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Full Spectrum CBD vs. CBD Isolate: What is the Difference?

If you are new to the Cannabidiol (CBD) market, you might be a bit overwhelmed. There are so many different types of products, for starters, but there are also levels of nuance between like products. One of the most frequent questions newcomers to CBD products ask is “what is the difference between full-spectrum CBD and CBD isolate?” The distinction is significant, so it’s important to understand which type of product you are purchasing. In order to appreciate the magnitude of the difference, however, you should understand the basics of CBD and other cannabinoids first. 

What is a cannabinoid?

A cannabinoid is a compound found within cannabis plants that interacts with the mammalian endogenous cannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is a series of receptors in the brain and throughout the body that cannabinoids bind to, influencing a wide range of bodily functions and the central nervous system. One of the most well-known cannabinoids is CBD, but there are more than one hundred others. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), for example, is well-known as the intoxicating compound found in marijuana. Another cannabinoid, Cannabigerol (CBG), is known as “the Mother of All Cannabinoids” for its role as the origin for all other compounds like it in the cannabis plant.

In addition to cannabinoids, cannabis plants are home to an array of other compounds as well. Chief among these are aromatic compounds called terpenes, as well as the flavonoids responsible for giving cultivars their unique tastes and colorful appearances. The proportions of these compounds vary from cultivar to cultivar, but generally, they can be found in all cannabis plants. Understanding cannabis compound profiles is central to understanding the meaning of the term “full spectrum.”

What is full-spectrum CBD?

Full-spectrum CBD products are those made with what is known as a “whole-plant extract.” What that essentially means is that full-spectrum CBD products contain the whole range of naturally occurring compounds that are found in the source plant. It all begins with a process called extraction. 

Extracts are made through a process that typically involves the use of a solvent to draw the cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other compounds out of the plant material. Extractors then generally use heat and pressure to remove the solvent, leaving behind a concentrated extract that includes the same compounds found in the source plant in the same proportions. In other words, these concentrates mimic the compound profiles of the cultivar from which they were extracted.

The term full spectrum refers to products that have been made using this whole plant extract. In addition to the specific cannabinoid featured in the product, in this case CBD, the product will also contain the cultivar’s entire range of compounds. With a full spectrum CBD product, you will also get a dose of these other compounds; with a CBD isolate, you are only getting pure Cannabidiol.

What is CBD isolate?

A CBD isolate is a refined product that contains no compound besides pure CBD. As the name suggests, CBD isolate is made by putting a whole plant extract through further refinement (called “winterization”) to isolate a specific compound and separate it out from all the others. Oftentimes, CBD isolate comes in a crystalline powder form that is tasteless and odorless. It can be ingested directly or mixed into a beverage. It can also be used to make pure CBD oils.

Full spectrum CBD vs CBD isolate: what’s the difference?

Now that you know full spectrum CBD contains a wide range of compounds and isolate is only a single, targeted cannabinoid, you might be wondering “so what?” When it comes to full spectrum CBD vs CBD isolate, what is the actual difference and why does it matter? 

First, unlike full spectrum CBD, CBD isolate products will contain absolutely no THC. This is important for people who want to avoid THC in their diet altogether. Although industrial hemp-derived full-spectrum CBD products are non-intoxicating, by law they can include up to 0.3% THC. While those trace amounts are unlikely to result in any intoxication at all, CBD isolate presents an option for people who only want to ingest CBD in its purest form. 

Second, and perhaps most important, full-spectrum CBD is thought to interact with the endocannabinoid system in a different way than its isolate counterpart. Researchers think that all the compounds work together and influence one another when present at the same time. This theory is called “the entourage effect.”

What is the entourage effect?

The theory behind the entourage effect suggests that all the compounds found in cannabis – including cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and fatty acids – work synergistically with one another. While more research is needed to determine the exact nature of the entourage effect, early studies suggest this cooperative relationship between cannabis-derived compounds could improve their effectiveness. 

The roots of the idea behind the entourage effect took hold in 1960 when an Israeli researcher named Raphael Mechoulam began examining cannabis plants. In 1963, Mechoulam identified the structure of CBD and, shortly after, was able to successfully isolate THC. His work ultimately led to the identification and classification of many different types of cannabinoids. In 1999, the term “entourage effect” was coined when Mechoulam posited that all these cannabinoids and other compounds worked better together than in isolation. 

How to choose a CBD product

Choosing a CBD product is about understanding your own needs and preferences, as well as examining the quality of the product and reliability of the brand. Today, the CBD market is sprawling and includes a wide range of products, many of which are excellent. However, it can sometimes be difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff, especially as the space undergoes regular regulatory changes. Never purchase a CBD product before doing your research to ensure it is safe and effective. 

  • Determine what type of product you want: There are many types of CBD products, from sublingual tinctures to infused edibles to topical creams and gels. Deciding which is best for you goes beyond deciding full spectrum CBD vs CBD isolate, though. Before researching CBD generally, think about what type of product would most benefit you or that you would enjoy the most. Doing so will help narrow your search right off the bat.
  • Examine third-party lab testing results: A major indicator of product quality will be the availability of third-party lab testing results. Brands should be willing to share their results with you to show you exactly what is in the product you are purchasing. At Core Roots CBD, we’re so proud of our product that we publish our test results on our website for public review.
  • Look for certifications of best practices: There are plenty of certifications out there that show a brand is abiding by best practices in each phase of production. For example, Core Roots is Good Manufacturing Practices certified and all products are made in an FDA-registered facility. Standards like these and others go to show the effort that goes into making a CBD product.
  • Read customer reviews: In the day and age of the internet, a customer review is never far away. You should always see what previous customers are saying about a product and whether they were satisfied before buying. 

There are a lot of great CBD products out there, but it’s important to do your research to ensure that you really are getting the best. Always check for these factors before making a buying decision to guarantee you get a product that is safe, effective, and right for you.

Core Roots CBD prides itself on delivering safe and effective products

Core Roots CBD products are designed with quality in mind. Not only are all Core Roots CBD products fully organic, they are also Good Manufacturing Practices certified and produced in a facility registered with the FDA. Every product is tested by a third-party lab and the results are published on the Core Roots CBD website for consumers to review before they buy. Core Roots CBD products are designed to have a very mild, natural taste, never with any additives or flavorings. Best of all, Core Roots CBD offers free shipping anywhere in the U.S. on every order. So, if you’re looking for high-quality, organic, full-spectrum CBD products, the Core Roots CBD Shop is the place for you.