Full-Spectrum CBD Oil vs. CBD Isolate: What’s the Difference?
For first-time CBD oil shoppers, there will no doubt be a bit of a learning curve in understanding the various “lingo” surrounding the industry. Terms like ‘cannabinoid,’ ‘tincture,’ and endocannabinoid system,’ for example, are all phrases that a potential buyer should be aware of before deciding on one brand or another.
In this article, we discuss one of the most important things to know when perusing your options for a quality CBD product – that is, knowing and understanding the difference between full-spectrum CBD oil and CBD isolate.
First Things First: How is CBD Oil Made?
To be clear, both full-spectrum CBD products and CBD isolate tinctures are initially made from the same raw material. That is, both products come from raw hemp plant material.
CBD is a naturally-occuring compound in hemp plants, and there are a few different ways in which it can be effectively extracted. Low-temperature CO2 extraction is the preferred method nowadays in terms of safety and efficiency, as it allows for the maximum amount of CBD to be “pulled out” from the plant’s flowers, leaves, and stalk, without using any kind of harsh chemical solvents.
In fact, we always advise that unless a CBD product (whether it be full-spectrum or isolate) has been extracted using CO2 methods, you steer clear of it. There are just too many low-quality “manufacturers” in today’s unregulated market to take a chance on consuming an unsafe oil that has chemical residues left over in it.
When you run raw hemp plant material through a CO2 extraction machine, however, what you get is a thick, gooey substance that contains virtually all of the active material in that particular strain of cannabis.
How you process this initial “first extract” ultimately depends on whether you end up with a CBD isolate, or a full-spectrum CBD tincture.
What is Full-Spectrum CBD Oil?
Basically, a “full-spectrum CBD oil” is an oil that includes all of the active compounds in the raw hemp – or cannabis – plant material.
Along with the actual CBD, full-spectrum oils can include compounds such as aromatic terpenes (linalool, pinene, and myrcene for example, just to name a few), flavonoids (natural antioxidants that have been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease, asthma, cancer and stroke), phytonutrients, and essential oils.
They can even contain a host of other cannabinoids (called phytocannabinoids), each of which are believed to possess their own unique health benefits.
Some of these phytocannabinoids (other than CBD) include CBG (cannabigerol / antibacterial agent, inhibits cancer cell growth); CBC (cannabichromene), CBGA (cannabigerolic acid), and CBDA (cannabidiolic acid).
Indeed, in addition to the two “rock stars” THC and CBD, there are believed to be over 100 active phytocannabinoids in cannabis plants. And while the specific function of each one is yet to be determined, it’s speculated that they may influence one another in indirect ways to produce a “synergistic effect” which boosts the overall therapeutic potential of the plant extract (more on this below).
So in short, full-spectrum CBD oil is essentially just CBD oil that contains the complete range of active chemical compounds in the raw plant material – not just the CBD itself.
What is CBD Isolate?
In contrast, CBD isolate oil is exactly what it sounds like it is – an oil that contains nothing at all except the active CBD compound.
Remember, when CBD is first extracted from the hemp plant material, the initial substance is a gooey mixture that contains loads of CBD mixed in with a host of other compounds (as described above).
In order to separate the CBD so that it exists in an isolated state all by itself, further refinement and processing of the initial extract needs to be done. There are currently some manufacturers out there that claim to produce a 100% pure CBD oil tincture.
However, make sure not to confuse “CBD isolate oil” with “CBD isolate powder” (aka CBD crystals).
In its purely natural state, CBD actually exists as a white powder that kind of looks like table salt. Some manufacturers sell this isolate by itself, in which case it is usually labeled as CBD Crystals or CBD Isolate Powder.
CBD isolate oils, on the other hand, are the pure CBD powder that has been infused in a carrier oil – typically MCT oil, coconut oil, or olive oil. In short, a CBD isolate should contain no more than two ingredients: the CBD extract, and the carrier oil.
“Should I Use Full-Spectrum CBD or CBD Isolate?”
So now that you know the difference between full-spectrum CBD oil and CBD isolate, how do you know which one to use?
Well, as we mentioned earlier there have actually been several studies showing that full-spectrum CBD is decently more effective – or “potent” – than CBD isolate.
While the exact reason for this is not exactly clear, scientists believe that when utilized together, the full range of cannabis compounds (i.e. the phytocannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids and phytonutrients that we talked about above) have a “boosting effect” on one another that make the entire plant more powerful (so to speak) than the sum of its parts.
In other words, if you’re just getting into the CBD market and trying to pick out your first oil, you’ll probably be better off going with a full-spectrum tincture.
However, that certainly doesn’t mean CBD isolates don’t have their respective place in the industry. In fact, many CBD users prefer them over full-spectrum products for a variety of reasons.
One of these reasons is that CBD isolate – particularly pure CBD powder – is wonderful to cook with. You can of course add any CBD oil (full-spectrum or otherwise) to food and consume it that way, but when you cook with CBD isolate, the crystals actually infuse into whatever it is that you’re making. This can be a great way to administer your daily CBD dose without having to deal with what some people say is an overly bitter taste of the raw hemp oil.
Another reason some people prefer CBD isolate over full-spectrum CBD is because CBD isolate is 100% THC free.
In case you’re unaware, legal industrial hemp plant material is allowed to contain trace amounts of THC, which is the psychoactive compound in cannabis. By law, however, the entire plant must not contain more than 0.3% THC by weight – a miniscule amount that could never be potent enough to produce any kind of a high.
However, there have apparently been cases of people failing a marijuana drug test (which scans for the presence of THC), after taking full-spectrum CBD oil. If you are routinely tested or otherwise have an upcoming drug test on the horizon, you may want to opt for an isolate product instead of a full-spectrum.
And lastly, many people prefer CBD isolate over full-spectrum CBD because it allows them to measure out exact amounts of the active compound and make their very own “homemade” CBD oil concoctions.
With a quality CBD powder or CBD crystals, you can essentially create whatever kind of therapeutic CBD product you want – including your own oils, topical creams, or edibles.
And of course, with pure CBD isolate you can measure out the exact amount of powder that you want in order to achieve a consistent and reliable dose, rather than trusting or relying on some other brands labeling.