August 03, 2020 16 min read

“CBD isolate” refers to a type of hemp extract where the cannabidiol (CBD) molecule has been entirely isolated from other plant compounds.

That means that true CBD isolate is completely free of the other cannabinoids (like THC) and terpenes found in the hemp plant.

CBD isolate being used topicallyCBD Isolate, in its purest form, is a fine crystalline substance that is generally graded at 99% purity or higher. These crystals are frequently ground into a fine powder for easy consumption.

Although other types of products are made with this isolated version of cannabidiol and labelled as “CBD Isolate,” many of these products are not true isolates.

Instead, they have added carrier oils, terpenes, or other ingredients necessary to create tinctures, edibles, topicals, and beverages.

These products are made with CBD isolate, but because they are not as pure as CBD isolate powder, they are more accurately called “THC-free products.”

However, some products labeled as “THC-free,” are actually “broad spectrum” products, which may contain CBD as well as other cannabinoids and terpenes, but not THC.

What does this mean for you?

If you’re like most consumers, probably not much.

The most common reason that people seek out CBD isolate products is to avoid THC, which is found in trace amounts (0.3% or less) in full spectrum CBD products.

While this small amount of THC is not enough to cause psychoactive effects, these small amounts may show up on a drug test. If you’re worried about that, true CBD isolate and any THC-free products pose the same benefit of not registering on a drug test.

The best way to truly know the cannabinoid content of a particular product is to check the Certificate of Analysis from a third-party lab, which is generally the last step in a high-quality CBD isolate manufacturing process.

Table of Contents
CBD Isolate Benefits
CBD Isolate Uses
CBD Isolate Effects
Why Do CBD Isolate Effects Vary?
Types of CBD Isolate Products
How is CBD Isolate Made?
Lab Testing
Is CBD Distillate the Same as CBD Isolate?
Can CBD Isolate Go Bad?
How to Measure CBD Isolate
Is CBD Isolate Organic?
What Does CBD Isolate Powder Taste Like?
What Can I Make With CBD Isolate?
Will CBD Isolate Make Me Fail a Drug Test?
Key Takeaways
Resources

CBD Isolate Benefits

There are numerous reported potential benefits of CBD, but many of these reports fail to specify if these benefits come from full spectrum CBD products or from isolated CBD.

Further, there are not many reliable, unbiased reports evaluating the difference in effects between full spectrum and isolate products.

One report does suggest that CBD isolates seem to incur a bell-shaped response in which larger doses are actually less effective, and that whole-plant (full spectrum) formulas may help overcome this response.

Still, there are benefits to CBD isolates that make them an attractive option to consumers:

CBD Isolate is completely THC free.

The most obvious benefit to CBD isolates is the total absence of THC.

Many people choose isolates because they are subject to drug tests for work or legal obligations and they fear even trace amounts of THC can cause a positive test result.

This fear isn’t entirely unprecedented, especially since the CBD industry is still entirely unregulated and it’s difficult to know how much THC you are ingesting with full spectrum products.

According to U.S. Drug Test Centers, it is unlikely that you will fail a drug test after using CBD products with trace amounts of THC, but they still advise that you err on the side of caution if you’re expecting a drug test.

No Taste or Smell

CBD isolate powder is generally completely tasteless and odorless.

Usually, products made with this powder will lack the “hempy” flavor of full-spectrum products, which some people are adverse to.

Of course, the flavor of a product depends on all the ingredients used. Many people like to use CBD isolate in their favorite foods and beverages to add a CBD dose to their routine without the lingering taste of hemp.

Versatility

Versatility is one main attractive feature of CBD isolate powder, since the single product can be eaten, vaped, made into topicals, or encapsulated.

Although it can be difficult to measure the CBD powder precisely without the proper tools, this method can be used to maintain precise control over your CBD dose because of it’s high purity.

High Doses

CBD isolate powder is highly concentrated, so it’s easy to get a large CBD dose.,

That makes it a popular choice among people who benefit from a high-dose CBD routine.

It may also be less costly than other products simply because it is concentrated (which means less packaging and shipping costs), which can be important for people who take high-dose CBD regularly.

Supplementing Your CBD Dose

Because of its concentrated form and lower cost, many people use CBD isolate to supplement their full spectrum CBD dose.

In other words, even those who prefer the benefits of whole-plant, full spectrum CBD products may use CBD isolate to boost the CBD concentration of their daily dose while keeping costs low.

CBD Isolate Uses

There’s been plenty of argument about which form of CBD is superior—full spectrum or CBD isolate—and there’s still no conclusive evidence that highlights and compares the benefits of each formula.

