Types of CBD: Uses, Forms, & Products

CBD has been wildly popular for a while now, but it’s never too late to see what it’s all about. If you’re new to the realm of CBD, it can be difficult to determine where to start. There are so many types of CBD, and each type comes in a different form. The pros and cons of each type and form of CBD might not be apparent if you don’t understand what you’re looking for.

Before you start using CBD, you need to find the type and form that will work best for you. Here’s what you need to know about the differences to help you determine what will work best for your goals and lifestyle. 

What Is CBD?

CBD is short for cannabidiol. Cannabidiol is a cannabinoid, and cannabinoids come from cannabis. Try to say that three times fast. 

There are more than 100 different naturally occurring cannabinoids. They each serve their own purposes within the cannabis plant, and they each have the potential to interact with your body in a different way. CBD just happens to be the most popular cannabinoid in the wellness community.

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is a psychoactive cannabinoid. When you hear people talk about getting high, they’re referring to the effects of THC. CBD is very different from THC — it doesn’t produce psychoactive effects.

In the case of CBD products, most of them are derived from hemp. Hemp plants are special cannabis plants that have been selectively grown and bred to minimize the amount of THC they’re able to produce. 

How Does CBD Work?

Your body is built to make and use cannabinoids. People and animals have a special system of receptors in their bodies called the endocannabinoid system. Researchers haven’t been able to put together a detailed picture of how it works, but there are a few things they know for sure.

There are at least two specific types of cannabinoid receptors, called CB1 and CB2. There may be as many as five total types of cannabinoid receptors. In addition to cannabinoid-specific receptors, the body also has a lot of other receptors that cannabinoids can interact with.

To stimulate this system, your body makes its own cannabinoids, called endocannabinoids (aka endogenous cannabinoids). The process happens really quickly, and it’s hard to predict when it’s going to happen. This unpredictability makes it difficult for researchers to catch the process in action. They aren’t sure exactly how much of each cannabinoid your body produces or exactly how it uses those cannabinoids — it all happens in the blink of an eye.

Cannabinoids like CBD can interact with the receptors in the endocannabinoid system. When they do, they stimulate the system to provide supportive functions. 

The supportive functions provided by the endocannabinoid system are very broad, because your endocannabinoid system exists in nearly every part of your body. You have receptors everywhere, from your brain to your skin to your digestive system. There are cannabinoid receptors in your immune system, your white blood cells, and even your reproductive system. 

When people talk about the benefits of CBD, they aren’t exaggerating. CBD can work with your endocannabinoid system to provide broad wellness support and help your body do the best possible job of fulfilling its natural functions.

What Are the 3 Different Types of CBD?

The first step in choosing a CBD product that will work for you is deciding on the type of CBD you want to use. There are three main types of CBD, and you’ll find these types of CBD in many different forms. All three types still offer the benefits of CBD, but they do so in different ways.

Full-Spectrum CBD

Full-spectrum CBD is sometimes called whole hemp extract, and it’s a very simple CBD product. All of the natural oils, fats, waxes, and cannabinoids are extracted from the leafy and flowery parts of the cannabis plant and left intact. Full-spectrum CBD is exactly how CBD occurs in nature — it’s just been taken from the plant. 

Full-spectrum CBD will also contain the small amount of THC that hemp naturally produces. There’s a theory called the entourage effect that states that CBD might function better if it's allowed to remain with these trace amounts of THC. The two cannabinoids might work synergistically to enhance the benefits of CBD. 

Broad-Spectrum CBD

Broad-spectrum CBD products are almost the same thing as full-spectrum CBD products, but with one standout difference— broad-spectrum CBD has had all detectable levels of THC removed.

There are two reasons why someone might prefer broad-spectrum CBD to full-spectrum CBD. 

The first reason is simple: if you aren’t comfortable using products that contain even tiny amounts of THC, you don’t have to. Broad-spectrum eliminates THC from the equation without eliminating the other beneficial plant compounds.

