CBD Isolate vs Full Spectrum Oil

Maybe you’ve heard about CBD isolate, full spectrum CBD oil, and other CBD products before...but are still a little unsure about what it all means? Fear not! While not all CBD is created equal, our team at Cornbread Hemp is here to guide you through the pros and cons of each option. Keep reading to learn more.


What is full spectrum CBD?

There’s more going on in CBD oil than CBD itself. A lot more. While using CBD alone is great, it may not be enough to activate what scientists call the entourage effect.

That’s because CBD is just one in a class of hemp-derived molecules called cannabinoids.

These cannabinoids are themselves just one class of hemp’s active ingredients. In other words, the premium hemp flower contains:1


There’s more going on in CBD oil than CBD itself. A lot more. While using CBD alone is great, it may not be enough to activate what scientists call the entourage effect.


That’s because CBD is just one in a class of hemp-derived molecules called cannabinoids. These cannabinoids are themselves just one class of hemp’s active ingredients. In other words, the premium hemp flower contains:1

  • Cannabinoids: CBD, CBDa, CBDv, THC, THCa, CBG, CBC, CBN, and more
  • Terpenoids: Pinene, b-caryophyllene, linalool, eugenol, and more
  • Flavonoids: Cannflavin A, cannflavin B, and others
  • Fat-solubles: ketones, chalcones, esters

Full spectrum CBD contains a full spectrum of hemp’s best ingredients, including the cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids mentioned above. Intuitive enough, right? It basically stays as true to nature’s original design as possible.  


What is CBD isolate?

CBD isolate is an ultra-pure, ultra-filtered type of CBD. Unlike full spectrum CBD oil, CBD isolate can’t be a liquid — it’s actually a scentless, tasteless white powder. It doesn’t have any terpenes to give it flavor, chlorophyll to give it color, or plant waxes to give it texture. It’s literally just crystalized CBD!


CBD isolate is made through an extensive extraction and filtration process. First it gets extracted with CO2. Next, it gets distilled and fractionated until just CBD crystals remain.2


CBD isolate vs full spectrum: are they safe?

Before getting into the many differences between CBD isolate and full spectrum CBD, let’s look at one very important similarity: both substances are totally safe. But CBD’s safety has nonetheless become a hot topic. Thankfully, there’s no cause for concern.


Let’s look at a few quick stats before going over them one by one:

  1. CBD mirrors substances produced in our bodies
  2. It’s virtually impossible to overdose on CBD
  3. CBD is well tolerated in special populations

1. CBD mirrors endocannabinoids

At the heart of CBD’s near-unmatched safety profile is one important biological truth: CBD mirrors the endocannabinoids naturally produced by our bodies. In fact, it’s not just us — every healthy vertebrate on the planet produces its own internal cannabinoids. And all the scientific evidence we have available shows that phyto-cannabinoids (like CBD)are nothing but a perfect match for them.3


2. CBD is impossible to overdose on

Unlike substances like alcohol or opioids, CBD does not activate any receptor sites located in the brain stem. This is the area of the brain which controls some of our most important autonomic activities (things like breathing), so its lack of endocannabinoid receptors is a very good thing.4


Animal-rights advocates may not like hearing this part, but scientists have actually succeeded in finding CBD’s lethal dose in rodents. Thankfully, this sort of thing can only be replicated in a lab: a person would need to drink nearly 9 liters of CBD oil to be at risk. The sheer volume of liquid involved would actually prove fatal first — at around the 7-liter mark.


Not to be morbid, but few substances can claim to have zero recorded fatalities to their name — natural or otherwise. People have passed away from drinking too much water, eating too much food, and consuming too much caffeine. But so far, nobody has died from taking CBD. With approximately a quarter of Americans now having tried the plant compound, its safety has been tested by a pretty large sample size.5


3. CBD is very well-tolerated

A quick glance at many otherwise harmless nutraceuticals often reveals surprising, age-related warnings. Some substances aren’t great for kids. Others are harmful to pregnant women, etc.


