Full Spectrum vs. Isolate

Making Sense About CBD

What is CBD?  What’s the difference between CBD Isolate and Full Spectrum CBD?  What is best?  I’ve heard of the "Entourage Effect"...what is that?  What’s right for me or for my animal?  At Trove LLC we are asked these questions every day.  And for good reason:  the world of CBD can be confusing. 

CBD shows incredible promise in providing a variety of health and wellness benefits.  Meanwhile, relatively limited clinical research results exist, and with so many CBD products on the market, differentiating products and sorting through marketing claims are no easy tasks.  Every company says their product is the best.  The actual truth is that, among reputable companies with quality hemp and extraction methods (we’ll get into this shortly), most products are of high quality, and products of similar concentrations will tend to perform relatively similarly.  Largely, the user’s preferences and desired experience are what makes one product a better choice than another.

For clarity while reading this article, know that all Trove products are THC free and crafted with pure CBD isolate extracted from organically-grown USA hemp and other natural, organic, and botanical ingredients.

Now, let’s break down CBD into understandable chunks to help answer some important and frequently asked questions.

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of at least 100 chemical compounds unique to the cannabis sativa or hemp plant.  These compounds are referred to as cannabinoids.  You likely have heard of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the cannabinoid most associated with marijuana.  However, unlike THC, CBD is non psychoactive.  CBD has been shown to offer a number of benefits without the “high” effect of THC.  Research and experiential evidence shows that CBD may be helpful in promoting calm, addressing soreness and inflammation, and supporting the musculoskeletal, nervous, GI, and immune systems, among other useful applications.  Adding to these benefits, CBD is non habit-forming and well tolerated, making it a desirable supplement choice.

What’s the difference between Isolate and Full Spectrum?

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…  But before that, both isolate and full spectrum CBD products start off from the same hemp plant, grown per the 2018 Farm Bill standards.  Then the processed plant matter is extracted.  The industry standard is either supercritical CO2 or cold ethanol extraction (Trove employs supercritical CO2).  What you have now is known as "crude oil", a thick, waxy substance containing the extracted cannabinoids, fatty solids, terpenes (fancy name for essential oils), chlorophyll, and other residual plant matter.  Typically, then the crude oil is distilled or winterized to remove the solids and undesirable plant material. 

The result is a golden-brown distillate that’s approximately 80% CBD.  It contains other minor cannabinoids in varying concentrations, most of the original terpenes, and some residual plant material.  Dilute that substance in a carrier oil (typically MCT, hemp seed, or olive oil), and what you now have is full spectrum CBD oil.  It’s important to note that full spectrum CBD oil DOES contain THC; however, to be legally labeled as CBD, THC content must be below 0.3% by weight.  Keep in mind that people have lost their jobs or have been banned from competition as a result of using a full spectrum oil, thinking it didn’t contain detectable amounts of THC. 

It’s worth noting here that there is also a third category that we’ll discuss briefly, “broad spectrum”.  This is basically a full spectrum oil where the initial distillation process is repeated to get more of the THC out.  Think of this as halfway between full spectrum and isolate.  Some of the minor cannabinoids and terpenes are lost in the additional distillation steps, but it’s a nice middle ground for people seeking the original hemp compounds with less THC.  Obviously, smell and taste are a property of the original hemp compounds that are retained in broad spectrum.  Know that it’s common to see broad spectrum products labeled as THC free, but be cautious as this is not isolate and will likely contain trace THC content.

Now, let's take the extraction process one step further, and by a precise distillation method, we can separate out just the CBD.  This is called CBD Isolate.  It’s >99% CBD in its purest crystalline form.  Effectively, all terpenes and minor cannabinoids have been removed.  There are no trace detectable levels of THC.  But as my chemist father says, “There’s never 0% of anything in anything.”  So, it is possible that there are some undetectable trace amounts of THC left behind.  It is, however, extremely unlikely that using an isolate-based CBD product at recommended dosages would result in a failed drug test.  But this remains something to consider when trying new products.  And one more word to the wise:  only consider products that provide a Certificate of Analysis presenting lab results to verify cannabinoid content.

What is best?

This is a simple question with no single correct answer.  As previously stated, many great CBD products are currently on the market (a lot of not so good ones, too!).  So, do your research, decide what is important to you, and then consider the best products to find the right fit for you or for your animal.

Full spectrum contains many other molecules found in the hemp plant, such as other cannabinoids and terpenes.  Some of these have legitimate health and wellness benefits.  Full spectrum also contains THC, which may be undesirable, not well tolerated, or even toxic to some people and especially to dogs.  As previously suggested, if you have a job where you may be subject to drug testing, or you’re an athlete under regulations that ban THC and all other cannabinoids, but allow CBD, full spectrum is likely not for you.  The user experience element is also critical.  Full spectrum products carry a lot of the smell and flavor of the hemp plant.  Some people may not mind this, but other people don’t want to smell like marijuana or may find the taste unpleasant. 

Isolate is what it sounds like:  the isolated CBD molecule.  Nothing more.  It’s effectively a tasteless, odorless, white crystalline powder.  This level of purity makes isolate a very versatile vector to be utilized in everything from supplements to cosmetics.  The rub herein is that the hemp plant compounds present in full spectrum, along with the properties they add are eliminated with isolate.  In recognition of this, Trove adds specific terpenes back into many of our products in the form of pure essential oils for purposefully crafted scent/flavor profiles and specific added health and therapeutic benefits.  Also, as previously mentioned, isolate-based products are THC free.  This means that they are the better choice for anyone who is sensitive to THC, may wish to avoid even the potential of a psychoactive effect, or may be subject to drug testing for their job or competitive discipline.

I’ve heard of the "Entourage Effect"...what is that?

The results of a 2015 Haddasah Medical School Study of the anti-inflammatory effect of CBD on mice indicate that there may be an efficacy benefit to full spectrum extracts.  The study showed that isolate is more effective at lower doses, but showed a bell shaped response curve and was less effective at higher doses.  Full spectrum was more effective at higher doses and had a wider effective range.  The theory is that the combination of the various plant compounds in a full spectrum extract work together to a multiplicative effect.  That theory has been dubbed “The Entourage Effect”.

The results of the study are extremely interesting, no doubt.  But it’s important to look at the results in context.  Many companies have written marketing material based on this study that would have you believe that there is a razor thin effective dosage range where isolate is effective, and that full spectrum is more effective regardless of the dose.  However, the fact is that the range of effective dosages tested in that study is enormous, spanning 1-100 mg/kg of body weight.  Meaning that a 150-pound person would take between 70-7,000 mg of CBD.  70 mg is a high but reasonable daily dose for a person, but 7,000 mg far exceeds any recommended dosage on the market (that’s equivalent to 4.5 entire bottles of Trove Equine Oil 1500!).  In this study, full spectrum and isolate performed similarly at the lower/recommended dosage range.  That’s why the results of this test are interesting from a scientific perspective, but should not solely inform one’s purchasing decisions.  One thing is crystal clear:  more science is needed.  With lessening restrictions and increased focus on clinical research in the United States and worldwide, more information is surely on the horizon.

What’s right for me or for my animal?

Once again, there is not one right answer here!  Ask yourself what is most important to you:  Do you value most the profile of plant compounds in the full spectrum product?  Are you sensitive to THC or subject to drug testing?  Does the weedy smell or flavor of full spectrum bother you or your animals?  Do you (and your picky pooch, finicky feline, or hard-keeper horse) prefer the taste and scents of products that are formulated with isolate and selected essential oils?

If you are deliberating about a CBD purchasing decision or would like to learn more about specific Trove products, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at info@trovecbd.com!

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