The second reason is if you can’t use products containing THC. If your job prevents you from using products containing THC, or if you’re an athlete that has to abide by certain guidelines, you may be prohibited from using full-spectrum CBD. Broad-spectrum CBD makes it possible to enjoy the benefits of CBD without the potential positive drug test.

CBD Isolate

The third form of CBD is CBD isolate. CBD isolate is THC-free hemp extract with absolutely everything removed except for the raw CBD. Raw CBD looks a lot like sugar or table salt, consisting of tiny white crystals that typically come in a jar. 

If you’re not interested in the potential wellness benefits of other cannabinoids or if you need the peace of mind that comes from seeing nothing but CBD in the container, CBD isolate may be right for you.

Since CBD isolate comes in the form of dry crystals, you can’t use it the same way as other CBD products. You have to mix it into something, like a glass of water. Keep in mind that this form of CBD will have special use considerations, and it may not be ideal for people who need a more convenient solution.

Which Type of CBD Is Best?

The best type of CBD is the type of CBD you’ll feel most comfortable using every day. While full-spectrum CBD can potentially boast some extra benefits, broad-spectrum CBD is just fine for people who might not be comfortable using full-spectrum products. CBD isolate works well for people who don’t mind having to prepare their CBD every day. 

What Is the Bioavailability of CBD?

CBD comes in many different forms. Every form of CBD works to deliver its benefits to your body, but they each go about it a little differently.

Your body needs to process each form of CBD in a different way. Throughout this process, your CBD’s bioavailability can be affected. 

Bioavailability refers to your body’s ability to utilize the CBD. When you digest something, it gets damaged a little bit. For example, CBD that you digest may not be fully intact by the time it reaches your endocannabinoid system. The end result is a slight loss of potency. 

This is normal. It happens with everything you ingest, including vitamins. If you’ve ever wondered why your multivitamin contains 300% of your daily recommended value of something, it’s to account for the natural loss that tends to occur. 

Reduced bioavailability isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is something you should keep in mind.

How Can I Increase the Bioavailability of My CBD?

Cannabinoids are best utilized by your body when they’re digested with some kind of fat. That’s why CBD oil is so popular — the CBD in the bottle is already diluted with a fatty oil. If you’re taking CBD another way, it can help to ingest it with a small snack rich in healthy fats. Half an avocado or a handful of almonds, for example, should be enough healthy fat to help your body use the CBD.

What Types of CBD Products Are Available? 

Almost every form of CBD product can come in all three types of CBD. You can find broad-spectrum CBD topicals and CBD isolate edibles. The form of CBD you choose will affect how you use the CBD, the bioavailability of the CBD, and when the benefits begin to set in.


CBD oil is the most popular form of CBD. It comes in a glass bottle with a dropper. You place the drops under your tongue and hold them in place for a minute or so. The tissue underneath your tongue is soft and very absorbent. 

The tissue will begin to absorb the CBD from the drops, bypassing your bloodstream and giving you a head start on CBD’s benefits and effects. You swallow the remnants of the oil, which work similarly to a CBD edible. 

CBD oil is popular because it’s the most bioavailable form of CBD, in addition to being the fastest acting. It’s the most consistent experience, and it’s going to begin working within 30 minutes. CBD oil is extremely dependable. 

It also comes with a few drawbacks. The glass bottle packaging makes CBD oil less travel friendly, and the dropper makes it difficult to dispense. CBD oil also has a very distinct earthy flavor. If you don’t like the way it tastes, you’re not going to have a good time holding it in your mouth for a full minute. 

CBD Edibles

CBD edibles, like gummies, are CBD infused into a single serving snack. In order for the edible to work, your body needs to metabolize it. As your body digests the edible, it’s possible that it will lose some potency. 

This process usually takes about an hour, but it can take up to two hours if you eat a CBD edible on a full stomach.It’s best to use your CBD edible about 30 minutes before you eat a full meal. This will give your CBD a head start, so it won’t be competing with your breakfast in your digestive tract.

