There is a recurring issue that appears on social media, various blogs, and even in newspapers. It is the misconception that CBD oil is the same thing as CBD e-liquid, and both are the same as full spectrum cannabis oil, or FSO. One is neither a substitute for, nor interchangeable with, the others! Understanding these differences is vital.
In a nutshell:
- CBD oil is a carrier oil containing cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid
- CBD e-liquid is a solution of propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerol (VG) containing CBD
- full spectrum oil (FSO), also known as full extract cannabis oil (FECO), is an oil containing all the cannabinoids and other compounds found in the cannabis it was made from, including the psychoactive cannabinoid THC
True full spectrum cannabis oil faithfully retains the bioactive profile of the cannabis buds it was made from, including the ratios of cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids. This sets it apart from cannabis oil made with alcohol (often called Rick Simpson Oil, after the man who popularised it) and butane hash oil (BHO).
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is the non-psychoactive cannabinoid currently overtaking THC as the active principle in cannabis that medical professionals and patients alike are most interested in. However, it is only one of the hundred-plus cannabinoids found in cannabis. Together with an equally large number of terpenes, these chemicals work synergistically to create the entourage effect.
Both CBD e-liquids and CBD oil only contain cannabidiol, and lack the numerous other cannabinoids and terpenes contained in FSO (hence the names ‘full spectrum oil’ and ‘full extract cannabis oil’). CBD e-liquids can only be used in a vaporizer or e-cigarette designed for e-liquids, whereas FSO and CBD oil can be ingested in a variety of ways (orally, sublingually, topically, and – if hydrosoluble – anally) and added to many different carriers such as ointments, sweets, and drinks.
Why is it so important to know the difference between CBD oil and full extract cannabis oil?
People throughout Europe and the UK who are unfamiliar with cannabis are attempting to make sense of the sudden shift from it being portrayed in the media as ‘marijuana, gateway drug to psychosis and suicide’ to CBD products appearing in health food shops and full spectrum cannabis oil being permitted for children with epilepsy. In this confusing mix we also have CBD e-liquids. Do they have beneficial properties too, or are they part of the current trend for adding CBD to everything from lip balm to lubricant?
We will begin with the two oils. There are various important differences between cannabidiol (CBD) oil and full spectrum cannabis oil. They range from how the two types of oil are made, to their legal status, and most importantly their effects on the endocannabinoid system. It can be tricky to stay on top of all the developments and nuances in the rapidly evolving field of medicinal cannabis, even in countries where it’s more or less legal.
Potential harm can come from people thinking they can cure serious afflictions using regular CBD products
In the quagmire of partial information, misinformation, and flat-out falsehoods still circulating about cannabis, it is no surprise that there is confusion about the difference between CBD oil, CBD e-liquid, and full spectrum cannabis oil. What is deeply worrying is the potential harm that can come from people thinking that they can treat serious afflictions using regular CBD products.
The impetus for this article came from a comment, on a news story about full spectrum cannabis oil, from a person who thought they would be able to cure their father’s cancer with 3% CBD oil from a health food shop and intended to stop his other treatment. CBD is an astonishing cannabinoid, but in its current commercially available form it cannot cure cancer, stop epileptic seizures, or accomplish the kind of major feats that full spectrum cannabis oil sometimes – but not always – can.
What is in CBD oil?
There are obviously many different CBD products flooding the market right now, and generalising about their composition is not as useful to our readers as being specific about the Sensi Seeds CBD range.
The cannabidiol used for Sensi Seeds products is blended with organic hempseed oil. Both ingredients are sourced from industrial hemp plants grown in the EU. The production is carefully monitored at all stages, giving a complete oversight of the supply chain. To offer the most convenience, Sensi Seeds CBD oil comes in capsules; mixed with coconut oil, for a milder flavour; and in bottles with a dropper for dosing.
The most important component is the cannabinoid CBD, or cannabidiol. Whilst not psychoactive, CBD does have relaxing properties, and studies have demonstrated its efficacy in treating various forms of anxiety.
What is in full spectrum cannabis oil?
Full spectrum cannabis oil, or FSO, contains the complete range of cannabinoids and terpenes that can be extracted from cannabis. These are the components that are known to have medicinal properties, many of which are still being researched and explored. FSO also contains the flavonoids and other compounds that give cannabis its unique pigment profiles.
The main difference between FSO and other extracts (such as shatter and wax) in terms of the content is that these important chemicals are carefully included, rather than lost during the filtration process.
Legality of CBD oil and FSO
The legality of both CBD and FSO is still being refined, debated and flat-out argued about in various countries around the world. CBD is fully legal in areas where cannabis itself is legal. In the UK and EU, CBD products are legal as food supplements, and both CBD and FSO are legal when prescribed by a medical professional. In practice, there are still only a handful of cases where prescriptions have been issued.
It is important to note that CBD products cannot be sold as anything other than food supplements without the approval of medicinal authorities, and the certification of the retailer as a pharmaceutical business. In other words, if CBD is a medicine, it has to be prescribed and sold as a medicine. If it is a food supplement, it can be sold by any retailer.
This also holds true for CBD e-liquids, where the CBD is basically counted as a flavouring. FSO (since it contains THC) is illegal anywhere that cannabis is illegal. Its status in areas with legal recreational or medical cannabis is still unpredictable. If you are in any doubt, we advise you to check with a legal specialist in your area to obtain the most up-to-date information.
Medicinal applications of CBD oil and FSO
As already stated, CBD in Europe sits in the awkward position of a substance that is not recognised as a medicine, yet undoubtedly has therapeutic properties. At the time of writing, there are 2,387 results for research papers on cannabidiol on PubMed, the online resource of the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health.
