What Determines CBD Oil’s Color & How They Vary

Why do different CBD oils vary in color? 

This is a question many have wondered. 

CBD oil color not only differs between two brands but also among two products of the same brand. 

While the color of a CBD oil product is not necessarily an indicator of its quality, it’s still quite informative. It tells users quite a bit about the product, like…

  • Where was it sourced from? 
  • How was it extracted? 
  • How was it filtered and processed? 
  • What kind of extract is being used in the product? 
  • Even the presence of carrier oils and additives play a role in the final color of a CBD oil product 

So before we get into the different kinds of colors that we may find CBD oils in, we need to understand these factors and how they differentiate each CBD oil product from another. 

Cannabis Cultivation Matters: You Reap What You Sow

Where the cannabis is sourced from, i.e. the country and county it is cultivated in, what kind of soil the plants are grown in, which kind of strain is used matter. These determine the purity and overall content of the finished product, and, as a result, it’s color. 

Like most phytoremediation plants, like rubber, aloe, mustard, and dates, cannabis plants soak in the toxins from the soil. While this property improves the quality of the soil for better harvest going forward, the soil itself gets laden with all the bad stuff, like pesticides, heavy metals, etc. The presence of these elements makes the hemp impure and hence requires more layers of purification in the manufacturing process. 

If the soil is already of good quality and the farm located far from the industrial areas, the yield would be better and purer, making them look different from those made close to industrial areas, as the latter would contain all the contaminants. In other words, cleaner soil and better-growing conditions make for better-finished products.

Moreover, different strains of cannabis have different terpene content. Apart from determining the different therapeutic values, terpenes also determine the color of the CBD oil. 

CBD Extraction Process Matters: Making The Most Of Science

As far as the extraction process is concerned, two factors determine the color of the end product. They are… 

#1 The method employed to extract CBD oil: The extraction method utilized also determines the color, besides deciding their effects and efficacy. 

    • Distilled Method: The distilled method renders maximum purity, with 95% or higher levels of cannabinoid-content.  It completely removes the plant’s chlorophyll content, thus removing the green color, its grassy flavor, and making it look almost clear golden color. However, these are still rich in cannabinoids.
    • CO2 Extraction: The most popular and mostly used by big companies making products on a mass scale, CO2 extraction method rendering an amber or yellowish-orange color to the extract. This process does not remove plant waxes, fats, and cannabinoids, but almost negligible chlorophyll. Usually extracts derived through this method are considered top-shelf products of superior quality and purity. No harmful chemical solvents are left behind. 
    • RSO Method: The RSO method is aimed at preserving a small amount of the fats and waxes, along with the chlorophyll. Some brands use this method, giving their CBD oils high potency level (90%) and a very dark color. On the flip side, this method uses isopropyl alcohol, ethanol, or other such solvents that when left behind can be harmful to one’s health.
    • Solvent-based extraction (Butane or Hexane): The use of butane or hexane gives the end product a remarkably clear, honey-colored look, with high levels of THC or CBD. Butane is used to make butane hash oil (BHO) or shatter, which is although still a popular variant is avoided by many. The color gives the wrong notion that this variant is purer. Besides, this method also ensures high cannabinoid concentrate ratios. However, the fact remains that butane and hexane are both highly flammable substances. So the manufacturers are forced to keep the temperature low during the extraction process. This means that a certain amount of the solvent residue will remain in the shatter. 



#2 The type of spectrum of extract: Extracts are of three types – Full spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolates. 

  • CBD isolate crystals are white and powdery. When mixed with a carrier oil, it dissolves and assumes the color of the carrier oil (if any). 
  • Broad-spectrum (zero THC) oils are generally golden, golden brown or even clear white, depending on the type of filtration processes they have been subjected to. 
  • Full-spectrum concentrates are, however, dark green or brown. Their manufacturing process is designed to retain a lot of the original plant extracts to ensure all cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and fats are present in the same ratios as in the natural form. To ensure that the process can’t subject the extract to processes that can remove the chlorophyll completely. These extracts are also more hempy to the taste. Higher the concentration of the extract, the darker will be the color. They range from golden brown to dark brown. 

Filtration & Processing Matter Too!

Depending on the number of layers of the filtration process or the lack thereof, the color of CBD oil will vary. This also means that their components will also vary slightly. Generally speaking, there are three variants of CBD oils depending on the layers of processing. 

