Isolates, broad-spectrum, and full-spectrum CBD: the three terms get thrown around a lot, but what do they mean? And more importantly, how do they differ?
Which type of CBD product is the best, and what are the many differences between the three most popular types of formulas on the market? We look at answering these questions and more in our guide today.
Not only will we take a closer look at each of the three types of CBD extracts, but we’ll touch on why one might be best for a specific situation or person. Let’s dive into our full guide on CBD isolates, broad-spectrum, full-spectrum products, and the differences between the three.
What is CBD, and What is CBD Oil?
We’ve touched on this in prior guides, so make sure to check out our “What is CBD?” section to get more info, but we’ll provide a brief summary here too. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of the 60+ cannabinoids within both hemp and marijuana plants.
Since the 2018 Farm Bill made industrial hemp under 0.3% THC legal for cultivation, possession, and use, CBD oil is typically extracted from hemp plants grown in the USA.
When we extract CBD from the hemp plant, other beneficial cannabinoids, terpenes, and compounds come with it. The concentrations of CBD and those other compounds in the oil will vary based on the extraction method used, how rich the hemp was in cannabinoids or other compounds, and much more.
Why So Many CBD Products?
As the CBD industry grows ever more popular, more consumers start to wonder – why are there so many different products available? Surely there are only so many ways to turn CBD into a usable product, right?
That’s just one part of what makes the CBD market so appealing, though. There is a massive array of versatility involved when you can choose between thousands of different products across thousands of different brands. As a consumer, it means you have the power to choose the highest quality product for your specific needs, and truly have control over what you’re going to use.
What we’re excited to keep seeing are the laboratories that work overtime to formulate specialized CBD products and the rise of the hemp industry looming in the distance. As social acceptance grows over CBD, products become safer and better regulated as a result of the demand.
Not only is CBD being utilized in a massive plethora of extracts, but the minor cannabinoids, as well as the terpenes and flavonoids of the hemp plant, all get introduced with certain types of formulas.
Part of what separates isolates, broad-spectrum CBD, and full-spectrum products is the other hemp compounds included in the final product, which is the meat of what we’ll be talking about today.
What is a CBD Isolate?
CBD in its purest form, whether in an oil or extracted into a powder, is considered a CBD isolate product. An isolate is made when a company chooses to remove unwanted cannabinoids and other hemp compounds from the final formula. CBD is rarely extracted in this form; rather, a rigorous refinement process is necessary to strip the extract down to just CBD.
This type of CBD product typically contains 99+% CBD, devoid of THC, minor cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and any other hemp compounds. While there may be trace amounts of these compounds collectively, it’s not a true CBD isolate unless it’s at least 99+% pure CBD.
For consumers that know they’re sensitive to cannabinoids or want to stray away from the risk of THC in any form generally feel a comfort zone with isolates. While users may find it effective, others may find it’s lacking in the entourage effect that can potentially be felt with broad-spectrum or full-spectrum formulas.
There is likely some efficacy involved, as CBD even on its own shows beneficial properties, but the results may not be as fruitful as you may get with a different type of CBD extract. With just the consistency of CBD and no other hemp compounds or essential oils, an isolate isn’t often our go-to for our recommended type of CBD.
As a note, regulation is still unstable in the CBD industry, and that allows companies to slip through the cracks sometimes. These CBD companies may be seen claiming their products are isolated CBD, when they’re really broad-spectrum and even full-spectrum hemp products.
This is a problem that can be avoided by sticking with a company that performs consistent, regular batch testing on their CBD. This type of testing ensures the product is accurately 99+% pure CBD, with proof to back up that claim. Beware of any brand that claims their products are CBD isolates if it appears there are trace amounts of any other hemp compound in the formula.
What’s the Difference Between Broad-Spectrum and Full-Spectrum CBD Oil?
The problem with trying to distinguish between full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD products is there’s no definitive answer – because there’s no exact definition for “full-spectrum” or “broad-spectrum.” Rather, they’re both defined in a series of ways, and it becomes an arbitrary battle of linguistics to be able to discern between the two.
Not everyone got the memo, but pioneers within the CBD industry itself were the ones that first coined the terms. Wanting to make their products innovative and unique in every way possible, they managed to muddy the waters between what broad-spectrum and full-spectrum CBD oil mean in the process.
