Full-Spectrum CBD vs CBD Isolate

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is growing in popularity among the health-conscious community.  There are abundant products available on the market, but not all CBD is created equal. If you’ve done any looking around yourself, you’ve likely seen the term “full-spectrum” applied to CBD products. But you may have also seen products labeled “THC-free” or “CBD Isolate”.

What do these terms mean, and what is the difference between full-spectrum and other CBD products? Let’s discuss the key differences between each of these, as well as their main benefits.


Full-Spectrum CBD:  The Original CBD Extract

Full-spectrum is the term applied to hemp extracts that contain the complete cannabinoid, terpene, and flavonoid profile of the original plant material. It means that the product offers a “full spectrum” of cannabinoids like CBD, CBN, CBG, CBC, and others, along with beneficial molecules like terpenes and flavonoids that may amplify the effects of CBD.

Full Spectrum CBD and the Entourage Effect

Full-spectrum CBD extracts are popular among many consumers, especially those looking to maximize the beneficial effects of cannabinoids. These people believe in the Entourage Effect, the theory that whole cannabis extracts provide more benefits than isolates because of their complete cannabinoid and terpene profiles. While the Entourage Effect is mentioned a lot all over the web, we still need more research to understand if there may be synergistic effects between cannabinoids and terpenes.

How Does the Entourage Effect Work?

Think about human connections: we each possess different traits, skills, and abilities that influence the paths we take in life. At some stage, we get lucky and meet people with different abilities that complement our own and decide to form an alliance. As we form these relationships, our individual abilities combine and amplify one another, making us capable of feats together that we could never accomplish individually.

This concept could work similarly with cannabinoids. If you follow this logic, combining them would multiply their effects and benefits, making a more powerful product. The different cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and plant compounds would then become complementary.

In simple terms: the Entourage Effect is the benefit you get from consuming various ingredients of the cannabis plant together instead of consuming one ingredient at-a-time.

CBD Isolate:  Just the Goods

Isolate is a more refined form of CBD that contains 99.9% pure CBD only, without any other cannabinoids, terpenes, or THC.

Benefits of CBD Isolate Product

While isolates don’t deliver the same varied composition that full-spectrum extracts offer, they do pack a powerful punch of unadulterated CBD on their own and can be used to create products that retain the effectiveness of CBD without containing any other cannabinoids.

CBD isolate is made by subjecting a full-spectrum hemp extract to a process called chromatography, which allows chemists to separate all of the secondary cannabinoids, plant molecules, and oils to leave only pure CBD crystals. Many people enjoy using the isolate because it is odorless, tasteless, and dissolves easily in oils, foods, and beverages. Hemp-derived CBD is also clearly defined as legal by the 2014 Farm Bill at the federal level and is no longer a controlled substance under federal law as a consequence of the 2018 Farm Bill.

As using CBD becomes more popular in sport, competing athletes have to be careful about the products they are taking, especially when it comes to considering the testing policies of the sport and level they are competing in. Some athletes will prefer using isolate over full spectrum CBD as it’s THC-free, but the fact is that a  full spectrum CBD with a 0.03% THC level would unlikely show up on a drug test anyway.

While many users will prefer the effects and benefits of Full spectrum CBD, CBD Isolate can also be a great alternative for anyone who doesn’t want the full profile of Full Spectrum CBD products.


Conclusion: Which one should you take?

All batch-tested CBD products contain CBD molecules, but whether they’re labeled full-spectrum or THC-free will indicate the type of extract used in the formula. As mentioned above, there are many reasons a person might want to use full-spectrum products, but some people may choose to use products made from CBD isolate if they don’t want any additional cannabinoids or terpenes other than CBD n their product.

Whichever product is right for your situation, you will still feel the effects of CBD. Always make sure that the products you are looking at have been third party tested by an accredited laboratory.


The Benefits and Risks of Self-Diagnosing Health Conditions and Self-Prescribing Treatments

With wide access to all sorts of health and medical information and products these days, many of us are using this information and our access to the proliferation of easy-to-get health care products and internet website advice to be better informed, but also to self-diagnose, self-prescribe and self-treat. Some of this access contributes to informed decision-making and availability of helpful products, and this can often be a good thing for many.

