What is CBD Isolate & How is it Used?
As the name suggests, CBD isolate is a pure isolated form of cannabidiol - a primary, non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis.
CBD isolate is sourced from hemp using extraction and processing methods to isolate the molecule into a white crystalline powder. This powder is free of all other cannabis plant materials including the high-inducing cannabinoid THC. Isolate can be used as a standalone product or as an ingredient in common CBD formulations.
In this article, we provide all the essential information you need to know about CBD isolate including how it's made, how it's used, and the limitations of this substance compared to other types of hemp extracts.
How is CBD Isolate Made?
The appearance may make you think that CBD isolate is produced synthetically in a lab, but it is not. Like any other CBD-rich extract, isolate begins its life in plant form. Isolate can be sourced from either marijuana or hemp, though products publicly available for sale are exclusively derived from hemp. This is because hemp is bred to contain high levels of CBD and trace amounts of THC (the opposite chemical profile of most marijuana) to stay within the federal legal limit of 0.3% THC by dry weight.
The process to make isolate begins with hemp plant material which undergoes extraction resulting in a thick oily substance. This extract is known as full-spectrum because it contains a whole-plant chemical profile that mirrors that of the original plant source. The compounds found in this oil include cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, chlorophyll, fatty acids, and more.
To isolate the cannabidiol, further processing of this whole-plant extract is performed. Filtering removes the excess plant compounds before the CBD is separated from the other cannabinoids and terpenes through distillation. The result is a crystalline substance containing up to 99% pure CBD.
After the isolate is created, it should be screened at a lab, testing for potency and purity. High-quality companies will provide these lab reports to the end consumer to verify the purity and concentration of the final product. For more information on how to identify isolate-based products by their lab reports, see our guide.
Types of CBD Isolate
The versatility of CBD isolate is one of the most attractive things about it. As a consumer, you'll find a wide range of products from pure isolate sold alone, to a wide variety of products crafted with isolate as the main ingredient:
When CBD is isolated from a full spectrum extract, the end result is a thin white slab. This slab is commonly pulverized into a powder, but sometimes it is sold as a single slab or in small pieces. There is no chemical difference between a slab and powder. Slab isolate is often sold simply because it is easier to use when vaping or dabbing.
Crystals / Powder
Most commonly, you'll find CBD sold as a white powder. This powder is created by pulverizing a slab of isolate into a fine dust. This powder can be used in a variety of ways including used directly or as an ingredient in other finished products.
Using CBD isolate as an ingredient to create end products is a common practice. You'll find isolate-based products of nearly every type available on the market today including capsules, tinctures, balms, vape products, and more.
Since all the terpenes and cannabinoids are removed when making CBD isolate, some companies will add hemp or marijuana-derived terpenes back into an isolate. The result is an enjoyable, aromatic product that provides additional therapeutic benefits via the terpenes. Most commonly this is done on products designed to be dabbed/vaped.
CBD Isolate vs Full/Broad-Spectrum: Effectiveness & the Entourage Effect
The supporting cannabinoids and terpenes found in full and broad-spectrum extracts have been researched individually to provide many unique benefits. These compounds are also known to offer synergistic benefits when consumed together, something known in the cannabis industry as the entourage effect.
Because CBD isolate is missing these supporting compounds, this sacrifices some therapeutic benefits that a whole plant approach offers. A 2015 research document highlighted the need for higher, more precise isolate dosing to achieve the desired effects when compared to full-spectrum extracts. Cannabinoid and terpene-rich whole plant alternatives were shown to be more effective at lower dosing.
For those drawn to CBD isolate due to it's lack of THC, broad-spectrum product offers a full-spectrum profile with only the THC removed. These products retain the maximum possible levels of beneficial cannabis compounds without THC exposure, making them a great alternative to CBD isolate.
If you're interested, be sure to browse our selection of broad-spectrum options right here at Big Sky Botanicals!
How to Use CBD Isolate
Despite CBD isolate's inability to produce the entourage effect, the molecule still has plenty of research-backed and anecdotal evidence supporting its effectiveness. The isolate form also has some distinct advantages that make it attractive to new and experienced users. Namely, an isolate is THC-free, low cost, and extremely versatile. Below we highlight the many ways you can use CBD isolate:
Make Your Own CBD Tincture
You can easily save some money by using isolate to create your own tinctures as opposed to buying them pre-made. In addition to getting more bang for your buck you also get control over the carrier oil, potency, and any flavoring additives.
Before you start, you'll need a dropper bottle. Most commonly you'll find tinctures in 30 ml (1 oz) or 15 ml (1/2 oz) dropper bottles. You can find these online for as little as $1 each or head down to your local health food or supplement store for comparable products.
