As the CBD industry has developed, certain terms have emerged as near-universal standards. For instance, full spectrum, broad spectrum, and CBD isolate are near-universal. But several terms persist in some corners of the industry, despite having fallen out of use in the wider CBD community. Among these, perhaps none have caused more confusion than “pure CBD oil” and “raw CBD oil”.
In this article, we’ll disambiguate these terms, helping users new and old to better understand these uncommon CBD terms. Because while you may not see them every day, odds are you’ll come across them in discussion forums or, rarely, even product packaging!
When it comes to your health and wellness, knowledge is power! So let’s dive in and figure out just what these unusual CBD terms actually mean.
On CBD Oil Generally
To understand what makes raw and pure CBD oil special, it’s worth keeping in mind the definitions of more common CBD oil terms.
Most relevant here are “full spectrum”, “broad spectrum”, and “CBD isolate” oils or tinctures.
These oil types differ only in that they are more or less pure. CBD oil tinctures all contain the same core ingredients, with a few exceptions.
But the key to our discussion is how these products differ from one another: in the specific parts of the hemp plant that their hemp extracts contain.
Common CBD Oil Types and Definitions
Full spectrum oils contain at least trace amounts of all of hemp’s cannabinoids, terpenes, phytonutrients, and more. In short, they contain a little bit of everything that the hemp plant has to offer. Taken together with CBD, these compounds create the “entourage effect”, which many users believe is the key to unlocking CBD’s full therapeutic potential.
Broad spectrum oils are virtually identical to full spectrum oils, but with one key exception. Broad spectrum oils have all traces of THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid that causes a “weed high” in large amounts, carefully removed.
CBD isolate oils contain no part of the hemp plant except for the compound known as cannabidiol, or “CBD”. While CBD isolate oils will not produce an entourage effect, they still deliver all of CBD’s benefits, and oils of this sort are prized by many who find the entourage effect does not benefit their treatment.
Uncommon CBD Oil Types: Raw CBD Oil and Pure CBD Oil
Although understanding raw and pure CBD oils is a bit more complicated than understanding the common oil types, the same basic principle applies.
As with the common oil types, raw CBD oil and pure CBD oil are defined by the specific parts of the hemp plant they contain.
Again, there are some meaningful differences and (especially for pure CBD oil) some ambiguities and inconsistencies that can make these terms tricky to define. And because they are used inconsistently throughout the industry, users should exercise special caution before purchasing products marketed as either “raw CBD oil” or “pure CBD oil”.
Raw CBD Oil Definitions
At least two different definitions of “raw CBD oil” can be found in the market. They refer to very different products — though neither should appeal to most users.
In short, these definitions involve skipping one or more steps of the traditional CBD manufacturing process. For more on each of these steps, see our Guide to CBD Manufacturing.
Raw CBD Oil as Un-Winterized “Crude” CBD
This definition of raw CBD oil is, essentially, full spectrum CBD oil, but with one key difference: it has a much higher concentration of phytonutrients, plant fibers, and other hemp compounds that do not necessarily benefit CBD’s therapeutic effects.
That’s because oils of this type skip the winterization step of CBD manufacturing. During that phase, extremely cold temperatures are used to separate hemp’s therapeutic cannabinoids and terpenes from the ineffective plant matter.
This type of raw CBD oil, in essence, contains a much higher proportion of “useless” plant matter. As such, there is little reason for most users to use an un-winterized CBD oil.
Raw CBD Oil as Un-Decarboxylated CBD
Raw CBD oil may also refer to a CBD oil extract that has not undergone the decarboxylation phase of traditional manufacturing processes. Most existing research suggests that this results in a dramatically less effective CBD treatment, though a few studies challenge that common understanding.
Decarboxylation is an important step that fundamentally changes the CBD molecule. When it is first extracted from hemp, it is technically “CBDA” (Cannabidiol Acid). Unlike CBD, CBDA generally does not interact with the endocannabinoid system; this dramatically reduces the effectiveness of most therapeutic uses of CBDA compared to CBD.
However, a small number of studies suggest that CBDA (and the raw CBD oil containing it) may have significant potential for treating inflammation. However, much more research into this potential application is needed, and most users will be better served by traditional CBD.
Pure CBD Oil Definitions
As with raw CBD, “pure” CBD oil can also mean several different things. Luckily, these definitions are somewhat less technical than those for raw CBD oil; frustratingly, however, there is even less consistency between how these terms are used!
Pure CBD Oil as Winterized and/or Decarboxylated Full Spectrum CBD
Perhaps the most common definition of “pure CBD oil” is a direct response to the two definitions of “raw CBD oil” above. This term refers to a full spectrum oil that has undergone the winterization and/or decarboxylation process.
In the case of winterization, the resulting CBD oil is more “pure” in the sense that it contains less of the plant fiber and other non-therapeutic phytomaterials.
In the case of decarboxylation, the CBD oil is more “pure” in the sense that the hemp plant’s naturally-occurring CBDA has been converted into CBD.
As discussed in the sections on raw CBD oil above, both winterization and decarboxylation are very important steps in the manufacturing process. As such, “pure” CBD oils using this definition will undoubtedly be more useful than their “raw” CBD oil equivalents.
Pure CBD Oil as CBD Isolate
Frustratingly, the second standard definition of pure CBD oil connotes something entirely different than the first: a CBD oil made with pure CBD isolate.
Unlike pure CBD oils using the first definition, pure CBD oil as CBD isolate contains absolutely nothing from the hemp plant except for isolated cannabidiol. In that sense, it is literally the purest CBD oil that there is; nonetheless, it will result in a very different user experience than will pure CBD oils using the first definition.
Pure CBD oils of this sort may be of exceptionally high quality. Indeed, many users who do not believe they benefit from the entourage effect prefer CBD isolate tinctures or other THC-free oils. However, the term does not specify whether the oil tincture has undergone the decarboxylation procedure, which will affect the quality of the end product.
Raw CBD Oil vs. Pure CBD Oil, In Closing
Ultimately, the terms “raw CBD oil” and “pure CBD oil” are so thoroughly ambiguous, so inconsistently applied, as to be effectively meaningless. As we’ve discussed above, the terms can mean entirely different and, especially in the case of pure CBD oil, even contradictory things!
With all this confusion, it’s no wonder that the vast majority of the CBD industry has moved away from these terms and towards the much clearer “full spectrum CBD oil”, “broad spectrum CBD oil”, and “CBD isolate oil”.
If you are shopping with a vendor advertising raw or pure CBD oil, be on alert! Although the products may still be of high quality, the terms should be a red flag that encourages you to do just a bit more research!