The Differences Among CBD Isolates, Distillates, and Full-Spectrum CBD

The Differences Among CBD Isolates, Distillates, and Full-Spectrum CBD

As more and more research comes out showing the incredible potential of CBD, it’s become clear that cannabidiol may be a powerful ingredient for dietary supplements. However, not all CBD products are created equal, and distinguishing among them can be a difficult task. Let’s take a closer look at this exciting compound and the details of different types of CBD.

What Is CBD?

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a compound found in cannabis plants, including hemp varieties. Cannabis flowers contain over 100 similar substances called cannabinoids. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabigerol (CBG), and cannabinol (CBN) are a few other common cannabinoids found in hemp plants. 

The human body even makes its own cannabinoids, such as anandamide and arachidonoyl glycerol (2AG). The body’s internal cannabinoids are called endocannabinoids. These internal cannabinoids play important roles in the human body. A lack of sufficient amounts of anandamide and 2AG can lead to a condition called Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CED). Plant-derived cannabinoids, referred to as phytocannabinoids, have been shown to help the body replenish and maintain endocannabinoid levels.

How Does CBD Work?

Both types of cannabinoids stimulate receptors in a complex network called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Although it wasn’t discovered until the late 1990s, the ECS evolved over 600 million years ago and is present in all vertebrate animals, including humans. The endocannabinoid system plays a vital part in regulating numerous critical systems, such as:

  • Memory
  • Pain-response
  • Mood-regulation
  • Inflammation
  • Motor functions
  • Immunity
  • Sleep cycles

The endocannabinoid system helps living organisms maintain homeostasis, keeping bodily conditions in balance even when the external environment changes. The ECS does this through a network of receptors located in the nervous system, immune system, and the skin.

Receptors in the brain and central nervous system act in a distinct manner and are called CB1 receptors. The CB2-type receptor is abundant throughout the immune system. Human skin contains both types of cannabinoid receptors, which is one reason why CBD topicals can be particularly effective.

Now that you have a better idea of what CBD is and how it works, we’re ready to discuss the various types of CBD supplements and their differences.

Full-Spectrum CBD

Full-spectrum CBD gives consumers the complete range of therapeutic benefits offered by the whole hemp plant. All of the different compounds work together to provide maximum benefits to the consumer in a phenomenon called the entourage effect. Hemp plants contain several classes of compounds that are helpful for dietary supplementation. 


Flavonoids have a powerful antioxidant effect and are plentiful in certain fruits, vegetables, honey, red wine, and cannabis plants. In addition to their ability to help reduce oxidative stress, plant-derived flavonoids exhibit a wide range of potential therapeutic characteristics, such as:

Flavonoids may also play a role in protecting the heart and relieving allergies.


Terpenes are organic compounds that plants produce to attract pollinators and repel predatory insects. Terpenes are largely responsible for the taste and smell of plant-based foods. Some common terpenes found in cannabis and CBD hemp flowers include:

  • Linalool: Abundant in lavender and lilac flowers, linalool is a popular ingredient in cosmetics and perfume.
  • Myrcene: Found in mangoes, myrcene gives hemp flowers a sweet and fruity flavor. Myrcene also enhances the action of certain cannabinoids.
  • Pinene: Pinene gives evergreen trees and herbs like parsley their characteristic fresh aromas.
  • Beta-caryophyllene: Spicy beta-caryophyllene is plentiful in black pepper and cloves.
  • Limonene: As the name hints, limonene can be found in citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, and grapefruits. Limonene is a common ingredient in cleaning products.

In addition to giving flowers their pleasant fragrance and flavoring our food, terpenes exhibit a host of biological properties that may be helpful for general well-being.


Hemp and cannabis plants contain many more helpful cannabinoids apart from CBD. Scientists have discovered at least 113 cannabinoids in hemp plants. Some of the most abundant cannabinoids include:

  • Cannabigerol (CBG): CBG acts as the base material for the formation of other cannabinoids, such as CBC, THC, and CBD. For this reason, CBG is called the “mother cannabinoid.” Like CBD, CBG is non-psychoactive and exhibits immense potential for therapeutic purposes. Although CBG can be difficult and expensive to extract, some experts predict that cannabigerol will soon become a widely popular supplement. Some even call the compound the “next CBD.”
  • Cannabichromene (CBC): CBC is another non-psychoactive cannabinoid that may have considerable therapeutic value. Although more study is needed, preliminary research has shown that CBC may be beneficial in several ways, including reducing inflammation.
  • Cannabinol (CBN): Hemp flowers naturally produce CBN as the plant ages. Among the properties of CBN are sedative effects, leading physicians to recommend CBN for occasional sleep disturbances.
  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): THC is the psychoactive cannabinoid that’s most sought after by recreational cannabis users. By law, hemp and CBD products must contain less than .3% THC. Apart from its psychoactive properties, THC has been shown to have the potential to aid with specific issues. Medical marijuana doctors often recommend products with THC for conditions such as glaucoma. Full-spectrum CBD products allow up to the legal limit of tetrahydrocannabinol in order to take advantage of the compound’s unique characteristics. 

