• CBD Suppositories• CBD-infused massage oils and personal lubricants
• CBD flower• CBD wax
• Smokable and vapable CBD• Pet care items

And this is surely not an exhaustive list!

Nanotized CBD

Nano CBD is CBD that’s been manipulated to reduce the size of the CBD molecule — all while maintaining its structure and capabilities. Nanotech makes it so that the CBD oil is more bioavailable to your body.

Greater bioavailability means your ECS can absorb more CBD and at a faster rate so that your product kicks in quicker and works more effectively. With a more bioavailable CBD, you may be able to use less product — creating exceptional value for you.

Many different brands and product formulations utilize nano CBD.

Administration Methods

Different CBD products formulations can be consumed in different ways.

  • Ingest (aka take orally). You swallow the CBD and it passes through your digestive tract and liver before entering the bloodstream. Examples: oils, edibles, and drinkables
  • Take sublingually. You put the CBD under your tongue and it gets absorbed through the skin right into the bloodstream. Examples: oils, strips, and sprays
  • Take nasally. You administer the CBD via your nostrils and it’s absorbed directly into the bloodstream through the thin membranes of your nose. Examples: sprays
  • Inhale. You smoke, vape, or otherwise breathe in the CBD-enriched smoke, vapors, or fumes of a product.
  • Apply topically. You put the CBD onto your skin. In most cases, the CBD won’t soak in deep enough to reach your bloodstream. Examples: serums, infused-makeup, balms, and suppositories
  • Use transdermally. You externally apply CBD that’s specially-formulated to pass through your skin over time into the bloodstream. Examples: patches and gels

Differences & Considerations

Each form of CBD product has its advantages and disadvantages. It’s up to you to assign those labels based on what you want to achieve. And, your unique body chemistry will influence outcomes as well.

That said, here are some rules of thumb: (2,3,4)

  1. Sublingual and nasal preparations work faster than ingestible products. This is due to how they enter the bloodstream. Sublingual/nasal CBD may kick in within 15 minutes whereas ingested CBD can take anywhere between 45 to 120 minutes.
  2. Sublingual and nasal formulations may have front-loaded and shorter-lasting effects than ingested products. Again, this is because the CBD is fast-tracking it through your bloodstream — meaning your body is metabolizing it sooner and more rapidly.
  3. Internally-consumed CBD will affect you system-wide. If you have CBD in your bloodstream, it’ll reach any body part that gets blood.
  4. Topical products can be relatively quick-acting. You don’t have to wait for the CBD to circulate through your body to reach the destination, so onset of effects can be immediate (but may take up to 15-20 minutes).
  5. Topicals offer localized effects. Where you put the CBD is where you’ll feel it. This makes them ideal for targeted spot treatments as well as — in the context of CBD bath bombs or salts — all-over ahhs!
  6. Topicals’ effects may be shorter-lived. Depending on the kind of product used and the amount and manner in which it’s used, you many feel the effects of topicals for several hours, or longer.
  7. Transdermal products offer extended time-released dosing. The CBD is designed to seep slowly and steadily into your system over a longer period, which makes this method great for all-day relief.
  8. Some CBD products may be both sublingual and/or ingestible. For example, even if you use CBD drops, strips, or lozenges sublingually — the truth is that you’re still going to swallow some portion of that dose, making that portion an ingestible.
People trying different cbdMD CBD products for stress, recovery and sleep.
cbdMD offers a wide selection of premium CBD formulations to help promote a sense of calm, ease stiff and sore muscles and to support a regular sleep schedule.

Choosing the Right Products for You

Start by dumping the idea that there’s only one supreme “best” CBD product. Every person and product is different and “results may vary” as they say. And, each type of CBD and product formulation has its pros and cons — though those are subjective to your opinions!

Selection Process

What this means is that you have to:

  • Assess your personal needs and preferences at this point in time.
  • Research your product options based on your requirements and what’s available to you where you live.
  • Evaluate the various CBD products and retailers.
  • Wash, rinse, repeat this process as your situation changes.

You don’t have to navigate this all alone. There are tons of high-quality resources at your fingertips (like the GBL Learning Center!) to help you sort everything out. Ask your family and friends for suggestions and check out online reviews. If you want individualized recommendations — especially if you have existing health concerns or are taking medications or supplements — talk to your doctor. There are even cannabinoid medicine specialists, called endocannabinologists, you can turn to.

Pick Which Type of CBD You Want

Perhaps one of the simplest ways to begin is to determine which type of CBD speaks to you. With only three possibilities, that’s a manageable first decision node. Once you know if you want full-spectrum CBD, broad-spectrum CBD, or CBD isolate — move on to picking the product formulation that suits you.

