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Isn’t it fantastic that today CBD is not only easy to get your hands on, but also comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. From more traditional products like oral drops and vapes to infused brownies and bath bombs, this versatile molecule continues to attract waves of new users every day thanks to its wide-ranging potential benefits. There are four main methods of consuming CBD: inhaling, ingesting, applying topically to your skin, and taking it under the tongue (sublingual). But with so many options out there, how can you know which one to choose? Here, we’ll walk through common questions around the two of the most popular ways to consume CBD to help you figure out which one is right for you.
What is CBD?
You may be familiar with what CBD is by now but let's give it a brief introduction. CBD, more formally known as cannabidiol, is one of over one hundred compounds known as cannabinoids which are unique to the cannabis plant. Unlike THC, its intoxicating counterpart, CBD is creating waves in the wellness space for its seemingly endless list of potential health benefits. And it’s not just hype; CBD is unique because of how it interacts with a complex cell-signalling system known as the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). Endocannabinoid receptors are mainly located in the brain, central nervous system, and immune system, and they play an essential role in regulating a variety of physiological processes like memory, mood, sleep and inflammation. Although the ECS is still not fully understood, experts believe that it plays a vital role in maintaining homeostasis. CBD's benefits are directly related to the way it interacts with the ECS to help the body achieve physical and mental balance.
How are CBD products made?
To reap the benefits of CBD, first, these active compounds need to be extracted from the cannabis plant. Industrial hemp is ground up and then subject to a process to separate the cannabinoids from the raw plant material. As a CBD consumer, it’s good practice to check which extraction method has been used to create your CBD products as the results vary in quality. There are three common types of CBD extraction; they are:
- Solvent Extraction: The raw plant material is soaked in a solvent such as alcohol, butane, or propane, to strip the plant of cannabinoids. It is the cheapest and most common method, but many cannabinoids are destroyed in the process, and solvents can remain if the extraction process hasn’t been appropriately performed.
- Supercritical CO2 Extraction: This method uses modern, high-tech machinery, which is more expensive than other methods but has many advantages over solvent extraction. Liquid CO2 is heated to the temperature and pressure point where it becomes 'supercritical', resulting in a purer, cleaner CBD oil extract with lots of essential cannabinoids and minimal contaminants.
- Distillate:This is an additional refinement process to further remove contaminants and undesirable plant compounds like chlorophyll which is responsible for the bitter plant-taste. What is left is an even more concentrated and cleaner cannabis extract. CBD distillate is ideal for vape oils as the natural hemp taste is largely removed and there is less risk of contaminants. At Amphora, we use natural-organic CBD distillate which has been extracted using supercritical CO2 extraction for the best vaping experience.
What is CBD Vape Oil?
Terminology: CBD vape / oil / e-liquid / juice
Vape is short for a vaporiser, which is simply named after the production of vapour that’s produced when it’s used. Vaping became extremely popular as a safer alternative to cigarette smoking; however, this method is now being used to consume everything from CBD to vitamins and caffeine.
What’s in them?
Many companies produce their CBD vape oils by blending CBD extract with solvents like vegetable glycerine (VG), propylene glycol (PG), or medium-chain triglyceride oil (MCT). If you are familiar with vaping, you’re probably already familiar with PG and VG as these thinning agents are standard practice when it comes to making nicotine e-liquids. VG is responsible for the large plumes of vapour we’ve become accustomed to seeing on the streets, and PG provides the ‘throat hit’ that makes vaping feel more similar to smoking a cigarette. These solvents are widely accepted as safe; however, they’re only safety-approved as food-grade ingredients so the long-term effects of vaping them are still unknown. But don’t panic just yet, advances in the CBD industry mean that you can vape CBD without the help of these solvents. There are new purification methods that create high-quality CBD distillates that can be used in vape oils alone. They contain all of the desirable cannabinoids, but the waxes, oils and other impurities are removed. These high-tech purification methods are pricey, but they result in CBD vape oils that are safer, and well... purer! It means CBD can be vaped without the help of thinning agents and solvents, so users just get to enjoy pure CBD without any other questionable ingredients.
How do you use it?
