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CBD Isolate vs. Full-Spectrum: Your Guide to Choosing Which Is Best for You

cbd isolate versus full-spectrum your guide to choosing

Summary of Key Points: 

  • CBD isolate is the purer form of CBD, which is stripped of THC as well as other cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids.
  • Full-spectrum CBD usually contains trace amounts of THC (still less than 0.3%) as well as other cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids, which may be beneficial.
  • Broad-spectrum CBD is a third kind of CBD which includes many beneficial cannabinoids but does not contain any THC.
  • All  forms of CBD can bring great benefits depending on your preferences and needs.

Interested in trying cannabidiol (CBD)? Good for you! This amazing little compound is known to bring a huge range of benefits, from helping you get a good night’s rest to promoting calm and relaxation throughout the day. The best part? It’s generally well-tolerated, which means you can enjoy all the advantages without any worrisome side effects. But here’s the problem: There are so many CBD products on the market, and not all of them are the same. So how do you know which one to buy? 

The first thing you need to do is learn a little bit about the different types of CBD so you can be sure you’re getting a product that’s well-suited to your specific needs. CBD comes in an assortment of formats — gummies, capsules, oils and creams — as well as types and potencies, so knowing a little bit about your options is crucial to finding the right product. In this guide, we’ll go over a few of the most popular kinds of CBD, including CBD isolate, full-spectrum CBD and broad-spectrum CBD, to help you narrow it down.

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At a Glance: Isolate vs. Full-Spectrum

Here’s all the most important information you need to know about full-spectrum CBD and CBD isolate. We’ll also cover a third, lesser-known option — broad-spectrum CBD — to help ensure that you get the whole picture when shopping for CBD.

cbd isolate

CBD Isolate

CBD isolate is considered the purest form of CBD and contains no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or other cannabinoids, terpenes or flavonoids. This makes it the better choice for people who are concerned about the psychoactive effects of THC or who may have to take a drug test. Because it contains no other cannabinoids, terpenes or flavonoids, there are a few cons of CBD isolate. Namely, it may have a milder effect than full-spectrum CBD because there is no entourage effect.

  • Pro: It’s Safe for Drug Tests — You can rest assured that products labeled CBD isolate contain no THC, which means they’re much less likely to be detected on a drug test screening for marijuana. This is the best option for people who have to undergo drug screenings for any reason.
  • Pro: Good for First-Time Users — Because it is known to bring a bit of a milder effect, CBD isolate is often recommended for first-time CBD users. If you’re nervous about starting a CBD regimen, we suggest starting with an isolate product at the lowest serving size and then working your way up to a full-spectrum product from there.
  • Pro: You Can Pair It with Other Products — Another great thing about CBD isolate is that it’s so pure you can find it in powder form to enhance other products — whether it be your vape juice, your favorite smoothie recipe or a recovery shake — without you adding any unwanted compounds into the mix.
  • Con: It May Bring a Milder Effect — That mild effect we mentioned? It may be a con, too. One study showed that full-spectrum CBD brings slightly more noticeable effects than CBD isolate, likely because it does not contain other compounds that trigger the entourage effect.
  • Con: It’s Stripped of Other Compounds — During the CBD isolation process, other key compounds are stripped from the extract, including terpenes, flavonoids and other cannabinoids, which may be beneficial. We’ll cover this more in-depth below.
full-spectrum cbd

Full-Spectrum CBD

Unlike CBD isolate, full-spectrum CBD may contain trace amounts of THC (it still cannot legally contain more than 0.3% THC according to the 2018 Farm Bill) as well as other cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids which may be beneficial to your health. While full-spectrum CBD doesn’t contain enough THC to cause psychoactive or intoxicating effects, it may still show up as THC on a drug test, though this is highly unlikely. Regardless, CBD is federally legal so long as it contains less than 0.3% THC.

  • Pro: It May Be More Effective — As previously mentioned, studies suggest that full-spectrum formulas are more effective in some ways, so it may be better at helping you sleep or relax. That’s because full-spectrum CBD contains other compounds which may bolster the effects of the CBD.
  • Pro: It May Have a Broader Range of Benefits — Many of the compounds preserved in full-spectrum CBD products may bring some benefits. For example, they may contain cannabinoids such as CBN (cannabinol), which may have anti-inflammatory properties, as well as CBG (cannabigerol), which is currently being studied for its potential to help with glaucoma, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Huntington’s Disease and more.
  • Pro: It May Boost CBD — As we’ll cover below, full-spectrum CBD may have a more intense effect because of something called the entourage effect. Essentially, this means that the other compounds that are preserved in the extract can help bolster the effects of CBD.
  • Con: It Contains Trace Amounts of THC — Though it’s highly unlikely if you choose high-quality products, some full-spectrum CBD formulas may cause a failed drug test due to the presence of THC. If you are required to take drug tests, it’s best to stick to full- or broad-spectrum CBD.
  • Con: Though Unlikely, It Can Make You Feel High — Again, high-quality full-spectrum CBD products, like the ones for sale at TheGreenClaw.com, will not contain enough THC to cause psychoactive effects, at least when taken in their recommended serving size. However, there is THC in these products, so do not rule out the possibility of feeling high when consuming them in large amounts.

What About Broad-Spectrum CBD?

