- The CBD industry is one of the most exciting and fastest growing in the natural health sector.
- Because of the various potential health benefits that CBD can offer, CBD products of all kinds have flooded the market.
- There are so many new and different CBD products available, with terminology like whole plant extract, full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and CBD isolate labelled on them, it can be difficult to choose which one is right for your needs.
- This guide will break down the differences between the two common categories used to describe CBD products: CBD Isolate and Full-Spectrum CBD, in order to make your decisions easier.
- We will also briefly touch on a third category, Broad-Spectrum CBD products.
In This Article
- What are the Benefits of CBD Isolate?
- What are the Downsides of CBD Isolate?
- What are the Benefits of Full-Spectrum CBD?
- What are the Downsides of Full-Spectrum CBD?
- What are the Benefits of Broad-Spectrum CBD?
- What are the Downsides of Broad-Spectrum CBD?
- Effectiveness via the Entourage Effect
- CBD Product Quality
How is CBD Made?
- Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychoactive molecule 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 applications and accessibility.
- CBD and the other cannabinoids have benefits to humans thanks to our endocannabinoid system, a series of cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2) throughout the entire body.
- CBD putatively stimulates the body's innate wellness capacities by signaling the endocannabinoid system (ECS) to produce more endogenous cannabinoids and modulating specific ECS receptors.
- The ECS controls a wide range of biological functions, such as memory, cognitive performance, pain perception, stress management, mood regulation, and immune response on top of many others.
- These receptors react to the cannabinoids our bodies produce which are molecularly very similar to the plant compounds from cannabis and hemp.
- Cannabidiol alone has been the subject of a lot of research as it stands out from the rest with what seems to be the best for health.
- The marijuana plant and the hemp plant belong to the same plant species.
- As CBD does not give the consumer the psychoactive effects cannabis is known for, it is more readily available online and in shops.
- CBD products are made by extracting the compound from the flowering portion of the hemp plant.
- This crude extract contains cannabinoids, terpenes, fatty acids, and other plant materials.
- The processing performed on a cannabis extract removes various components from the crude extract along the way.
- Some processes remove some generally unwanted components like chlorophyll from an extract, while others remove more significant cannabis compounds like terpenes and cannabinoids (such as THC).
- The CBD extraction process is no different for each of these products, which usually involves:
- Carbon dioxide extraction
- Steam distillation
- Solvent extraction
- Lipid extraction
- CBD isolate is even a more refined product and goes through extra processing to remove additional impurities and seemingly non-beneficial components of the hemp plant
- There is mounting research being focused on the benefits of CBD in various health applications
What is CBD Isolate?
- CBD isolate products are generally labeled as being 99% or more pure CBD depending on the final product formulations.
- As the name suggests, these products have been isolated down to just the CBD molecule.
- All other cannabinoids are removed. They have no other dietary ingredient and just aim to deliver sufficient doses of CBD, isolated from the other cannabinoids and terpenes.
- "Pure CBD" is typically synonymous with CBD isolate and refers to products with a 99% near-zero THC content or other phytocannabinoids.
- They are the purest form of CBD.
- This is the best process for isolating cannabidiol and eliminating THC/minor cannabinoids found in hemp
CBD isolate itself is a white powder, which may be available to consumers. Typically made via supercritical CO2 extraction of organic hemp flowers/leaves/stalks
- The resulting CBD Isolate powder, which is lipid-soluble, is more often mixed with a carrier oil to become tinctures, or placed in capsules, edible products like gummies, topical salves, and so on.
- Isolate is one of the least absorbed product forms unless it is formulated in a way to increase bio-availability
What are the Benefits of CBD Isolate?
- CBD isolate is the most studies form of CBD
- CBD isolate is suggested to have a myriad of benefits
- Supports stress response Balancing stress
- Supporting immune function
- Promoting better sleep for occasional sleeplessness
- Some people find the taste of hemp extract unpleasant, which may mean they should try a CBD isolate
- Not only does CBD isolate work well in food or drinks, the odorless and flavorless compound might also make CBD 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.
- It is ultimately the safest way for types of CBD users to consume CBD if you don’t want to worry about consuming THC.
- Highly versatile
What are the Downsides of CBD Isolate?
- CBD isolate is very poorly absorbed (about 1%-2%) by humans with very low bioavailability unless it is specially formulated
- CBD Isolates can sometimes be more expensive than full-spectrum CBD.
What is Full-Spectrum CBD?
- Full-spectrum CBD generally refers to products that not only contain CBD but contain other plant compounds as well.
- Full-spectrum, sometimes also called “whole plant,” means the full plant extract is included.
- This version of CBD is also refined like CBD isolate with one less step, leaving most of the cannabinoids and terpenes intact.
- Full-spectrum CBD includes several other compounds found in the hemp plant, including terpenes, flavonoids, as well as very low levels of other cannabinoids (CBN, CBG, and CBC are examples)
- As such, full-spectrum CBD contains a level of THC, currently restricted to less than 0.3% for sale in the U.S.
What are the Benefits of Full-Spectrum CBD?
- Even though full-spectrum CBD tends to contain below 3% THC, this is not normally enough of the chemical compound necessary to have psychoactive effects.
- While full-spectrum products can contain CBC, CBDV, CBG cannabinoids they are usually at such low levels it is unlikely they will produce any additional benefits.
- The potential benefits are the same for full-spectrum and isolate based products
- Support Joint health
- Muscle soreness and recovery post exercise
- Support Stress response
- One 2018 study found that certain CBD compounds may also have neuroprotective effects.