Both anecdotal and scientific evidence indicate that CBD oil can help with an extensive range of ailments including, but not limited to, osteoarthritis, painful diabetic neuropathy, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and epilepsy. Research continues apace, so it is certain that this list will continue to grow.
Full spectrum cannabis oil is also still under investigation. It too promises to reveal a plethora of medicinal uses. The current evidence demonstrates that full spectrum cannabis oil successfully carries and concentrates the effects of the cannabis it is made from. Therefore, everything that can be treated with herbal cannabis can potentially be treated with even greater efficacy using full spectrum cannabis oil.
As mentioned above, the characteristic that really sets full spectrum cannabis oil apart from CBD oil (and indeed, all other types of cannabis and hemp oil) is that it contains all of the bioactive compounds of the buds it is made from, so that the entourage effect – a phenomenon that is still not fully understood – is not lost, but concentrated.
The ease of administering oil is obviously much greater than that of administering cannabis buds, and the dosage can be far more accurately calibrated. For many people (and obviously for children), this makes both types of oil preferable to smoking and vaping.
So what is the definition of CBD e-liquid?
‘CBD e-liquids’ is the collective term for a wide range of slightly different fluids, also known as ‘CBD vape oil’ or ‘CBD vape juice’. They are used in a vaporizer or e-cigarette, as an alternative to smoking. Many e-cigarettes resemble traditional cigarettes, some are similar to large pens, and it is even possible to obtain e-pipes, for people desiring a Sherlock Holmes look.
Advantages of CBD e-liquids
The advantages of vaping CBD e-liquids are manifold. Since CBD is not psychoactive, all its beneficial effects are obtainable without the side-effect of getting high, which for some patients is the factor that deters them from trying any type of cannabis extract. And since e-liquids are vaporized, this removes the other common deterrent: having to smoke cannabis to achieve the effects of CBD.
CBD e-liquid ingredients
CBD e-liquids most commonly have a base of propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerol (VG), to which a variety of other ingredients are added, depending on the desired effects. These ingredients include flavourings, sometimes nicotine, and – of most interest to us – the cannabinoid CBD.
Propylene glycol has a wide range of applications, from being the humectant food additive E1520 to a carrier ingredient in injectable, topical and oral drugs. A very small amount of people are allergic to it, reacting with sore, dry skin on the face and/or a rash of small red dots on the body, so watch out for this if you are vaping for the very first time. (However, most allergy sufferers are already aware of their condition, since PG is used in so many everyday items, including aerosol cream, ice-cream, soft drinks, and cosmetics.)
Vegetable glycerol is also used as a humectant, solvent, and sweetener. It has been used for many years as an alternative to alcohol in tinctures and herbal extracts to preserve their quality. Both PG and VG are clear, odourless, slightly sweet tasting semi-viscous liquids which, when heated, produce a vapour that can be inhaled as a carrier for the other ingredients.
Flavourings are included simply to create a pleasant inhalation experience, referred to in e-liquid circles as ‘throat hit’ and ‘mouth feel’. Flavours range from basic (fruity, smoky, mint) to exotic (tequila, ylang-ylang, orange blossom) to downright confusing (Greek yoghurt, peanut butter, Christmas pudding).
Obviously, if you are not already a tobacco user, it’s not a good idea to start inhaling e-liquids containing nicotine since you will swiftly develop one of the most pointless addictions of the modern age.
On the other hand, if you are a tobacco user, switching to e-cigarettes with an e-liquid containing nicotine has the advantage of eliminating the tar and chemicals that are inhaled along with the smoke, and may make it easier to quit smoking altogether.
How is CBD oil made?
All Sensi Seeds CBD products start with CBD oil. It is perhaps unique among CBD oils in that Sensi Seeds has complete oversight and quality control over every stage of the manufacturing process, from seed to finished product. The whole process is detailed here (with a great animation!). A crucial difference between Sensi Seeds CBD oil and many other CBD oils is the extraction process, which is accomplished with supercritical CO2 rather than solvents.
How is full spectrum cannabis oil made?
Full spectrum cannabis oil is also made without the use of solvents. Because all types of cannabis oil still exist in an unregulated market, it is difficult to say what the standard method is for them. There are methods which use very strong alcohol, and even butane. The latter was used for the earliest versions of cannabis oil but has since been surpassed.
The most modern and effective techniques are the ones that retain all the 500-plus bioactive compounds that ripe buds of cannabis contain, not just the cannabinoids. These techniques and the equipment needed to achieve them are still very limited in their availability.
Unfortunately, full spectrum cannabis oil is not something that can be professionally made in a domestic kitchen. There are those who try – often because there are no other avenues open to them, which is the fault of current legislation – but many of the compounds are lost, and it is extremely difficult to create a clean and consistent product.
As legislation advances to allow access to more sophisticated and therefore more effective medicinal cannabis products, it is to be hoped that more and more laboratories open up to producing true full spectrum cannabis oil. In turn, this will lead to more research and more people being able to use it.
Which one is right for you?
This is the question that, unfortunately, we can’t answer. If you are interested in knowing more about what cannabinoids can do for your health, exploring the many articles on this blog about the medicinal use of cannabis is a good start.
As with any and all changes you are considering making to your diet or healthcare routine, always consult a qualified medical professional first.
- Disclaimer:This article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with your doctor or other licensed medical professional. Do not delay seeking medical advice or disregard medical advice due to something you have read on this website.