All of the cannabinoids work together in a complementary fashion to help the endocannabinoid system maintain balance. For instance, CBD naturally diminishes the psychoactive actions of THC. For this reason, the trace amounts of THC in full-spectrum CBD will not cause any intoxicating effects.

CBD Isolates

CBD isolates are carefully extracted and processed to eliminate every other compound except cannabidiol. Some of the best isolates contain upwards of 99% pure cannabidiol. 

CBD isolates are an excellent choice for people who are concerned about drug testing or unwanted effects from trace amounts of THC. Additionally, isolates have no taste or smell, making them useful for people who aren’t accustomed to the herbal flavor of hemp plants. CBD isolates often come in powdered form so you can easily add them to foods, beverages, and your favorite beauty products.

One drawback of isolates is that consumers can’t take advantage of the entourage effect that occurs when all of the different compounds in hemp plants work together. 

While some manufacturers of CBD isolates offer products with added terpenes, all isolates will be completely free of any other cannabinoid except CBD. 

CBD Distillates 

CBD distillates, also known as broad-spectrum CBD, allow consumers to get some of the benefits of the entourage effect. Distillates contain all of the cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes of the original plants while excluding tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). After the initial extraction process, distillate manufacturers put their products through a careful procedure to remove any trace of THC.

CBD distillates give consumers the benefits of most of the components of cannabis plants without worrying about any possible THC content.

CBD Extraction Methods

Now that you’re acquainted with the different types of CBD supplements, we’ll take a look at the many techniques that manufacturers use to extract and process CBD. 

Supplement manufacturers typically extract CBD through three primary methods:

  1. Solvent extraction: This method involves using a chemical solvent to extract CBD from the hemp flowers. Afterward, the solvent is removed from the extract. Butane, propane, ethanol, and isopropyl alcohol are common solvents used in CBD extraction processes.
  2. Oil extraction: Olive oil infusions are a safer method for extracting CBD, as they eliminate the risk of residual solvents. However, olive oil CBD extractions typically have a shorter shelf-life as the oil is perishable.
  3. CO2 extraction: Carbon dioxide extraction is an efficient and relatively safe method of creating CBD supplements. Unfortunately, CO2-extraction equipment can be costly, and the price of CO2-extracted CBD will reflect that.

CBD manufacturers use a variety of additional procedures to purify their products, including:

  • Winterizing: The process of winterization removes unwanted fats, waxes, and lipids from CBD extractions.
  • Short-path distillation: This type of distillation is particularly useful in isolating CBD from extractions.
  • Deep-freezing: Deep-freezing CBD extracts aids in removing residual solvents.

Additionally, manufacturers use intense mixing and advanced filtration practices to create the purest CBD supplements possible.

Choosing A CBD Supplement

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably curious about trying CBD. You’ll need to ask yourself some questions when you’re considering a CBD supplement, including:

  • Will you need to undergo drug testing for employment? If drug testing is a concern for you, your best bet is to purchase a CBD isolate.
  • Are you concerned about the possibility of psychoactive effects from trace amounts of THC? Both CBD isolates and distillates are completely THC-free. Even though full-spectrum CBD products cannot cause psychoactive effects, you may want to avoid them if the presence of trace amounts of THC is of particular concern.
  • Do you want a product with the natural flavor of hemp flower, or would you prefer a flavorless CBD supplement? CBD isolates are odorless and tasteless, while distillates and full-spectrum CBD will have the natural flavor and scent of hemp flowers.
  • Is it important for you to get all of the benefits of the entourage effect? Full-spectrum CBD products give consumers the best opportunity to profit from the entourage effect. CBD distillates are an excellent second choice if you’d prefer a product with no THC, but you still would like to take advantage of the synergy among the different plant compounds.
  • Does the manufacturer of the product you’re considering provide third-party lab test results? Third-party lab testing is critical to ensure the purity of CBD supplements. Labs will test for biological contaminants, pesticides, residual solvents, and cannabinoid levels. Some lab reports will also include terpene profiles.
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About the author

George Mouratidis works as a full-time copywriter and journalist. He is the founder of, a bespoke content writing agency for the cannabis industry. George is a regular editor for many industry publications, as well as corporate blogs. He is also the co-writer of the book Ganja Hustle; a hit cannabis growing guide for the USA and Canada markets. When he is not writing, George likes to work out, trying new foods and playing with his cat. Currently, he lives in Greece.