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What Does CBD Look Like?

Keegan Williams

By Keegan Williams

August 29, 2022

Different glass bottles with CBD OIL, THC tincture and cannabis leaves on yellow background. Flat lay, minimalism. Cosmetics CBD oil.

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With the legalization of recreational, adult-use cannabis in myriad regions across the U.S., alongside the passing of the

, which legalized hemp under certain restrictions, the masses have realized the wide array of benefits that CBD provides. 

Without knowing what to look for, it can be hard to tell the difference between CBD flower and its psychoactive partner, THC-enriched cannabis. Even CBD oil has qualities that distinguish it from other cannabinoid-infused oils. It can be a relief to have a better understanding of the surface differences between the two, especially for folks looking to embrace the benefits of CBD without the effects of THC.

Whether you’re a longtime lover of CBD or just dipping your toes into the CBD world, dive in with High There as we explore the question: What does CBD look like?

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What’s the difference between CBD and THC?

Okay, let’s back up for a minute. Before we really get into it, it’s important to look at the many distinctions between THC and CBD plants, along with their effects. 

Typically, when people say marijuana, weed or pot, they are referring to the THC-rich forms of the Cannabis sativa plant. THC is a cannabinoid, a chemical in cannabis, and it’s psychoactive, giving users the feeling of being high. Whereas CBD flower generally refers to a Cannabis sativa plant bred to be high in the cannabinoid CBD, which is non-psychoactive in the common sense understanding of its effects, and it contains less than

Glass bottle and dropper CBD OIL, THC tincture and cannabis leaf on background. Laboratory Production of cosmetics with CBD oil.
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Why this specific cutoff? Cannabis with more than 0.3 percent THC is considered to be an illegal Schedule I drug on a federal level, and any less is considered industrial hemp, an unscheduled substance.

CBD does not offer a high, like THC does, because it is non-psychoactive. Though, emerging research has looked into the potential benefits of CBD and its impact on the body’s endocannabinoid system, a biological system in each of us that interacts with cannabinoids. CBD may be able to help with depression, sleep, anxiety, chronic pain, inflammation, appetite, as well as certain chronic diseases and neurological disorders. 

However, smoking or

CBD flower maximizes its absorption and the amount of CBD the body can use. The lungs aboard it straight into the bloodstream, whereas orally taking CBD means it needs to be metabolized before hitting the bloodstream. 

Research is still catching up, so it’s also important to talk with your doctor before using CBD in lieu of or in conjunction with other medications.

Depending on where you live, knowing the distinction between CBD and THC products is still very important. And regardless, it’s always good to have better insight about what you’re putting into your body.

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Can you tell the difference between CBD and THC flower?

While there are some differences between CBD and THC cannabis flower, it’s still challenging to tell. Hemp plants generally grow taller and thinner compared to marijuana plants, which often look shorter and more bush-like in comparison. Marijuana plants usually have dense areas of flower, while hemp flower is more sparse and spaced out. Some claim that hemp and cannabis have distinct odors, though even the more muted aroma and taste of hemp could be mistaken for marijuana.

For the flower itself? That’s where things get tricky. 

CBD and THC flower look very similar. They come from the same plant, after all, just with two different, dominant cannabinoids. 

Of course, the best way to know for sure would be to refer to the packaging, if you have it. Products with THC usually have a triangular symbol with a pot leaf and warning, and CBD products won’t. THC products are also usually child proof, and the

should also make it clear.

Otherwise, short of contacting the manufacturer if applicable, your other options are to use the cannabis and see what happens or to commission a lab test.

Cosmetics with cannabis oil on a turquoise plate on a light marble background. Concept of luxury skin care.
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High quality CBD flower is usually green in color, varying from dark to light, and otherwise has a strong, bright color palette. Coloration can also veer into the purple family, though red, yellow and brown flower typically denotes low quality.

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What does CBD oil look like?

CBD oil is a concentrated liquid extract of hemp, or high-CBD cannabis. Since CBD was descheduled, a number of manufacturers have taken to producing and selling CBD oils online, overwhelmingly so. For those looking to take a bit more control and save some cash, many have also taken to

.

That prompts the question, what types of CBD oils are out there and what do they look like?

Raw CBD Oil:

This type of CBD oil is often the cheapest, though the name doesn’t lie. This CBD hasn’t been heated, cured or filtered, meaning that it’s not been decarboxylated and its CBD, and

, aren’t fully activated. It’s generally very dark ranging from black to dark green with a thick, sticky consistency.

This type of CBD oil will also contain all other cannabinoids and substances in the plant, so it’s important to make sure that it’s non-psychoactive and doesn’t contain more than 0.3 percent THC, if you aren’t looking for those effects and if THC isn’t legal where you live.

Decarboxylated CBD Oil:

Usually when folks want to

, they will buy or make a decarboxylated CBD oil. Decarboxylation is the process of heating cannabis flower until the cannabinoids activate, increasing their effects and ensuring the body can respond when the CBD is consumed orally. 

This means that decarbed CBD should generally have more notable effects, with a quicker onset, than raw CBD oil. It’s generally thick with a similarly dark black or dark green color.

Different glass bottles with CBD OIL, THC tincture and cannabis leaves on yellow background. Flat lay, minimalism. Cosmetics CBD oil.
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Filtered CBD Oil:

If you’ve gotten this far envisioning CBD oil with a gold tone in mind, this is what you’ve been thinking of. Filtered CBD oil generally boasts a gold hue and contains the highest CBD concentration compared to other CBD oil iterations. 

Filtered CBD oil is the result of raw CBD that goes through decarboxylation. From there, it goes through further filtration to eliminate other plant compounds. Though, of course, with potency comes a price, literally — filtered CBD oil generally has the heftiest price tag.

Hemp Oil:

Keep in mind that

. Hemp oil is derived from the seeds, while CBD is derived from plant matter. That’s not to say that hemp seed oil doesn’t come with its own benefits. In fact, many people use it alongside CBD oil to further improve their wellbeing. 

It’s also rich in vitamins and omega fatty acids, though CBD oil tends to have more pronounced effects, specifically when it comes to mood.

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Wrapping Up

What does CBD look like? The answer is… complicated, as you’ve surely witnessed. There are some distinctions in appearance that can help consumers to identify the CBD counterpart of the cannabis plant. However, increasing knowledge around cannabinoids in general and the unique attributes they hold is often one of the best weapons we can carry in our arsenals. 

Keegan Williams

About The Author

Keegan Williams

HIGH THERE MISSION

WE’RE A CREATIVE COMMUNITY — EXPLORING THE SCIENCE, CRAFT, AND CULTURE OF CANNABIS.
WE BELIEVE THAT WE HAVE A COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY TOWARDS ERADICATING THE STIGMA, MISINFORMATION, AND INEQUITIES SURROUNDING THIS PLANT, SO WE CAN UNLOCK ITS TRUE POTENTIAL FOR ALL.

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