As the name suggests, CBD isolate is a pure isolated form of cannabidiol - a primary, non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant. As a standalone product, isolate is found as a white powder or slab form. This substance is pure and concentrated, free of all other cannabis plant materials including the high-inducing cannabinoid THC.
The appearance may make you think that CBD isolate is produced synthetically in a lab, but it is not. This substance is produced via extraction and purification techniques applied to the hemp plant. When extracted, the CBD molecule is stable in a crystalline form.
Isolates offer a wide range of available uses from directly placing the powder under your tongue to dabbing to including it as an ingredient in edibles. The substance is also used as a CBD source ingredient, making it commonly used to create CBD products like capsules or tinctures.
Like any other CBD-rich extract, an isolate begins its life in plant form. While CBD isolates can be made from either marijuana or hemp, though products found in the CBD industry 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 CBD isolate begins with one of the many available extraction methods. Hemp plant material is processed 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 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, while heating transforms the naturally occurring, raw CBDA into the activated CBD. The result is a crystalline substance containing up to 99% pure CBD.
At this point, the isolate 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.
An isolate provides an easy to measure and versatile means of ingesting cannabidiol. The growing popularity and awareness around the benefits of the compound make an isolate a clear and direct way to receive the specific benefits that CBD offers.
While the stripped-down nature of an isolate is appealing, it actually misses the boat on some of the potential benefits that cannabis has to offer. Often marked as '99% pure' or 'concentrated' what is rarely mentioned about a CBD isolate is that removing all cannabis compound except the one sacrifices much of the potential therapeutic benefits that a whole plant approach offers.
For example, the cannabinoids and terpenes found in a full-spectrum extract have been researched individually to provide many unique benefits. These same compounds are also known to offer synergistic benefits when consumed together, something known in the cannabis industry as the entourage effect. Isolates are missing these added and synergistic benefits.
Though the comparison to other CBD products is important to understand, it's also worth clarifying that consuming the isolated CBD molecule does offer many benefits alone. Isolates are a low-cost, THC-free way to consume CBD and enjoy the benefits of the specific compound, despite the fact it might not be the most beneficial form of CBD product to seek.
The versatility of 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. The following list outlines some of the most common isolate product types:
When CBD is isolated from a full spectrum extract, the resulting product comes in a slab form. This slab is then usually broken into small chunks. There are benefits to a slab form as it makes it easier to dab or vape.
Crystals are the most common form of isolate available on the market. This powder is created by pulverizing a slab.
Using isolate as an ingredient to create CBD products is a common practice. You'll find isolate-based products of nearly every type available on the market today.
To combat the loss of all the major cannabis compounds, companies will often add hemp or marijuana-derived terpenes back into an isolate. The result is an enjoyable, aromatic product to dab that provides additional therapeutic benefits via the terpenes.
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. Also, be sure to check out our article which teaches you how to read lab reports. You should always verify that the product your taking is free of THC at a lab report level, regardless of what the marketing copy says.
For those looking to benefit from CBD products, this makes an isolate a necessary option when compared to a full-spectrum product, the downside to choosing an isolate is the limited therapeutic potential when compared to a full spectrum product. Until just recently an isolate has been the only THC-free option since full-spectrum products contain trace amounts of THC. Luckily, advances in extraction and purification technology have created an alternative to CBD isolate called broad spectrum.
A broad spectrum product offers a full-spectrum profile with only the THC removed. For those looking for maximum therapeutic value, but not wanting or able to consume THC, this is a great option. For more on the topic, see our article which compares broad spectrum to CBD isolate.
If you've decided that an isolate is a good choice for you, you're in for a treat. One of the best things about a powdered or slab form of an isolate is the versatility in the ways you can use it. Since the product is pure, you can consume it directly or add it as an ingredient. Some of the most common methods include:
For a full list, see our article which outlines all the ways to use CBD isolate.
Originally published: October 30, 2018 | Last Updated: March 12, 2019
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