Full-Spectrum CBD or CBD Isolate: Which Is Right For You?

Due to its non-psychotropic healing properties, the popularity of cannabidiol (CBD) products has skyrocketed over the past few years, bringing with it a new degree of confusion about what exactly it is that we’re consuming. That is, in part, why the Doctor Jane team is dedicated to helping our patients understand every aspect of medical cannabis treatment, including the types of products available and which would be the most beneficial for their unique health and wellness needs.

In Florida, as in many other U.S. states, medical cannabis patients are limited in the types of products they can use. For example, it is not currently legal to smoke marijuana flower, or the dried bud of the cannabis plant, regardless of whether you hold a valid medical marijuana card. Similarly, while it is legal to purchase hemp-derived CBD products (like those available in the new Doctor Jane Store) without a medical marijuana card, it is not legal to purchase cannabis-derived CBD products. This restriction even extends to the products that are completely free of tetrahydrocannabidiol (THC), the main active ingredient in cannabis and the part of the plant that provides the psychoactive properties that traditionally made it popular for recreational use.

Confusing, right? Let’s clarify.

Types of Cannabidiol (CBD)

For the purpose of this article, we’re going to focus on hemp-derived CBD products that contain no more than the legally-allowable 0.3% THC (by dry weight), since those that do are highly regulated and cannot be purchased outside of licensed dispensaries by patients with a valid medical marijuana card.

Many patients don’t realize that CBD is only one of more than 100 compounds that have been identified in the Cannabis sativa L. plant. Knowing this is crucial for understanding the difference between full-spectrum CBD and CBD isolate.

Before we address the therapeutic differences between full-spectrum CBD and CBD isolate, however, we need to define what exactly we mean when we use each of these terms.

What is Full-Spectrum CBD?

When a CBD product is described as full-spectrum (also known as ‘whole plant’), it means that the CBD contains all of the other cannabinoids found in the cannabis or hemp plant; cannabinol (CBN), cannabigerol (CBG), and tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) are among those included in this lineup. As mentioned earlier, full-spectrum CBD products derived from cannabis (as opposed to hemp) also contain trace amounts of THC, usually 0.3% or less, that is generally not enough to have a significant mood- or mind-altering effect on the user.

In addition to the full range (or spectrum) of cannabinoids, full-spectrum CBD also contains a variety of essential vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, protein, chlorophyll, terpenes, flavinoids and fiber that work together with the cannabinoids to provide patients with a greater effect than CBD alone, depending on the condition and what they are employed to achieve. This is called the entourage effect.

What is CBD Isolate?

Unlike full-spectrum CBD, CBD isolate is exactly what its name implies: purified CBD that is extracted and then isolated from all of the other cannabinoids contained in either the cannabis or hemp from which it is derived.  

For those that are less familiar with the difference between hemp and cannabis-derived CBD, an explanation is in order; similarly to cannabis, hemp contains trace amounts of a large number of cannabinoids. The main compounds, however, are CBD and cannabidiolic acid (CBDa). In hemp, CBDa is more abundant than CBD. Thus, hemp-derived CBD isolate is created by heating the CBDa until it changes into CBD, providing a true CBD isolate that is completely THC-free.

Why would a patient want to take CBD isolate vs full-spectrum CBD? It really comes down to the patient’s individual biochemistry, the indication for use,  and their liver clearance. While full-spectrum CBD, owing to the entourage effect (more on that later), generally requires less overall CBD to achieve the desired effect, CBD isolate allows for a patient to ingest much higher concentrations of CBD. This is particularly useful in the setting of certain disorders like seizures.  One of the tradeoffs, however, is that CBD isolate is generally a bit harder on the liver.

The Benefits of Cannabinoids

Below are some of the most well-known cannabinoids found in cannabis and hemp, listed alongside the most popular therapeutic indications for each. As you will see from this list, CBD offers the most tangible benefits, providing the largest presence of each of these cannabinoids combined -- a factor directly related to CBD’s incredible growth in popularity as a medical treatment for a wide range of conditions and illnesses:

  • Cannabidioloic acid (CBDa): non-psychoactive cannabinoid used to reduce inflammation and inhibit cancer cell growth;

  • Cannabigerol (CBG): non-psychoactive cannabinoid used to aid sleep, inhibit cancer cell growth, relieve pain and slow bacterial growth;

  • Cannabigerolic acid (CBGa): non-psychoactive cannabinoid used to reduce inflammation, relieve pain and slow bacterial growth;