  1. Raw CBD oil: Like raw honey, raw CBD oil is extracted but not subjected to any further filtration processing to remove chlorophyll and other phytochemicals. It, thus, has a dark greenish color and is viscous in texture. It is also rich in CBDA and THCA (the inactive forms of CBD and THC). These compounds, along with terpenes and fatty acids, enhance the therapeutic benefits of the other cannabinoids, offering the much-hyped “entourage effect”. This is why many people prefer this variant. This variant is good for mild anxiety and insomnia, as it has all the benefits of the entire hemp plant and not just cannabidiol. However, if this form of the extract is derived through the solvent extraction method and not put through additional filtration processes, the solvents will remain in the oil, thus rendering them harmful for your health. So, if you prefer this variant, make sure the extraction method is not solvent-based.
  2. Decarboxylated CBD oil: With time and/or heat, the THCA and CBDA both attain their active form. This process improves the potency and efficacy of the cannabinoids and, thus, enhances the overall effect of the cannabinoids, as long as they are all present in the end product. This increases the CBD concentration and also acts on the body faster than raw oils, as it is easier for your body to absorb the active forms of the cannabinoids. This activation process is known as decarboxylation. However, after undergoing this process the finished product still retains a high level of phytonutrients. This is why this extract also retains the dark greenish-brown or dark brown hue. Decarboxylated CBD oils are excellent choices for people with severe cases of anxiety, arthritis, migraines, and insomnia.
  3. Filtered and/or Distilled CBD oil: Additional filtering, after decarboxylation, removes all plant materials, like chlorophyll and phytochemicals, including most terpenes, fatty acids, and other phytocannabinoids, leaving the extract with a high concentration of CBD and low concentration of terpenes and other cannabinoids. The resultant product is light golden to golden in color. Such filtered and distilled CBD oils carry a very high price tag as they are extremely versatile and easy to consume both sublingually and in cold beverages.

About Carrier oils & Additives

Different carrier oils render the end product with different colors. Besides, additives like terpenes also add some color to the CBD oil in some cases. Each carrier oil and additive has its own therapeutic advantages too! 

Carrier oils: Almost all CBD oils are manufactured by diluting the CBD extract in a carrier oil. These are a necessary ingredient of CBD oil drops, used sublingually and for edibles, as well as of CBD topicals. The carrier oil, which is usually lipid-based, is added to enable fast absorption into the body. Naturally, the type and color of carrier oil used to make the CBD oil will affect the color of the end product. 

  • Hemp Seed Oil: This oil is one of the most favored options in carrier oils for making CBD oils since it’s a natural component of cannabis plants. This offers a whole-plant experience. Hemp seed oil is golden colored with a hint of green. 
  • Olive Oil: Olives produce is a very thick and fatty oil. Although fatty oils help in easy absorption in the system, it is not the case with olive oil, as its fat molecules are too large. Besides, it is also difficult to measure the exact doses. Olive oil gives the extract a golden color. 
  • Coconut Oil: Coconut oil makes for a fantastic carrier oil for CBD as it has little or no flavor, is colorless, and allows for easy absorption, as it’s rich in saturated fats, particularly medium-chain triglycerides (MCT). Compared to other carrier oils, it is very thin, and, so, easy to measure. Besides, the oil is a natural antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial substance, which makes it a good addition to CBD oil that people take for pain, allergies, and inflammation.
  • Avocado Oil: Avocado oil isn’t usually used for CBD drops. However, it is a good addition to CBD topicals. Since avocado oil is naturally emerald green in color, the CBD product may end up having a greenish tint.
  • Grape Seed Oil: This is the least preferred carrier oil for making CBD oils, or any other CBD product for that matter, as grape seed oil has a thin consistency and comprises of polyunsaturated fats. Nonetheless, some brands that do use it would tell you that it is responsible for the yellowish-green hue of their CBD oils, even if they are made from CBD isolates. 

Of all the carrier oils, the two best and most suitable ones for CBD oils are hemp seed and coconut oils.

Additives: Other ingredients, like natural or artificial flavorings or colorings, are used to make the product more user-friendly. While natural flavors, created with terpenes, add actual value to the product, artificial colors or flavors are just that – colors and flavors. 

But, even natural terpenes render some color to the product. For instance, chocolate-flavored CBD drops may have a darker shade of brown, while blood orange flavoring can offer an orangish hue to the CBD oil. If such terpenes are added to full-spectrum CBD oil, the end product may look almost black.

The Different Shades of CBD

Now that you know all the deciding factors of CBD oil’s colors, let’s delve into the different shades of CBD oil and what they mean. 

  • Dark Greenish Brown & Translucent: The raw extract or full-spectrum extract; may have been subjected to RSO method of extraction. 
  • Brown & Slightly Transparent: Decarboxylated, but not distilled, usually a full-spectrum oil. Even if it has been extracted with the help of the CO2 method, it may have this shade. 
  • Golden Brown or Amber & Transparent: Extracted with the help of CO2, maybe broad-spectrum, or even full-spectrum, depending on how well it has been filtered.  
  • Light Golden & Quite Clear: Extracted via CO2 method, Decarboxylated, distilled and filtered. Usually a broad spectrum. It may sometimes be CBD isolates or full-spectrum too, depending on other factors, like carrier oils in the first case and several layers of processing in the latter case. 
  • Colorless & Clear: Isolates, usually; butane extraction method also renders this color as well. 

