We get tons of questions from customers who want to know the difference between full spectrum CBD and CBD isolate.
Since this is one of the most important things to look for when choosing a good CBD product, we felt compelled to write an in-depth article answering your most common questions, namely:
- What is full spectrum CBD?
- What are CBD isolates?
- What is the difference between full spectrum, broad spectrum, and CBD isolates?
- Which is better: full spectrum or CBD isolate?
- What are the cannabinoids in your products?
Lets jump right in …
What Is Full Spectrum CBD?
The cannabis plant can produce more than 400 compounds in addition to CBD (many of which appear to have medical benefits). These include:
- Cannabinoids (CBD, THC, CBDA, CBGA, etc.)
- Terpenes (mrycene, limonene, linalool, etc.)
So full spectrum CBD oil products contain CBD + other beneficial compounds that work together quite well.
What Is Broad Spectrum CBD?
Broad spectrum CBD is processed a bit further than full spectrum to remove some of the other cannabinoids, namely THC (it has zero percent). So broad spectrum has some beneficial cannabinoids, terpenes, and other plant compounds, but no THC.
One of the problems with broad spectrum products is many companies are now using CBD isolates and just adding in isolated terpenes. It is not clear if this has the same therapeutic effect as using a whole plant CBD extract.
Also, a small amount of THC helps CBD work better. So removing it completely is going to reduce its potential benefits.
What Is CBD Isolate?
CBD isolates contain just CBD (cannabidiol) and none of these other beneficial compounds of full spectrum (“whole plant”) CBD.
To create a CBD isolate, other cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids that are found within the hemp plant are extracted and refined, leaving only CBD.
A common misconception is that since CBD isolates are more concentrated, they must have greater therapeutic potential.
Here’s why we now know that’s not the case though …
What Is the Difference Between Full Spectrum CBD and Isolates?
A groundbreaking 2015 study showed that full spectrum CBD is much more effective over the long-term than CBD isolate.
The study was published in the journal Pharmacology & Pharmacy and was titled “Overcoming the Bell-Shaped Dose-Response of Cannabidiol by Using Cannabis Extract Enriched in Cannabidiol”.
Researchers looked at fifteen years of studies examining the anti-inflammatory effects of single-molecule CBD (isolate).
These studies had one thing in common: they all showed that when patients received CBD isolate, it led to a bell-shaped dose-response curve.
This means that when the amount of CBD isolate consumed over time exceeded a certain point, its therapeutic impact went down rapidly. The authors noted:
Purified CBD showed a bell-shaped dose-response, where a therapeutic response could only be achieved at a certain concentration. This narrow therapeutic window makes it difficult to use CBD in the clinics as a single agent.
When researchers gave patients whole plant (full spectrum) CBD extract, they noted much different results. They stated that full spectrum CBD:
… provided a clear correlation between the anti-inflammatory and anti-nociceptive responses and the dose, with increasing responses upon increasing doses, which makes this plant medicine ideal for clinical uses.
The research team also found that much larger amounts of pure CBD isolate were needed to achieve the same pain-reducing effects compared to full spectrum CBD extract!
The reason full spectrum CBD products appear to be more effective is most commonly attributed to what scientists call the “entourage effect.”
An easy way to understand the entourage effect is this: the whole plant is greater than the sum of its parts. Simply put, 25 mg of CBD isolate is simply not as effective as 25 milligrams of a whole plant CBD extract.
Dr. John McPartland states:
Synergy arises from interactions between its multiple components. Cannabis is inherently polypharmaceutical.
What Are Terpenes?
One can’t discuss full spectrum CBD without touching on the importance of terpenes.
Terpenes are aromatic oils that offer a multitude of benefits.
Each individual terpene has unique effects. Some are good for relaxation and stress relief, while others can help boost focus.
Terpenes are what give foods like rosemary, dill, cinnamon, lavender, and mint their unique taste and smell.
Around 200 terpenes have been identified in the cannabis plant.
A research report published in the British Journal of Pharmacology highlights the wide-ranging therapeutic benefits of terpenoids.
Which Is Better: Full Spectrum or CBD Isolate?
Bottom Line: Cannabis is Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts
With full spectrum CBD, which contains other cannabinoids, terpenes and phenolics, lower doses are required and the bell-shaped response curve disappears.
Here’s a quick recap of the differences between CBD isolate and full spectrum products: