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

William Castillo

William Castillo

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A cannabidiol (CBD) craze has taken America by storm. Perhaps you’ve seen CBD in the news or advertising and thought, what the heck is that? Or maybe you’re excited to dive into this fledgling market but recognize that you need a little consumer education to make the best purchase.

Whatever the situation, you’re in the right place to learn about the available varieties of CBD and what they can do for you.

What Is CBD Extract and Its Varieties?

What Is CBD Extract and Its Varieties?
  • CBD is one of many active compounds in the cannabis plant. Those compounds are collectively known as cannabinoids. 
  • The most famous cannabinoid to date is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), made famous because it is responsible for marijuana’s high. CBD, on the other hand, isn’t psychoactive or intoxicating and is most abundant in cultivated hemp rather than marijuana.
  • An extraction process separates CBD from its hempy home. From extraction, it can be further distilled into CBD isolate, have trace THC removed, or be used as-is, then combined with a carrier oil or alcohol base.
  • Based on those criteria, CBD falls into one of three categories: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or isolate.

So let’s first take a look at the CBD variety isolate.

What Is CBD Isolate?

This is actually the most straightforward of the three CBD varieties (we’ll get to the next two momentarily). As the name implies, a CBD isolate tincture — or really any product with CBD isolate extract — is a very pure form of only cannabidiol. All the other cannabinoids and various plant compounds have been removed, leaving behind only this one supportive ingredient.

However, CBD isolate can still be combined with other ingredients such as melatonin or blended into a cream. Some companies even add back in select, helpful plant compounds. 

Isolate does not indicate products where the sole ingredient is CBD (which is an impossibility, since CBD requires at least a base!). Isolate specifically refers to the quality of the CBD extract itself.

Pros

  • The THC content in CBD isolates is negligible, so you never have to concern yourself about drug testing or possible build up in your system over time.
  • Concentrated CBD isolate sometimes borders on tasteless, making it a low impact choice for any CBD recipes.
  • May support general wellness, and help manage stress and aches, just as other full- and broad-spectrum varieties do.

Cons

  • Theoretically and in some animal studies, isolated cannabidiol is less effective than its non-distilled counterparts. 
  • This is due to a lack of an entourage effect (discussed in detail below) with other cannabis compounds, and a much smaller window to find your appropriate serving size.
  • At higher strengths, isolate reaches a usefulness plateau, and there’s no point in consuming more. At lower strengths, the potential benefits of full- and broad-spectrum CBD are greater than those of CBD isolate.

What Is a Full-Spectrum Extract of CBD?

Although isolate is super straightforward, understanding full-spectrum CBD isn’t difficult either.

Full-spectrum CBD utilizes a complete extract from the cannabis plant, containing a majority CBD plus all other cannabinoids and plant-based compounds, like terpenes and flavonoids

There’s no tampering after that. But, like isolates, full-spectrum CBD can be added into any cannabidiol product and combined with even more ingredients.

Pure Relief sells full-spectrum CBD oils; we believe they are the most effective variety of CBD and offer the most bang for your buck. Thank the entourage effect: an observed phenomenon where all of these compounds work as a team, building off of their individual traits and benefits.

Pros

  • Full-spectrum CBD, vs. isolate, does scale up. The higher the strength, the more potent and effective a serving will be. 
  • Since that’s the case, you will need to find out the proper strength for your particular needs, and not the best strength of the isolate. Luckily, with full-spectrum (vs. isolate CBD again), smaller strengths still offer an optimum amount of support per serving.
  • Terpenes have distinct flavor profiles, making full-spectrum CBD easier to purposefully incorporate into recipes. If you’re taking a tincture orally, you may also find you have a favorite natural flavor that’s easier to stomach.

Cons

  • Legally, hemp plants and products are allowed up to 0.3% THC, and full-spectrum products use that wiggle room to full potential. Yes, this CBD variety contains THC (although nowhere near enough to even think about a high — it’s less than half a percent). It might not be a good choice if you have to undergo a drug test or if you simply don’t like the idea of THC in your CBD.
  • The exact concentrations of full-spectrum CBD aren’t guaranteed. Percentages of different terpenes or cannabinoids will vary between hemp crops and manufacturers, so always be sure to check the independent lab tests to get an idea of what you’re working with.

What Is Broad-Spectrum CBD?

Basically, it’s the best of both worlds. This CBD extraction method does a little meddling to remove all THC but not all of the other plant compounds. An entourage effect continues to take place, even if it’s in a slightly diminished capacity. Some are actually better than none in this case. 

Please note that some people believe in an all or nothing mentality, and decry broad-spectrum CBD as something that doesn’t work. There are no direct full-spectrum vs. broad-spectrum CBD studies to cite, but the entourage effect has certainly been observed in the absence of THC. If you want maximized efficiency without the THC hanging over your head, broad-spectrum is absolutely worth consideration

Pros

  • It doesn’t have to be full-spectrum vs. isolate. Enjoy the increased benefits of the entourage effect even if you need to stay THC-free.
  • An excellent choice for pets if you’re concerned about them consuming any even a tiny, amount of THC. They benefit from synergized compounds as much as humans.
  • With a little browsing, you’ll likely be able to find many different takes on a broad-spectrum extract. There are many variations to choose from if you have preferences.

Cons

  • On the flip side, not all broad-spectrum is created equal. We cannot stress how important it is to seek out and read through the lab results. If you take full-spectrum CBD capsules, you’ve got a pretty good idea of what’s in them. A little of everything. (You should check regardless.)

But if you were to take broad-spectrum capsules, you might be getting one cannabinoid and two terpenes, a couple of cannabinoids and negligible terpenes, a little everything, minus THC. What’s in these faux vitamins?! 

Extraction and tinkering processes are all different and can result in pretty drastic differences between the broad-spectrums. Do your research!

Takeaway

What’s the best choice: full-spectrum, CBD isolate, or broad-spectrum? Putting the entourage effect and its synergistic benefits to the side, each of these CBD varieties offers excellent supportive properties and may promote wellness. Isolate has a few additional considerations, but it is by no means a dud.

Here at Pure Relief, we do stand by the potential benefits of full-spectrum CBD and make almost all our products with that extract variety. Our oils, cream, pet tincture, and smokeables are all full-spectrum. But if you need to go the no-THC route, the CBD Gummies have had it removed (and only contain a small amount of one other cannabinoid, CBDV).

Only you and your healthcare provider can make the right call for your current needs. Hopefully, now you feel perfectly equipped to do so.

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