Once you've secured your dropper bottle, its time to whip together your tincture. The two key components are simple: CBD isolate and a carrier oil. The most common carrier oils are MCT oil or hemp seed oil. Again, both of these can be purchased at your local health food store or online. Once you have your ingredients, all there is left to do is decide on a concentration, mix them up and you're off to the races.
Hot Tip: crystalline CBD will mix into a carrier substance more quickly if heated. Continue adding heat and mixing until the cloudiness (undissolved CBD crystals) disappears, pre-heating the fatty substance to 175°F-200°F (80°C-93°C) before mixing is ideal. Once fully emulsified, keep in the refrigerator to keep it from re-crystallizing.
Add it to Edibles & Foods
All cannabinoids, including CBD, are fat-soluble. This means they mix into fatty substances like oil. You can easily add isolate into many types of edible food products containing ingredients like butter, coconut milk, or cooking oil. You can also use the CBD as a 'seasoning' and sprinkle it on top of nearly anything. The options here are basically endless, so here are a few ideas to get you going:
But Not to Drinks...
The CBD molecule is hydrophobic, meaning it does not dissolve into water. Because of this, isolate added to water will not dissolve. This means adding isolate to drinks is a no-go unless that drink contains a small amount of oil already.
There are some recent technological advances that have enabled manufacturers to create powder and liquid-form emulsified CBD which will disperse into water. We've taken advantage of this technology and now carry a water-soluble tincture that can be added to liquids!
Make Your Own CBD Capsules
If you followed the steps above to make a tincture, then making CBD capsules is a breeze. Capsules and tinctures often have the same ingredients, with just the concentration likely adjusted due to the small amount of liquid that a capsule holds. MCT oil is a great carrier oil for anything CBD-based that you'll be swallowing.
To make capsules all you'll need are some veggie caps. Again, these can be found at your local health food store or online. Pop open the capsules and fill them with your CBD/oil mixture and pop it back together. A commonly used concentration is 10-25mg of CBD per capsule.
Make Your Own Topicals
Isolate is great as an ingredient in topicals like salves and creams. You can follow one of the many online tutorials starting from scratch and make your own topical or add CBD to an existing oil-based product.
Add CBD to Your Vape Juice
This one is very straightforward, just add isolate to an existing vape juice. You get to choose how much to add and control the overall potency. This is a great option for existing e-cigarette users looking to begin vaping CBD.
Smoke CBD Isolate in Your Dab Rig or Wax Pen
Dabbing or vape-dabbing CBD isolate is a very common use for the substance and one that comes with a wealth of positive anecdotal feedback. Simply add a small amount of isolate to your dab rig or wax pen and hit it as you would normally. This method of ingesting CBD is highly bioavailable and has a quick onset time. This allows you to feel immediate relief.
If you're looking for more information about dabbing, we've put together a guide specific to CBD users.
Create Your Own Terpsolate
A terpsolate is a combination of CBD isolate and a liquid terpene extraction. Terpenes add an additional dimension to the dabbing or vaping experience. When adding terpenes to an isolate you end up with a partial entourage effect. Terpenes can add an uplifting, positive, and energizing or sedating, relaxing, and calming tone to your isolate.
To make a terpsolate, simply add small amounts of liquid terp extract to your isolate and stir. Be careful not to add too much and go too runny. Ideally, you still want a fairly viscous consistency so you can easily manipulate the terpsolate into your dab rig or wax vape pen.
Sprinkle on Top of Smoked or Vaped Marijuana
This last one is for recreational or medical marijuana users. You can sprinkle some CBD on top of your flower when smoking or vaping herb. The added CBD is known to 'smooth out' the THC-induced high. CBD is known to counteract the harsher psychoactive side of THC and produce a more enjoyable high - in addition to the added therapeutic benefits of higher CBD concentration.
Will CBD Isolate Show Up on a Drug Test?
Common drug tests looking for marijuana use tests for the presence of the metabolite THC-COOH, the resulting molecule present in the body after THC is consumed. Since CBD isolate is stripped of all other cannabis compounds, the end product is THC free. This means CBD isolate would not result in the failure of a drug test looking for THC use.
We dive more into this concept in our article which covers CBD and drug testing. You should always verify that the product your taking is free of THC by verifying lab reports, regardless of what the marketing copy says.
The THC-free nature of CBD isolate was long an attractive draw for those looking to benefit from the use of a CBD product. Luckily new advances in extraction and processing have created a new spectrum of products that preserves the full spectrum effectiveness with the THC-free accessibility of isolate.