What is CBD Distillate?

The past decade has seen a massive boom in the popularity of cannabis extracts like cannabidiol (CBD). It is part of a group of chemicals called cannabinoids that are produced by the cannabis plant and unlike THC, the cannabinoid that creates cannabis’ infamous high, CBD is not psychoactive and doesn’t make users high. CBD’s main draw is its potent medicinal properties, with tons of people using the extract to treat everything from stress and anxiety to chronic pain and seizures. 

Although CBD can be consumed in numerous ways, CBD distillates have grown increasingly popular among consumers due to their high potency and diverse range of applications. With the right equipment and enough technical know-how, cannabis companies can extract CBD from hemp or cannabis in its purest form, resulting in a viscous, honey-like liquid that is pure CBD and extremely potent. But there’s a lot more to this popular form of CBD, so what exactly is it and how is CBD distillate made? Let’s dive in.

What Is CBD Distillate?

CBD distillate is an extremely potent form of CBD that is extracted from CBD hemp flower and refined until it is stripped of impurities. Although marijuana also produces cannabidiol, most of the CBD on the market is extracted from hemp and usually has minuscule levels of the high-inducing THC (less than 0.3). Consequently, CBD distillate tends to contain up to 80% CBD, a pinch of THC, terpenes, flavonoids, and traces of other cannabinoids such as CBG, CBC, and CBN. 

Distillates are probably the most potent concentrates out there, packing a massive punch in a tiny package. Whether you are using CBD to address a medical problem or just recreationally, a limited dose of CBD distillate can have a powerful effect. Since they have limited THC levels, they are safe for use by people who are required to take regular drug tests by their employers, are sensitive to THC, or just don’t want to get intoxicated. 

However, make sure you do your research and read plenty of reviews to ensure you buy CBD distillate products of high quality. This way, you can avoid products that may be contaminated with THC, which can build up in your system and cause you to fail a drug test or contain other harmful impurities like pesticides or toxic solvents. 

History of Distillation

Now that we know a little about CBD distillates, let’s talk about distillation, the process that gave us these potent and versatile products. While cannabis distillates like CBD and THC are relatively new to the market, distillation has been around for much longer. Besides crystallization, distillation is one of the oldest and most commonly used separation and purification methods. At its simplest, it is the selective separation of compounds from a liquid by heating it to specific boiling points, causing the compounds to boil, condensate and collect in separate containers. 

The process, albeit with limited technology, can be traced all the way back to the Babylonian alchemists, more than 5,000 years ago. It was initially used to distill alcohol, with Arabic alchemist Aby Musa Jabir ibn Hayyan designing an alembic pot still that could effectively distill alcohol back in 8th Century AD. He and fellow alchemists who refined the practice over the 8th and 9th century were men of science and they mainly used the alcohol for ritual or medicine. 

Over the 17th and 18th centuries, medieval alchemists further refined the technology. An alchemist called Avicenna built a coiled cooling tube that made pot distilling much more efficient, but one drawback was that the pot constantly had to be cleaned after being used, preventing continuous distillation. Things kicked into high gear during the 19th century when a variety of different scientists, engineers, and businessmen, including Scotsman Robert Stein and Irishman Aeneas Goffey, contributed to the development of the ‘column still,’ which finally eliminated the need for constant cleaning, allowed continuous distillation and lowered costs. 

How to Use CBD Distillate

Folks love CBD distillate due to its versatility. It has much more potential applications than most forms of cannabis, allowing users to enjoy it in a variety of ways. Let’s look at some of the different ways you can use CBD distillates:

  • Vaping - It is one of the most common ways people use concentrates like distillate CBD. A vape pen is used to generate an odorless, tasteless vapor that is then inhaled. Due to the higher bioavailability of direct inhalation, the effects kick in pretty much immediately. However, the effects don’t last long. 
  • Dabbing - Similar to vaping, dabbing allows users to inhale vapor generated from CBD distillate. A dap rig is used to vaporize the CBD and just like vaping, the effects kick in very quickly but they don’t last long. 
  • Edibles - If you don’t want to vape or dab your CBD distillate, then edibles are the way to go. The potent concentrate can be infused into a wide variety of foods and confectionaries and since it is practically tasteless and odorless, your food won’t smell or taste like cannabis. The effects will take around thirty minutes to an hour but once they do, they peak after 2-3 hours and can last 7-12 hours. 
  • Topicals and beauty products - CBD has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that can reduce acne breakouts, prevent the premature development of wrinkles, and soothe the skin. They can also help alleviate chronic pain and muscle soreness caused by inflammation. You can add CBD distillate to coconut oil to make your own CBD-infused topicals or you can buy a CBD distillate topical product from a retailer.