Many people argue that full-spectrum CBD products are superior due to something called “the entourage effect.” This theory suggests that THC, CBG, CBN, and other trace cannabinoids improve the natural functions of CBD.

A woman taking a sublingual CBD isolate dose.However, many others have reported tremendous benefits from isolated CBD, and CBD isolate is usually the type of product chosen for children with epilepsy.

In fact, the first FDA approval to a cannabidiol-based pharmaceutical went to Epidiolex, an epilepsy drug made from active CBD isolate.

This medication was designed based on an accumulation of research suggesting that CBD may have a range of neurological benefits.

According to a review published in Surgical Neurology International, previous neurological uses and research span across a wide range of conditions, from brain tumors and neuropathic pain to mood disorders, post traumatic stress, and more. Still, more evidence is needed to confirm CBD's benefits for any of these conditions. 

A cross-sectional study of over 2,400 people shows that many of these uses extend further than the laboratory. Nearly 62% of people surveyed said they used CBD to help manage a medical condition, with the top three medical conditions treated being anxiety, pain, and depression.

Between ongoing research efforts and widespread anecdotal evidence, it’s easy to see that CBD has a multitude of potential uses.

Still, it’s unclear whether CBD isolate has any specific advantage over other CBD products.

One particular theory suggests that the absence of THC makes isolated CBD more appropriate for managing anxiety.

This is based on the limited evidence that THC causes paranoia or can incite anxiety in some people.

However, the notion that CBD isolate will more effectively treat anxiety is still unbacked by research.

One of the only studies that directly compares CBD isolate to full spectrum products only evaluates the use of CBD (both full spectrum and isolate) for epilepsy-related concerns, so it also leaves an unclear picture of how the two different formulas fare on a wide scale.

Still, this meta-analysis gives both positive and negative feedback on CBD isolate when compared to whole-plant extracts.

Of people who were considered “responders” to CBD (those who experienced a “50% reduction or more in the frequency of seizures”), the two treatments appeared to work about the same.

However, those using full spectrum reported taking a lower average dose than those using CBD isolate.

Generally, the benefits of CBD isolate and full spectrum CBD are likely very similar since they both balance on the power of the same CBD molecule.

That means that CBD isolate is a reasonable, THC-free option for people who want hemp-based relief, but have restrictions that prevent them from using products that contain even trace amounts of THC.

CBD Isolate Effects

Even though CBD itself has a multitude of potential benefits, the actual effects you feel from CBD shouldn’t vary much from batch to batch or product to product.

In fact, at the core of every high-quality cannabidiol product is one unchanged molecule (the CBD molecule) which has very mild effects on it’s own.

Unlike THC (the main component in marijuana), CBD is not psychoactive and won’t make you feel high.

Aside from feeling relief from your targeted symptoms, CBD shouldn’t produce many noticeable effects at all. Some people report a mild euphoric feeling, enhanced mood, or energy boost.

These effects may be directly tied to the effects of CBD on the endocannabinoid system, but it’s also likely some effects are a result of relief from symptoms that were otherwise holding you back.

Some people report that CBD makes them sleepy, while others have argued that this effect is dose-dependent. Others suggest that besides relief from targeted symptoms, they feel nothing at all when they take CBD.

If you do feel some intense reaction, like psychoactive effects, dizziness, nausea, paranoia, or other adverse side effects, it’s likely that you’ve gotten a poor-quality or contaminated product.

Many low-quality CBD manufacturers have been known to cut corners by using synthetic cannabinoids or other low-quality ingredients that may cause harm, which is why it’s important to always check the test results before you buy a CBD product.

Why Do CBD Isolate Effects Vary?

It’s hard to pinpoint CBD effects because they vary on a case by case basis.

The specific effects that you will experience when taking CBD isolate depend directly on how the CBD molecules interact with your Endocannabinoid System.

The Endocannabinoid System is complex and unique from person to person. It depends on a delicate balance of the body’s naturally produced endo-cannabinoids, which are similar in structure to the phytocannabinoids from cannabis.

The specific balance of your Endocannabinoid system can depend on a number of factors, like:

  • Weight and body fat composition
  • Biological sex
  • Health conditions
  • Other medications taken
  • Lifestyle and diet
  • Exercise and physical condition
  • Tolerance to cannabinoids
  • Irregularities in CBD doses

As you can see, there are endless combinations of biological factors that can affect the way CBD interacts with your endocannabinoid system and the optimal dose needed to create balance within your body.

This unique factor is part of the reason that there are so many different types of CBD products, including different core formulas (like isolate and full spectrum CBD) and different product formulations.

