CBD isolate vs. full spectrum: Which is right for you?

Discover the benefits of full spectrum CBD vs. CBD isolate and how to know which one to choose. 

CBD isolate vs. full spectrum: Which is right for you?
minute read

As CBD research marches forward, we uncover more about the versatility of cannabinol at every turn. The compound, naturally occurring from the hemp plant, has a wide range of benefits for physical and mental health, with highly adaptable properties. 

But with so much focus on delivery method — gummies vs. tinctures, for instance — we sometimes overlook the chemical composition of the products themselves. What is actually contained in your favorite CBD products, and what does this mean for your experience with CBD overall?

Today, we’re focusing on two types of CBD that you may not have thought to compare: CBD isolate and full spectrum CBD. Both represent a sizable market share in the cannabis industry, but there are key differences you should know about before buying. Let’s drill down into why CBD isolate and full spectrum CBD are so different and why this matters for your CBD journey.

What is CBD isolate?

CBD isolate is the purest form of cannabinol that can be extracted from the cannabis plant. It can be obtained through various methods. However, CO2 and ethanol extraction are the most common ways to separate this compound from other cannabinoids and terpenes. 

Either method is viable for extracting plant-rich extracts from the cannabis plant, but the winterization process is key to obtaining the isolate on its own. CBD is not easy to isolate, and the process can be labor intensive, requiring a high degree of expertise. This involves suspending the cannabis oil in a solvent and freezing the mixture, separating the CBD isolate into a powder form. 

This powder can then be used to create a variety of CBD isolate products, from oils and gummy edibles to topicals, capsules, and more. The purity, simplicity, and variety of CBD isolate formats make it a highly marketable and successful entry into the catalog of CBD products available today. 

What are the main benefits of using CBD isolate?

Like so many products bearing the CBD name, CBD isolate has many potential benefits for users — but it won’t stimulate the entourage effect, which is why broad or full spectrum CBD is generally preferred. 

Still, though, CBD isolate is adaptable and versatile, interacting with neurotransmitters in the endocannabinoid system to help soothe tension, relieve discomfort, and support other physiological processes.* 

But while CBD isolate does have its perks with purity and the absence of THC (it won’t register on any drug tests), this product category falls short in a number of key areas. 

Firstly, you’re missing out on a range of other powerful cannabinoids and terpenes by opting for CBD isolate. The hemp plant contains over 100 unique compounds across these categories, each contributing support for the endocannabinoid system. When these compounds work together in synergy, they deliver enhanced wellness benefits.

By missing out on the entourage effect, CBD isolate users may not get the desired results they would expect from a true-plant hemp extract. CBD isolate is not useless by any means, but why sell yourself short when it comes to reaping the benefits of hemp?

Additionally, many CBD isolate products are manufactured with solvents and synthetic processes that may not be suitable for the body long term. Always check your CBD product labels to ensure quality and purity with third-party tests and approved ingredients. 

What is full spectrum CBD?

While CBD isolate offers the purest form of cannabinol, full spectrum CBD delivers the complete range of plant-rich compounds from the hemp plant. This means you’re getting much more than just CBD when you take a full spectrum CBD oil, gummy, capsule, or other format.

Because full spectrum CBD utilizes the entirety of the plant profile, the entourage effect is in full swing. This is good news for anyone seeking the therapeutic effects of hemp, and the benefits will be far more noticeable compared to a CBD isolate product.*

It’s also worth noting that the extraction process is simpler and more natural in full spectrum CBD products. This is because manufacturers have no need to strip away the extra hemp compounds attached to the CBD molecules when creating the products. You can still find a wide range of full spectrum CBD goods, but remember to cross-check your labels and be sure you’re getting only the highest-quality ingredients with third-party lab results. 

Why do some users prefer full spectrum?

Some users prefer full spectrum CBD because it’s the best way to get the maximum benefits of the cannabis plant without excess THC. While you still might find trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol, the maximum THC concentration is only 0.3% — still hardly noticeable in terms of psychoactive effects.

This THC in full spectrum hemp extract doesn’t cause a “high” in order to deliver its therapeutic benefits, thanks to the synergy of the entourage effect. Instead, these trace amounts of THC work to amplify the active mechanisms of CBD and the other compounds found in full spectrum CBD. You’ll enjoy more comprehensive benefits from full spectrum CBD as a result, whether your goal is soothing tension, relieving discomfort, or supporting whole-body balance and wellbeing. 

While CBD is front-and-center in the full spectrum experience, you’re also getting minor cannabinoids (CBG, CBN, etc.), terpenes, flavonoids, and more. In summary, full spectrum CBD is the strongest, highest-quality form of CBD available, especially when manufactured with natural extraction processes. 

