Isolate Versus Full Spectrum CBD: What’s the Difference?
Even if you’ve never had the urge to experiment botanically, you’ve undoubtedly heard about cannabidiol, or CBD for short. Unlike its native cannabis sativa plant, cannabidiol doesn’t generate hysterical controversy. Instead, the overriding sentiment is curiosity: curiosity toward its purported benefits, chemical composition, and most importantly, what the heck it is?
At its most basic, cannabidiol is an active chemical compound -- or cannabinoid – of the base sativa plant. As such, cannabidiol or CBD is just one of several compounds found in the target botanical. Although CBD is an increasingly popular cannabinoid, the most well-known (and controversial) is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.
One of the most critical tailwinds supporting CBD and its broader legalization is that unlike THC, cannabidiol does not impose a debilitating, psychoactive effect. Instead, end-users can enjoy the rich array of the sativa plant’s soothing, therapeutic benefits without paying an unacceptable cost.
Naturally, CBD presents enormous potential for the medical community, and levers substantial political weight as well. The often moral arguments used against sativa variants simply doesn’t apply to CBD. As we mentioned above, cannabidiol is not addictive, no matter how many times you consume it.
And with that one fact, CBD turns the moral argument right back around: how could anyone in good conscience not allow CBD-based treatments and therapies, especially if a high chance exists for tangible assistance or even remission?
Indeed, the positives surrounding CBD is undeniable. However, this sub-segment still inherently evokes public misconceptions. One of the often-misunderstood points is the specific chemical structure in CBD; specifically, what’s the difference between isolate and full-spectrum CBD?
Isolate vs Full Spectrum
Dig into the cannabidiol world, and you’ll invariably hear the terms “isolate” or “full spectrum.” But what do these terms mean, and how do they impact the end-user’s experience?
Let’s start by defining the descriptions in question, which focus on the amount of THC found within a CBD-based product. Full spectrum references cannabidiol with a trace amount of THC, legally defined as 0.3% or less. CBD isolate, on the other hand, is pure, isolated cannabidiol – this variant has 0% THC.
Immediately, several observers have the same thought pop up: isn’t the whole point of CBD that it doesn’t contain THC? Like anything involving the botanical industry, the answer involves nuances.
Cannabidiol’s biggest selling point is that it doesn’t impart a psychoactive side-effect. Irrespective of whether an enthusiast utilizes isolate or full-spectrum CBD, he or she will not incur any mental, emotional or psychological impact. A trace amount of THC will not disrupt this critical attribute.
Another point is that under U.S. law, an agricultural product containing 0.3% THC or less does not fall under strict federal guidelines. Therefore, CBD-based therapies and applications are legal to use and distribute in states that feature cannabidiol legalization.
Favorable legislation further extends this leeway. For instance, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved a pilot program to study hemp – otherwise known as “industrial hemp” – years ago. Under federal law, hemp is defined as a sativa-based product that contains no more than 0.3% THC.
Since neither isolate nor full spectrum CBD contains an illegal amount of THC, both variants are acceptable for use in “green” states or jurisdictions.
Plus, botanical advocates received a fresh, political catalyst in the form of the 2018 Farm Bill. This important piece of legislation expands upon the federal government’s initial approval for hemp products. According to the Brookings Institute:
“It allows hemp cultivation broadly, not simply pilot programs for studying market interest in hemp-derived products. It explicitly allows the transfer of hemp-derived products across state lines for commercial or other purposes. It also puts no restrictions on the sale, transport, or possession of hemp-derived products, so long as those items are produced in a manner consistent with the law.”
So long as sativa manufacturers follow the rules, and the government maintains its current policy, both isolate and full spectrum CBD represent viable therapeutic alternatives for patients and end-users.
Why Pick Between Isolate versus Full Spectrum?
After an overview of isolate and full spectrum CBD, a lay observer may arrive at the conclusion that they’re essentially interchangeable. Therefore, why spend much time agonizing over which CBD-based product to elect?
In reality, though, the specific type of cannabidiol you decide to consume has significant importance. Largely, the differences in outcome between isolate and full spectrum are related to personal benefits. However, they can also have a substantial impact on legal or professional concerns.
The subject matter of cannabidiol encompasses many nuances. One reasonably-sized article can’t cover all the granularity that this segment invokes. Nevertheless, for those enthusiasts and end-users living in green-friendly jurisdictions and are curious about CBD, you’re more than likely going to focus on full spectrum.
Why? Simply put, you can glean much information from the term “full.” In this case, full spectrum cannabidiol offers the widest range of cannabinoids available from the sativa plant. Along with of course CBD, full-spectrum products offers the following:
While isolate CBD provides end-users with the benefits of pure cannabidiol, this type does not incorporate the other cannabinoids. Importantly, CBD isn’t the only cannabinoid levering a high potential for personal benefits. Therefore, patients suffering from various ailments and symptoms will likely be better served with full-spectrum dosage.
