CBD has been a popular topic in the news and mainstream media lately.  This type of adoption is a positive for the progression of the cannabis movement.  But what’s the difference between Full Spectrum CBD and CBD Isolate?


Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, is the second most abundant cannabinoid in the cannabis plant, after tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.  CBD provides a wide array of benefits—ranging from helping to treat chronic pain, to aiding people suffering from insomnia, and relieving migraines as well—CBD works to restore the body’s balance.   Yes, CBD can be extracted from the cannabis plant, but the CBD on the market right now is, surprisingly, not made from marijuana. So one may ask what is the source of extraction for all the CBD products that are currently widely available?  You got it. Hemp. Yes, hemp. But what is hemp?


Hemp is the brother of marijuana—with marijuana being the sister plant.  Hemp and marijuana exist from the same mother plant, Cannabis Sativa L.  Hemp and marijuana share the exact genetic makeup, except for the arrangement of one tiny atom, which is a microscopic difference.  All we need to know for now is that the main difference between hemp and cannabis is the percentage of THC in each plant. Any cannabis plant with less than .3% THC is considered hemp.  The Farm Bill Act of 2018 in the United States legalizes commercial production of hemp across the nation. We will delve deeper into the similarities and differences of the hemp and marijuana plants, as well as CBD and THC, in a separate composition, but that is beyond the scope of this article.  


Full Spectrum versus Isolate

For now, we will differentiate between Full Spectrum CBD and CBD Isolate.  The CBD products being sold in stores currently are labeled as either Full Spectrum CBD or CBD Isolate.  But what’s the difference? I thought all CBD products were created equal, right? Wrong. Full Spectrum CBD and CBD Isolate affect the body extremely similarly, but certainly not identically.  If you are still uncertain, then worry no more, you are at the right place. We will settle the confusion between Full Spectrum CBD and CBD Isolate once and for all within this article.


What’s the Difference?

The difference lies in: a) the extraction process of the hemp plant, and, b) effects produced from the differing byproducts .  Both Full Spectrum CBD and CBD Isolate are extracted from hemp, but the ways in which they arrive in their final form is where they contrast.   Let’s start with Full Spectrum CBD.  As seen in the name, it is just that, full spectrum.  How about we break down the term? Full is defined as ‘not lacking’ and spectrum meaning ‘a wide range’.  Hence, Full Spectrum CBD contains all of the compounds found in the plant matter. The most common method of separating the compounds (cannabinoids and terpenes) from the plant is via CO2 extraction.  The CO2 extraction process utilizes pressurized carbon dioxide, at specific temperatures, to separate the cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant material. The byproduct of this procedure is what is known as Full Spectrum CBD.  But what are terpenes and what do they have to do with anything?


Terpenes are found in the essential oils of plants.  Hemp and cannabis contain terpenes, but terpenes are also found in many other plants throughout nature—such as conifers and citrus trees.  They are responsible for the aroma of the hemp and cannabis plants (and lemons too). Each plant possesses its own terpene profile. Moreover, terpenes increase the rate and amount of cannabinoids that cross the blood brain barrier.  When the quantity of cannabinoids and terpenes reaching the brain increases, the effects produced increase as well.   The unique combination of terpenes and cannabinoids comprised in the hemp plant enhances the properties of the cannabinoid CBD.  There are over !00 cannabinoids found in the hemp plant. CBD is one of the most abundant cannabinoids found in hemp, Additional cannabinoids, such as THC, CBG, CBN and CBC, provide unique effects and benefits on their own.  Most cannabinoids, other than THC, are largely non-psychoactive. Cannabinoids and terpenes work synergistically together, meaning when combined—they enhance the properties of each other. Because hemp contains up to .3% THC, Full Spectrum CBD may contain .3% THC also.  The miniscule percentage of THC is not nearly enough to produce a psychoactive effect, or ‘high’ feeling, but it surely intensifies CBD’s effects. This synergistic effect from the specific blend of cannabinoids and terpenes is known as the ‘entourage effect’.  Full Spectrum CBD is the most effective method of using CBD.  So what is CBD Isolate then? Is it not effective?


