If you’ve used a few different CBD oils, you’ve probably noticed that they can vary dramatically in their color. You can find CBD oil in shades of dark brown, green and gold. Even clear CBD oil exists. The variation has probably led you to wonder: What does CBD oil actually look like? Is it even possible that you’ve bought fake CBD oil at some point?

Here’s the bad news: Identifying fake CBD oil is just about impossible without lab tests. There have been numerous reports of sellers attempting to pass of plain hempseed oil – with no CBD content whatsoever – as CBD oil. That’s why we stock our Pittsburgh CBD shop only with guaranteed authentic products purchased directly from the original manufacturers and authorized distributors.

Now for the good news: A wide variance in the color of CBD oil is completely normal. The different colors of CBD oil come from the ways in which the oil is extracted and processed. Once you gain some experience, you can actually inspect a CBD oil visually and determine – just from its color – whether it’s likely to be a good product for you. Do you prefer a raw or decarboxylated CBD oil? Full spectrum or isolate? Now, you can tell what you’re getting just by looking at it.

So, what color is CBD oil? Let’s learn more.

Dark Green CBD Oil Contains Raw Hemp Extract

If a CBD oil is dark green, it probably contains raw hemp extract that’s mixed with a carrier oil and bottled straight out of the extraction machine. The dark green color comes from the presence of chlorophyll along with plant-based waxes and tiny plant solids. Both ethanol- and CO2-based extraction will produce a dark green extract. Ethanol extraction may produce an extract with a darker green color, though, because the process tends to leave more plant solids in the final extract. It is possible, though, to lighten the color of the extract slightly by filtering out the solids.

Brown CBD Oil Contains Decarboxylated Hemp Extract

As we’ve described elsewhere in this site, CBD decarboxylation is the process of heating hemp – or hemp extract – to remove the carboxyl group from the CBD molecule. Heating removes the carboxyl group from the molecule and releases it as carbon dioxide. In the process, CBDA – which isn’t bioavailable – converts to CBD. Decarboxylation is also necessary to make THC available to the body. That’s why people smoke cannabis rather than eating it raw; smoking instantly decarboxylates the THC and makes it available for the body to use.

The CBDA in raw hemp extract may benefit the body in some ways. That’s why some companies make CBD oil based on raw hemp extract, and we do carry raw CBD oil here at Vapor Connection for those who want it. When you read studies about the potential benefits of CBD, though, the researchers conducting those studies are using CBD – not CBDA. Most people who buy CBD oil, therefore, will want decarboxylated CBD oil.

CBD oil that undergoes no additional filtering or refinement after decarboxylation is brown.

Golden CBD Oil Contains Winterized and/or Filtered Hemp Extract

After decarboxylation, hemp extract often goes through additional filtering and refinement to improve its color, consistency and potency by removing undesirable compounds. The resulting extract loses much of its dark brown pigmentation and takes on a more golden hue.

Winterization is the most common step in the refinement of hemp extract. It’s common because it’s easy to do and because it greatly improves the flavor of the CBD oil. To winterize hemp extract, CBD oil producers mix the extract with alcohol before freezing it. Chlorophyll, waxes and any remaining plant solids clump together and float to the top of the mixture, where they can be skimmed off or filtered away. Removing those compounds prevents a CBD oil from tasting bitter.

Some CBD oil producers also put hemp extract through a fractional distillation process that selectively removes unwanted terpenes and cannabinoids. This process can remove some of a CBD oil’s “hempy” flavor while further concentrating the CBD content and improving the potency of the final product.

Clear CBD Oil Contains CBD Isolate

Fractional distillation involves heating a mixture to the boiling point of a specific compound that you want to remove. That compound evaporates, and what’s left in the original mixture is everything else. You can use fractional distillation to remove unwanted compounds from a hemp extract, or you can use it as a way of isolating and collecting the CBD. Adding a solvent to the isolated CBD causes the CBD to crystalize, and removing the solvent leaves pure, white CBD crystals behind. That’s CBD isolate. CBD isolate is nearly colorless and flavorless, and it makes a clear CBD oil.

What Else Can Affect the Color of CBD Oil?

We’ve made some generalizations about the color of CBD oil in this article, but it’s important for us to note here that there are many more variables at play than just the level of processing that a hemp extract undergoes before being bottled.

  • Color can vary from one batch of CBD oil to the next – even if it’s the same product from the same brand. That’s just the natural variation that you encounter when you’re dealing with a plant product. One harvest can differ from the next, even if you’re using the same cannabis strain and the same growing methods.
  • Winterization and fractional distillation can both remove terpenes from hemp extract. Terpenes have benefits – that’s why they’re used in aromatherapy – and they can also give CBD oil a pleasant smell and flavor. For that reason, many companies add terpenes to their CBD oils when finishing those products for bottling. Some terpenes may alter the color of a CBD oil.
  • Every CBD oil product uses a carrier oil to emulsify the product and dilute the CBD to a consistent strength. The most common carrier is MCT oil from coconuts, which is clear and nearly flavorless. Other companies, however, may use cold-pressed oils such as olive oil or hemp oil. A cold-pressed oil may give CBD oil a green or gold hue.

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