Variety is great, but so many choices can be confusing for a first-time buying navigating the market.
We’ll break down what you need to know about the different forms of CBD: CBD isolate, broad spectrum CBD, and full spectrum CBD. All these forms of CBD are sourced from cannabis and are used to formulate different types of CBD oils. They are extracted and processed differently, which changes the components that end up in the final product.
What is CBD Isolate?
CBD Isolate is exactly what it sounds like, it is the purest, most isolated form of CBD. During the extraction process, extra steps are taken in order to isolate the CBD and free it of all other compounds from the hemp plant (including all other cannabinoids). This is the most potent, strongest form of CBD available.
Looks and Feel of CBD Isolate
The resulting product is usually in the form of crystals or a fine white powder that can be used in a variety of ways, including dabbing, vaping, or placing the powder under your tongue. Because this CBD form looks like a refined powder (almost like powdered sugar), it can be intimidating to new users. Rightfully so, as isolates are highly concentrated and require cautious dosing. But don’t be overly intimidated, they are very versatile and can be added to almost anything, from honey to a traditional joint. Take extra care when introducing isolates into your daily regime, a little goes a long way.
How do you know if it is pure? Given that the terpenes, which are responsible for taste and scent, are removed it should be odorless and have no noticeable flavor. When purchasing CBD isolate, look for a reputable brand with third-party lab results that confirm the product indeed only contains CBD. There should be no additives, impurities, or other compounds from cannabis, such as THC, CBN, and CBG.
How does CBD isolate compare to other forms of CBD?
In a nutshell, it’s the fact there is zero THC or any other cannabinoids (apart from CBD). Many different options for consumption and no additives or other plant compounds. This means that there’s no THC and there should be no psychoactive ‘high’ feeling or traces of it found in drug testing1,2. On the flip side, you may be missing out on some possible benefits when using the pure form of CBD. Research is still ongoing, but studies suggest that taking a combination of cannabinoids can generate a supportive effect called the ‘entourage effect’. Some research shows that when taken at the same time, cannabinoids work together, boosting the effects of each3,4. Don’t let this stop you from taking an isolate though, CBD is still reported to have many benefits when taken on its own5,6.
What is Full Spectrum CBD?
Think of full spectrum CBD as being on the complete opposite side of the CBD purity scale, compared to CBD isolate. Full spectrum CBD is derived from the whole hemp plant. It is the least refined or processed version of CBD. During the extraction from the plant, there is minimal processing and purification, so full-spectrum CBD will contain a range of other cannabinoids (CBD, CBG, CBN, THC, etc.), as well as terpenes and other naturally occurring plant materials. The amount of THC in a full spectrum CBD extract should be less than 0.3%, which isn’t enough to get you ‘high’7.
How does full spectrum CBD compare to other forms of CBD?
Full spectrum CBD is right for you if a small amount of THC doesn’t phase you and you’re looking to benefit from a wide array of cannabis plant molecules that work together synergistically (remember – the entourage effect)3,4. Most people that opt for full spectrum CBD believe that the strength of cannabis lies in the teamwork of its many components. In some instances, research supports that positive effects are stronger and negative side effects decrease when whole-plant extracts are taken8.
What is Broad Spectrum CBD?
Broad spectrum CBD would be the same as full spectrum CBD, except it contains no THC. This form of CBD lies somewhere between CBD isolate and full spectrum CBD – it isn’t as refined or pure as the isolate, but it is processed more than the full spectrum form to strip away the THC content. Even without THC, the presence of additional cannabinoids and other cannabis compounds may result in heightened effects via the ‘entourage effect’3,4.
- Grinspoon, P. (2018). Cannabidiol (CBD)–what we know and what we don’t. Harvard Health Blog, 24.
- Iffland, K., & Grotenhermen, F. (2017). An update on safety and side effects of cannabidiol: a review of clinical data and relevant animal studies. Cannabis and cannabinoid research, 2(1), 139-154.
- Russo, E. B. (2019). The case for the entourage effect and conventional breeding of clinical cannabis: no “strain,” no gain. Frontiers in plant science, 9, 1969.
- Russo, E. B. (2011). Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid‐terpenoid entourage effects. British journal of pharmacology, 163(7), 1344-1364.
- National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2017). The health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: Current state of evidence and recommendations for research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press
- Whiting, P. F., Wolff, R. F., Deshpande, S., Di Nisio, M., Duffy, S., Hernandez, A. V., … & Schmidlkofer, S. (2015). Cannabinoids for medical use: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Jama, 313(24), 2456-2473.
- Grotenhermen, F., Russo, E., & Zuardi, A. W. (2017). Even High Doses of Oral Cannabidiol Do Not Cause THC-Like Effects in Humans: Comment on Merrick et al. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research 2016; 1 (1): 102–112; DOI: 10.1089/can. 2015.0004. Cannabis and cannabinoid research, 2(1), 1-4.
- Freeman, A. M., Petrilli, K., Lees, R., Hindocha, C., Mokrysz, C., Curran, H. V., … & Freeman, T. P. (2019). How does cannabidiol (CBD) influence the acute effects of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in humans? A systematic review. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews.