If you’ve spent any time poking around websites or stores that sell cannabidiol (CBD), you’ve likely encountered CBD isolate products.
CBD isolate is essentially what it sounds like–a monomolecular CBD offering, stripped of the terpenes, additional cannabinoids, and leftover plant matter found in full spectrum CBD products.
You may think that isolates are just what the doctor ordered for people looking to give CBD a try. In theory, pure CBD extract sounds incredibly beneficial given CBD’s known therapeutic benefits.
While isolates can play a role in CBD therapy, the reality of how the chemical interacts with the human body is much more complicated.
Read on for more information about CBD isolates and how they stack up in the world of CBD supplements.
How are CBD Isolates Produced?
To create CBD isolates, the single molecule cannabidiol compound is extracted from the hemp or cannabis plant. It’s widely marketed as CBD in its most refined form, and with good reason; CBD isolates are up to 99 percent pure.
The extraction process used to involve the use of harsh chemicals like butane but has widely changed in recent years to eliminate the risk of contamination with trace amounts of carcinogens.
Though some manufacturers still use this process, many have changed to a cleaner method known as CO2 extraction.
With this method of extraction, hemp oil is created (containing those precious cannabinoids), and the fatty acids and plant material found within are filtered out. Plant matter and waxes are eliminated until all that remains is pure CBD molecules.
Benefits of Using CBD Isolates
Though it has its share of drawbacks, CBD isolates can offer benefits to users looking for a way to better manage their symptoms with cannabis.
CBD isolate can be a useful tool for cannabis users who are looking to supplement their THC-rich products for extra therapeutic benefits, but don’t have access to whole-plant CBD.
Isolate powder can be combined with cannabis to maximize the health advantages of both.
CBD offers a wide range of physical and mental perks, many of which are still being discovered as we learn more about the role of cannabis in medicine.
CBD isolates allow cannabis consumers an additional way to supplement their regular cannabis with additional benefits they may not otherwise be able to obtain.
Drawbacks of CBD Isolates
It was long thought that CBD isolate products were the most effective CBD option on the market. After all, it would make sense that purity and potency would go hand in hand.
However, in 2015, cannabis researchers at Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Lautenberg Center for General and Tumor Immunology discovered that this isn’t actually the case at all.
In a study conducted with lab mice, CBD oil containing whole-plant material was much more effective than isolated CBD alone.
Due to this phenomenon, known as the entourage effect, whole-plant CBD products offer significant added benefits over CBD isolates.
When certain plant materials are left in (like aroma-producing, therapeutic terpene molecules), they work synergistically with the CBD to produce a greater effect than an isolate can provide by itself.
Eliminating the entourage effect means that you’ll need a much higher dose of CBD before you’re able to feel its benefits. This heightens the risk of chemical interactions, especially if you’re already taking pharmaceuticals of any kind.
“It’s very clear that CBD in particular and cannabis in general interact with many drugs, substances, and pharmaceuticals,” says Martin Lee, co-founder and director of Project CBD.
“One has to be, not alarmist about it, but understand that this presents a challenge in terms of safety. If there’s a drug interaction, it might mean that another pharmaceutical stays in the system longer or accumulates without being metabolized right away.”
While this means that CBD isolate on its own may not be ideal for many cannabis users, it opens the door for scientists to learn about potentially beneficial reactions the compound could facilitate.
“It could present opportunities,” Lee says. “Drug interactions aren’t good or bad, they’re just real. And that means one has to make use of these things.”
CBD Isolates vs. Full-Spectrum CBD Products
Because of the risks that isolates can present on their own, many experts believe that they may be a tool best used in conjunction with other whole plant cannabis products — especially if you’re unable to find a CBD-rich, full-spectrum product on its own.
Finding a full-spectrum CBD product can be a challenge because federal regulations have yet to catch up.
This means that there’s not much recourse for CBD production companies who claim to sell full spectrum products but aren’t actually providing much more than a glorified isolate.
This is an issue that raises questions about the integrity of some CBD products, and forces concerned consumers to do their own research.
“What we’ve learned is that some of the biggest names in the CBD hemp business who claim that they’re full spectrum are actually isolates of the product. When you look at it, it’s one cannabinoid that’s just CBD,” Martin Lee says.
“I think the problem is there’s a lot of sorting out to do with truth in labeling. If it’s a pure isolate, how did it get that way? What did they do to get rid of all that other stuff? Whatever they used for that, is there any remaining bit of that in the product?”
According to Lee, the fact that the medical community has widely ignored whole-plant CBD as a treatment until recently has greatly hindered its acceptance and usage as a therapeutic tool.
“The thing I would emphasize most of all is that the problem is not with isolates per se. It’s with the political framework in which these things get regulated and approved. They privilege isolates over a whole plant. That’s wrong and problematic.”
Until the pharmaceutical industry embraces the advantages of full-spectrum or whole-plant CBD for human consumption, we may have to continue doing our own research before buying CBD products from trustworthy sources.