CBD: Isolate vs. Extract Oil

Like most other plant extracts, CBD comes in many forms–from crystalline isolates to tinctures to dermal patches and topical salves–even suppositories. Whatever your preferred method of administering CBD is, chances are that there’s a product out there that will fit your needs. CBD oil tinctures and isolates tend to be the most popular, however they differ from each other significantly.

Crystalline CBD isolate is cannabidiol in its purest form, up to 99.9%. It is what’s left after virtually everything else in the hemp plant—THC, terpenes, oil and chlorophyll—have been removed. This makes it the most potent form of CBD available. At room temperature, isolate is a tasteless, odorless white powder or “slab” that can be vaporized or ingested orally (usually as an additive in CBD edibles).

CBD oil is the most common form of CBD and, in the case of full-spectrum extracts, is made using the entire hemp plant. Extraction methods vary, but CO2 extraction results in the least amount of quality degradation and is the sole method incorporated by NuLeaf. The extract is combined with a carrier oil such as coconut and packaged in bottles with suction droppers for easy dosing.

Isolate: A Closer Look

CBD isolate’s potency and tastelessness make it a popular option among users who are either looking for a more immediate effect, or who dislike the hemp flavor associated with oils. CBD users who are worried about trace amounts of THC showing up in drug tests are encouraged to go with isolate as it contains less THC than oil (by definition, hemp plants contain a maximum of 0.3% THC).

Interestingly enough, the high-purity factor of CBD isolate acts as both a sizeable advantage and disadvantage. While it is true that isolate is the purest form of CBD, removing the THC, terpenes and other cannabinoids from the product to obtain such purity levels comes at a cost: a diminishing of the synergistic effects that can only be reached through the combination of these substances in a full-spectrum CBD oil extract.

What is a Full Spectrum Extract?

It has been a long-accepted notion that when it comes to herbal health remedies, the therapeutic value of an entire plant is far more than the sum of its parts. In the case of hemp, the “parts” are all of the cannabinoids and other compounds that are not strictly CBD, but act in unison to heighten CBD’s effectiveness and provide a more beneficial experience. This is known as the “entourage effect”, and it is the primary reason why so many CBD experts recommend a full-spectrum tincture above all other alternatives.

In an oft-cited pivotal study published in the scientific journal Pharmacology & Pharmacy in 2015, researchers at the Hadassah Medical School at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem lent further credence to the entourage effect as it applies to hemp, concluding that “limitation with purified CBD could be overcome when presented together with other natural components of the plant” (R. Gallily et. al).

There are over 400 chemical compounds present in cannabis, more than 60 of which are cannabinoids. Given this, it comes as no surprise that removing these compounds to create a pure CBD isolate also reduces the overall utility that would otherwise be provided by a whole-plant CBD extract.

Although the many benefits of CBD are by now well-established, there is still limited scientific evidence surrounding cannabinoids, their inter-dependencies, and how they work together to provide a more effective product. As the market for CBD continues to expand, more light will be shed in this arena, but for now it is safe to say that a full-spectrum extract is the preferred method for getting the most out of your CBD experience.