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    CBD Isolate vs. Full-Spectrum CBD: What’s The Difference?

    5 min

    Researchers first discovered cannabidiol (CBD) in the 1940s. 

    Since then, scientists and CBD users alike became interested in its use cases. 

    Between increased interest and loosened regulations, it’s likely by now that you’ve come across CBD products at your local health shop and you may be left feeling confused about which one is the best option for you.

    In this guide, we’ll look at CBD isolate vs. full-spectrum CBD to help you understand their similarities and differences so that you’ll have a wealth of knowledge to pull from the next time you shop for CBD.

    CBD Isolate vs. Full-Spectrum And Broad-Spectrum CBD

    CBD isolate is one of three primary types of CBD extracts that you can find on the market. These are:

    • CBD Isolates
    • Broad Spectrum CBD
    • Full Spectrum CBD

    The simplest way to distinguish between the three types is that CBD Isolate contains nothing but CBD; broad-spectrum CBD contains some of the naturally occurring compounds from the hemp plant, with the exception of THC; and full-spectrum contains everything found in the hemp plant - including trace amounts of THC.

    CBD isolate often stands out from the full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD varieties because it’s “pure” CBD - but that isn’t necessarily as good as it sounds.

    What Is CBD Isolate?

    CBD isolate is cannabidiol that’s extracted from the Cannabis sativa plant, also known as the “hemp” plant.

    Manufacturers use chromatography, which separates the plant’s different components. Some refer to it as ‘washing’ the cannabis plant, since chemists extract CBD from the plant by injecting liquids or vapour into it to help separate its parts.

    This leaves a crystalline solid that is essentially just pure CBD - removing any other cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, lipids or fats.

    Crystal CBD isolate has fewer uses than the powder more commonly seen, so manufacturers often grind down the crystals to form a CBD isolate powder before packaging it up for retail purposes.

    An essential part of chromatography is removing many cannabinoids, including THC, the cannabinoid compound that can produce psychoactive effects.

    Terpenes are also removed from CBD isolate. By taking out terpenes, manufacturers reduce the strong scent and flavours that commonly accompany other CBD products, which make it easier to add the powder into other things.

    In addition to removing fats and lipids, chromatography is also essential because it removes any remaining pieces of the plant so that you receive a clean, debris-free product.

    What Are The Benefits Of CBD Isolates?

    When comparing CBD isolate vs full-spectrum CBD, there are a few reasons that people prefer CBD isolate. Some of the benefits of CBD isolate include:

    • A neutral taste
    • Absence of THC
    • Fewer issues with drug tests

    Since it has a neutral flavour, you can easily add CBD isolate to food, drinks, and topical / skin products; but whether they are effective is another matter.

    As CBD isolate doesn’t contain any THC, it also reduces the chance of a drug test coming back positive.

    However, there are some drawbacks to using CBD isolate.

    Although “pure CBD" sounds like it's a good thing, that's not necessarily the case.

    Full-spectrum products benefit from a process called the entourage effect, where the different cannabinoids and elements found within the hemp plant work together in unison. In short - it’s well-known that the presence of more than one cannabinoid (as would be found naturally in the plant) leads to a more effective product.

    Removing these compounds, leaving just the CBD, means that the body can't benefit from the potential impact of this effect.

    What Is Full-Spectrum CBD?

    We like to describe full-spectrum CBD as CBD that’s exactly as nature intended.

    It’s manufactured by extracting everything from the hemp plant so that all of the cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids and other compounds are present in the finished product.

    Although full-spectrum products contain THC, these have such small amounts that it isn’t enough to give users the high typically associated with recreational cannabis use. That is, of course, assuming you have sourced your full-spectrum CBD product from a reputable source.

    It's manufactured in a similar way to CBD isolate - by using chromatography, the plant undergoes one or more extractions such as carbon dioxide, lipid, and solvent extraction, as well as steam distillation.

    What Are the Benefits Of Full-Spectrum CBD?

    Since full-spectrum CBD incorporates all parts of the hemp plant, it has greater potency than CBD isolate.

    Although scientists still need to conduct more research, preliminary studies indicate that CBD may be more effective when users are consuming more compounds from the plant.

    This entourage effect, which is where the impact of the combined cannabinoids and compounds is greater than the sum of their parts - the different compounds in the cannabis plant work together in unison to have a greater impact than if they were used in isolation.

    Researchers are still trying to understand more the entourage effect, but some studies have shown promising results.

    What About Broad-Spectrum CBD?

    You might be thinking—what happens if I like the sound of a THC-free CBD isolate and the additional cannabinoids in full-spectrum CBD? Is there a product that contains both features?

    When that’s the case, broad-spectrum CBD is a great compromise.

    Broad-spectrum CBD undergoes the same extraction methods as the other two CBD options we covered here, but the difference is that broad-spectrum is refined until it contains no THC.

    This is a better option than CBD isolate as you’ll still get to enjoy some of the potential benefits of the entourage effect, but still get the assurance that there is no THC that could potentially cause a positive drug test result. However, it’s worth noting that the term “broad spectrum” can have different meanings for each brand. While some use it to refer to the lack of THC, others use it even if only 2 or 3 of the original compounds are present - meaning a full entourage effect is still only possible using a full spectrum product. 

    Which Is Better: CBD Isolate Or Full-Spectrum CBD?

    When comparing CBD isolate vs. full-spectrum, both come with their own pros and cons.

    So, the “best” product comes down to the reasons behind why you’re using CBD, and whether you have any restrictions around the trace levels of THC that may be present in the products you’re using.

    Where possible, we recommend and work with full spectrum products as they take advantage of everything the plant has to offer, and give you everything available, exactly as nature intended - however, there are some instances where CBD isolate is a better option.

    For example, CBD isolate products may be a better fit for you if:

    • Are a drug-tested athlete who wants to choose only zero-THC options
    • You don’t like the strong smell and taste of typical CBD products
    • You’re on a tighter budget

    The bottom line is that both CBD isolate and full-spectrum products allow you to consume CBD safely and legally.

    If this is your first time using CBD and you’re unsure about which product to buy, we always recommend starting with a full-spectrum CBD oil to get the most out of what hemp has to offer.

    If you’re unsure about the taste, as we often find is the case, a water-soluble CBD like our Absorb range can be a good starting point.

    If you are worried about the amount of THC you’re consuming then our CBD patches are a great option as they’re made from CBD isolate, and administer a steady dose of CBD throughout the day.

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