- CBN is another cannabinoid that can potentially support calm within the body, although the amount would be higher than found in most full-spectrum products
- Research is somewhat unclear with no evidence that CBD’s health benefits may be more prominent when multiple compounds from the hemp plant are present.
What are the Downsides of Full-Spectrum CBD?
- Manufacturing quality is important as many products have THC content higher than their stated label amounts
- May show up on a drug screening
- THC content may cause problems with local laws and regulations
Because terpenes and flavonoids are present, the smell and taste of the plant are usually noticeable.
What about Broad-Spectrum CBD?
- There is another type of CBD that lies between full-spectrum CBD and CBD isolate - Broad-spectrum CBD
- Broad spectrum products are loosely defined; they can either contain CBD isolate plus other cannabinoids or be produced by using full-spectrum and removing the THC component
What are the Benefits of Broad-Spectrum CBD?
- Offers the full benefits of CBD
- Likely less risk of psychoactive effects if using cannabinoid isolates
What are the Downsides of Broad-Spectrum CBD?
- Less researched
- The broad spectrum component is usually added at very low or trace amounts
- Less available than full-spectrum or CBD isolates
- May carry a strong, natural hemp flavor
The Entourage Effect Explained
- The “entourage effect” theory suggests that taking CBD and THC together, along with terpenes, may be more effective than taking either cannabinoid alone.
- The “entourage effect” is considered a theory because there is no well-defined study that shows its relevance; CBD is the most studied cannabinoid with many studies using isolate. THC has been studied with various concentrations with CBD but the studies are not conclusive on the combined effect.
- The relationship between cannabinoid and terpenes is not well understood, terpenes typically give hemp its flavor and odor characteristics
- CBD has shown to have interaction with THC to reduce the effects of psychoactive effects.
What are the Types of CBD Products?
- CBD products come in many forms, including edibles, gummies, powder, oil CBD tinctures, capsules, as well as in topical creams, balms, skin patches, and vape products.
- Read more about the most effective forms of taking CBD here.
How to Choose the Best CBD Isolate & Full Spectrum Products?
- The main factor in determining which type of CBD product should be used is its level of absorption by the body. Most full-spectrum and isolate products are poorly absorbed by the body due to their being lipophilic substances.
- You may want to avoid Full-spectrum products due to the THC content, especially if you are older, concerned about drug tests or sensitive to its effects.
- These are some primary considerations to make when choosing a CBD isolate or full-spectrum CBD product.
- Consider if you’re able or want to consume THC.
- In general, there are several groups of people that want to avoid THC:
- Those who don’t want to consume THC - This can be due to political, religious, personal, or other views.
- For a handful of people, even trace amounts of THC can cause grogginess or other unwanted side effects.
- Those who are drug tested for THC - This includes workplace screening and others who are screened professionally for marijuana.
- Many CBD users are concerned that THC will show up on a drug test, which may be required by their employer.
- These tests typically look for the presence of THC. Even though full-spectrum contains at most a trace amount of THC, there are reports of positive drug tests from full-spectrum CBD products.
- Choosing a THC-free alternative is always recommended.
Effectiveness via the Entourage Effect
- There isn’t sufficient evidence to demonstrate any entourage effect from full-spectrum CBD versus isolate CBD. The primary focus has been various levels of CBD and its effect on different benefit areas.
CBD Product Quality
- The most important thing to remember when shopping for CBD of any kind is quality and dosage to ensure the highest level of support one might experience.
- The key to dosage is first looking for products that have proven absorption as they tend to be several times more effective than regular or oil-based products.
- A quality product is one that is highly absorbed and carefully formulated to ensure the product delivers the amount described on the label.
- As mentioned above the there is no strong evidence suggesting a difference between full-spectrum and isolate products.
- Some CBD packaging only identifies products as ‘THC-free’ with some inferior quality products being mis-labelled entirely containing too little or too much CBD or THC in the products.
- You should always verify the cannabinoid and other contents via third-party lab reports. These COA’s confirm the hemp contents before the product is manufactured in its finished form. It will not guarantee the amount indicated on the label is accurate.
- Look to the labs and ingredients lists for verification on your product contents.
- Each product should be made by a company that discloses the source of their hemp.
- It contains no more than 0.3% THC, according to the certificate of analysis (COA)
- Passes tests for pesticides, heavy metals, and molds, according to the COA
- If the company doesn’t provide labs, or you can’t easily verify the cannabinoid and terpene content, we suggest you look elsewhere.
- It’s essential to ensure you know what is in the products you choose and providing these lab reports is expected of quality CBD brands today.
- You should also look for indicators of user trust and brand reputation, such as customer reviews.
- Whether the company has been subject to a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warning letter.
- Whether the company makes any unsupported health claims.
- Federal law requires that CBD products must be extracted from hemp instead of marijuana. Hemp plants, by definition, contain less than 0.3 percent THC.
- If you live in a state where cannabis is heavily regulated, CBD isolate might be a preferred version of cannabis to use.
- There have been reports of CBD products containing higher THC content than what is legal (i.e., >0.3%).
- The “best” way to take CBD is to start with one using pure CBD carefully formulated with proven absorption data to ensure you get a consistent experience each time you use it.
- Given high variability between users, you may need to experiment with a dose that works best for you – it is recommended you try the start low and go slow approach. You can adjust your dose over several days to find what works best for you.
- The most researched cannabinoid is CBD in isolate form.
- Don’t buy into the full-spectrum hype, there is no definitive studies confirming that approach. The other components are usually only present in trace amounts.
- People should always carefully read labels before buying them and discuss using CBD with a doctor or healthcare provider.