What are the primary differences between CBD isolate and full spectrum? 

We’ve glanced over the basics of CBD isolate and full spectrum CBD, pointing out the basics in extraction methods and properties. But when it comes time to begin your CBD journey, you’ll want to know more about the exact composition and effects of each product.

Let’s zoom in on these factors so that you can make the most informed choice and get the most from your CBD journey.


To reiterate, CBD isolate is pure CBD — nothing more, nothing less. You don’t need to worry about trace amounts of THC, since there are no other plant compounds found in CBD isolate. 

However, products with CBD isolate compounds might contain other ingredients you should look for. Gummies, for instance, may contain artificial flavors or sugar, while oils could be made with MCT, coconut, or unidentified vegetable oils. Keep in mind that you’re rarely getting CBD isolate in its true, pure form independently —nearly every product has something else to bind or deliver the active ingredient.

On the other hand, true-plant full spectrum CBD products include the total package of hemp plant compounds. You can generally expect a majority of CBD, with many other beneficial cannabinoids and terpenes. In addition to the small amounts of THC, you’re getting phytochemicals, terpenes like limonene, and other plant compounds that occur naturally in Cannabis sativa.

Remember: truly natural whole plant extracts will vary in composition, even from the same manufacturer. Composition will vary based on product type and other ingredients included in the product. This reiterates the importance of looking at individual batch analysis documents provided by trusted producers like Sunmed.


The effects of CBD isolate are limited due to the lack of whole-plant support and the absence of the entourage effect. You can certainly notice some effects from CBD isolate, but they will be more subtle compared to full spectrum counterparts.

With full spectrum products, the effects will be more noticeable throughout the entire body, both physically and psychologically. You may feel increased relaxation, clarity of mind, soothing sensations, and a general feeling of well-being. 

The delivery method makes a difference in your experience when taking full spectrum CBD, too. Taking a full spectrum CBD tincture sublingually will allow for an immediate boost of plant terpenes, while ingesting a gummy or baked good will typically take longer to kick in. Prepare accordingly and always track the amount of full spectrum CBD you’re taking to reproduce effects on a routine basis.* 

If there’s one thing to watch out for when using full spectrum CBD, it’s the lingering effects of THC — not everyone is accustomed to this compound, and unfortunately, THC drug tests are still common amongst employers. Double check your employment policies, and to prevent any worry of ingesting THC, opt for a broad spectrum product. These CBD products include minor cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and non-detectable levels of THC.*

How to choose the best option for your needs

You can see why full spectrum CBD is generally recommended over CBD isolate, from the entourage effect to its true-plant composition. However, when choosing the best option for your needs, there are several factors to consider.

For example, CBD isolate might offer a more gentle point of entry to gain familiarity with the effects of the compound. If you’ve never ingested hemp or cannabis in any form, the purest form of CBD could have its appeal. It’s also a safer bet if you anticipate a THC drug test in the near future.*

However, the majority of users will find the effects of full spectrum CBD far more beneficial and enjoyable for daily use. If you choose a natural, whole-plant extract and progress your intake carefully, it will likely be your best option to reap the benefits of CBD in your day-to-day routine.

The bottom line

With so many CBD products available, it’s easy to get mixed up with labels and terminology while adhering to your own health and wellness priorities. Thankfully, it only takes a bit of education and awareness to learn the basics of each CBD product category and make an informed choice for your wellness lifestyle.

While this article focused on CBD isolate and full spectrum CBD, Sunmed always suggests starting off with a broad spectrum CBD product to start your journey. These non-detectable THC options still include the majority of compounds that your ECS needs for homeostasis. Our Anytime Gummies offer a perfect launchpad for your CBD experience, while our best-selling Topical Cream can help you target muscle aches and daily tension with soothing, cooling relief support.* 

Now that you know the truth about CBD isolate and full spectrum CBD, it’s time to take the next step and wisely incorporate CBD into your lifestyle. Sunmed is here to guide you every step of the way with educational resources, in-person wellness experts, and hemp products for every wellness lifestyle.* 


Hemp, Health, CBD, and Complexity | IFT

Cannabidiol (CBD) product contamination: Quantitative analysis of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) concentrations found in commercially available CBD products | NIH

What is CBD Isolate? Uses, Health Benefits, Effects | CFAH

The Essential Medicinal Chemistry of Cannabidiol (CBD) | ACS Publications

Cannabis, a complex plant: different compounds and different effects on individuals | NIH