CBD isolate and distillate have become increasingly popular throughout the hemp and cannabis industry. These versatile hemp extracts are the most commonly used when it comes to manufactured goods for personal consumption such as topicals, edibles and vapes. Extracts are what give a majority of products on the market their great cannabinoid profiles. While these products are similar in many ways, there are major differences between isolates, distillates and crude for both consumers and businesses. To experience these differences for myself, for research purposes, I spent an evening dabbing both isolate and then distillate to fully understand the effects of each one.
Cannabidiol isolate is the most refined form of hemp available. This compound comes from further processing CBD distillate. CBD is an amazing compound for many people, but with cannabis prohibition still in effect in many areas, people can not risk using hemp products with a full spectrum of cannabinoids due to the potential of THC being present. Even if the full spectrum hemp distillate has under .3% THC, there is a small chance this could make you test positive for THC, risking your job or benefits. This is where CBD isolate shines; even if the product contains 0% THC, people can still feel a high after consuming. With isolate, there is absolutely zero cannabinoids besides CBD and it is safe for people whose jobs drug test for THC. There is also no “high” associated with using CBD isolate which is useful for people who need to medicate throughout the day without being impaired. Other than THC, CBD is by far the most commonly sought after cannabinoid. Isolate is a perfect additive to increase the CBD content of products without increasing THC levels and keeping products compliant. It is also possible to make water soluble isolate which is monumental for manufacturing drinks and liquid based products.
The most common alternative to CBD isolate when it comes to hemp products is distillate, which extracts as a yellow-amber honey like liquid. High quality distillate is often extremely viscous and has a light golden color to it with no taste or smell. This source of CBD is made by distilling crude oils that are generally extracted using solvents such as carbon dioxide or ethanol. Distillate is great for manufacturing products because it becomes liquid when heated and can be added to drinks, tinctures, and myriad of other finished goods. CBD distillate comes with either a broad spectrum or a full spectrum of cannabinoids. The difference between these terms is the THC. Broad spectrum distillates have all of the same compounds, except that the THC has been removed. This is monumental for consumers who are interested in the entourage effect without the risk of ingesting THC. Because of this, THC free distillate is generally the most expensive CBD derivative available.
CBD distillate is an amazing material to add to hemp products because it captures the entourage effect, something that CBD isolate cannot compete with. The entourage effect is the theory that all cannabinoids work together and are increasingly beneficial when they are consumed together. This means they increase the effects of CBD or THC, which are the most sought after molecules when it comes to extraction. The entourage effect is important for a complete holistic hemp product. Consumers often pay much higher prices for products that contain a full spectrum of cannabinoids instead of only CBD which has caused the price of distillate to be generally higher than isolate.
I made an experiment to test the entourage effect by first taking a dab of CBD isolate, waiting an hour, then taking a dab of distillate. The isolate gave a smooth hit with a subtle sweet taste to it. It left me feeling refreshed, almost like taking a deep breath of air when you wake up outside in nature. There was no head or body high, but it left me feeling content. The dab of distillate was an extremely different experience. I took a dab of broad spectrum distillate, meaning there was ZERO THC. The golden liquid melted and left a strong floral taste in my mouth. While it is not comparable to a THC high, the distillate left me feeling extremely relaxed and calm. A slight head high can be felt, but not strong enough to be impairing. After doing this experiment I completely support the entourage effect theory.
While these extracts are similar in many ways, the biggest difference between isolate and distillate is the entourage of cannabinoids. Manufactures must decide if they want a full spectrum of cannabinoids, or pure CBD in their products, both of which are useful to different consumers. I encourage everyone to test out both full spectrum and isolated CBD products in order to make their own opinions about isolate, distillate, and the entourage effect.