Moreover, sativa-focused research indicates that these plant-based products work better when the entire library of cannabinoids are incorporated. This is called the “entourage effect.” Essentially, the other cannabinoids featured in full spectrum CBD fill the “gaps” of isolate CBD, promoting greater benefits. Scientific research on laboratory mice confirm that full-spectrum dosages offered superior anti-inflammatory benefits than just pure isolate.
Further preliminary research into cannabidiol’s impact on humans revealed the following benefits of full spectrum CBD:
- Reduced side-effects from inflammation
- Restricted cancer-cell growth
- Promoted healthy bone structure
- Restricted bacterial growth
- Noticeably relieved pain symptoms
- Sleep quality in patients improved
- Decreased magnitude of muscle spasms
- Effectively treated fungal infections
- Mitigated nausea and vomiting
- Lowered frequency of seizures
- Significant improvements for skin conditions
- Positive affect on anxiety
And this is just a sampling of full-spectrum CBD’s positive benefits. Research is still ongoing, and will likely reveal additional incentives to use cannabidiol in general. It also promotes the idea of CBD as a pharmaceutical alternative, especially in light of the rising opioid crisis.
Since neither full spectrum nor isolate CBD is addictive nor psychologically or mentally debilitating, the federal government is almost forced to consider this viable pathway. If anything, cannabidiol will find itself among many key issues in future political races.
Why Use Isolate CBD?
With so many personal and intrinsic benefits associated with full spectrum CBD, why go with the isolate variety? Since cannabidiol isn’t the most suitable format for recreational use, isolate CBD initially appears like a dumbed-down iteration.
However, such a reaction – though understandable – is a critical fallacy. Indeed, isolate CBD offers unique benefits that the full-spectrum counterpart do not and cannot deliver. Depending upon your circumstances, isolate CBD may be the best – and sometimes, only – choice.
First, let’s address the obvious. While isolate CBD does not offer the entourage effect because of its pure format, that does not mean it offers no personal benefits. If you’re looking to address a particular problem or symptom, isolate CBD may be just as effective, if not more so than full spectrum. Of course, this is an issue that you will need to discuss with your licensed medical practitioner.
Second, the chemical-compound differences between isolate and full spectrum CBD will necessarily impact the practicality of your decision. As we mentioned earlier, one of the key distinguishing factors between the two varieties is that full spectrum contains other cannabinoids. Therefore, full spectrum carries a trace amount of THC.
From a legal standpoint, full spectrum and isolate CBD are the same. But scientifically, that 0.3% THC content or less has a detectable impact on the human body. For instance, if you’re in a jurisdiction that allows employers to perform drug testing on job applicants, the nuances between full spectrum and isolate is hardly inconsequential!
Moreover, some occupations – such as federal offices overseeing sensitive matters – may require frequent drug testing. In this situation, your career and reputation is not worth taking a gamble on with full spectrum CBD. Although you should always discuss specifics with your licensed medical practitioner, the isolate CBD is the best approach here.
Third, isolate CBD is less likely to incur legal problems further down the road. While both variants are currently acceptable under federal law, you just never know what will happen next. Political momentum suggests that federal mandates will be loosened – after all, even Republicans were supportive of the 2018 Farm Bill.
Still, one can never be too careful making predictions about the current landscape. If the feds start to crack down on the sativa plant again, products based on isolate CBD are less likely to attract attention. Since they don’t contain any THC, no rational reason exists to investigate or quarantine them.
Finally, full spectrum CBD imposes nuanced scientific liabilities. Researchers discovered that this variation mixed with alcohol may lead to unpleasant reactions. These include extreme sedation and pronounced impairment symptoms. So far, no such link is associated with isolate CBD.
The Bottom Line on Cannabidiol
Overall, the CBD revolution has promoted an effective and viable channel for end-users seeking alternative benefits and therapies. The platform empowers the individual, providing a natural means for symptom and ailment relief.
To achieve these goals, companies in the botanical sector offer two variants of cannabidiol: full spectrum and isolate. Of the two, full spectrum is probably more popular than its pure counterpart because of the full library of cannabinoids. With full spectrum CBD, end-users may receive the entourage effect.
However, the practical and scientific liabilities associated with full spectrum have many individuals looking toward isolate CBD. With this format, enthusiasts and patients don’t have to worry about getting pinged on drug tests. Moreover, they may receive the benefits for which they were originally seeking without unnecessarily consuming other cannabinoids.
So which one is right for you? The isolate versus full spectrum debate truly comes down to personal preferences and requirements. If you’re seeking the absolute best in benefits, full spectrum is the way to go. However, those with practicality concerns should find greater confidence with isolate CBD.