Vaping CBD works in the same way as vaping any other substances - the battery heats a wire coil, the coil heats the CBD vape oil, and the wick draws the CBD vapour up into the mouthpiece which is then inhaled. The vapour is inhaled in a manner that resembles traditional smoking. CBD vape oils come in two common forms, pre-loaded cartridges and e-liquid bottles. The bottles are used to fill tank systems or refillable cartomizers. Cartridges, on the other hand, are prefilled with e-liquid and are attached to the battery.If you are new to vaping CBD, cartridges are the simplest form to navigate and it can be easier to track how much CBD you are using.
What is CBD Oil?
Terminology: CBD tincture / oil
The term tincture often refers to herbs or plants that have been soaked in a solvent like alcohol to extract its active constituents. This is a traditional way of extracting active ingredients from biological materials, however, nowadays some companies are using technologies like supercritical CO2 extraction as a cleaner way to obtain their CBD. Despite this, the terms oil and tincture are often used interchangeably.
What’s in it?
CBD oil is typically sold in 10ml - 30ml dropper bottles in strengths starting from below 1% up to 40%. This means that the majority of the bottle will be made up of carrier oil, most commonly hemp seed, coconut MCT or olive oil. Because cannabinoids are fat-soluble rather than water-soluble, this is essential so that the CBD can be infused and absorbed by the body. Many CBD oils are unflavoured, but some companies add artificial or natural flavours to mask the earthy, bitter taste of hemp.
How do you use it?
Both CBD oils and CBD tinctures are held under the tongue for 30 to 90 seconds so that the CBD can diffuse via the thin capillaries and mucus glands into the bloodstream and then swallowed. In pharmaceutical terms, this is known as sublingual application.
Maximising CBD’s Effects: Bioavailability
There are many ways the body can benefit from CBD supplementation, but one hurdle for businesses is how to deliver CBD into the bloodstream efficiently. Many companies are investing in technologies from water-soluble to nano-encapsulated CBD so that less is wasted during metabolic processes. The term bioavailability describes the percentage of a substance that is absorbed into the bloodstream and is discussed a lot when it comes to the world of vitamin and mineral supplements. Intravenous (IV) vitamin ‘cocktails’ where vitamins are delivered directly into the bloodstream via a needle have received celebrity endorsements and demonstrate the lengths people will go to deliver nutrients into the bloodstream. Bioavailability is also a hot topic in the world of CBD because, let's face it, good quality CBD doesn’t come cheap, especially if you’re buying high potency products. The last thing we want is for CBD to be metabolised and wasted in the body. When considering bioavailability, the first thing to make a note of is your CBD delivery system. Two of the most efficient ways to deliver CBD to the bloodstream is via vapes and sublingual tinctures. Let’s see how the two compare.
When inhaled, CBD enters the lungs and absorbed through capillaries into the bloodstream. Inhalation completely bypasses the digestive tract, which results in a rapid, almost instant delivery of CBD into the bloodstream. Vaping is recommended as the superior method for those seeking fast-acting relief, taking only a few minutes to reach the target site and for individuals to feel its effects. This makes CBD vapes an excellent option for when you need to sleep, focus or when feelings of anxiety or panic arise. Another benefit is that the high absorption means that less CBD is needed to feel the same effects. Studies have shown that vaping CBD can provide bioavailability levels between 34% to 56%, and the effects generally last in the body for around 2 hours. Since the sale or possession of CBD flowers for smoking or any other purposes is prohibited, vaping CBD is the go-to method for faster-acting CBD.
Bioavailability: CBD oil
Since ingestion isn’t very efficient for absorbing high levels of CBD, the sublingual method is the most popular way to take CBD orally. To administer CBD sublingually, 1 to 5 drops are held under the tongue for 30 to 90 seconds before being swished and swallowed. This allows CBD to be absorbed into the bloodstream via the thin blood vessels and mucus membranes under the tongue. This sublingual method is a popular option for administering substances like vitamins and minerals because it bypasses the “first pass metabolism” which is where nutrients are broken down and lost through the digestive process and liver. Sublingual application means more CBD can reach the bloodstream and get to work in the body faster. CBD should take effect within 30 minutes, which is fast when compared to ingestion which can take up to 2 hours, depending on the speed of your digestion. Studies on CBD oil absorption when it is taken sublingually have shown products to have a bioavailability of between 19% - 35%. CBD absorbed this way may last longer in the body than CBD which is vaped, but when it comes to bioavailability, oral CBD drops are no match for vapes.
