CBD Isolate vs Full Spectrum CBD: Which CBD Should I Take?
This article breaks down two common terms used to describe CBD products: full spectrum and CBD isolate. We also briefly touch on a third category, broad spectrum CBD products.
The hemp industry is one of the most exciting and fastest growing in the natural health sector. With laws around the world relaxing on the plant and its commercial uses, we’ve seen some incredible new hemp products come to market.
The most popular of them all at the moment is cannabidiol oil, or more commonly known as CBD oil. With so many new and different CBD oil products available, the choice of which one to go with can be difficult and confusing. With terms like whole plant extract, full spectrum, broad spectrum and isolate. This article will break down the difference between two terms you’ll commonly see, full spectrum CBD oil and CBD oil isolate, in order to help make your decisions easier.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-intoxicating molecule found in the cannabis plant. It is one of many cannabinoids that can be extracted from the cannabis plant but it has become commercially popular beyond the others due to its wide medical applications and accessibility.
As CBD does not give the consumer the famous high that psychoactive cannabis (“marijuana”) is known for, it is more readily available online and in shops. It is usually derived from hemp, the name given to cannabis plants with less than 0.3% THC which are often grown for CBD oil.
What Is Full Spectrum CBD Oil?
The cannabis plant contains hundreds of different phytochemicals including cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds. Full spectrum CBD or hemp oil generally refers to products that not only contain CBD but contain the other plant molecules as well. This version of CBD oil is minimally refined, leaving most of the cannabinoids and terpenes intact and in the oil.
Full spectrum, sometimes also called “whole plant,” means the full plant extract is included. Full spectrum provides more of the plant’s molecules in ratios and amounts that nature intended.
While there is still more research to be done, there are indications that show cannabinoids and terpenes work together to influence each other. This synergistic effect is called the entourage effect and has seen CBD work with THC to reduce the effects of a high and CBD to influence ones own cannabinoid receptors.
What Is CBD Isolate?
Cannabidiol alone has been the subject of a lot of research as it stands out from the rest with what seems to be the widest therapeutic value.
CBD isolate products are generally labeled as being 99 percent or more pure CBD depending on the form they come in. As the name suggests, these products have been isolated down to just the CBD molecule. They have no other active ingredient and just aim to deliver therapeutic doses of CBD, isolated from the other cannabinoids and terpenes.
CBD isolate itself is a white powder, which may be available to consumers. More often, isolates are mixed with a carrier oil to become tinctures, or placed in capsules, edible products like gummies, topical salves, and so on. They’re then used just like a full spectrum hemp extract product.
What is broad spectrum CBD?
Broad spectrum products represent a middle ground between full spectrum and CBD isolate. A true broad spectrum product is high in CBD, contains absolutely 0% THC, but retains some of the other cannabinoids, terpenes, and similar potentially beneficial compounds which an isolate does not.
Hemp undergoes various extraction processes, often CO2 based, to create full spectrum hemp extract. This extract can be further refined into just CBD isolate, or into broad spectrum products. In some cases, commercial broad spectrum products are also created by taking CBD isolate and mixing in small amounts of full spectrum to add the terpenes and additional cannabinoids back.
We always recommend looking at third-party lab results if you want to understand what’s actually in your supplements. Visit brand websites and talk to their customer service representatives to learn more about how their products get made. If they aren’t transparent about their supplements, other brands might be better choices.
Comparing CBD Isolate vs Full Spectrum CBD
CBD and the other cannabinoids have therapeutic benefits to humans thanks to our endocannabinoid system, a series of cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) throughout the entire body. These receptors react to the cannabinoids our bodies produce which are molecularly very similar to the cannabinoids from cannabis and hemp.
Full spectrum CBD oil products have the advantage of containing many different cannabinoids and terpenes and the potential for a wider health reach. A recent study indicated the synergistic effects of a full spectrum CBD oil were superior to an isolate in the effective treatment of inflammatory conditions. Terpenes alone have shown incredible potential for human health and should not be disregarded.
CBD isolates do allow users to easily get large amounts of CBD and know how much they’re getting. With the growing amount of evidence behind CBD and CBD alone it should definitely not be overlooked as a potential for so many conditions such as anxiety, pain, inflammation, diabetes, depression and more.
Some people find the taste of hemp extract unpleasant, which may mean they should try a CBD isolate (or another method of taking CBD such as CBD capsules or gummies). The lack of flavor might also make isolate a better choice for cooking with CBD or mixing into some CBD cocktails. CBD isolate powder can also be an appealing option for making CBD products for personal use, such as homemade CBD massage oil.
Isolates can sometimes be more expensive than full spectrum CBD. Isolates undergo more extensive refinement and require more plant matter in order to get high levels of isolated cannabidiol.
Get To Know Different CBD Products
It’s hard to know which one is best for you without trying them both and see how you react. Different ailments might react differently a full spectrum CBD than to a CBD isolate. We recommend trying a variety of products and assessing how you feel. If you’re finding your condition is not reacting significantly to a full spectrum oil then trying an isolate may be the way to go, and vice versa.
It’s still very early in the days of cannabis research but there is a strong case for the therapeutic benefit of a less refined full spectrum hemp extract with more of the plant compounds intact. There are so many beneficial health possibilities waiting to be unlocked by further studying the combinations of these compounds found in hemp and cannabis.
Remember, it’s not all about the amount of CBD per serving you see on a bottle. A higher CBD product isn’t necessarily superior to a full spectrum oil. Leaving the plants extracts closer to the way nature intended could be a better option for most people.
Kit O’Connell contributed reporting to this article. Updated April 2020.