If you’re just getting started with cannabidiol or CBD, you may be searching for the right way to reap the benefits of this natural medicine. Or maybe you’ve been using CBD for a while, but you’re hoping to expand the ways you can access those effects you’re used to.
In this post, we present the differences between CBD flower and CBD oil so you can get a close up sense of which general type of CBD product might work best for you or which products to use when.
However, the popularity of CBD and hemp has led to a debate on whether processed CBD products or hemp flower are “better.” The fact is that the answer largely depends on the consumer and, in some cases, the situation.
What is CBD Hemp Flower?
CBD flower (also known as hemp bud, CBD bud, and hemp flower) is the female hemp plant flower. The hemp plant is simply the Cannabis sativa plant with 0.3 percent THC or less under federal law.
The CBD flower is the source of various phytocannabinoids, including cannabidiol (CBD), making it one of the most important parts of the hemp plant. It is in this capacity that hemp has become a cash crop once again, producing CBD oil and other hemp CBD products such as CBD flower.
However, the modern medicinal high-CBD strain you get at the dispensary is not the random industrial hemp you find in just any field. If you’ve ever heard that smoking hemp instead of the cannabis plant can bring a headache, this is why: hemp bred for fiber and seed rather than resin and medicine is not a great source of CBD.
What is CBD Oil?
Although the CBD market is impressively large, it is still growing. The basic oral/sublingual CBD oil is still the most common way of taking this cannabinoid, but businesses are quickly developing many new ways to use CBD—though most are based on some form of CBD oil infusion.
You can take CBD orally in gummies, capsules, liquid, food, or softgels. Dosing can be a challenge and absorption is slow based on delayed onset of effect, stomach acids, recent meals, and other factors.
You can also take CBD sublingually as an oil, tincture, or spray by holding it under your tongue for 60 to 120 seconds so it absorbs directly into the bloodstream. You will taste it, unfortunately, but you will feel effects within 15 to 45 minutes.
Vaping is also possible for some kinds of CBD oil—but only CBD vape juice and CBD vape oils that are actually designed for that use. Never vape or smoke anything that is not intended for that end-use.
CBD Oil vs CBD Flower: The Endocannabinoid System
All mammals have an endocannabinoid system (ECS) throughout their bodies. The ECS is a biological system made up of naturally occuring chemicals called endocannabinoids, receptors for the endocannabinoids, and enzymes that destroy the chemicals after use.
The ECS regulates appetite, memory, mood, pain sensation, reproduction, sleep, and other functions in humans with the goal of achieving homeostasis. Homeostasis is the healthy, balanced zone of good function and regulation that biological systems need to stay inside—like staying within the healthy range for weight, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, etc.
CBD interacts with the cannabinoid receptors to ensure the correct cellular response no matter whether it comes from CBD oil or CBD flower. However, depending on the specific type of symptoms you’re experiencing, one delivery method might be more effective. More on this below.
CBD Oil vs CBD Flower: The Experience
There is a lot of variety even in the ways you consume CBD oil and CBD flower.
Vaping and Smoking CBD Flower and Oil
Vaping dry flower demands a flower vaporizer you might use for cannabis flower, such as the tabletop Volcano, the standard PAX, or the portable Zeus Arc GT. Vaping CBD oil requires proprietary pod systems like the PAX Era or the simpler, portable 510 thread batteries you get from the dispensary (or nicer versions like the Vessel).
But even vaping CBD oil and vaping CBD flower is different in many ways. Both offer a very fast-acting experience, and, although CBD oil offers a more concentrated dose of CBD, CBD flower delivers a whole-plant experience because it hasn’t lost any of its cannabinoids, terpenes, or other active compounds during extraction.
Another difference is control. Typically, CBD-dominant flower has about 6 to 15 percent CBD along with at least some THC. The amount can be determined by batch testing. However, as a natural, unrefined plant product, you can’t always control this, and you may end up with a very gentle high. Some great examples of CBD-dominant strains are Charlotte’s Web, ACDC, and Cherry Wine.
In contrast, due to the extraction process that isolates the cannabinoids, CBD oil has a higher concentration of CBD. Many CBD oils ultimately have as much as 60 to 80 percent CBD. Some brands also add terpenes after extraction for a more flavorful experience and added benefits, so those levels may vary.
Vaping CBD flower often delivers a lighter high than CBD oil, but ultimately the question comes down to consumer preference because both CBD flower and oil provide the therapeutic qualities associated with CBD.
How to Take CBD Oil
For those who would rather not vape or smoke CBD flower or CBD oil, taking CBD oil either orally or sublingually is always an option. Taking CBD oil orally or sublingually is an easier, more discreet, and more portable way to get your CBD.
