CBD Isolate Vs. Full Spectrum

Two juggernauts enter into the ring, both want to improve your health and do it better than the other. 

In our right-hand corner, we have full spectrum CBD, back by its ragtag group of therapeutic phytocannabinoids and terpenes. In our left-hand corner, we have CBD isolate, a lone wolf that’s ready to throw the full potential and might of CBD into the face of the weaker guys.

Who will win?


The Best Option and Our Recommendation

There are a lot of metaphors you can make when comparing CBD isolate, which is just cannabidiol, and full spectrum, which contains all 113+ other cannabinoids and 200+ terpenes (essential oils that give plants their aroma) found in hemp.

Without a doubt, cannabidiol is the most abundant and therapeutic non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in within these plants. And it makes complete sense why you would want your oil to only have the best and forget about the rest. That thought is what created CBD isolate in the first place.

So our CBD isolate fighter is jacked compared to our full spectrum CBD guys. It looks like the ridiculous internet meme; would you rather bet on a horse-sized duck or 300 duck-sized horses?

The answer is the 300 duck-sized horses. CBD full spectrum works about 4 times better for most people compared to isolate — while the other cannabinoids and terpenes aren’t as strong as CBD, they help CBD out in ways CBD can’t help itself. This phenomenon of the full plant working synergistically together to deliver a more effective treatment is called the entourage effect.

The main reason we recommend full spectrum to first-time users is that finding the right dose is way easier with CBD full spectrum. Body chemistry is weird, and sometimes CBD oil just doesn’t work for a rare few — there could be several correctable reasons for this. However, when CBD doesn’t work for someone, it’s more often than not CBD isolate.


Pros of Full Spectrum CBD

There are two main reasons full spectrum oil is preferred by most.

First, it has a wider therapeutic range due to some of the 113+ cannabinoids and 200+ terpenes having their own separate health properties from cannabidiols. For example, the cannabinoid, CBC, has antimicrobial properties that wouldn't be available in CBD isolate. Now our duck-sized horses are all different breeds that specialize in different fields.

The biggest reason full spectrum wins over isolate is that it’s really easy to dose. Like we said above, some of the other molecules in hemp have unique properties — and this time some of these properties aren’t for you but the other cannabinoids.

By itself, CBD absorbs poorly into the bloodstream, but the cannabinoid, CBC, is one of the molecules whose main function is to give other cannabinoids an easier time passing the blood-brain barrier. Now we know two pretty cool things about CBC, officially known as cannabichromene.


Pros of CBD Isolate

But don’t count CBD isolate out yet because, for some, he’s the people's champ. Again, we come back to body chemistry, for whatever reason some people don’t like full spectrum. They may be too sensitive to certain cannabinoids, and the oil can make them feels hazy and tired. Others just don’t feel anything from it -- which is currently unexplainable, but there do exist anecdotal reports out there.

It's often recommended to those that aren’t seeing the effects they want from CBD full spectrum to give isolate a try. Isolate effects are more one dimensional than full spectrum, and this appears to work better for a few people.

For example, full spectrum CBD oil may offer slight relief from anxiety, depression, and pain, while isolate may completely obliterate your anxiety and pain, but do nothing for your depression.

Yes, you read that last part right, isolate can completely help with one issue but not one that's closely related. Stronger relief from anxiety and pain and no tiredness are the three biggest reasons some prefer isolate over full spectrum.

Another issue many have about Isolate is the cost as isolate requires a higher dose than full spectrum and this means you’ll go through it faster. As well, it takes more work locking in the best dose, and be careful because it can be overshot for diminishing returns.

Fortunately, since we are isolating CBD, it can be taken from any cannabis plant without getting you high. This means CBD isolate is often more affordable.  


How CBD is made

CBD oil is derived from cannabis plants stalks and flowers. Cannabis plants include two main varieties: hemp and marijuana — hemp’s non-psychoactive and can’t get you high, while marijuana is loaded with a chemical molecule called THC and, well, you know what it does.