But CBD is different. It’s well-tolerated by virtually all “special populations” — i.e, groups with severe health problems or unique health needs. This can probably be explained by the endocannabinoid-related benefits we talked about earlier.6


The only groups that need to be careful with CBD? There are two. The first group are those on pharmaceuticals that target blood pressure or blood sugar. In these cases, CBD may inhibit cytochrome P450 enzymes enough to make said pharmaceuticals work a little too well. Anyone taking medication with a “grapefruit juice” warning should consult their doctor before taking CBD.


The other group that needs to be careful are pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers. There’s not enough data to know if CBD is safe for developing babies.


The biggest difference between full spectrum and isolate CBD

The single biggest difference between full spectrum CBD and isolated CBD is probably terpene content. Terpenes give full spectrum CBD much of its power. Some research suggests that these special scent molecules may contribute to the entourage effect as much as THC does!


In an ideal world, every hemp extract on the market today would be full spectrum, containing all of these beneficial compounds. It’s the same difference as drinking orange juice instead of just taking a vitamin C supplement. Why would you take a fish oil pill when you could have fresh salmon?


Full spectrum vs CBD isolate: the taste

CBD isolate has been taken through an exacting purification process to remove plant waxes and chlorophyll. And it is often described as “tasteless.” But the fact is that CBD isolate has an aftertaste that has been described as “metallic.”


By contrast, the flavor of full spectrum hemp extract is often described as “earthy.” Full spectrum CBD oil made from whole plant extraction can taste bitter and grassy. But full spectrum CBD oil made from Flower-Only™ extract, like Cornbread Hemp, can have a bright, floral flavor. That’s why Flower-Only™ full spectrum hemp extract is considered to be the best tasting option available.


CBD full spectrum vs isolate: the effects

New research shows that many of the benefits we’ve attributed to THC can be wholly matched by CBD.7 That’s especially true if CBD is used alongside synergistic terpenes, some of which bind to homeostatic receptors like THC does (just more gently). The general consensus is that CBD works better when combined with THC, other cannabinoids, and terpenes.8


On the other hand, CBD isolate doesn’t contain any cannabinoids or terpenes at all. That means it just can’t match the power of full spectrum CBD extracts.


CBD isolate vs full spectrum CBD: how they’re made

The processes behind CBD isolate production and full spectrum CBD production start off in similar ways. Both products can get their start with an extraction step that can take place with supercritical CO2 or with a solvent like ethanol. From there, the full spectrum CBD is lightly processed to remove plant waxes. CBD isolate is further refined by distilling the extract to separate out cannabinoids and terpenes, and then filtered again until the product reaches 99.9% purity.


There’s also a third major type of CBD called “broad spectrum.” This type of CBD is considered to be “THC free.” It is produced when scientists place hemp extract into a closed-loop, highly pressurized container where its various components separate away from each other. Since THC has slightly different molecular qualities than CBD, it evaporates up and away from the rest of the hemp extract.

The result is a CBD oil that’s totally free from THC, but still contains the other components of full spectrum, which is why they call it “broad spectrum.”


Full spectrum CBD vs isolate: why is full spectrum more powerful?

Full spectrum CBD is superior to CBD isolate, at least when power per milligram is concerned. So, why is that? Research from the Hebrew University in Israel has been most helpful in understanding the difference. In 2015, this university’s team compared full spectrum and isolate in a head-to-head comparison. What they found was interesting:9

  • Full spectrum CBD is easier to dose than isolate
  • Full spectrum CBD is four times stronger per unit than isolate  
  • Even low doses of full spectrum CBD are potent and powerful
  • Full spectrum CBD doesn’t have as many side effects, even if you ‘overshoot’ your optimal dose

This study’s authors went on to explain that the CBD in a full spectrum extract works in tandem with the extract’s terpenes, flavonoids, and other cannabinoids. Not only that, but they synergize in a way that makes them stronger than the sum of their parts. Full spectrum CBD oil also acts holistically enough to have a sort of balancing effect. Even mega-sized doses of full spectrum CBD shouldn’t make a person feel overly sedated.


It’s likely that each of the active ingredients in full spectrum hemp oil has slightly different effects on your body’s endocannabinoid system. CBD binds to CB2 receptors one way. Terpenes bind to CB2 receptors another way. And THC binds to CB1 receptors in yet another way.