To understand the difference, it may be more efficient to define what each means and look at the differences from there.
What are Broad-Spectrum CBD Products?
Taking what we now know to be CBD isolates, there’s less of a refinement process involved for the latter two types of CBD. Broad-spectrum is accurately named because it includes a broad spectrum of the entire spectrum of hemp compounds in any hemp strain used. By the industry definition, that broad-spectrum excludes THC and unwanted plant material like chlorophyll and wax.
Broad-spectrum CBD products are still rich in minor cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids, but they’ve been stripped or refined of even the trace amounts of THC found in the raw hemp plant. While there may be trace amounts of THC in the hemp strains a broad-spectrum manufacturer might use, it’s refined until laboratory testing indicates there are non-detectable levels of THC present in the product.
To ensure a refined product remains consistently accurate, batch-testing is recommended for this type of formula, too. An excellent example of a broad-spectrum brand that performs rigorous batch testing on their products is cbdMD. Not only can you look up through their Lab Results page your product’s batch number, but you can also just scroll through the list so you can browse other batch lab results.
The cbdMD comprehensive approach to ensuring their products remain THC-free is certainly one that other brands might aspire to. Non-psychoactive because it’s been stripped of THC, you get to enjoy the entourage effect of CBD with the other minor cannabinoids, as well as flavonoids and terpenes naturally found in that hemp strain.
What is a Full-Spectrum CBD Product?
There are over 400+ compounds found within various cannabis plants, and each hemp strain has its own unique profile of cannabinoids and terpenes. When CBD and other hemp compounds get extracted from the plant, this is the product in its full spectrum. While technically whole plant extract contains more than a full-spectrum extract may, full-spectrum is possibly the most popular type of CBD product on the market.
A full-spectrum CBD oil or other type of product will contain trace amounts of THC, but in the US, it legally must contain 0.3% THC or less. This is not an amount high enough to provide any psychoactive or mind-altering effects, but it is important to note the serving size recommended on a full-spectrum product.
Taking more than the recommended serving size consistently over the course of a few weeks may build up the amount of THC present in your system, potentially causing you to fail a drug test. If this is not a concern of yours, a full-spectrum option may be your go-to, as you get the highest potential for a powerful entourage effect.
CBD works in synergy with the other hemp compounds, including the trace amounts of THC, to provide more intense relief than alternative formulas might. Of course, everyone is different, so results do tend to vary.
How CBD Oil Gets Extracted
You may be wondering how CBD oil and other CBD extracts are derived from the hemp plant to start with. To extract a specific cannabinoid from hemp, the method involves applying pressure to the plant. Rather than a harsh solvent that can damage the compounds in the final extract, high-quality extracts are produced using either pressurized supercritical carbon dioxide or food-safe ethanol.
The intense pressure causes the hemp plant’s hairs, or trichomes, to burst open, releasing vital cannabinoids. For either method, molecules bind to the carbon in the ethanol or CO2 and distilled, which removes any solid plant material from the formula entirely.
From there, the CBD oil may get refined. For our broad-spectrum formula, for example, a comprehensive refinement process is performed that removes all trace amounts of THC while retaining all other hemp compounds, like the other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids.
Testing is usually performed around this stage, as the compounds in the extract are easier to identify. Then, cannabinoids or terpenes are added to or taken away from the formula until it’s perfected down to what that specific CBD company considers effective.
After all these steps, the cannabidiol extract is used to produce other CBD products, or it’s turned into a CBD oil or tincture. Depending on the refinement process the extract just went through, it may be labeled a CBD isolate, a full-spectrum formula, or a broad-spectrum extract.
Which Type of CBD is the Best?
In the end, it comes down to your preference over which type of CBD you want to use as part of your daily routine. Isolates, broad-spectrum, and full-spectrum CBD products all have their benefits and their downsides, so you’ll want to weigh all the factors involved before you decide.
We typically recommend broad-spectrum products, as it’s the best of both worlds. Broad-spectrum products are more reliably batch-tested, they are free of THC, but still rich in CBD, minor cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes. While we don’t have a solid answer, because everyone is different, we often find ourselves choosing a broad-spectrum or full-spectrum CBD product over an isolate.
Which type of CBD extract have you found results with? Do you have a preference or a favorite? Let us know in the comments below; we look forward to hearing your opinion!