CBD or cannabidiol is conveniently isolated in a variety of ways to benefit consumers. Labels like ‘CBD isolate’ and ‘Full-spectrum CBD’ can make you wonder “What’s the difference?” “Isolate” and “Full-spectrum” are both descriptions of extraction methods. Each method delivers differences in product concentration and consistency. All cannabinoids, be it CBD or THC, can be extracted from the cannabis plant.
Extracts make CBD available for a diverse range of applications. And the differences between CBD edibles (like CBD Cara-Melts by Twisted Extracts) and CBD cannabis buds are quite obvious. But the differences between the various extraction techniques used to isolate CBD into oils and tinctures (like 2500mg CBD Tincture by Daily) are not.
This quick article is going to cover the differences in extraction techniques and their products to help you chose the best CBD product for you.
Different Types of CBD Extracts
Broad-Spectrum CBD Oil
Both spectra of cannabis oils can go through refinements like decarboxylation, winterization, and extraction from pure cannabis flowers.
Winterization uses ethanol and cold temperatures to remove waxes and fats. Decarboxylation applies heat that activates cannabinoids from their acidic form to their active form.
The key difference between CBD isolate and broad or full-spectrum CBD oil is the distillation process. Isolates and distillates go through additional refinement to isolate a single cannabinoid.
Broad-spectrum and full-spectrum CBD oils retain terpenes, flavonoids, and other beneficial compounds found in cannabis. The ‘entourage effect’ makes these types of CBD oils desirable. This is the chemical synergy present in the full array of compounds in hemp and marijuana.
Full-Spectrum CBD Oil
Full-spectrum CBD oil expresses the full range of compounds found in cannabis. These CBD oils contain trace amounts of THC, terpenes, and flavonoids. Full-spectrum cannabis oils simulate the ‘entourage effect’ entirely.
The difference between Broad-spectrum CBD oil and full-spectrum CBD oil is the THC content. Broad-spectrum has the THC removed completely, to eliminate any psychoactive capabilities. Full-spectrum CBD oil will contain trace amounts of THC, staying true to the original hemp plant.
Cannabis distillate is slightly less refined than isolate, with the same potency and results. The reason they are confused is that they both isolate a single cannabinoid and remove all other compounds, such as terpenes and flavonoids. CBD isolate or distillate will both contain close to 98-99.9% CBD with no other trace compounds.
Cannabis distillate takes the form of viscous oil, meaning it is in liquid form. This makes it a type of cannabis oil. However, not all cannabis oils are distillates.
CBD oils described as ‘broad-spectrum’ or ‘full-spectrum’ retain the original compounds, but distillates contain a single cannabinoid like CBD or THC.
As noted before, CBD isolate is a type of distillate. Isolate is the more refined version of distillate and has been through the same rigorous purification process.
The key difference between isolate and distillate is their form. Isolate takes the form of a crystalline powder. Distillate almost always takes a liquid form. Their potencies and effects are comparable.
The term ‘distillate’ describes oils that go through a distillation process once the oil has been extracted, winterized, and decarboxylated. This process removes the trace compounds so all that remains is the desired cannabinoid at full potency.
How Are CBD Isolate and Full-Spectrum CBD Made?
Cannabis or hemp seeds are cultivation comes first! Harvesting and curing the plant happens after development. Extraction fully removes the flowers, leaves, and stems, called the cannabis biomass.
Cannabis Extraction Process
Before distillation can start, the cannabis biomass goes through drying and curing after harvesting. Then, a solvent like ethanol, butane, or CO2 is used in the extraction process.
Using state-of-the-art laboratory equipment, solvent-based extraction techniques begin. It is dangerous to use most solvents in uncontrolled environments. Therefore, laboratory equipment and conditions are the best venues to guarantee safe extraction and potent, high-quality CBD isolate.
Adding Solvent to Biomass
An enclosed space tightly packed with cannabis plant biomass is drenched in a solvent. Extracting equipment makes this safe. The solvent absorbs the useful compounds. These include cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and all other trace molecules like vitamins and antioxidants. Various processors perform additional processes like winterization or decarboxylation.
This is the initial cannabis extraction process. The resulting crude oil contains around 60-80% CBD or THC. At this stage, the cannabis oil is full-spectrum, containing all essential components of the cannabis plant.
The solvent still needs to be purged to produce a pure, high-quality full-spectrum or broad-spectrum CBD oil. Distillates will undergo further purification to make CBD isolate.
CBD: Broad-spectrum, Full-spectrum, and Isolate
To review, broad-spectrum CBD retains the terpenes and flavonoids while removing THC or other cannabinoids. Full-spectrum CBD removes nothing and is made from a hemp plant that contains less than 0.3% THC. This means that full-spectrum CBD oil will contain trace amounts of THC, while broad-spectrum will not. Distillates receive further purification treatment where all other compounds but the desired cannabinoid are removed. CBD isolate is a pure, crystalline powder containing nothing but CBD.
Luna Technologies. (2021) “Cannabis Distillate: Behind the Making of Pure and Potent Liquid Gold,” Luna Technologies, [online] Available from: https://blog.lunatechequipment.com/making-cannabis-distillate (Accessed 30 April 2021).
Marinotti, O. and Sarill, M. (2020) “Differentiating Full-Spectrum Hemp Extracts from CBD Isolates: Implications for Policy, Safety and Science,” Journal of dietary supplements, U.S. National Library of Medicine, [online] Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32543253/ (Accessed 30 April 2021).