What does it tastelike?
There’s not a clear-cut answer to this one. First, let's cover the flavour basics for each of the main three forms of CBD extract:
- Full-spectrum CBD: This is the whole-plant extract, containing the full medley of terpenes, cannabinoids including THC, flavonoids and other oils present in hemp. Because of the presence of the other plant compounds, full-spectrum CBD products tend to have the most potent taste. These compounds are believed to work in synergy with each other to enhance CBD’s therapeutic effects. This is known as the ‘entourage effect’.
- Broad-spectrum CBD: Like full-spectrum extract, broad-spectrum CBD oil contains a mix of terpenes, cannabinoids, flavonoids but with the THC removed. Broad-spectrum CBD oil will also have the hempy taste and the benefits of the entourage effect. Many people prefer the THC to be completely removed; however, others argue that the absence of THC weakens the potency of broad-spectrum CBD.
- CBD Isolate:This is pure CBD extract with all of the other plant compounds and other cannabinoids removed. Because of this, CBD isolates are tasteless but do not benefit from the entourage effect.
How does it taste: CBD vape oil
Many CBD vape oils are made with CBD isolate which, as we’ve mentioned, is flavourless but also lacks the wide-ranging benefits associated with broad-spectrum or full-spectrum CBD oil. CBD is then combined with natural and/or artificial flavours to enhance the vaping experience. There are estimated to be over 7,000 different flavoured e-liquids on the market, ranging from bubblegum to nacho cheese - yes, you read that right. Like PG, VG and MCT oil, many of these flavours are considered to be as safe as food-grade ingredients, but the long-term effects of inhaling them are not yet known.
Many CBD brands understand that their customers are looking to enhance their overall health and wellbeing with CBD, so instead use natural terpenes to flavour their CBD vape oils. CBD distillates are created using an additional refinement process that further removes contaminants and undesirable plant compounds like chlorophyll that are responsible for bitter taste associated with hemp. This results in a cleaner and highly concentrated extract with a virtually odourless and tasteless vapour. CBD distillates therefore make the perfect blank canvas for tasty terpenes, which are organic compounds that naturally occur within the cannabis plant. Over one hundred terpenes have been discovered in cannabis, from limonene which is also found in abundance in citrus fruits, to linalool that is also prevalent in lavender. Cannabis is a plant that has been smoked for thousands of years, so these terpenes are widely considered safe for inhalation in small doses. That’s why terpenes are commonly added to high-quality CBD vape oils to enhance their natural flavour, and they also work with other cannabinoids to enhance the entourage effect.
If you’re looking for something more natural with a better safety profile, choose a brand that uses high-quality CBD distillate flavoured with carefully selected terpenes. Because we know our customers are health-focused, we think it’s counterproductive to include ingredients with questionable safety profiles. We like to keep things simple at Amphora, so we use high-quality CBD distillate combined with terpenes to offer our customers a clean and safe vaping experience.
How does it taste: CBD oil
Although many CBD drops are flavoured, many people still dislike the underlying hempy taste of CBD oil. Full and broad-spectrum CBD oils have been described as tasting grassy, earthy and bitter. This flavour is actually a good indication that your full- or broad-spectrum CBD extract contains the many beneficial plant compounds and terpenes mentioned in this article; however, it’s not to everyone’s taste. As CBD oil has to be held under the tongue for around a minute to effectively absorb into the mucus membranes, not liking the flavour can result in a somewhat unenjoyable experience. Those with sensitive palates might be better suited to CBD isolate, however, they will be missing out on the benefits provided by the other cannabinoids and plant compounds.
What does CBD feellike?