Many people love CBD edibles like gummies because they completely disguise the flavor of the CBD. Instead of tasting earthy and nutty, they can taste like strawberries and cream! They’re also pre-measured for convenient dosing, and they’re far more portable than CBD that comes in glass packaging. 

CBD Softgel Capsules

CBD softgel capsules work exactly like CBD edibles. They have the same benefits of being a highly portable, easier to dose way to get CBD. They also won’t taste like CBD oil, because capsules don’t taste like anything at all.

CBD softgel capsules are a good alternative to oil, but they may not be the best way to ingest CBD. People turn to CBD gummies because they can be chewed and swallowed. CBD softgel capsules tend to be big. If you have trouble swallowing pills, they’re probably not going to work for you.

CBD Crystals

True, raw CBD isolate is the only type of CBD that you’ll find in a crystalline form. It usually comes in a screw-top glass jar. People who want to use CBD and only CBD may turn to isolate crystals. Every other form of CBD generally contains other cannabinoids or plant-based compounds within it. 

CBD isolate can be difficult to measure adequately, since it’s all loose crystals. You need a very tiny dosing spoon to measure out your ideal dose. Then, you’ll need to mix it with a drink or blend it into a food. It helps to use CBD isolate with a source of fat to help your body process it. 

CBD isolate crystals won’t be the ideal choice for most people, simply because they’re difficult to work with. There is no special benefit of using CBD isolate instead of a product like broad-spectrum CBD, which is much easier to use.

Topical CBD 

CBD topicals, like lotions, sprays, or balms, are on their own separate island. They work with the endocannabinoid receptors on the surface of your skin to support skin health and soothe achy feelings. They don’t provide the same health benefits that CBD oil or edibles would provide. 

CBD topicals provide localized relief, and other forms of CBD provide widespread relief. Use them both together after your next workout! It’s a win-win situation. 

How Can I Tell if CBD Is High Quality?

Now that you know what you want, how do you know if you’re buying good CBD? You don’t want to settle for subpar CBD that won’t meet your expectations. Any CBD you use should be an appropriate dosage. It should also be backed by lab test results that verify its purity and contents.

Lab Test Results 

Reputable CBD companies will always send samples of every batch of their products to a third-party lab. The lab will run tests to verify the cannabinoid content of each batch and check for contaminants, like heavy metals or residual pesticides. They’ll put the results into a certificate of analysis and send them back to the brand.

These test results should always match the information the brand puts on the label. The brand should provide a link to each certificate of analysis on the purchase page for every product. This should give you peace of mind when you buy CBD — you know you’re getting exactly what you think you’re getting. 

Adequate Dosage

If the price of a CBD product seems too good to be true, it probably is. 

The dosage per serving may not be enough to produce minimal benefits. If the CBD is too diluted, you’ll need to use twice as much to achieve the benefits you want.

Most people start with 25 mg of CBD per day for general wellness. If you’re using your CBD with a specific purpose, like to promote feelings of relaxation during the day or support quality sleep at night, you might want to use 50 mg per day. In this case, you can try one 25 mg dose in the morning, and another 25 mg dose at night. 

If the CBD product you’re using contains 30 servings of CBD at 10 mg each, you’ll likely run out of it extremely quickly. It’s generally worth spending more for a sufficient amount of CBD than it is to burn through less expensive CBD very quickly.

Relax With Pure Relief

Now that you’ve had your informal CBD education, you’ll know what all these words mean. Pure Relief’s vegan CBD gummies contain 25 mg of broad spectrum CBD per piece. Gummies are a grab-and-go, no-fuss way to introduce the benefits of CBD into your wellness routine. 


An introduction to the endogenous cannabinoid system | National Institutes of Health

Endocannabinoid Binding to the Cannabinoid Receptors: What Is Known and What Remains Unknown | National Institutes of Health

The Case for the Entourage Effect and Conventional Breeding of Clinical Cannabis: No “Strain,” No Gain | Frontiers in Plant Science

Back to blog