Photo by Esteban Lopez on Unsplash

By Max Branson

The cannabis industry is one of the most fascinating and fastest-growing in the health and wellness sector. If you haven’t been living in a cave for the past few years, you will know that CBD is the most popular of all cannabis-based products on the market.

While shopping for CBD, you have probably encountered the terms “full-spectrum” and “isolate.” These two labels tell you about the kind of cannabinoid content to expect in the product. In this article, we want to tell you why full-spectrum CBD is superior to CBD isolate.

CBD has become a trendy natural alternative to help treat numerous conditions, including anxiety, depression, chronic pain, epilepsy, and lots more. But with so many new and different CBD products to choose from, the choice of which one to go with can often be a confusing and difficult decision. Terms like whole plant extract, isolate, full-spectrum, and broad-spectrum only make things more confusing.

We want to break down the difference between the two most commonly used terms – full-spectrum and CBD isolate – to help make your decision a little easier. Hopefully, this insight will clear a few things up for you.

What Is Full Spectrum CBD?

The cannabis plant contains hundreds of different phytochemicals, including terpenes, cannabinoids, and other compounds. Full-spectrum CBD refers to products that contain all of these compounds that naturally occur in the plant. These products don’t only contain CBD; they also encompass all other plant molecules.

Full-spectrum CBD oil is minimally refined and leaves most of the terpenes and cannabinoids intact and in the oil. Full-spectrum means that the full plant extract is used, and is therefore also sometimes referred to as “whole plant.”

The general idea is that full-spectrum products offer more of the cannabis plant’s molecules in amounts and ratios that nature intended. It’s also important to note that because full-spectrum products incorporate all extracts of the cannabis plant, they contain traces of THC. Typically, it’s very small traces of THC (less than 0.3%), and therefore doesn’t have any psychoactive effects.

What Is CBD isolate?

The most basic form of CBD is an isolate. It’s also the purest form, containing up to 99.9% CBD. CBD isolates contain nothing but pure, isolated CBD. These products contain no other cannabinoids, flavonoids, or terpenes – only good old CBD.

As the name suggests, CBD isolates have been isolated down to just the CBD molecule. They don’t contain any other active ingredients and just aim to deliver therapeutic doses of CBD. CBD isolates are also sometimes referred to as CBD crystals because they are available in a solid, diamond-like form. The crystals are then carefully crushed into a fine powder that is easier to consume.

Although it’s considered the most basic form of CBD, the process of isolating the CBD from hemp is quite complex. When extracting cannabinoids from the hemp plant, all of the plant’s compounds are extracted. In other words, all the terpenes and cannabinoids are taken out of the plant. This is why extra steps need to be taken to isolate the CBD and separate it from any other compounds.

CBD isolates often come as a white powder or a mix that contains a carrier oil like MCT oil for improved absorption.

The Difference Between Full Spectrum CBD and CBD Isolate

Before we get to the differences, let’s state the obvious. There is one key similarity between full-spectrum CBD and CBD isolate – they both contain CBD. But aside from this, these two products are quite different.

Here’s an overview of the differences between these two types of products:

Full-Spectrum CBD

  • Contains less than 0.3% THC (when derived from hemp)
  • Contains CBD, along with other naturally occurring plant extracts
  • Undergoes fewer processes than required for CBD isolate
  • The CBD works together with THC and other compounds to deliver therapeutic effects

CBD Isolates

  • Pure CBD
  • Contains no THC or other cannabinoids
  • Doesn’t contain any other plant extracts, like terpenes
  • Requires more processing than full-spectrum CBD
  • Delivers straight CBD

While full-spectrum CBD contains mainly CBD (but also other plant extracts), CBD isolate is pure and doesn’t contain any other cannabinoids. This may leave you thinking that CBD isolate is the better option since it’s the “purest” form. But, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Sure, both products offer the beneficial effects of CBD, but if you use CBD isolate, you’re missing out on many additional benefits. As the name suggests, and as we’ve already discussed, full-spectrum products encompass the full spectrum of cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant.

Of course, these other cannabinoids are only present in very small amounts, but they make a huge difference.

Why Is Full Spectrum Superior to CBD Isolate?

Although CBD isolate is a more concentrated form of CBD, it doesn’t mean that it has greater effects. There are more than 100 cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, and just as many terpenes, and they all come with different properties and effects. This has everything to do with why full-spectrum CBD is superior – and it’s known as the entourage effect.

Essentially, all these different cannabinoids and terpenes interact and synergize with each other to enhance the positive effects of CBD. While CBD has the most documented benefits among all cannabis compounds, the other components work with the CBD to create a dynamic combination.

In theory, the entourage effect suggests that cannabis is greater than the sum of its parts. In other words, when CBD is combined with a full-spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes, the effects are enhanced. So why does this happen?

  • Complementary paths to the same outcome: When seeking relief from a complex issue like anxiety, there are often multiple paths leading to the same outcome. While the CBD is busy acting on the serotonin receptors, other compounds might focus on other neurotransmitters.
  • Bioavailability: CBD alone may not be able to travel as far through the body as it would with its entourage. Some of the terpenes found in cannabis are great at moving drugs across skin barriers.
  • Back-up support: Many terpenes and other cannabinoids have similar effects to CBD on mood, inflammation, and pain. While CBD has over 65 targets throughout the body, its activity varies at each target. Other compounds could be more effective than CBD, where you need it most.
  • Metabolism: Many of the other compounds are metabolized by the same enzymes as CBD. This means that the entourage can delay the CBD from being broken down by the body, which will keep it in circulation and effective for longer.

Final Thoughts on Full-Spectrum CBD vs. CBD Isolates

The reason that full-spectrum CBD is superior to CBD isolate all comes down to the entourage effect. Ultimately, full-spectrum CBD has the advantage of containing many different terpenes and cannabinoids and thus the potential for a wider health reach.

All compounds of the cannabis plant work together to offer enhanced therapeutic benefits that CBD isn’t able to provide on its own. In other words, full-spectrum CBD has more to offer for your health and wellness.

 

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