When searching for CBD products, you may also see some formulas labeled “broad-spectrum.” While it’s a bit less common than the other two types, this option is still worth your consideration. Broad-spectrum CBD is essentially CBD extract that has had the THC removed but maintains many of the other beneficial compounds of the hemp plant. This makes it a great middle ground for people who want to enjoy the entourage effect but don’t want to risk ingesting THC. Some people find that CBD Isolate does not provide the needed effects for some of the ailments that CBD best treats in combination with the whole plant entourage of cannabinoids. These people often opt for full-spectrum CBD. But some of them discover that they are really sensitive to THC content or would rather not ingest it due to testing requirements or personal reasons. Without a broad-spectrum option, these people would be denied the benefits of CBD compounds. Broad-spectrums fill this gap to ensure that everyone is given the opportunity to benefit from these extracts.  Check out the popular Daily Grind Broad-Spectrum CBD Tincture if you’re interested in this option. 

How is Broad-Spectrum CBD Made? 

One common question that arises about broad-spectrum CBD concerns whether the means by which the THC is removed from the compound affects the overall ratios of the phytochemicals that remain, reducing its overall beneficial effects. As noted, Broad spectrum CBD products are essentially Full-spectrum CBD products without the THC. The THC is removed by a chemical process called chromatography in which the elements of the compound are separated, THC is removed, and then naturally reconstituted. This ensures that there is minimal to no impact on the ratios of the other phytochemicals and that broad-spectrum CBD preparation retains most of the benefits of the full-spectrum preparations. 

daily grind

Going In-Depth: The THC Factor

What differentiates products labeled “CBD isolate” and “full-spectrum CBD” is the contents of the CBD extract itself. When a CBD farmer extracts the compound from the plant, it may contain other cannabinoids and plant compounds such as THC, which is the cannabinoid responsible for giving you that “high” feeling when consuming cannabis. It may also contain terpenes and flavonoids, which can help bolster the effects of the CBD. CBD isolate has all of these compounds removed, making the product primarily made up of CBD.

On the other hand, full-spectrum CBD contains some THC, but the amount is negligible. Per the Farm Bill passed in 2018, hemp-derived CBD products cannot contain more than 0.3% THC, which is not enough to get you high. Additionally, full-spectrum CBD keeps other key compounds such as terpenes and flavonoids, which may be beneficial in a variety of ways. That means that depending on which type of CBD is used, your CBD gummies may contain more than just CBD. But is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. 

We know that THC in and of itself can be beneficial in its own way, but it’s not right for every scenario and not all CBD users want to consume it while soaking up the benefits of CBD. Because it’s such a small amount and it won’t make you feel intoxicated, you can still take full-spectrum CBD throughout the day without any mind-altering effects. However, marijuana is still not legal in every state and it may show up on a drug test. As such, it’s important to make sure you’re consuming the right kind of CBD for your comfort level and preferences.

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The Entourage Effect 

So if you’re in it for the health benefits and don’t want any psychoactive effects, the choice is clear: CBD isolate, right? Not necessarily. Things are a bit more complicated than that due to something called the entourage effect. This is the effect that happens when CBD is consumed alongside other beneficial compounds, including the aforementioned terpenes and flavonoids. In other words, they can help boost the effects of CBD. 

a bottle of cbd oral drops

But when CBD is purified with products labeled “CBD isolate,” these compounds — which may help the CBD work better — get tossed out with the bath water. Here’s more on these compounds and why they may be beneficial.

  • Terpenes are chemical compounds found in the hemp plant which are secreted as aromatic oils that give the plant its distinctive smell and flavor. However, these compounds may also play a role in the way CBD affects us, potentially helping to promote relaxation, stress relief, focus and more. Though more research is needed, some studies suggest that terpenes bring therapeutic benefits such as pain relief, relaxation and the ability to fight bacteria. 
  • Flavonoids are another group of compounds found in fruits, vegetables and hemp that are removed in CBD isolate products but which may bring some advantages. When consumed in foods, flavonoids serve as naturally occurring antioxidants which can help your body fight free radicals, which play a role in heart disease and cancer, among other serious health concerns.
  • Additional cannabinoids that may be included in full-spectrum CBD include CBN (cannabinol), CBG (cannabigerol) and CBC (cannabichromene). While more studies are needed on each of these compounds, there is plenty of promising research out there suggesting that these cannabinoids can affect the body’s endocannabinoid system — the same system impacted by CBD and THC — and bring some measurable health benefits.  

Your Best Bet? Try a Bit of Each

So, which kind of CBD is best for you? As you can tell, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. The type of CBD that’s best for you depends on a variety of factors, including what you want to get out of your CBD experience and how familiar you are with the substance. You’ll also have to weigh how comfortable you are with consuming THC, even if it is in small amounts.

Our best piece of advice is to sample CBD products of all types and keep a diary of your experience. The fact of the matter is that CBD affects everyone differently, so you want to give many different options a try before settling on one. Luckily, TheGreenClaw.com is here to help you with our free CBD program, which allows you to redeem one free CBD product per month. No strings attached! Sign up to get your free CBD samples now!

The statements made regarding these products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The efficacy of these products has not been confirmed by FDA-approved research. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. All information presented here is not meant as a substitute for or alternative to information from healthcare practitioners. Please consult your healthcare professional about potential interactions or other possible complications before using any product. The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requires this notice.


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IRA_EVVA / Shutterstock.com

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