With the passing of the 2014 farm bill, hemp and its valuable cannabinoid “CBD” have made headlines of nearly every major publication from coast to coast. The recent discovery of the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) has spurred the evolution of an entire industry that produces and manufactures products containing CBD. What isn’t clear to many consumers, however, is how CBD isolate differs from Full Spectrum CBD, or how those products are derived from the hemp plant.

As a CBD containing varietal of hemp reaches maturity, the amount of CBD reaches a peak, and the plant is harvested. From there, the flowers and leaves of the plant will be sent through an extraction process (generally CO2, Ethanol, or H2O) in an effort to capture the most valuable components used the burgeoning nutraceutical market. The preliminary extraction process yields an oil-based product that is somewhere between “winterized crude” and “distillate.” Essentially, it is an extracted product with all the fats and waxes removed, but still contains the terpenes (scents) along with the full spectrum of cannabinoids (CBD, CBG, CBN, THC) contained within the plant. Most researchers agree that the various cannabinoids in the plant work in harmony to support the endocannabinoid system in the body. Therefore, for most physical ailments, it is often recommended that users obtain a “full spectrum” product.

CBD isolate, on the other hand, is literally just isolated CBD. That one component has gone through extraction, the isolation processes, and all other components of the plant have been stripped away until nothing remains but CBD. Many industry experts don’t believe CBD isolate has the medical efficacy that full spectrum hemp derivatives do. However, there are a number of reasons this isolated version of CBD is warranted. Those who are specifically tested for THC could use an isolate product to avoid the risk of a positive test resulting from the trace amounts present in a full spectrum product. Additionally, there are studies showing that while CBD can help anxiety or depression, THC can worsen, or exacerbate, psychological problems. Therefore, an isolate product might be preferable in this instance.

While the jury is still out on the superiority of full spectrum vs. isolate, one thing remains clear: Hemp derivatives have a valuable place in helping to heal a host of problems for people as well as animals. The world’s oldest medicine seems to be making a solid comeback.