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The Difference between Full Spectrum and CBD Isolate

We hear the terms “full-spectrum” and “CBD isolate” a lot when discussing different CBD oils and products.

What does that mean? Is one better than the other? Which one should I use?


Full-spectrum oil contains more than simply cannabidiol (CBD). It includes all cannabinoids found in cannabis, such as CBN, CBG, CBC, and more. It also contains terpenes, terpenoids, flavonoids, and many other plant compounds. Terpenes are aromatic molecules found in essential oils that give plants and foods their taste and scent.

Full-spectrum also means trace amounts of THC (or higher amounts, depending on the state’s legality).

If living in a recreational or medical state, a person may have access to full-spectrum cannabis oil with THC levels above 0.3%. The term “cannabis” includes both hemp and marijuana.

Hemp is a term for cannabis applied by the government. It includes mostly industrially-produced cannabis meant for non-psychoactive use. The term hemp includes flower with these characteristics:

  • Minimal to no psychoactive effects
  • THC levels at or below 0.3%
  • Higher levels of CBD, cannabinoids, terpenes, and other cannabis compounds

The term marijuana is slang for “flower” with these characteristics:

  • Psychoactive effects
  • THC levels above 0.3%
  • Produces CBD, cannabinoids, terpenes, and other cannabis compounds

For those who avoid psychoactive effects, do not have access to high THC, or just want the benefits of higher-CBD oils, they usually purchase full-spectrum oils derived from hemp.

What is the “Entourage Effect”?

When we consume or inhale cannabis, we take in hundreds of plant compounds. Each compound has specific effects. Their behavior may even change when present with other compounds.

It’s similar to people, how we each have unique skills and qualities, and how our behavior sometimes changes when with specific people.

This is known as the entourage effect.

Because of the entourage effect, full-spectrum CBD products provide the full benefits of the plant.

With the entourage effect, the combination of 100+ cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other compounds work together, enhancing and amplifying the benefits of each individual cannabinoid. This is known as synergy.

The entourage effect actually helps neutralize and minimize cannabis’ psychoactive effects. Research shows that individual cannabis components work more strongly when combined together, instead of when acting alone. The word “entourage” itself refers to a group of people who work with and support another individual. That’s incredibly fitting, considering the nature of how each compound supports the other to work most efficiently.

Studies support that full-spectrum CBD provides higher relief for most subjects, compared to CBD isolate. Studies also show that full-spectrum enhances effects with increased dosages, while CBD’s effects stayed consistent.

Who is full-spectrum ideal for?

  • Those seeking to experience the entourage effect.
  • Those who were recommended a THC: CBD or other cannabinoid ratios.
  • Those living with chronic, more severe conditions that may potentially benefit from the entourage effect.

CBD Isolate

CBD isolate is the purest form of CBD. The extraction process isolates the CBD, removing traces of THC, cannabinoids, terpenes, oils, chlorophyll, and more compounds. It has no taste or odor. This makes it an excellent option for people sensitive to THC or other cannabinoids.

Since the extract is stripped down to just CBD, consumers do not experience the entourage effect. But isolate can be particularly helpful for those sensitive to other cannabinoids or concerned about drug testing.

CBD is psychoactive because it affects the brain. However, it does not make one feel “high”, unlike THC. In fact, CBD is known to counteract the unwanted psychoactive properties of THC, including paranoia.

Another advantage of CBD isolate is also lower cost per milligram. Since full-spectrum products are derived from the whole plant extract, they generally cost more since the consumer gets more than only CBD. This means that CBD oil and other products made from isolate are generally less expensive than full-spectrum.

Who is CBD Isolate ideal for?

  • Those sensitive to THC, since trace amounts of THC are removed.
  • Those sensitive to other cannabinoids.
  • Those sensitive to the taste of cannabis and other strong flavors.
  • Those sensitive to strong smells.
  • Those who are regularly drug tested.

Both CBD derived from marijuana and hemp is the same in structure. However, under the Agricultural Act of 2018, hemp-derived CBD is legal if it contains 0.3% THC or less. Marijuana-derived CBD is illegal, classified as a controlled substance despite its THC levels.

“The CBD molecule and its associated pharmacology are the same, whether it was extracted from hemp or from marijuana. CBD is CBD, regardless of where it was originally derived from”, says Jeremy Riggle, Ph.D., Chief Scientist at Mary’s Nutritionals. But although CBD is the same on a molecular level, its origin still matters when it comes to legality.

What’s best for me?

Both extracts are commonly used for various medical and mood disorders. This includes chronic pain, anxiety, depression, reproductive disorders, bone conditions, gastrointestinal issues, insomnia, and much more.

However, something that works well for one individual may be entirely different for another. Everybody is chemically diverse. Like with anything, it takes time to find what product, extract, and dosage works best for you individually.

Listen to your body. Work with a practitioner. Always consult a licensed healthcare provider before consuming new herbs.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This article and information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Chelsea Collins
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