Full spectrum v isolate CBD – which is better and why?

June 28, 2021

What is full spectrum CBD and how is it different from an isolate?  There are many options of CBD to choose from, but how do you know which to choose?  Today’s blog post answers these questions and more!  It’s time to take a closer look at cannabidiol and see which form is the best.

There is a lot to know about CBD, but one of the important pieces of information is about the types of cannabidiol available on the market.  CBD comes in three different forms: full spectrum, broad spectrum, and isolate.

  • Full Spectrum: CBD that is labelled as full spectrum is a form utilizing the full cannabis plant.
  • Broad Spectrum: When labelled as broad spectrum CBD, the formula uses the full cannabis plant, but has less THC in the final product.  It is ideal for those that are highly sensitive to THC or who wish to cut out this component of the cannabis plant.
  • Isolate: An isolate is the purest form of CBD as it only contains cannabidiol and no other parts of the cannabis plant.

Today it’s time to explore the difference between two of these substances that are popular on the market, and to examine what the differences are and which version of CBD is the best.  How exactly do full spectrum and isolate products compare?

What’s the Difference Between Full Spectrum and Isolate CBD?

As mentioned, the difference between full spectrum and isolate CBD is the compounds found within the final product.  While full spectrum draws on the full cannabis plant, an isolate only contains pure cannabidiol.

Both forms are most often created through a similar process, first undergoing a step called decarboxylation which allows the different acids from the plant to transform into their active forms when heated.  This is when CBDA becomes the well known CBD that is processed by the human body’s endocannabinoid system and that makes the compound offer so many potential therapeutic uses.  In some instances, decarb is skipped as there is research showing that the phytocannabinoids pose useful properties of their own, however the majority of CBD on the market has been decarboxylated.

The raw cannabis plant then goes through an extraction process.  This can be done by using a variety of methods including steam distillation, supercritical CO2, lipid extraction, or the use of solvents.  In doing so, an extract containing all the important compounds is produced.

Isolate CBD then has one final stage.  The extract is distilled, a process that removes all other organic materials from the substance and so only cannabidiol remains.  This extract is then mixed with a solvent and heated to crystallize the material, similar to the way sugars are caramelized when creating candy.  After further purification to ensure no solvents remain, the final steps result in a solid isolate form that may be used as needed.

Along with the additional requirements in creating these two forms of cannabidiol, there are many differences between full spectrum and isolate CBD.  The best way to see which form is the better choice is by taking a closer look at the benefits each offers.

Full Spectrum CBD Benefits

Full spectrum CBD is an extract that will contain cannabinoids like CBG and CBN, as well as essential fatty acids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other components found within the cannabis plant.  It will also include THC, albeit in amounts less than 0.3% so it should not have noticeable psychoactive effects.

Full spectrum CBD is minimally refined, meaning it does not undergo extensive processing to remove or purify the raw materials which allows for the plant to retain more of its properties.  As such, this form often has an earthy flavour profile.

While CBD itself may offer a wide range of benefits, the full spectrum form offers maximum potential therapeutic properties.  There is a theory that believes this version of cannabidiol is most effective as it can produce the “entourage effect” which combines the qualities of all cannabis compounds for a magnified impact.  The understanding is that the blend amplifies the positive influence of CBD and leads to more pronounced improvements.  Some studies, like one conducted by the British Journal of Pharmacology in 2011, show that the entourage effect in full spectrum CBD can be neuroprotective, help ease anxiety, inflammation, and pain, and impact cancer, fungal infections, and seizures.  However, more research is required to fully understand the difference that added terpenes, flavonoids, and other cannabinoids have on CBD products.

Full spectrum CBD is often the most popular choice, not only due to the entourage effect produced by the blend of compounds within the final formula, but because of the ease of producing a wide range of products.  This form of cannabidiol can be produced as tinctures, capsules, e-liquids, creams, beverages, edibles, and more.  This makes full spectrum CBD a versatile substance and offers an option for every potential customer.

Isolate CBD Benefits

CBD isolate is the most refined of all the forms as it removes all other compounds from the final product.  There are no flavonoids, terepenes, proteins, additional cannabinoids, esters, phenols or other compounds that would otherwise be found in the substance.  It is more difficult to produce due to the additional steps required to purify the substance, however, as this type contains fewer ingredients it is often less expensive than a full spectrum product making it a great starter product for those looking for an introduction to cannabinoids.  The distilliation process produces a flavorless crystalline solid or powder, and this contains 99% pure CBD.

While the form is highly processed and research shows that it may be less effective than other forms of cannabidiol, it holds its own unique perks.  The compound is easier to study as it contains only a single cannabinoid and allows for consistency, and as such researchers are able to track effects in a controlled and objective method.  CBD isolate also allows for a guarantee that there is no THC within the formulation, giving concerned customers more peace of mind.  Furthermore, as the pure form has no distinctive taste, it is ideal for added flavourings.

While isolate CBD may not hold all the same benefits of a full spectrum form, studies show that this pure substance does still provide assistance with various conditions including pain and swelling.  In fact, the only FDA approved CBD product on the market (Epidiolex) is an isolate and is prescribed for epilepsy in children and seizures caused by various conditions.  However, unlike full spectrum which has demonstrated increasing effects with higher dosages, initial research suggests that isolate has a bell-curve when it comes to the impact pure CBD has on the body and mind.

Isolate CBD is a popular choice for those who vape, but this form is also favoured due to how easy it is to blend with topical and edible recipes.  However, like full spectrum CBD this extract is very versatile and can be consumed in a variety of ways.

Which is Better, Full Spectrum or Isolate CBD?

Real Cannabis Club chooses to use a Cannabis Sativa Whole Plant Extract, or full spectrum CBD, in all products within the range as this form of cannabidiol suggests the biggest benefits according to initial research.  Full spectrum is the best choice for those wanting to experience all of the qualities of the cannabis plant and the potential amplification from the theorized entourage effect.

However, that is not to say that isolate CBD is not a good option.  Those who are very sensitive to THC or wanting to utilize solely the single ingredient without any other compounds mixed in may wish to opt for an isolate over a full spectrum product.  The choice is up to the consumer, but either way CBD may offer a wealth of benefits!

Back to Blog