Obsolete are the times in which the physician or health care practitioner was given, or acted with, God-like authority, and was the sole keeper of all important medical knowledge. The uninformed patient followed the advice of the practitioner, without question, and often as a consequence, never took any active part in their own health or understood their own role in a healing process, which we now know is an important aspect in maintaining one’s health. The previous model was one in which one deferred that responsibility to the medical “experts.”

Many health seekers in our contemporary culture now want to be informed and more personally involved in their health care. This is an important evolution in assuming personal responsibility for all the elements of ones own well being, yet an approach that can have some limitations and pitfalls.


Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) often uses the analogy of a tree when explaining the dynamics of health issues; there is the concept of both a root and a branch of a particular symptom or illness. While this can be an oversimplification, the root is the true source pattern of the issue, while the branch can be simply the symptom of how the imbalanced pattern manifests in the body, mind or spirit. For example, a headache would be considered a branch symptom, while the root could be from any number of differing causative factors or imbalances. It is not wholly or always incorrect to think of treating the branch of an issue, and sometimes that is warranted as the first or truest option; but what if the source of one’s “headache” could be attributed to multiple factors that were different for each person? Any one or more of many of these familiar “roots” could be the true origin of the headache: stress and muscular tension in the neck and shoulders; lack of quality sleep for a long period of time; heavy metal toxicity or drug/medication reactions; menstrual cycle imbalances; too much sun exposure; hypertension; photophobia (a hypersensitivity to light); or dehydration, and of course other causes.

Chinese Medicine uses different concepts and language to describe these various root dynamics, and the method of treatment for each root condition would also differ accordingly. But what if one were to seek to self treat all “headaches” in one singular branch manner, regardless of the point of view being TCM, another Alternative/Integrative Medicine or Western Medical approach, or with an internet search recommendation?

We are often asked by patients in the clinic: “Can you give me something for my insomnia?” “Can you help treat this cough I’ve had for weeks?” “I’ve had hypertension now for years, can acupuncture and herbs help?” The answer to all of these is certainly, yes, but there is more to it than looking at the branch complaint – the insomnia, the cough, the hypertension. It’s not enough to treat the catchword named symptom, as there are many sets of possible imbalances or pathologies possible in each of the above branch issues. I suggest it’s up to the trained health care practitioner to help discern and treat these deeper root patterns to facilitate a better healing result, and not mask any issues or send the root patterns of the imbalance elsewhere in the body/mind/spirit of the client.

In a certain way, in our progressing, contemporary holistic healthcare approaches and understanding, we are still operating to self diagnose and self prescribe based on the old branch only model. A good portion of the health care information and product out there reinforces the approach of treating the catchword diagnosis or symptom. Healthcare products and treatment solutions are often marketed or presented to the consumer using this name-the-branch method; and while the intention or integrity of such information or product might be sound, the uninformed use of such approaches or products could be problematic, or at the least, inadequate.

Traditional Chinese Medicine, and acupuncture as well, share the point of view that it is more often insufficient to treat the branch, and in solely doing so, this would be to mask or send the dysfunctional pattern of the root causes elsewhere in the body, possibly resulting in more, deeper problems or different health manifestations.

To rely solely upon whatever name-the-branch information or product is out there in the online or other trendy media resource for self-diagnosis and treatment presents risk and requires careful consideration. This is why it remains important for a collaborative care model between patient and a trusted practitioner; the health-seeking patient brings in as much input as they care to explore about themselves; the practitioner brings the training, product knowledge and holistic perspective to each unique patient centered treatment. Such sharing of knowledge about one’s illness, health imbalances and available product and treatments is relevant to each individual, as we are all profoundly unique in our make up and our responses to treatments. In this way we can realize optimum care that is very personal, and helps result in a correctly informed, focused and successful treatment outcome. In each unique healing process, usually one size does not fit all.

Bruce Gustafson, MTOM, L.Ac.