  • Cannabichromene (CBC): non-psychoactive cannabinoid used to inhibit cancer cell growth, promote bone growth, reduce inflammation and relieve pain;

  • Cannabichrome carboxylic acid (CBCa): non-psychoactive cannabinoid used to reduce inflammation and treat fungal infections;

  • Δ-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ-9-THC): a psychoactive cannabinoid used to reduce vomiting and nausea, relieve pain, stimulate appetite and suppress muscle spasms;

  • Δ-8 Tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ-8 THC): a psychoactive cannabinoid used to relieve pain;

  • Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV): a psychoactive cannabinoid used to reduce convulsions and seizures and promote bone growth;

  • Cannabidiol (CBD): a safe, non-addictive, non-psychoactive, naturally occurring compound found in the resinous flower of the cannabis plant that has antibacterial properties and is used to inhibit cancer cell growth, promote bone growth, reduce seizures and convulsions, blood sugar levels, inflammation, vomiting and nausea, pain, vascular tension, and anxiety, decrease the risk of artery blockage and small intestine contractions, slow bacterial growth, suppress muscle spasms, treat psoriasis, and act as a tranquilizer and neuroprotector.

The Entourage Effect

One of the benefits of using full-spectrum CBD over CBD isolate is called “the entourage effect.” To date, the majority of scientific research about medical cannabis focuses on the effects that different types of cannabinoids can have on patients, with a particular focus on CBD and THC.

Unfortunately, such a tight focus prevents researchers from seeing the benefits afforded patients by the other components of cannabis, including other cannabinoids and terpenes (stay tuned for a full explanation of terpenes in a future blog post). This interaction between the different compounds of cannabis is what is referred to as the entourage effect, and it can impact the effectiveness of cannabis treatment.

What Does It All Mean?

In a recent interview with Forbes, Celeste Miranda, CEO of The Cannabis Marketing Lab and one of the founders of the upcoming CBD Expo Midwest 2019 where I will be speaking next month, shared her thoughts about consumers’ choices when it comes to CBD products: “Consumers have a big responsibility at this point to try out different products to find what works for them. Until the research matures, consumers will need to listen to their bodies to determine what works and what doesn’t.”

Maruchy Lachance, COO and co-founder of Boulder Botanicals & Bioscience Laboratory (BBB Labs) summed up some of the major hurdles that face CBD consumers in her recent discussion with Forbes: “A majority of CBD products available are inaccurately labeled, and of course unregulated, which means that there is a lot of ‘snake oil’ or fake CBD products on the market.”

This confusion is one of the reasons why the team here at Doctor Jane is dedicated to educating patients and the industry at large about topics like this one--and why we recently launched our own online store where patients can purchase hemp-derived full-spectrum CBD and CBD isolate products from companies we know and trust.

Patients and their physicians must always exercise caution and due diligence when evaluating products like CBD oil. We are each responsible for doing appropriate research into the individual companies making these products. Always demand to see Certificates of Authenticity (CoA) before buying or ingesting any products. These CoAs should be from third-party laboratories. Unfortunately, some companies have tried to be sneaky about disguising their own labs as a third-party laboratory. Exercise caution when evaluating products, and, when in doubt, consult a professional such as a cannabis physician.

Even though hemp-derived CBD products are available to you whether or not you have a valid medical marijuana card, we strongly encourage you to consult us, or another trusted medical cannabis resource, before starting treatment with any of them. You can schedule a consultation for a time and location that is convenient for you using our website, or reach out to me directly at (561) 406-0685.

Today’s blog post is written by Rick Liogier-Weyback, MD, founder, president and licensed medical marijuana physician at Doctor Jane. If you are considering marijuana treatment or are wondering if medical cannabis may be right for you, please contact the Doctor Jane team at your earliest convenience.


About Doctor Jane

Doctor Jane is South Florida’s most discreet, professional, and convenient concierge medical cannabis practice. Dr. Luis Enrique R. Liogier-Weyback and his wife, Katie Liogier-Weyback, B.S., R.N., founded Doctor Jane on the core tenets of bringing personal, convenient, professional and discreet patient care to the medical marijuana treatment process. Doctor Jane provides South Florida patients and their caregivers with a safe space where they can exercise their right to access medical cannabis therapy in an environment of their choosing, free from stigma and complications.

Visit our website to find out more or to schedule your own medical cannabis consultation. www.DoctorJane.net