You may be noticing a pattern here, but there’s no uniform answer to this one either. A big factor that makes CBD so challenging to study empirically is that everyone will react differently. Factors involved in how CBD acts in the body include genes, body weight, gender, lifestyle factors, tolerance levels and chemical biology. As well as biological factors, the dose, delivery method, quality of the CBD and type of extract (isolate, broad-spectrum and full-spectrum) will influence how CBD works in the body.
One common misconception is that CBD will make you feel euphoric or ‘high’ like the feelings associated with THC in marijuana. If that’s what you’re after, you’re in the wrong place. CBD is all about balance. Balance sounds boring, right? But how much better would you feel without inflamed joints, anxious thoughts, or even after an extra couple of hours sleep? CBD is a personalised experience, but users testimonials report that it betters mood, reduces pain and eases anxiety. Let’s have a look at how the different methods may feel in the body.
How does it feel: CBD Vape Oil
The key difference here is how quickly you can feel the effects. Since vaping offers the fastest route to the bloodstream, it gets to work in just a few minutes. Vaping CBD is closest to the traditional method of consuming cannabis, and if you’re looking for quick relief, CBD vape oils would be the method of choice. Another aspect that is often overlooked is how mindfully breathing in CBD vapour can also add to the calming experience.
Another factor that will influence how CBD feels in the body depends on the blend of terpenes used. As mentioned above, terpenes have different therapeutic properties; that’s why many companies formulate their products with different wellness goals in mind. For example, we have vape cartridges that contain a blend of flavoured and unflavoured terpenes to help you reach different states. Our Peace formula is designed to help you relax after a hard day or to ease anxious thoughts. Our Mend vape oil targets inflammation and soreness of the muscles, Inspire helps with mental focus, and Zzz speaks for itself, it helps you get a good night’s rest.
How does it feel: CBD Oil
When taken sublingually, the effects of CBD can take between 20 to 40 minutes and will last for around 4 to 6 hours. With oil drops, it is key to be consistent with your doses to maximise the natural balancing properties of CBD. CBD is known to build up in the body over time, so the benefits of a highly functioning ECS may not be fully experienced immediately. It also means that rather than building up a tolerance to CBD, you can actually lower your dose and experience the same benefits by effectively topping up the cannabinoids in the body. This is known as reverse tolerance. With CBD oil tinctures, consistently taking a “daily dose” can sustain and promote the function of the ECS. Vaping CBD is favourable for more instant relief, whereas CBD oil can benefit the body in the longer term. Many companies now also add other vitamins, minerals and terpenes to their CBD oils, to enhance CBD’s therapeutic effects.
Final Thoughts: CBD Oil vs. CBD Vape Liquids
CBD vapes are best for:Fast CBD absorption and higher potency.
CBD oils are best for:Maintaining a healthy level of cannabinoids in the endocannabinoid system over longer periods of time.
Whichever method you choose, it is vital to check that a company carries out third-party lab tests for their products. These labs provide a Certificate of Analysis (COA) which give an accurate and credible breakdown of what's in a CBD product. This is the best way for consumers to know they are getting a pure, potent product that is safe and free from contaminants. You can download ours from our website, or by scanning the QR code on the product packaging. Whichever option you choose, high-quality CBD products can be a great supplement for health-conscious individuals looking to enhance their overall wellbeing.
Written by | Infused Amphora Team
The Infused Amphora Team is dedicated to creating resources to educate and engage consumers on the growing evidence of CBD benefits and the extensive health and wellness properties of CBD oil.
Contributors | Angus Taylor + Dr Gaylord Wardell
IPI is a pharmaceutical ingredient company that cultivates cannabis strains curated to extract specific cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids for the formulation of effects-based health and wellness products. Angus is an experienced public speaker, engaging stakeholders, governments and media. Angus was the co-founder of NewLeaf Cannabis, Canada’s most successful retail brand to date, and has been established as a well-known and recognized expert in the field.
Dr Wardell is a practising physician with over 40 years of clinical and educational experience in pain management, medical practices and education. Dr Wardell is past President of the Pain Society of Alberta, and current President of the Alberta Medical Association, section of Pain. He is a popular public speaker, an active blogger on medical and pain-related issues, and proponent for scientific validation for patients experiencing pain.
Infused Amphora “Learn” is intended for informational purposes only and is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.