Hemp plants and marijuana plants originate from different areas. Hemp history hails from Europe, where it was commonly used for fibers and food. Marijuana's history can be traced mainly to India but has been found in both Afghanistan and even China. In these places, the plants were used for the same reason, plus used in the production of hashish.

When you set your eyes on mature cannabis plants, you’ll notice sticky and shiny resin glands called trichomes that encase the phytocannabinoids and terpenes. When we take extractions from cannabis, this is what we want, and we can use a variety of methods to separate the trichomes from the plant material.

The most common method for making CBD oil is supercritical CO2 which leaves you with the full-spectrum raw hemp extract. Three things can happen here:

  1. The most common step after this is to mix it with a carrier oil which is a fatty oil needed as cannabinoids are fat-soluble, then sell it as full spectrum.
  2. Another option is to create CBD isolate by using different chromatography methods, such as heating the raw extract up to different temperatures to separate CBD and only CBD — cannabinoids have different boiling points where they get released from the material.
  3. The last option is taking full spectrum hemp extract and putting it through short-path distillation.

CBD Distillate

Short-path distillation essentially separates all the phytocannabinoids and terpenes from each other by slowly taking through different temperature points. While there are a lot of therapeutic molecules in hemp, they’re not as hard to isolate as one would think — they start getting released around 200 degrees fahrenheit, all the way up to 388F where the terpene humulene which gets released.

So why separate the molecules? That’s easy, it gives us the ability to reintroduce them and create different ratios. With distillate, we can make things like CBD specialized for pain — we just take the cannabinoids that are best for pain, including the ones that promote the entourage effect and bioavailability, and ta-da we’re done.

Distillate takes from best of both worlds; we can remove cannabinoids and terpenes that dilute the oil more than they help and focus on the big ones like CBD, CBC, and CBG. Another reason it's the best of both worlds is like CBD isolate, distillate removes non-beneficial plant material that dilutes potency and creates a strong bitter grassy taste.  

This is how we create our CBD oil as VitaLeaf Naturals, and we’re excited to be offering the gold standard of CBD oil.

You’ll want to be careful when you buy CBD distilled because sometimes the terpenes are removed and not put back in. This might make the oil flavorless, but it can also severely hurt the entourage effect effectiveness. Even with the terpenes reintroduced the flavor is nowhere near as unpleasant as raw full spectrum hemp.


Common Questions and Concerns

1. Will CBD test positive on a drug test?

CBD or cannabidiol itself will not test positive, but because full spectrum contains trace amounts of THC — which like sticking around in the body doing nothing — high doses of the full spectrum may, in rare cases, lead to a false positive. Isolate is the safest bet if this is a concern because even when derived from marijuana it will contain no THC.

Now, you would have to most likely consume more than 1000mg of full spectrum CBD oil a day for at least a week to even test false positive. There are a few other guesses as to why full spectrum CBD oil can test positive as well.


2. I’ve heard there are multiple psychoactive molecules in hemp?

THC is solely responsible for the psychoactive high marijuana produces. CBN is slightly psychoactive, but really it just makes you slightly tired. Plus, you can’t have CBN without THC as it degrades into it over time.

THCV is psychoactive only at high levels, and at normal levels, it’s an antagonist and actually reduces THC’s high — CBD is another antagonist of THC. Not until THCV is an incredibly high and unnatural levels does it produce a high which is said to be more clear-headed, stable, and euphoric than THC. It does this all without causing anxiety or giving you the munchies — two side effects of THC. THCV is a minor cannabinoid, and despite the name, doesn’t share a past with THC.

All CBD oil derived hemp legally has to have 0.03% THC or less, which is completely safe to use. You can confirm THC amount in your CBD product by checking out the lab results or Certificate of Analysis.


3. Is CBD full spectrum or isolate better for my pet?

When it comes to pet CBD and hemp products, they are always full spectrum. Because while isolate works amazing for some people, it can take a decent amount of trial and error making it difficult to give to pets.


For more information on CBD products, click here!

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