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Full Spectrum Cannabis Extracts VS CBD Isolate

You can feel a lot like you’re Goldilocks when trying to figure out which CBD product is just right for you. There’s full spectrum CBD, CBD isolate, Raw CBD, Active CBD, and goodness know this list goes on for a bit. However, they all fall into one of two categories: Full Spectrum and Isolate.

Both full spectrum CBD and CBD isolate reviews are great, but only one is winning people over left and right. Let’s find out which on that is!

Understanding Cannabis And Where CBD Comes From

Cannabis is a complex plant with hundreds of molecules that all can in some way benefit our health. Let’s check them out!


Our first class of chemical compounds in cannabis are the guys and gals that offer the most substantial benefits to health. There are at least 113 phytocannabinoids in cannabis plants and these lipids mimic neurotransmitters called endocannabinoids that our own body creates for regulatory purposes such as appetite, mood, pain-sensation, and immunity.

CBD OilWhile each cannabinoid in cannabis has their own unique way of helping, we pay attention to two in particular: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the most famous of the cannabinoids because it produces the euphoric effects attributed to marijuana varieties of cannabis plants. Marijuana strains found in dispensaries commonly boast THC concentrations anywhere from 15% to over 30%.

Cannabidiol (CBD), on the other hand, is non-psychoactive. While it can’t cause a high, it can influence the activation of cannabinoid receptors in the body promoting a host of functions that promote homeostasis and improve health. Hemp plants are separated from marijuana plants because instead of boosting high THC concentrations they boast high CBD concentrations — hemp can’t get you high.

In their natural state, cannabinoids have a carboxyl group (weak acids) that makes them “inactive” and too large to interact with the cannabinoid receptors. To activate them we heat or combust the plant — this is why you can’t eat raw marijuana and get high. We denote these cannabinoids with a lowercase “a” such as THCa and CBDa. They still have some benefits when ingested, but how much so is undetermined. You can purchase both raw CBD isolate and full spectrum, but until we know more, stick with activated for both forms.


Our second class of molecules is the terpenes. There are over 200 terpenes found in cannabis plants, and even if you’ve never used cannabis before you’re already familiar with talking them to improved health. They are essential oils that help give fruits, vegetables, and other plants their aroma. Cannabis is bursting at the stems will terpenes and bred to have different ratios resulting in different aromas.

Terpenes can be taken by themselves as they have anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, and antibacterial properties. However, they appear to work best when together with the cannabinoids as they interact and highlight each other’s properties.

CBD Isolate vs Full Spectrum CBD

Once you find out that cannabis has hundreds of chemical compounds that benefit health, and not just one, it’s easy to understand the difference between isolate and full spectrum.

CBD isolate extracts is cannabidiol by itself — no THC, no terpenes, no nothing. Isolate extracts are highly pure — coming in at 99% CBD. Full spectrum CBD will have cannabidiol along with the other cannabinoids and terpenes in cannabis. This includes THC in very small amounts (.3%), but don’t worry CBD naturally overrides THC psychoactive effects and .3% THC alone isn’t going to cause a high.

As you’ve probably guessed, there is something in particular that makes CBD stick out more so than the other cannabinoids besides THC. Cannabinoids aren’t created equally. CBD is definitely one of the top 5 most beneficial cannabinoids, and with naturally occurring high concentrations, it caught the attention of researchers first.

This led to researchers calling cannabis oil with high CBD and low THC ratios CBD oil — regardless of whether there were other cannabinoids or not present. After seeing the benefits, people were curious if you could isolate CBD and create a stronger product. It’s a good idea after all; take what you believe is the most potent component and administer it.

What ends up happening is CBD becomes stunted, and for some people, completely ineffective. But why?

Well, it’s the same reason your doctor advises you to eat fruits and veggies instead of taking a multivitamin. There is a complex chemical matrix in plants, and when you start hacking out and isolating single molecules, you start losing benefits. Just like the vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants of veggies come together to deliver a fuller extent of health so to do the cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, etc. in cannabis. Molecules often rely on one another so they can focus on being the best at one thing.

In cannabis, we call this the entourage effect. It explains the synergetic relationship the molecules — notably the cannabinoids and terpenes — share with each other.

For the most part, they benefit each other by reinforcing each other’s therapeutic properties. For example, CBD promotes the production of endocannabinoids by preventing the body from prematurely re-uptaking them. This allows endocannabinoids to bind to CB2 receptors which CBD can’t do. But the phytocannabinoid CBN can bind to CB2 receptors, and this extends the therapeutic range.

Another major way the entourage effect presents itself is how certain cannabinoids like CBC and the terpenes can open the blood-brain barrier for cannabinoids like CBD to easily pass through. Many studies such as the one from the Lautenberg Center for General Tumor Immunology in Jerusalem, have found that CBD is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream when isolated.

Most studies find isolates work half to a quarter as well, as full spectrum extracts.

Should I Ever Take Isolate?

Comprehensive research finds that for the majority of people, full spectrum CBD is the better option. Unlike isolate, dosing does not work like a bell curve, so a specific dose is not needed. As well, it will cover more medical conditions — one study found isolates could only treat half the number of seizure variations that full spectrum could. Researchers think that in this case, it was the 0.3% THC that helped treat more forms of epilepsy even though it couldn’t cause a high.

But this brings up a weird phenomenon, in some cases, people feel sluggish with full spectrum CBD even with low doses. Some wonder if this means they are extremely sensitive to THC or another cannabinoid that produces tiredness. Whether the reason is, in most cases a switch to CBD isolate solves the problem.

With CBD isolate, you may not be getting the benefits of full spectrum CBD, but it’s better than nothing. And for some people, CBD isolate is better than full spectrum CBD and can greatly reduce their pain or anxiety where full spectrum CBD is only OK at it. Though they run may run into an issue where full spectrum CBD helps somewhat with both pain and anxiety, and while CBD isolate works wonders for pain, it does little for anxiety.

Things can get wonky, but fortunately, the side effects of both extracts are very mild, and most see none at all. As well, CBD is non-toxic, so you have the ability to take how much CBD you desire, whenever you want.

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