What Are The Differences Between Full-Spectrum CBD and CBD Isolate?

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Imagine sitting down to enjoy a bowl of fresh spinach leaves. They’re crisp and healthy but there’s not a lot of flavour. Now imagine that same bowl with a few other things in it. There’s the base of spinach but on top are small amounts of diced carrot, shredded beet and candied walnuts. It’s still very healthy but there’s a lot more taste and you’re aware of the fact there are trace amounts of sugar in the candied walnuts. This analogy serves to illustrate the difference between CBD Isolate and Full-Spectrum CBD. The latter is the bowl with multiple items while CBD Isolate is simply the spinach, straight-up. Both are good for you, but one is a purer form than the other. We’ll delve further into the differences between CBD Isolate and Full-Spectrum CBD in this article as well as explain what each is best for, who should use what, and how to shop for the different varieties.    

What is CBD?

CBD is the abbreviation of “cannabidiol,” which is a non-toxic, naturally-occurring ingredient in all forms of cannabis plants, including hemp. It’s one of 140 identified phytocannabinoids and accounts for up to 40 percent of the plant’s extract, making it easy to distill into various forms including topicals, oil vapour and edibles. As with all derivatives of marijuana, it is legal in Canada but the main difference between CBD products and other cannabis items is it contains very little, if any, THC, which is the intoxicating compound in weed that makes you feel “high.” CBD is used to treat all forms of health issues including pain, anxiety, epilepsy, depression, insomnia and Parkinson’s Disease and unlike pharmaceuticals, it does not have any side effects, nor is it addictive. For more about CBD, read our article “CBD versus THC.

What is CBD Isolate?

As the name suggests, CBD Isolate is a pure form of CBD: it has been completely isolated and there are no other additives. Referring back to our metaphor at the beginning of this story, CBD Isolate is like a bowl of fresh spinach without any other vegetables, salad dressing, or fixings. All CBD is an extract of the cannabis plant but in order to get CBD Isolate, the extract is carefully filtered until the only thing that’s left is 99% CBD. The final product is odourless, tasteless and appears solid with a diamond shape, which is why CBD Isolate is also referred to as CBD Crystals. From that state, it’s usually ground down into fine powder so that it can be consumed easily. 

What is Full-Spectrum CBD?

If CBD Isolate is a bowl of spinach leaves, Full-Spectrum CBD is a mixed salad that’s mostly spinach but there are other items as well. For example, Full-Spectrum CBD can include other cannabinoids such as CBN (cannabigerol), CBC (cannabichromene) and THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid). It can also contain trace amounts of THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis that gets you high. Typically, there is so little that it would be impossible to feel any psychotropic effect from it but like our mixed salad metaphor above: that trace of sugar in the candied walnuts is still there. Another thing that can be found in Full-Spectrum CBD include terpenes, which affect the taste and smell of cannabis and have other positive effects on our bodies. For more about terpenes, read our article “Cannabis terpenes and how they affect you.” You’ll also find flavonoids in Full-Spectrum CBD, which are metabolites that, like terpenes, also provide health benefits. 

What is the Entourage Effect as it Applies to Full-Spectrum CBD?

Let’s return to our salad metaphor for a moment. There’s no question a bowl of spinach leaves is healthy but it’s limited in the number of vitamins it provides. A spinach salad that includes carrots, beets and candied walnuts is also healthy and it contains a plethora of different vitamins that work together to have a positive effect on our immune systems. Full-Spectrum CBD is like this mixed salad: there are a number of ingredients, from terpenes to flavonoids, that work together to provide an overall benefit. This is called the Entourage Effect. There are numerous studies that claim that in order to experience the full benefits of CBD, the entourage effect needs to be in evidence. One study, in particular, done by the Lautenberg Center for General Tumor Immunology, found that test subjects administered with full-spectrum CBD were provided with higher levels of relief, compared to subjects administered with CBD isolate.

What is CBD Isolate best for? 

According to Statistics Canada, the number of people in the country who use medicinal marijuana (including CBD products) jumped 175% between 2015 and 2019. Part of the reason for this is cannabis is good for a variety of medical ailments. Also, it’s a safe alternative to pharmaceuticals: it’s impossible to overdose on and there are very few, if any, side effects. And particularly with CBD products, there is no intoxicating “high” like you would experience from THC products. Here is a list of other health issues CBD is good for: 

  • • pain
  • • insomnia and sleep issues
  • • multiple sclerosis
  • • epilepsy and seizures
  • • arthritis
  • • loss of appetite
  • • cardiovascular disease 
  • • anxiety and stress
  • • Parkinson’s disease
  • • nausea


Regarding CBD Isolate specifically, because it comes in a tasteless and odourless powder, usually, it’s used by laboratories or those individuals with sensitivities towards taste. Plus it’s easy to take and no equipment is required: simply place some under your tongue for efficient absorption. CBD Isolate is also used by those who wish to have no contact with THC whatsoever, no matter how trace the amount. Consider our metaphor of the mixed salad with candied walnuts: if you have an aversion to nuts, you may wish to stay away and simply have the bowl of spinach greens. Likewise, if you have extreme sensitivity to THC, you may wish to avoid it altogether and stick with CBD Isolate. 

What is FullSpectrum CBD best for? 

As with all CBD products, Full-Spectrum CBD is good for a variety of medical ailments (see list above). And according to a number of recent research studies, it provides a broader swath of relief and medicinal benefit because of the various cannabinoid elements and ingredients working together. 

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Should I use CBD Isolate or Full-Spectrum CBD?

There was once a theory that isolating CBD and ingesting it in its purest form was more beneficial for you. However, that was disproven by the Lautenberg study. There was also a theory that trace amounts of THC found in Full-Spectrum CBD could show up on drug tests but that too was disproven. (See our article  “Does Full-Spectrum CBD Show Up On A Drug Test?”) So it all comes down to a matter of preference. Does an odourless, tasteless powder that’s easy to place under the tongue and ingest sound appealing? Or would you rather have the option of capsules, drops, and more? If you are taking CBD for an acute medical issue, it’s always best to consult your physician to determine what type is best for you and what dosage. (For more about CBD dosage, see our dosage chart in the “Definitive Cannabis Guide For Seniors” article.

How To Purchase CBD Isolate and Full-Spectrum CBD

Reputable online cannabis retailers usually offer an array of Full-Spectrum CBD products as well as CBD Isolate. In the case of Stash Club, the easiest way to do a search is with “Shop By” and in the drop-down menu, under, “THC Strength,” choose “Low” or “None.” The latter search will offer such products as Mammal’s 99% CBD Isolate, which is a powder that’s easy to consume. Full-Spectrum CBD products include vape pens, capsules, and even coconut oil. Bon Appétit!