Full spectrum CBD extract vs. CBD isolate
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A rapid increase in the popularity of CBD has led to a boom in the market. There are countless products available that offer many different ways to take the cannabinoid. Everything from edibles, drinks, dried flowers, oils, and concentrates are available. One of the most popular ways to consume CBD is by taking an extract. These products are available in different potencies and formulas, and even offer different effects.
Two of the most common forms of CBD extracts are full spectrum extracts and CBD isolates. Although these two products contain high levels of CBD, the resemblance stops there. Full spectrum extract provides users with a rich array of phytochemicals, whereas CBD isolate offers a powerful hit of a single molecule.
Check out the differences between full spectrum extract and CBD isolate below.
WHAT IS FULL SPECTRUM CBD?
Cannabis contains far more than just cannabinoids. Although this class of chemicals often steals the spotlight, the plant produces many other molecules that have their own beneficial effects. Full spectrum CBD extract takes advantage of these other chemical classes, offering a concoction of fatty acids, amino acids, chlorophyll, terpenes, flavonoids, and, of course, cannabinoids.
It’s true that CBD is being investigated by scientific studies for their effects on the symptoms of numerous conditions. However, the efficacy of the molecule may actually be increased when combined with other elements of the plant, such as terpenes.
Terpenes are aromatic molecules that give cannabis flowers their distinct flavors and smells. Research has found cannabinoids like CBD to work in a synergistic fashion with these molecules. This phenomenon is known as the entourage effect, which works by increasing some of the therapeutic effects of cannabis' chemical constituents.
For example, the terpene limonene has been shown to increase CBD’s antioxidant effect, as well as its cytotoxic effect against certain cells. The terpene linalool, on the other hand, appears to increase the anxiolytic and anticonvulsant effects of the cannabinoid.
Full spectrum CBD extract is primarily made from industrial hemp plants containing up to 0.2/0.3% THC (depending on jurisdiction). This means that full spectrum CBD extract contains trace levels of THC well below the legal threshold. While it’s not enough to get you high, these minute quantities of THC may synergise with other molecules to offer non-psychotropic, “sub-perceptual” effects.
Full spectrum CBD extract can be made in numerous ways. A basic DIY method is to perform an extraction using high-proof alcohol, which pulls cannabinoids, terpenes, lipids, waxes, and chlorophyll into the solution. The alcohol is then evaporated via gentle heating, and the final extract is left behind.
Commercial operations tend to use supercritical CO₂ extraction to harness the desired compounds from hemp plant matter. Supercritical CO₂ is a superb solvent due to its ability to permeate solids like a gas, and dissolve materials like a liquid.
WHAT IS CBD ISOLATE?
CBD isolate is just as it sounds. It’s an extract that contains extremely high levels of CBD—and that’s basically it. Upon opening up a jar of CBD isolate, you’ll notice a white, crystalline substance. This is created when CBD is separated from all of the other substances present in a full spectrum extract, such as other cannabinoids, terpenes, and so on.
But what about the entourage effect? Well, this phenomenon is pretty much absent when consuming CBD isolate. Products usually clock in at around 99% purity, with the other 1% comprised of trace levels of terpenes. The only way to experience the entourage effect with CBD isolate is to take additional terpenes alongside the extract.
Despite the lack of entourage effect, CBD isolate is still highly desirable to some users. Users who experience relief from the cannabinoid may benefit from consuming such a purified and condensed form of CBD. Adding CBD isolate to food, drink, or placing a dose under the tongue are superb ways to introduce high levels of the molecule into the bloodstream.
Recreational users who enjoy the relaxing and clear-headed effects of CBD can also add isolate to bong bowls and joints to reduce feelings of paranoia and anxiety when smoking THC-rich cannabis.
Unlike full spectrum extracts, CBD isolate is a lot more challenging to make at home. It involves a process that requires crystalline silica, a substance that is highly dangerous when inhaled, and should only be worked with under a fume cabinet in a lab.
CBD isolate is extracted using a process called chromatography. A crude extract is passed through a column of fine substances, such as silica, that separate the molecules. The smaller molecules, such as CBD, travel faster through the mixture, whereas the larger molecules take longer. This allows technicians to capture pure CBD when it exits the column.
FULL SPECTRUM VS. ISOLATE
Both of these extracts have their own advantages. It’s not so much a case of which is better; it’s more a matter of the preferences and needs of those taking it.
Full spectrum CBD extract offers a diverse array of chemicals that work in synergy to produce effects. However, the presence of these other molecules means CBD levels are reduced. This type of extract also contains trace levels of THC. Although this isn’t enough to get you high, it could still be an area of concern for those subject to extremely rigid drug testing at work.
CBD isolate provides a pure form of the cannabinoid. The lack of other molecules means that each dose contains a much higher amount of CBD. The complete lack of THC also makes it more viable for those worried about drug testing. However, the lack of other beneficial compounds means users don’t benefit from the entourage effect.
THE ENTOURAGE EFFECT COULD MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE
Although CBD isolate provides much higher doses of CBD, quantity is only one factor to consider. In fact, it could be much more beneficial for some people to take lower doses of CBD alongside terpenes to experience soothing relief.
Research published in the journal Pharmacology & Pharmacy found that full spectrum extract might provide greater clinical use than CBD isolate. Researchers administered both types of extracts to mice to measure the anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive (reducing sensitivity to painful stimuli) effects.
CBD isolate was found to induce a bell-shaped dose–response curve. This means that the effect only increased with the dose up to a certain point. Past this point, the effect actually decreased as the dose increased.
In contrast, a full spectrum extract enriched with CBD was found to produce a clear correlation between dose and effect. As the dose increased, the effects became more profound.
These findings led the authors to conclude that full spectrum extract is superior to isolated CBD in the treatment of inflammatory conditions.