First of all, CBD Isolate provides many similar benefits as Full Spectrum CBD.  Our bodies recognize CBD as CBD. The difference is in a) the extraction, and, b) lacking of the entourage effect.  Let’s break down the term CBD Isolate.  CBD is cannabidiol as we’ve learned, and Isolate means ‘to set apart’.  CBD Isolate is the separated form of CBD, isolated from all of the other cannabinoids and terpenes.  


The extraction process is believe it or not the same, but instead of the process finishing as Full Spectrum CBD, this method includes further steps.  The first step following extraction is called the purification process. During purification, non-CBD compounds (cannabinoids and terpenes) are filtered away from CBD.  Winterization follows the purification process. Winterization removes any oils, waxes or plant matter not separated during filtration. Upon completion of the winterization process, a white crystalline powder remains.  This isolated byproduct is known as CBD Isolate. CBD isolate is 99% pure CBD and is THC-free.  CBD Isolate does not contain other cannabinoids or terpenes either—a major distinction between CBD Isolate and Full Spectrum CBD.  CBD Isolate is the go-to for an individual who requires a ‘drug test’ for his/her profession. The trace amount of THC found in Full Spectrum CBD is possible to be detected in a urine analysis.  It is unlikely, but depending on the dosage and individual, there is a chance. As each person’s body is unique—due to varying diets, metabolisms and absorption rates—there’s no definitive answer if the amount of THC will be detectable or not.  This reality scares a certain group of people away from Full Spectrum CBD products. CBD Isolate does not contain THC, the cannabinoid causing urine samples to test positive. Many people attest CBD Isolate is superior to Full Spectrum CBD. Science says otherwise, as the entourage effect is a proven fact.  As stated earlier, our bodies recognize CBD as CBD—but when CBD is paired with terpenes and cannabinoids, the effects are exasperated.

Making Connections

How about we view Full Spectrum CBD, CBD Isolate and the entourage effect in a different light?  For this example we will substitute a cookie for CBD Isolate and milk in place of the cannabinoid and terpene composition in Full Spectrum CBD.  Cookies are many folks favorite dessert choice. Indeed, a cookie is delicious when eaten alone. But have you ever dipped a cookie in milk? Personally, I didn’t think anything could taste better than a cookie until I dipped a cookie in milk.  The milk, and dairy encompassed in the milk, enhance the taste of the cookie. The enrichment of flavor from dipping a cookie in milk, rather than eating a cookie by itself, is synonymous to the entourage effect in Full Spectrum CBD versus CBD Isolate.


Final Remarks

Full Spectrum CBD and CBD Isolate are very closely related, but as we’ve learned, they are not the same thing. Both Full Spectrum CBD and CBD Isolate are neuroprotectants, antioxidants, will help treat chronic pain, anxiety—and the list continues.  CBD’s beauty is in the eye of the beholder. My advice is to try them both. Ingest a Full Spectrum CBD product one day and observe how you feel.  On a different day, consume the same exact dosage of a CBD Isolate product and take note of the effects. Discover which type of CBD works best for you.  

To summarize what we’ve discussed—Full Spectrum CBD and CBD Isolate are extracted from hemp—but CBD Isolate takes the extraction process a step further.  The entourage effect is evident in Full Spectrum CBD but not with CBD Isolate.  Both Full Spectrum CBD and CBD Isolate are non-addictive, 100% natural and not psychoactive.  Now, if somebody asks what the difference between Full Spectrum and CBD Isolate is, you will be able to enlighten him/her.  But no matter what, be sure to enjoy whichever form of CBD that fits into your lifestyle!! (ps: if you’ve never dipped a cookie in milk, I would highly recommend it)