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Isolate, Broad Spectrum, and Full Spectrum refer to types of cannabis extracts, also called concentrates. The terms are intended to indicate the amount of plant-produced therapeutic chemicals present in addition to the primary cannabinoids (CBD and/or THC); they are a shorthand way of conveying the diversity of bioactive material in a given extract.
Each one has its own distinct cannabinoid profile, set of benefits, and potential limitations that go along with it. Did you know that the cannabis Sativa plant can have over 100 different phytocannabinoids in it? Of course, the most popular of these phytocannabinoids are THC and CBD.
When the hemp plant goes through the extraction process, these three methods determine how much of the cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes end up in the final product. While some new to CBD might feel “safer” with only a CBD isolate, understanding the benefits of these other beneficial plant compounds is worthwhile because of how good they are for the human body.
Isolate is the purest form of extracted cannabinoids, a crystalline powder with a purity of 99.9%. It is created through additional solvent processes after distillation. The additional processing steps are expensive, but due to the extreme purity of the final product, cheaper crude extracts can be used as starting material without concern for residues.
Broad Spectrum applies to extractions that aim to retain a large complement of phytochemicals without the THC, which allows for some Entourage Effect action. Hemp, defined as cannabis plants containing less than .3% THC, forms the basis for most Broad Spec extracts. Broad Spectrum can also be created by either adding terpenes, flavonoids, and minor cannabinoids to CBD isolate or by removing THC from Full Spectrum extract via distillation. Compared to Full Spectrum, Broad Spectrum extracts are slightly lighter in color, and while their flavor profiles are similar, they are not as hemp-forward and bold.
Full Spectrum CBD means the maximum amount of helpful native phytochemicals are retained during extraction, including THC. The goal is to remove extraneous lipids while retaining an identical ratio of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids from the original plant source material. This can only be verified by testing the material before and after the extraction. True Full Spectrum extracts are rarer than one might expect; most extractions lose significant terpenes and flavonoids during processing because they are much more volatile than cannabinoids. Ethanol and very low heat (the RSO method or whole plant oil), or an extremely long vacuum extraction process can yield Full Spectrum extracts. Full Spectrum extracts tend to be quite dark in color, and their flavors can be described as earthy and vegetal.
As with any health and wellness supplement, you should do your own research and consult with your physician regarding the best option for your specific needs.