CBD comes orally in gummies and other candies, capsules and softgels, drinks and food, and even mints and gum. Dosing is sometimes tricky, and it takes time for the CBD to get into your system. You can also take CBD sublingually (although it generally doesn’t taste great) as a spray, oil, troiche, or tincture. Just hold it under your tongue to generate saliva for 60 to 120 seconds, and it will directly absorb into your bloodstream within 15 to 45 minutes.
Benefits of Smoking of Vaping High-CBD Flower vs Using CBD Oil
Entourage effect. The whole hemp flower produces the entourage effect, a phenomenon in which phytocannabinoids and terpenes work more effectively in the body when they are together than they do when isolated. Vaping or smoking flower can deliver the entourage effect, as can using full spectrum CBD oil products—but consuming the whole flower is the most direct way to achieve this.
Onset time. Vaping or smoking delivers CBD much more quickly than oral or sublingual CBD oil. For acute medical conditions like anxiety and panic attacks, vaping or smoking an indica style CBD flower can be very effective.
Duration of effects. However, when vaping or smoking, those effects don’t last as long, either. For longer-lasting effects, the CBD oil may be better. This is probably especially true for patients with chronic pain management needs.
Cost. High-quality CBD oil can be expensive due to processing costs, while high-end hemp flower is typically not as costly. On the other hand, it is also lower in concentration when it comes to cannabinoids.
Bioavailability. Smoking or vaping CBD has high bioavailability, meaning the body absorbs more CBD at a faster rate. CBD that has to bypass the digestive system has much lower bioavailability.
Respiratory stress. The counterpoint to the bioavailability issue is, perhaps, respiratory. Smoking and vaping take a toll on the lungs over time, while simply consuming CBD oil is safe.
Full Spectrum CBD vs Broad Spectrum CBD vs CBD Isolate
The difference here is mostly one of the levels of THC. Full-spectrum and whole plant products retain low levels or trace amounts of THC content, while the other products do not.
Full-spectrum CBD oil retains all phytocannabinoids and terpenes found naturally in hemp. Full-spectrum, in other words, contains THC that is essential to the entourage effect. On the other hand, it can potentially register on a drug test or produce psychoactive effects which some users do not want.
Broad-spectrum CBD is produced using more rigorous processes that first extract various compounds and then isolate and remove all THC. CBD isolate is the most refined version of a CBD extract, created by isolating CBD completely from all other plant compounds.
Whole-plant CBD extracts are a subset of less processed full-spectrum CBD oil. These are most similar to hemp flower and contain all of the terpenes, cannabinoids, vitamins, fibers, proteins, omega acids, and other natural hemp phytonutrients.
Hemp in Focus: Cannabinoids, Terpenes, and Other Phytonutrients
The hemp plant contains over 100 medicinally valuable chemical compounds called phytocannabinoids. The sticky resin of the hemp flower is where most phytocannabinoids such as CBD, THC, CBC, CBN, CBG, and others are produced from the trichomes. These tiny crystals are what make both hemp and marijuana plants sticky and shiny, and they are full of terpenes and flavonoids as well as cannabinoids.
Top Five Hemp Cannabinoids
Cannabidiol (CBD) offers many health benefits but does not produce the intoxicating effects THC is known for.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) occurs in small amounts in hemp (up to 0.3 percent by law) and produces both that “high” feeling of intoxication and its own health benefits alongside the other cannabinoids.
Cannabinol (CBN) is a rare cannabinoid produced as THC breaks down and is known for its sedative effects.
Cannabigerol (CBG) is the root cannabinoid.
Cannabichromene (CBC) is a promising pain treatment.
Hemp Flower Terpenes
Terpenes are aromatic phytonutrient compounds—nutrients and antioxidants essential to all plant life that lend hemp its flavor, aroma, and many healing qualities. Terpenes, cannabinoids such as CBD, and other hemp compounds all interact and enhance each others’ potency. Every strain of hemp flower has its own unique terpene profile, but of the many hemp terpenes, there are five found most often.
Top Five Terpenes in Hemp Flower
Myrcene is among the most common cannabis terpene and is also found in parsley, hops, and wild thyme. Myrcene supports relaxation, soothes insomnia, and has an earthy, herbal, musky scent.
Pinene promotes memory and alertness, is known for its pine smell, and is also found in parsley, rosemary, and orange peels.
Linalool is the lavender terpene known for its delicate floral scent and ability to promote restful sleep.
Humulene with its hoppy aroma is common in cloves and basil (as well as hops, of course). This terpene has and is known as an effective analgesic and anti-inflammatory.
Limonene is a well-known mood-enhancer and stress-reliever with a fresh citrus scent.
[Remember, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is not yet closely regulating CBD. Always look for third-party lab testing to verify what is and is not in your CBD products.]
Final Thoughts on CBD Oil vs CBD Flower
The best thing about the CBD revolution we’re currently experiencing is that there are now so many choices. Thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, more and more people now have the freedom to explore the effects of CBD themselves.
The battle of CBD oil vs CBD flower isn’t much of a battle because they are both winners. Which is your favorite form of CBD?