Having some trouble deciding how to use CBD distillate? Think about what you want to use it for and how long you want the effects to last. Vaping and topical applications can provide quick relief to pain or anxiety, but edibles can provide up to 12 hours of relief. Or ideally, you can try a little of each to see how you react and which of them you prefer. 

How is CBD Distillate Produced?

Cannabidiol has to go through a multi-step process before it becomes the pure distillate we all know and love. Most of these processes require expensive equipment and tons of technical knowledge, so you probably won’t be able to produce CBD distillate on your own at home. So exactly how is CBD distillate made?

Crude Extraction

The very first step involves extracting cannabidiol from CBD hemp flower. There are several ways to do this, including supercritical CO2 extraction, ethanol extraction, hydrocarbon extraction, and lipid extraction. At their core, all these extraction methods involve passing a solvent through dried plant material to separate out the active compounds, resulting in an oil that’s referred to as a crude extract. CO2 extraction is undoubtedly the most popular extraction method as it usually results in CBD-rich extracts. 


Once the extraction process is complete, what remains is a crude extract that contains CBD, a little THC, flavonoids, organic terpenes and impurities like lipids, fats and waxes. These impurities are filtered out of the crude extract through a process called winterization. If they aren’t removed, these impurities will give the finished product a cloudy, darker color as well as an unpleasant taste. 200 proof alcohol or ethanol is added to the crude extract and the mixture is stirred until the two have completely mixed. 

The crude extract-ethanol mixture is then put in a laboratory-grade freezer at below-zero temperatures for 24-48 hours, causing the waxes and fats to coagulate and separate from the mixture. The hardened impurities are then filtered out of the mixture via vessels that employ paper filters, leaving the CBD-ethanol mixture. A final process called rotary evaporation is used to evaporate the ethanol, leaving only the CBD, terpenes and traces of other cannabinoids. 


Once the lab technicians are done with winterization, they are left with a relatively impurity-free mixture of CBD, terpenes and minor cannabinoids. However, the cannabinoids, including CBD, are inactive in this form and they cannot create the desired effects when ingested or applied topically. Most cannabinoids are present in the hemp plant as acidic versions of themselves, with CBD starting out as CBD-A and THC as THC-A. They have to go through decarboxylation, which involves heating the mixture to a specific temperature, to become active. 


Now that the CBD has been activated, it’s time for the distillation process. As we said, it is a highly technical procedure that involves vacuums, heat and evaporation, uses costly equipment and requires an adequate level of technical knowledge. Since each cannabinoid has a different boiling point, precisely heating the mixture to different temperatures allows you to extract CBD. 

Most firms use either a short path steam distillation chamber or a fractional distillation chamber, passing the cannabinoid mixture several times through the chamber until the CBD is in a pure, isolated form. The final result is a thick, gold-colored liquid that’s 80% CBD and 20% organic terpenes, a little THC and traces of minor cannabinoids. 

THC Remediation

This final step depends on whether or not you want the final product to be completely THC free. Most firms use a method called reverse-phase flash chromatography which uses silica-filled columns to fractionate any traces of THC out of the distillate. 

Types of CBD Distillate

Before you hit the road in search of CBD distillate for sale, acquaint yourself with the two different types of CBD distillate;

Full Spectrum

Full spectrum CBD distillate is probably the most popular type of CBD distillate among both CBD brands and consumers. Like full spectrum CBD, it contains the hemp plant’s entire cannabinoid profile, including minimal THC, as well as flavonoids and terpenes. Some experts have posited that when all these cannabinoids and terpenes are together, they act in synergy to create unique effects and benefits that otherwise wouldn’t have occurred if they were absent. 

Due to the presence of plant matter like wax and chlorophyll, full spectrum CBD distillate may sometimes have an ‘earthy’ taste. However, if your employer requires you to take drug tests, don’t go looking for full spectrum CBD distillate for sale just yet. Although it contains only trace amounts of THC, it can slowly build up in your system, causing you to fail your drug test and in a worst case scenario, lose your job.

Broad Spectrum

Broad spectrum CBD distillate has gone through THC remediation and is completely stripped of all traces of the psychoactive cannabinoid. If you are sensitive to THC, are on medication that may interact with it or are subject to drug tests, then you can skip the full spectrum CBD distillate isle and get yourself a broad spectrum product. You may miss out on the entourage effect but at the end of the day, your risk of THC contamination will be zero. 

Summing it up…

There you have it folks! Everything you need to know about one of the most popular forms of CBD. Now you have a pretty good idea of what is CBD distillate, how it’s made and the different types of CBD distillate in the market. Make sure you do your due diligence before you buy CBD distillate to ensure you get a high quality product. Most importantly, talk to your doctor before you start using CBD distillate, especially if you are pregnant, nursing or are on some other medication.

CBD distillate is often used to make CBD tinctures. Over at Wellicy, they have a lot of great CBD-related deals.

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