Benefits of Full Spectrum vs Isolate
Full spectrum oil is considered “full spectrum” because it contains the full chemical profile of the cannabis plant that was processed. During the extraction, the solvent pulled off a broader range of chemicals found within the plant material and as a result has a greater abundance of different cannabinoids (not just specific ones like THC) in addition to terpenes and flavonoids cited for being medicinal to the human condition. A key aspect to consider in why such a diversity in cannabinoids and terpenes are healthy for the human nervous system and body is the idea of the “entourage effect”.
The term refers to a number of compounds that work in concert with one another to elicit specific outcomes depending on the strain. Described as “the sum of all the parts that leads to the magic or power of cannabis”, according to Chris Emerson PhD, Level’s Co-Founder and Chief Scientist; it is (biologically speaking) a, cannabinoid system regulatory pathway which can increase receptor activity, enhancing endogenous anandamide activity and/or reducing enzymatic anandamide degradation.
Some background info on anandamide, anandamide is named after the sanskrit word “Ananda” which means bliss, effectively making anandamide the “bliss molecule”. Anandamide has been found to be a key compound in regulating mood and reward, and an endogenous agonist to both the CB1 and CB2 pathways, playing an important role in modulating homeostasis. THC is structurally very similar to anandamide and thus, stimulates similar pathways, however when alone in a system, will not illicit the same type of high as with a full spectrum.
Other cannabinoids such as THCV, CBN, CBG and Delta8 THC contribute to the overall effect THC plays on the nervous system. As a result of each compounds unique molecular structure, different pathways within the body are stimulated in tandem, creating novel experiences for the user. For instance the capacity for CBD to dampen the psychoactivity of THC and heighten its pain-relieving abilities illustrates how a full spectrum, with more parts, acts holistically to produce a different result within the body. Other studies have shown how beta-caryophylene, a terpene found within black pepper, has been effective at stimulating the CB2 pathway, and how alpha-pinene has been effective at increasing memory retention.
While it seems that full spectrum oil is without any cons, it depends on what you are looking for. For those interested in consuming a product that is more complete in its chemical profile, or “closer to the plant” then full spectrum is a good option for you. However full spectrum oils will typically have a lower concentration of any given cannabinoid in exchange for a wider spectrum of cannabinoids. This means full spectrum oil won’t have THC at 80-99%. Full spectrum oil will also have more of an “earthy” flavor profile if its being vaped, and is typically darker due to the plant material that has remained within solution.
Users who are looking for high concentrations of THC or CBD will opt for isolate, because it provides the highest percentages available and extremely clean highs. It will lack the complete spectrum, however is effective in targeting pain and presenting relief, particularly to those who have an increased tolerance to THC. Isolates are also extremely easy to incorporate into other edibles and for those who prefer to use dab rigs.
This all said, isolate prices tend to be much higher than full spectrum oil due to the higher THC percentages associated with them, so depending on your wallet you may ultimately prefer one over the other.