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CBD isolates vs CBD full plant extracts, which one is better?

CBDistillery – Pure CBD Isolate Slab
Written by Dr. Leah Zachar

One of the big questions these days regarding CBD is which is more effective, CBD isolates or CBD full plant extracts. The answer? First and foremost: It depends why you want to take CBD.

Advantages of the CBD isolates:

CBD isolates come from the cannabis plant. Unlike CBD extracts, CBD isolate has had all of the other cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and fatty acids removed.  What is left is a CBD powder, or “crystal”.

CBD isolates have no taste or odor because they are devoid of the terpenes, which give the cannabis its aromatic scent. As a result of being tasteless and odorless, CBD isolate can be used to formulate one’s own CBD products.  People add CBD powder to their morning coffee, mix it with oil and make edibles out of it, or even make it into a cream and massage it on painful joints or sore muscles.

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There is one important point to remember when cooking or baking with the isolate.  CBD loses its potency and begins to degrade after 160 – 180 degrees Celsius, or 320 – 360 degrees Fahrenheit.  Therefore, use a lower temperature when cooking or baking with CBD.

Advantages of the CBD full plant extracts:

CBD extracts contain all of the rich cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and fatty acids found in the cannabis plant. However, in order to be considered a CBD extract, it must contain less than 0.3% THC in the US, or under 0.2% THC in most of the EU. As a result of this, CBD plant extract cannot get you high, and as long as you perform due diligence and purchase a verified product, you can use CBD extract and pass a urine employment drug test.

An excellent study was done February 2015 at the Hadassah Medical School in Jerusalem, Israel and published in the Journal of Pharmacology & Pharmacy.  CBD isolate, and CBD extract were used to treat pain and inflammation, and what was found was the following:

When CBD isolate was given, there was improvement of pain and inflammation within a very narrow dosage range.  When small doses or high doses of CBD isolate were given, there was no benefit.  The scientists termed this the “bell-shaped curve”.

When CBD extract was used (which is made from the hemp flower) there was a dramatic reduction in pain and inflammation starting at small doses and the benefit increased as the dose was increased.

CBD extract offers you the entourage effect whereas CBD isolate does not.  The entourage effect is when the terpenes, flavonoids, polyphenols, and other cannabinoids work synergistically to enhance the effects of CBD. In other words, milligram for milligram, the CBD extract reduces pain, anxiety, and inflammation far more than the CBD isolate.

The terpenes in the CBD extract have their own benefits.  For example, linalool, caryophyllene, and myrcene, help improve sleep.  Caryophyllene, myrcene, and pinene help to treat addiction, and all forms of anxiety can be helped by linalool.

CBD isolates or CBD extracts –  I prefer CBD extracts, but the choice is yours.


“Overcoming the Bell‐Shaped Dose‐Response of Cannabidiol by Using Cannabis Extract Enriched in Cannabidiol.” Pharmacology & Pharmacy, 2015, 6, 75‐85. 10 February 2015

“Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects”. British Journal of Pharmacology. 163 (7): 1344–64,  August 2011

“Some of the Parts: Is Marijuana’s “Entourage Effect” Scientifically Valid?”. Scientific American. 20 April 2017

Russo, E. B. (2011). “Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid‐terpenoid entourage effects.” British journal of pharmacology”, 163(7), 1344-1364.

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About the author

Dr. Leah Zachar

Dr. Leah Zachar, M.D. is a physician who worked for nearly thirty years in Internal Medicine.
She currently is a scientific adviser to CBD Testers. Dr. Zachar believes that there is much that medical cannabis, and cannabidiol in particular can offer to traditional medicine.