There are three main types of cannabidiol (CBD). CBD isolate is the pure form of CBD, while full-spectrum CBD is an extract containing other compounds of the cannabis plant, such as terpenes and other cannabinoids. The third type is broad-spectrum CBD.
People use CBD for a variety of health reasons, such as pain and anxiety. While more research could clarify their anecdotally reported benefits, some evidence suggests that CBD products can help with certain conditions.
This article aims to help demystify the terms CBD isolate and full-spectrum CBD. We explain the differences and potential benefits of both forms.
The difference between CBD isolate and full-spectrum CBD relates to the contents of each form.
A full-spectrum CBD product contains multiple cannabis plant extracts, including essential oils, terpenes, and other cannabinoids, such as cannabinol.
Full-spectrum CBD products may also contain up to 0.3% of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the cannabinoid in the cannabis plant that produces the ‘high’ feeling in people. However, such a low amount is not strong enough to have significant psychoactive effects.
CBD isolate is a pure form of CBD. It contains no other cannabis plant compounds. It usually comes from hemp plants, which typically contain very low amounts of THC. CBD isolate is a crystal form of CBD, and it is often ground up and sold as a powder. It may also be called CBD crystals.
The CBD extraction process is no different for each of these products, which usually involves:
- carbon dioxide extraction
- steam distillation
- solvent extraction
- lipid extraction
However, CBD isolate is a much more refined product and goes through extra processing.
Is CBD legal? Hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3% THC are legal federally but still illegal under some state laws. Cannabis-derived CBD products, on the other hand, are illegal federally but legal under some state laws. Check local legislation, especially when traveling. Also, keep in mind that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have not approved nonprescription CBD products, which may be inaccurately labeled.
CBD isolate is the purest form of CBD. It may be a suitable product for first-time CBD users who wish to experiment with the potential health benefits, without the interference of other cannabis compounds, which may alter the effects. CBD isolate is also refined, so it has no discernible taste or odor.
A 2015 animal study concludes that while CBD isolate may offer certain health benefits, the effects may be less notable than when using a full-spectrum CBD product. The research also indicates that CBD isolate’s effects against pain and inflammation may only occur at a specific dose. This is in contrast to full-spectrum products, where effects increase as the dosage does.
For this reason, people who wish to take high doses of CBD may prefer a CBD isolate. This is not necessarily a negative quality of CBD isolate. Some people may prefer a product without THC, or they might be sensitive to this substance.
As there is no THC, this substance should not show up in any drug tests. However, people should be careful when purchasing CBD products. Items with a THC-free label may still contain traces of the compound. Thoroughly reading packaging, labels, and third-party test results will help ensure a person gets all the information they need to avoid adverse effects.
Because full-spectrum CBD contains all cannabis plant compounds, it may have a more potent effect than pure CBD. Research suggests that CBD’s health benefits may be more prominent when multiple compounds from the cannabis plant are present. This is what researchers call the ‘entourage effect.’
Full-spectrum CBD products contain some THC, but usually at low quantities of less than 0.3%. However, during the manufacturing process, THC levels can rise as the CBD converts into a concentrate. People should do their research and look up independent test results before purchasing a CBD product.
With a range of reported health benefits, uses for full-spectrum CBD include:
- muscle spasm relief
- pain relief
- treatment for psychotic disorders
One 2018 study found that certain CBD compounds may also have neuroprotective effects.
Another 2018 study suggests that full-spectrum CBD is more effective for pain than CBD isolate because of the combined effects of CBD and THC.
Another advantage of full-spectrum CBD is that it is less processed and more natural than CBD isolate.
Broad-spectrum CBD is very similar to full-spectrum CBD in that it contains additional cannabis plant compounds.
Most broad-spectrum CBD products zero or trace amounts of THC, but there should be less than the 0.3% contained in full-spectrum products.
Like full-spectrum CBD, broad-spectrum products may have a higher likelihood of producing beneficial health effects than CBD isolate because of the entourage effect.
Research suggests the entourage effect may increase the effects of full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD products.
However, more research is needed on the health benefits and effects of all three CBD types.
People may still want to try CBD isolate, especially if they want a product that is THC-free. However, unregulated CBD markets may mean that this substance is still present in trace amounts, even if labels claim their product is THC-free.
Both CBD isolate and full-spectrum CBD products have their advantages. People should always carefully read labels before buying them and discuss using CBD with a doctor or healthcare provider.