If all of this seems overwhelming, don’t worry. You don’t need to understand the specifics to benefit from them! We bring all this up to show just how far-reaching full spectrum CBD’s effects can be. It acts on the very system that some biochemists call a literal bridge between body and mind.10 To summarize this section, the human body is extraordinarily complex. And that means it responds best to naturally complex, full spectrum solutions.


CBD oil full spectrum vs isolate

Just to recap, full spectrum CBD oil has several big advantages over CBD isolate products. Here are some of the biggest things to remember:

  • It’s well-tolerated without many major side effects
  • It’s extremely safe and virtually impossible to overdose on
  • It’s powerful — four times more powerful than CBD isolate
  • It works on your body’s endocannabinoid system

CBD isolate or full spectrum: how to pick a product

CBD isolate products might be ideal for certain small groups of people, like people with allergies to certain terpenes, or those worried about employment drug testing

For everyone else, full spectrum CBD oil is the obvious way to go. It combines CBD with an incredible array of other active ingredients that can boost your body’s endocannabinoid system like nothing else.


Once you’re sold on the idea of full spectrum hemp extract, there are several questions you should ask of any product before buying:

  • Is it made from whole plant or from Flower-Only™ extract?
  • Does it contain cover flavors or other artificial ingredients?
  • Is it USDA certified organic (our stuff is!)
  • Is it verified by third-party lab reports?
  • Is it well reviewed by customers?

CBD oil isolate vs full spectrum: summing things up

Well, there you have it — full spectrum CBD is superior to CBD isolate in nearly every way. It turns out that nature is pretty wise after all!


About the Author

Jim Higdon, Co-founder

a native of Lebanon, Kentucky. He holds degrees from Centre College, Brown University, and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Jim published Cornbread Mafia in 2012, full author bio here.


What’s the difference between CBD isolate vs. Full spectrum?

The main difference is that a full-spectrum product will contain a number of other types of molecules present in the cannabis plant, including terpenes and other cannabinoids such as CBG, CBC, CBD, CBN, THC, and THCV. In contrast, CBD Isolate only contains pure CBD.

Are full-spectrum hemp products bad for drug testing?

Yes! You can fail a drug test if you are consistently using any of our ingestible full spectrum CBD products, which contain the highest legal level of THC. If you need to pass a drug test and want to use full spectrum CBD, your best bet is to check with your employer or a drug test provider.

What is the best CBD oil: Full spectrum or isolate?

Research shows that full spectrum CBD products produce a more noticeable result that is referred to as the entourage effect. This term is used to describe how the cannabinoids work together as a team. Full spectrum CBD is also much more popular than CBD isolate.


1. Christelle M. Andre - Cannabis sativa: The Plant of the Thousand and One Molecules Available at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpls.2016.00019/full 

2. Glas-Col Isolating CBD Oil from Cannabis via Short-Path Distillation Available at: https://www.azom.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=18028 

3. Olakino CBD - CBD for other conditions Available at: https://olakinocbd.com/cbd-for-other-conditions/ 

4. Neurology - Systematic review: Efficacy and safety of medical marijuana in selected neurologic disorders Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4011465/ 

5. Dan Kopf - New data show Americans are turning to CBD as a cure-all for the modern condition Available at: https://qz.com/1590765/survey-shows-americans-use-cbd-to-treat-anxiety-and-stress/ 

6. Consumer Tech - WHO Report Finds No Public Health Risks Or Abuse Potential For CBD Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/janetwburns/2018/03/18/who-report-finds-no-public-health-risks-abuse-potential-for-cbd/?sh=240a81ee2347

7. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res - Waiting for the Entourage Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6760171/ 

8. Jürg Gertsch - Beta-caryophyllene is a dietary cannabinoid Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18574142/

9. Ruth Gallily - Overcoming the Bell-Shaped Dose-Response of Cannabidiol by Using Cannabis Extract Enriched in Cannabidiol Available at: https://www.scirp.org/journal/PaperInformation.aspx?paperID=53912 

10. Bradley E Alger - Getting high on the endocannabinoid system Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24765232/ 

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