Types of CBD Isolate Products

In order for a product to qualify as a CBD isolate product, it needs to have high purity and no THC contamination. This means that true CBD isolates are considered concentrates.

As we mentioned earlier, the purest form of CBD isolate is a fine crystalline product that’s usually ground into a powder.

Still, there are many different products made with this isolated version of CBD that offer the benefits of a THC-free product.

    • Concentrates, like shatter and powder are designed to offer highly potent doses of CBD and are usually smoked or vaporized, but can also be taken by mouth.
    • Tinctures are a liquid form of CBD mixed with a carrier oil that is meant to be taken sublingually, or under the tongue. These come in a wide variety of flavors, potencies, and formulas.
    • Capsules are usually similar to tinctures by design, offering mild to moderate doses of CBD mixed with a carrier oil. However, being encapsulated means that CBD capsules have no flavor or smell.
    • Gummies are infused CBD edibles similar to any other gummy candy. This alternative oral dose is a fun way to take CBD, but may also appease a picky palate.
    • Other edibles include a variety of snacks, cakes, cookies, beverages, and more. These are all taken by mouth and vary in style and potency.
    • Vape oil is generally made with CBD and a carrier oil that’s safe for inhalation. CBD vape oils are available in pre-filled cartridges, disposable vape pens, and standard oil form used for refilling your vaporizer tank.
    • Topicals are mixed with a skin-safe carrier oil and meant for applying CBD to the skin. CBD topicals are available in many different formulas ranging from creamy lotions to thick, waxy balms.

How is CBD Isolate Made?

Mature industrial hemp material ready for harvest.Because of the laws regarding the legality of cannabis and hemp, most CBD isolates are made from industrial hemp, but not always.

CBD can also be found in other cannabis plants, including high THC plants. Since the point of an isolate is a high-purity, concentrated version of CBD, manufacturers usually seek out CBD-rich hemp plants that contain very low levels of THC.

After the hemp material is selected, the manufacturer may use a number of extraction methods (Supercritical CO2 and Ethanol extractions are most popular) to collect a material called “crude oil.”

This oil generally carries the full-spectrum cannabinoid and terpene profile in similar proportions to the original plant material.

Crude oil also contains a number of other natural plant materials, like lipids, waxes, and chlorophyll. For full spectrum extract, it’s possible to stop here, and the resulting product will often be green or brown in color with a natural, hempy flavor.

In order to isolate CBD from the rest of the plant material found in crude hemp oil, manufacturers must take the extraction process further.

There is no standard procedure for hemp extraction or for isolating CBD, and each brand may use a process that differs slightly from the next.

Still, the process usually involves some combination of these methods:

    • Winterization is a process where the hemp material is subjected to sub-zero temperatures. This process forces the cannabinoids away from other plant materials, like lipids and chlorophyll.
    • Decarboxylation involves gently heating the hemp material. During the decarb process, all CBDa is converted to CBD, making the material more potent.
    • Distillation is a crucial process that involves forcing hemp material though a vacuum chamber and subjecting it to different temperatures. Since each cannabinoid has a different boiling point, this can separate cannabinoids from each other to create a fine-tuned hemp formula.
    • Extraction involves one or more solvents (like CO2 or ethanol) to extract the cannabinoid material. In most cases, the solvent needs to be carefully removed from the final product.
    • Crystallization is generally the last step in making CBD isolates. This process helps align CBD molecules to make them more rigid, resulting in a crystallized product that can be ground down into powder.

Lab Testing for CBD Isolate

Although not required to produce CBD isolate, the last step in a high-quality CBD manufacturing process is batch testing through a third-party lab.

Many manufacturers tend to forgo these batch tests because they are costly. Unfortunately, this frequently allows things to slip through the cracks, like low potency or contaminants in the final product.

Skipping these tests may result in a lower-cost end product, but usually results in lower-quality products as well.

It also allows the manufacturer to escape significant accountability, since products can technically be labeled as “CBD isolate” if isolate is used, even if the product isn’t pure or concentrated.

In short, these third-party lab tests are important to ensuring the accuracy and safety of CBD isolate products, both for the consumer and for industry-leading manufacturers.

Consumers who seek out CBD isolates often look for these test results in order to ensure the complete absence of THC.

Manufacturers value these lab tests as a way to hold themselves accountable for the quality of their product, and as a way to help establish consumer trust.

Some brands may test hemp material several times throughout the manufacturing process, but the final batch tests are frequently considered the most important because they directly display information related to the product consumers will receive.

Because of sparse industry regulations these tests are not mandatory, but they are becoming even more important as leading brands popularize the practice.