Does Clear CBD Oil Signify Purity?

So you must have understood by now that transparency and color are not always identifiers of purity. And clear white CBD oil isn’t the purest and most effective form of CBD oil either. 

In fact, the clearer the end product, the farther it is from its natural state. Cannabis plants have many naturally beneficial properties, most of which are stripped off as we go about the different levels of processing. 

A thick, greenish oil does not signify a poor quality product. It only tells you that it still contains chlorophyll and other phytochemicals. This means that chances are that the terpenes and other phytocannabinoids are also present in their natural proportion – which is a good thing! 

While CBD isolates may be slow on the take, they are as effective in the long run, without the fear of failing on a drug test. However, if you’re looking at a clear CBD oil that has been extracted with the help of butane, then there are chances the solvents residue still remain in the product – which is a bad thing! 

So, before you buy a CBD product next time, don’t judge them by their color with the notion that all darker shades are bad and all lighter shades are good. Know the facts, and then decide. 

Besides, another important aspect to look out for the fakes! There are quite a large number of them out there!

Spotting the Fakes!

In January 2018, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had said that 52 people had fallen ill in Utah after consuming synthetic products falsely labeled as CBD oil [1]

So you need to be wary about the existence of fake CBD oils, how to detect them and what signs to look for. 

There are also several other considerations to take note of before buying CBD Oil online, like knowing the brand better, understanding what goes into the making of CBD oils, and why they are so expensive

But the obvious signs of fakes are: 

  • Low Price 
  • Lack of information regarding the extraction method
  • Strange colorations, like bright reds or bright orange, blue, pink, etc. Real CBD oils’ colors may range from greenish, dark brown, golden brown, amber, golden, or clear white. 
  • Homemade concoctions, unless you made it personally
  • Claims to be cure-all agent
  • A clear absence of third-party lab test reports

If you want to benefit from CBD oil, you must

  1. Buy from only the reputed and established brands. 
  2. Take time to study the market. 
  3. Study the brands
  4. Study the different kinds of products and their uses. 
  5. Take time to understand what the labels say. Look up those terms on the internet to understand what they mean.
  6. Understand what goes into the making of CBD oil. 
  7. Look up the CoAs (third–party lab reports) and look for any contaminants and look up their cannabinoid profile. They are quite simple to read and understand. 

All this is necessary since CBD is still not approved by the FDA, despite the legalization of hemp across all states of the USA. 

Color’s only an indication. The Choice is yours alone

At the end of the day, it is about your personal taste and choosing the type of product that is right for you – whether it is a full-spectrum oil of CBD isolate, whether it is simply Decarboxylated or distilled too, whether you want a coconut oil-based CBD oil or a hemp seed oil-based product. 

No matter what, though, the best extraction method in the market today is the one involving CO2. However, it is entirely up to you. You must know that the CO2 method may leave out quite a lot of the natural terpenes and fatty acids if the type of CO2 extraction method involved is supercritical and not subcritical, owing to the high temperatures involved.  

Then again, it also depends on what kind of flavor you like. But, always go for natural flavorings. If the brand has used natural terpenes in its products, it would proudly mention that on their label.  

However, if you are looking for a bit of the entourage effect, you should go for full-spectrum raw CBD oils. However, be careful if you have to undergo drug tests often. Also, not everyone can go through full-spectrum CBD oil treatment without experiencing a few mild side effects, like diarrhea and lethargy. When it comes to CBD oil, there is no specific one size fits all or one rule applies to all. Different people react to CBD in different ways. 

The bottom line: The color can tell you some things, but not everything! You still need to dig deeper to gauge a CBD oil product. And even after you’ve checked all considerations, and even looked up user reviews, you can’t be sure about how you’d react to a certain CBD oil product. It differs from person to person. 

With CBD, there are two rules: 

  • Trial and error
  • Start low & go slow

Once you find your CBD sweet spot, you can and should continue with it. It’s best to stick to the one product that you’ve found best suited for you than going shuffling through different products just for fun. This only makes CBD dosing difficult! 



Fake CBD Oil Sickens 52 People in Utah; https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=212647

Author Details
Senior Editor & Researcher , Greenthevoteok
Matt Hansel is a Medical Practitioner, who has been writing and researching about cannabis since 2014.  His popular quotes which we like are: \"Don\'t use CBD oil for a cure, use it as a precaution\"  \"CBD should be considered as any other vitamin supplement and your body needs it!\"