Full Spectrum CBD Vs. CBD Isolate: Which Is Better?

Full Spectrum CBD Vs. CBD Isolate

Luke Sumpter
Luke Sumpter
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With an array of different CBD products on the market, questions inevitably arise about their comparative effectiveness. When it comes to full spectrum CBD versus CBD isolate, the main difference is clear. While one is molecularly isolated, the other contains a spectrum of cannabinoids, though primarily CBD.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both. While full spectrum CBD may be more effective in certain instances, isolate is purer and completely free of THC. As such, which one you choose will depend on exactly what you are looking for in a CBD product.



Both CBD isolate and full spectrum CBD are derived from hemp. In order to qualify as “hemp”, cannabis plants must contain less than 0.3% THC. The extraction process that is used to draw CBD out of hemp is ultimately what determines if the final product will come out in the form of isolate, or full spectrum CBD.

Full spectrum CBD is a whole-plant extraction, and as such, contains numerous other cannabinoids and terpenes in addition to CBD. For instance, full spectrum CBD can be expected to contain cannabinoids such as CBG, CBN, and CBC, as well as an array of terpenes and flavonoids. By comparison, CBD isolate is refined to truly isolate CBD, making sure that the final product contains nothing but pure molecular cannabidiol.

CBD isolate is the purest form of CBD available. The extraction and filtration processes remove all other cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and plant matter. After all is said and done, isolate’s final form is a crystalline powder composed of around 99% pure CBD.

CBD Kristallen 99% Puur (Zamnesia)View CBD crystals

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The primary advantage of full spectrum CBD is obvious; its array of cannabinoids are able to produce more profound effects than just CBD alone. However, there is more to full spectrum CBD’s effectiveness than just its collection of cannabinoids. The term “entourage effect” refers to the way that CBD works in synergy with other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids to create an effect greater than the sum of its parts. Some researchers now believe that marijuana’s effects do not just occur because of the presence of cannabinoids, but because of the way these cannabinoids and other chemicals interact with each other in the human body.

The entourage effect can be understood when looking at the different effects produced by THC and CBD when taken separately, versus when taken together. CBD has been shown to be an “allosteric modulator” in the presence of THC. This essentially means that, although it doesn’t bind to CB1 receptors in the same way as THC, CBD can change the shape and signalling efficacy of these receptors, resulting in lessened psychotropic effects from THC. This synergy between THC and CBD allows medical patients to consume larger amounts of THC without experiencing some of the negative side effects that may accompany it (like anxiety).

A study conducted in 1981 was the first to confirm the entourage effect. Using a bioassay for cannabis known as the ring test, the study found that consuming marijuana produced 330% more activity in mouse subjects than just consuming THC on its own. Researchers concluded that the plant must contain synergistic compounds that work together to produce effects, and inhibitor compounds that prevent other cannabinoids from producing effects.

Again, it is not just cannabinoids that exist in synergy, but also terpenes and flavonoids. For example, it has been suggested that the terpene pinene can also help to reduce some of the cognitive side effects of THC. 


Full Spectrum CBD Vs. CBD Isolate: Advantages And Disadvantages

The main advantage of full spectrum CBD is its reported effectiveness. Boosted by the entourage effect, full spectrum cannabidiol produces more potent effects than just CBD isolate. A 2015 study published by the Lautenberg Center For General Tumor Immunology concluded that test subjects dosed with full spectrum CBD reported higher levels of relief than those dosed with isolate.

On the other hand, a concoction of different cannabinoids is not always a great thing. Since the legal limit on THC content is 0.3% in most places, full spectrum CBD must contain no more than this. To be fair, almost all full spectrum CBD claims to contain less than 0.3% THC. However, even trace amounts of THC can show up on a drug test in certain instances, especially if they are being consumed regularly enough. This can become especially problematic for CBD consumers who are randomly drug tested. All of Zamnesia’s full spectrum CBD products contain trace amounts of THC.

As such, CBD isolate may be a better choice for consumers who want to avoid THC altogether. If you undergo regular drug tests or feel that you may at some point soon undergo random testing, it’s a good idea to stick to CBD isolate. While it may not be quite as effective, it gets most of the job done with none of the risks. Most isolates contain practically nothing else besides 99–100% pure cannabidiol.



When deciding between these two products, it really all comes down to you and your situation.

CBD consumers who need to pass drug tests should probably stick to CBD isolate. Meanwhile, those seeking maximum effects should strongly consider making full spectrum CBD their preferred choice.

Others may like the fact that CBD isolate is tasteless and odourless. It can easily be mixed into any liquid or food, unlike full spectrum oil, which will always taste like cannabis—unless dosed in a capsule and swallowed, that is.

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It should be noted that the average consumer tends to prefer whole-plant extracts to other forms of marijuana. An international survey published in 2013 and completed by 953 participants from 31 different countries found that almost all of them preferred whole-plant extracts containing a variety of cannabinoids over synthetic cannabis-based medicines like Marinol.

Luke Sumpter
Luke Sumpter
With a BSc (Hons) degree in Clinical Health Sciences and a passion for growing plants, Luke Sumpter has worked as a professional journalist and writer at the intersection of cannabis and science for the past 7 years.
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