CBD Isolate vs Full-Spectrum CBD - What’s the Difference?

CBD Isolate vs Full-Spectrum CBD - What’s the Difference? - NextEvo Naturals
  • 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

How is CBD Made?
What is CBD Isolate?
  • What are the Benefits of CBD Isolate?
  • What are the Downsides of CBD Isolate?
What is Full-Spectrum CBD?
  • What are the Benefits of Full-Spectrum CBD?
  • What are the Downsides of Full-Spectrum CBD?
What about Broad-Spectrum CBD?
  • What are the Benefits of Broad-Spectrum CBD?
  •  What are the Downsides of Broad-Spectrum CBD?
The Entourage Effect Explained
What are the Types of CBD Products?
How to Choose the Best CBD Isolate & Full Spectrum Products?
  • Exposure
  • Effectiveness via the Entourage Effect
  • CBD Product Quality
Legal Implications
Final Word


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.

Legal Implications

  • 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%).

Final Word

  • 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.