Is CBD Distillate the Same as CBD Isolate?

No! Although CBD distillate is heavily distilled to create a version of CBD that is more pure than basic full spectrum extract, CBD distillate generally contains about 80% CBD.

The other 20% of the formula is home to a variety of different plant compounds, including other cannabinoids and naturally occurring terpenes. CBD distillate may even be sourced from high-THC strains, so it may naturally contain more THC than any products sourced from hemp.

Can CBD Isolate Go Bad?

CBD isolate is highly concentrated, so it’s often the go-to product for people who want to buy CBD powder in bulk. Of course, purchasing large quantities of CBD isolate powder raises some understandable concerns, like how long it will last before it goes bad.

Luckily, high-quality CBD powder is designed to be shelf-stable for long periods of time. Most will last on the shelves for years, giving you plenty of time to use it up before it goes bad. Because it’s a concentrated, fine powder and contains no water, it isn’t vulnerable to mold.

Keep in mind that not all CBD isolate powder is made the same.The quality of the isolate powder has everything to do with how long you can keep CBD powder before it goes bad.

Clean, well-made CBD isolate will last much longer than poorly made isolates, which can be riddled with contaminants, like microbes or mold.

Other products made from CBD isolate powder (like tinctures or edibles) may not last as long because they usually include flavors, oils, or water, which makes them more susceptible to growing mold or turning sour. Check the label or contact the brand to find out the specific shelf life for your favorite CBD isolate products.

.

How to Measure CBD Isolate?

Whether you want to take CBD isolate directly or use it to make your own infused beverages and foods, understanding how to accurately measure it is crucial.

Each product will vary slightly, but the general idea is the same. Since high-quality CBD isolate is 99% pure CBD, each milligram of powder will represent roughly one milligram of CBD.

The best way to measure CBD powder is with a scale, like the one you use in your kitchen, which enables you to measure your CBD dose precisely by weight.

If you’re making batches of CBD edibles, beverages, or topicals at home, you may be able to save some hassle by measuring by the gram, instead. At 99.9% purity, one gram of CBD isolate powder will contain 999 mg of CBD.

Although breaking out a scale to measure the CBD powder each time can be time-consuming, these powders offer the benefit of allowing you to make your own products with precise doses, giving you ultimate control over your CBD routine (and possibly saving you money!)

Is CBD Isolate Organic?

CBD isolate can be labelled as organic in some cases, though CBD industry regulations are seemingly relaxed on when and how these products should be labelled.

It’s important to note that many of the solvents used during the extraction process are harsh chemicals that aren’t considered organic.

If a product claims “Organic” status, it likely uses a process that relies on GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) solvents, like CO2 or ethanol.

For instance, a brand may use alcohol derived from organic cane sugar to make the manufacturing process adherent to “organic” guidelines.

For the product to be wholly labeled as “Organic,” each ingredient should be organic, too. This includes the original hemp material, which should be non-GMO and never sprayed with pesticides or herbicides.

Often, the third-party lab tests will show non-detectable ratings for pesticides and residual solvents in the final product. However, this does not ensure these chemicals were not used during any point in the manufacturing process.

In order to verify the “Organic” status of a CBD isolate product, brands should be willing to offer a third-party Certificate of Analysis that evaluates the presence of pesticides, herbicides, and residual solvents.

They also should offer some sort of “seed to sale” traceability, which includes information about the original hemp genetics, how and where the hemp was grown, and what chemicals or additives were used in the manufacturing process.

What Does CBD Isolate Powder Taste Like?

High-quality, pure CBD isolate should have no smell or taste. The refinement process used to make CBD isolate powder should remove all materials that carry a plant-like flavor.

The lack of flavor makes CBD isolate perfect for making your own CBD products at home. Similarly, brands may use isolate in formulas in order to add CBD without adding any herbal flavors.

Some isolate products may include added terpenes or flavors, which can alter the taste of the final product.

If your CBD isolate powder (that doesn’t contain terpenes or flavor additives) has a strong flavor, something may be wrong!

What Can I Make With CBD Isolate?

CBD isolate can be added to all your favorite food and drinks, like coffee with cream.CBD isolate essentially offers a “clean slate” for users to design a dosing routine that meets their particular needs and preferences. CBD isolate powder can easily be added to nearly any recipe, so you can use it to make different foods, gummies, drinks, and more.

Still, you’ll want to avoid adding CBD isolate powder to some substances. CBD is fat soluble, which means it won’t dissolve in water or water-based liquids. In fact, it will likely just stick to the sides of the glass or clump together, resulting in quite a bit of waste.

