People tend to make a huge discussion out of the whole CBD isolate vs. full spectrum debate, treating it as if it’s some sort of ultra-complex riddle that takes years and years of advanced scientific study to figure out. In reality, though, it’s really not that difficult.
In this article, we’ll talk about what’s exactly meant by the terms “isolate” and “full-spectrum,” and we’ll also discuss which particular products are best suited for which, (You may be surprised to find out what some new research has to say).
What is CBD, first of all, and how is it made?
CBD is simply an active chemical compound, or cannabinoid, that’s found in the cannabis plant. The reason it’s becoming so popular across such a wide audience of people right now though is because unlike the other main compound in cannabis (THC), it doesn’t get you high. There have been thousands upon thousands of studies showing all of the health and well being benefits that CBD has, but “average” people are loving it because it doesn’t produce any mind-altering psychoactive effects.
Also, it’s important to be able to distinguish between the terms “hemp,” “marijuana,” and “cannabis.”
Basically, cannabis is an umbrella term that includes both hemp and marijuana plants. Cannabis sativa is actually the scientific name of the cannabis plant (Cannabis = genus; sativa = species), and hemp and marijuana are just two different “varieties” of it (i.e. you could refer to both marijuana and hemp plants as “cannabis” plants, but you would not, for instance, refer to a “marijuana” plant as a “hemp” plant). Hopefully that’s not too confusing.
The key difference between hemp and marijuana is that hemp contains practically zero THC. In fact, in order to be classified as hemp, a cannabis plant must contain extremely low levels of THC by volume. This is really important because it’s actually the reason why hemp products are legal to buy, sell, and ship. If they don’t get you high, then why would they be illegal?
Also, it’s important to understand that the majority of CBD oils and other CBD products come from hemp. This is why the industry is seeing such a monstrous spike in popularity – anyone can get online and order CBD straight to their doorstep.
If you’re trying to keep track of all this, basically just remember the following:
Marijuana mostly contains both THC and CBD, it gets you high, and, depending on where you live, it is illegal
Hemp contains minor amounts of THC.
Hemp contains other cannabinoids, one of them is CBD
Both hemp and marijuana plants fall under the larger umbrella term of “cannabis” plants
In terms of how CBD is extracted from the cannabis plant, there a few different techniques that can be used. The most popular used to be by running harsh chemicals like butane (lighter fluid) or hexane over the raw plant material, but people quickly found out that this resulted in trace amounts of carcinogenic compounds (like formaldehyde) being left over in the end product. Not good.
While a bunch of manufacturers still use this method (do your research on the products you’re buying), many are now switching over to a method called CO2 extraction, which is much cleaner and believed to be much more healthy.
Also, cold ethanol extraction is supposedly another good method, but the verdict is still out on how much safer this is than actual butane extraction.
In any regard, the exact extraction process determines whether the active CBD compound is removed from the plant as an “isolate,” or as a “full-spectrum” oil.
CBD isolate vs. full-spectrum oil: A general comparison
A CBD isolate is exactly what it sounds like; pure, isolated CBD compound, all by itself. It exists as a white-ish powder, and contains no other active compounds – nothing.
It was initially believed that pure CBD was the “gold standard” of non-psychoactive cannabis therapy, but recently people are figuring out that this is hardly the case.
Full-spectrum oil, on the other hand, contains other active plant compounds in addition to the CBD. This includes other cannabinoids such as CBN, CBL, and CBCVA, as well as aromatic (nice smelling) cannabis terpenes like pinene and limonene.
So other than the presence of cannabis compounds, what’s the difference between full-spectrum CBD oil and CBD isolate? How do you know which one you need?
How to choose between full-spectrum CBD oil and CBD isolate
Like we mentioned a moment ago, it used to be the belief that “pure CBD,” or CBD isolate, packed the most potent punch. And that would make sense too, right? If we know that CBD is primarily the active compound in the plant that provides the relief then wouldn’t it make sense to make a 100% pure powder out of it?
Well not necessarily, as it turns out.
Anyway, the research showed that in mice, CBD was much more effective when used along with other compounds of the cannabis plant, than when it was used by itself. While they haven’t yet figured out why exactly this is the case, it’s now generally accepted that full-spectrum CBD oil is more effective with the majority of people, than CBD isolate.
And if you ask around, you’ll find that the vast majority of frequent CBD users strongly agree with this. In fact, nearly every single CBD user will claim that full-spectrum oil is by far the superior option.
Final notes: CBD isolate vs. full-spectrum oil
For the large majority of average users though, a high quality full spectrum CBD oil will be the better, more efficient option. These concentrated oils have delivered incredible results so far, and have been observed to be effective with many peoples health and well being . And with the inevitable continued research that’s to come, it’s expected that the quality of full-spectrum products will only continue to get better and better.