Pick Which Form of CBD Oil Product You Want

Next, you can weigh the upsides and downsides of various product preparations against the rubric of your needs and preferences. This is sure to eject some forms of CBD products from your list of contenders right away. Of the product formulations remaining on your shortlist, figure out which one(s) best fit your criteria. Then it’s time to go shopping!

Purchasing CBD Like a Pro

Regardless of whether you shop in a virtual marketplace like GBL or at a brick-and-mortar, it’s wise to stick to these guidelines:

  1. Only buy from a trustworthy retailer. A reliable seller should stand out from the crowd: It’ll have a sterling reputation with customers and industry peers, a solid presence in its market, knowledgeable employees, and consumer-friendly practices. On top of having a terrific assortment of great CBD products.
  2. Get nano CBD products whenever possible. These are likely to be more bioavailable, which means increased potential for effectiveness and value.
  3. Read the product labels and certificate of analysis. This is how you confirm things like ingredients, usage instructions, potency, purity, etc.— before buying.
  4. Opt for product with CBD made from organic hemp grown in America. Domestic hemp is subject to more rigorous standards and is less likely to have toxins like pesticides, heavy metals, and pollutants.
  5. Make sure the product has been tested by an independent third-party lab so you a certain you’re getting what you think you’re getting.

Keep Your Expectations Realistic

When you’re setting out to find “the One,” remember that:

  • It’s common to have to try several CBD products before meeting your perfect match.
  • Sometimes leveraging a selection of CBD products — either on a regular or ad-hoc basis — is the ticket.
  • It’s normal to cycle through CBD products as your wellness requirements shift.
  • Layering different cannabis products is a legitimate path forward.
  • Partial dosing or microdosing could be a viable option for you.
  • Give your chosen CBD products a chance to prove themselves — it could take days or weeks to notice longer-term outcomes.
  • If you still aren’t seeing results, try tweaking your CBD regimen — adjusting the product mix, dosing, frequency, timing, with/without food, etc. — to see if that makes a meaningful difference.
  • Keeping a journal of your CBD protocol and progress can help you home in on what works for you.

The main thrust here is that there may be bumps in the road. But, with the right mindset (and supporting processes), you’re primed for making headway towards your CBD-wellness goals.

You’re Practically a CBD Products Expert Now!

The market is filled with an astounding variety of CBD oil products. Products made with hemp derived CBD with 0.3% or less THC are federally legal; state and local laws can vary. CBD sourced from marijuana is not federally legal, and again state laws very.

There are three types of CBD. Full- and broad-spectrum CBD both have the full complement of cannabinoids and other plant compounds that naturally occur in cannabis plants. The main difference is that the THC’s been removed from broad-spectrum CBD. CBD isolate is pure cannabidiol.

CBD oil extract is formulated into many kinds of products. On the shelves of your favorite online store or neighborhood shop, you'll find CBD-infused tinctures, gummies, creams, bath bombs, and transdermal patches — and everything in between.

There's no one superior type of CBD or product formulation. The goal is to select the CBD product that best meets your needs and preferences. To do this, you may need to do some research and some experimentation.

FAQs Buzzin’ Through the Hive

What are the 3 types of CBD?

The three types of CBD are: Full-spectrum CBD, broad-spectrum CBD, and CBD isolate. Each has its own profile of included plant compounds. Only full- and broad-spectrum CBD contain at least trace amounts of THC. Isolate is pure cannabidiol.

Which CBD type is best?

The “best” type of CBD is the one that most optimally aligns with your needs and preferences, which may evolve over time. Pick the product that contains the type of CBD you need and that comes in a form you’ll use.

How do I choose the right CBD products?

Start by assessing your needs and preferences and what you want to accomplish by taking CBD. Then opt for CBD products that jibe with your requirements and objectives. It may take some trial and error — and patience! — to find the CBD oil products that work best for you.


  1. Santos-Longhurst, A. (2019). How Long Does CBD Stay in Your System? Healthline.
  2. Gold, B. (2019). Here’s How Long It Takes to Feel the Effects of CBD. Real Simple.
  3. Bulgaru, I. (2021). How long does it take for CBD to work? Healthcare Weekly.
  4. Carter, W. (2020, September 17). How Is CBD Absorbed Through The Skin?
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About the Author

Green Bee Life staff writer logo

GBL Staff Writer

Green Bee Life is your resource for accurate, transparent, and up-to-date content and products related to cannabis.

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