Instead, you’ll want to add CBD isolate powder to something with naturally occurring or added fats, like a creamy beverage.

The same concept applies for CBD isolate products with added oils, like a tincture. Oil and water won’t mix well, so if you intend to add a CBD isolate tincture to your own food or beverage, choose something with a decent fat content.

With that in mind, the possibilities are endless. Creating personalized CBD products with CBD isolate powder is a cinch if you properly measure and plan your recipe in advance.

Will CBD Isolate Make Me Fail a Drug Test?

The main reason that people seek CBD isolate is to avoid any THC exposure in the case that they are expecting a drug test.

Many people are subject to these tests for their job or for legal reasons. If that’s the case, you may have heard that the trace amounts of THC found in full spectrum CBD products can potentially cause a “false positive” test results.

Many drug tests in the U.S. look specifically for THC, not for broad spectrum cannabinoids. In this case, it’s unlikely that a 99% pure CBD isolate will trigger any false results.

Other tests may look for cannabinoids in general, and some tests could even look specifically for CBD. However, these are not the kind of drug tests commonly given for employment.

If you’re worried about taking CBD and are subject to drug tests at your job, talk to your employer about their policy regarding CBD. Many people use CBD isolate with no issues, since it features non-detectable (0%) levels of THC.

Key Takeaways

True CBD isolate is a crystallized hemp-derivative that is 99+% pure and free of THC contamination. This poses an alternative for people who are subject to drug tests or who don’t feel comfortable intaking the trace amounts of THC found in full spectrum products.

This pure form of CBD can be used to make many different THC-free products, including tinctures, topicals, and edibles. However, isolates need to maintain high-purity to be considered “true: CBD isolates.

There is no official research that defines the difference in effects or benefits between CBD isolate and full spectrum CBD products. The two are possibly interchangeable, since they both can offer powerful doses of active CBD.

In pure crystal or powder form, CBD isolate generally has a lengthy shelf life, which makes it a great option for buying in bulk.

The tasteless and odorless powder can also be used to make your own edibles, vape oils, topicals, or tinctures at home. Just choose your ingredients wisely because CBD is fat soluble and won’t dissolve well in water-based substances.

Ultimately, CBD isolate can offer a cost-effective, powerful CBD dose for people at any point in their CBD journey. The precise control over dosing and complete absence of THC makes it a respectable choice for even those who are new to CBD, while the high concentration also meets the needs of advanced users who need high doses of CBD.

Resources

  1. “Cannabinoid Crystallization”
    A simple explanation of the crystallization process for cannabinoids, used to make CBD isolate crystals. (https://www.conflabs.com/cannabinoid-crystallization/)
  2. “Epidiolex (Cannabidiol)” The first FDA-approved cannabidiol drug is derived from pure CBD isolate. (https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326061)
  3. “A Simple Guide to the Endocannabinoid System” The complexity of the endocannabinoid system explains why CBD isolate may affect each person differently. (https://www.healthline.com/health/endocannabinoid-system)
  4. “Overcoming the Bell‐Shaped Dose‐Response of Cannabidiol by Using Cannabis Extract Enriched in Cannabidiol”Research regarding the similarities and differences in CBD isolate and phytocannabinoid-rich hemp extract doses. (https://file.scirp.org/pdf/PP_2015021016351567.pdf)
  5. “Study sheds light on link between cannabis, anxiety and stress” An explanation behind the theory that CBD isolate may be a better choice for anxiety than full spectrum CBD, which contains THC. (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/01/200113111141.htm)
  6. “A Cross-Sectional Study of Cannabidiol Users” A large survey of over 2,400 people to determine how and why CBD is commonly being used. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6043845/)
  7. “Review of the neurological benefits of phytocannabinoids” A study that reviews numerous potential neurological benefits of CBD, potentially leading to the creation of CBD isolate drug Epidiolex. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5938896/)
  8. “Cannabidiol modulates serotonergic transmission and reverses both allodynia and anxiety-like behavior in a model of neuropathic pain” Research regarding the use of CBD for anxiety related to neuropathic pain. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6319597/)
  9. “Cannabinoids in the Treatment of Epilepsy: Hard Evidence at Last?”Study suggesting that CBD shows a better anticonvulsant profile than THC. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5767492/)
  10. “Can You Fail a Drug Test Due to CBD?”U.S. Drug Test Center says it is highly unlikely, but possible, to fail a drug test when using CBD. (https://www.usdrugtestcenters.com/drug-test-blog/181/can-you-fail-a-drug-test-due-to-cbd.html)




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