Generally, you want products that are as pure as possible — particularly when it comes to products you use for the benefit of your health. Nevertheless, the most common CBD products are spectrum products – meaning they include all manner of additional cannabinoids, terpenes and other compounds from cannabis. Not to mention, various additives for shelf stability and preservation. In which case, wouldn’t a genuinely pure CBD product with nothing else in the mix be preferable? The answer is — it depends. CBD isolate does exist, but it might not be the best CBD product for you.

Here’s everything you need to know about CBD isolate, and how to determine whether you really need it.

How CBD Isolate Is Made

CBD isolate is an extract, meaning it is a product created by extracting a desired compound (CBD) from undesirable compounds (plant material etc.). There are many processes of extraction, and none of them are unique to CBD isolate. All extracts, like full- and broad-spectrum CBD oils and even THC isolate products, use similar techniques to preserve the good stuff while removing the unwanted stuff.

In practice, there are essentially two common extraction methods employed by the cannabis industry: CO2 and hydrocarbon solvent.

CO2 Extraction

CO2 extraction involves using heated, pressurized carbon dioxide as a solvent, which washes away everything but the desired compound within cannabis. To start, machines freeze CO2 and then in the same chamber, the machine heats and re-pressurizes the CO2 into a supercritical fluid state — or a state where the boundaries between liquid and gas do not exist. When in this state, the CO2 can effuse through raw hemp like a gas and dissolve materials like a liquid. After passing through cannabis, the CO2 is separated from the CBD and other compounds it has dissolved and re-used in additional cycles of the extraction process.

CO2 extraction is one of the best methods for creating pure CBD isolate. Unlike other extraction methods, CO2 is non-toxic, so any leftover CO2 residue does not impact the quality of the product. What’s more, CO2 extraction has long been employed in the food industry, which means it is well-understood and rather predictable, allowing producers impeccable control over their final product.

However, CO2 extraction is extremely expensive. The equipment required for storing, cooling and heating CO2 is complex and difficult to maintain and operate.  This is why only the most advanced and sophisticated labs have access to this technique. Plus, the yield of each cycle tends to be lower than other extraction methods. As a result, you will likely pay much, much more for CBD isolate extracted with CO2.

Hydrocarbon Solvent Extraction

Simply put, a hydrocarbon is an organic compound made of only hydrogen and carbon atoms. There are several different hydrocarbons used for cannabis extraction purposes; ethanol, alcohol, butane and propane are the most common because they are the most effective and cost-efficient. All hydrocarbon extraction processes entail running the solvent over raw cannabis, evaporating the solvent and filtering out the desired compound. Often, this extraction method also includes a step called “winterization,” where the product is frozen to remove fats and excess solvent for added purity.

Hydrocarbon solvent extraction is much more accessible to the average CBD producer, but it comes with downsides, as well. Most importantly to you, some hydrocarbons are toxic, which means any solvent left in the final product could damage your health. CBD isolate products produced with this method might be cheaper, but they are likely lower quality.

Where CBD Isolate Is Sold

CBD isolate is sold almost everywhere CBD is sold. In states where CBD can be sold over the counter, you can find isolate options in pharmacies, grocery stores and other retail spaces. However, it isn’t a good idea to purchase any CBD products randomly from just anywhere. It is remarkably difficult to produce CBD isolate, so some unscrupulous brands package less-than-pure CBD and label it as isolate. Other CBD producers might leave in dangerous amounts of solvent, and others might introduce toxic compounds like lead or formaldehyde.

In truth, you should only purchase cannabis products from trustworthy places, like licensed cannabis dispensaries. Some states have more regulations regarding extracts than others; for instance, you are much more likely to find high-quality CBD isolate in a Portland dispensary, where the state closely observes how cannabis is grown, processed and sold.

How CBD Isolate Is Used

Once everything is removed but the CBD, the product left is a white rock or powder. CBD isolate can then be used like any other CBD product – the most common consumption methods being as follows:

  • Sublingual. You can apply the powder beneath your tongue, where it will absorb into your bloodstream for immediate relief. Sublingual administration is perhaps the fastest, safest and most reliable way to dose with almost any substance.
  • Inhalation. You can mix CBD isolate with terpenes or other CBD concentrates to create a high-CBD substance that can be vaped or dabbed. Some crystal CBD can be dabbed in traditional oil rigs.
  • Ingestion. You can buy CBD isolate in capsule form, or you can mix CBD isolate into beverages and food. In both cases, the substance must travel through your digestive system to be absorbed.
  • Topical. Finally, you can mix CBD isolate into a carrier oil, like olive oil, coconut oil or shea butter, and apply it topically to areas of your body where you need relief. Topical administration won’t provide all-over effects, but it is effective for targeted use.

CBD isolate isn’t difficult to use, but its expense and rarity make it a troublesome cannabis product to chase. What’s more, isolate might not be as effective as full- or broad-spectrum options. Though more research is warranted, many CBD users attest that products containing a mixture of CBD, THC and terpenes generate an “entourage effect,” whereby the different compounds boost one another’s effectiveness.

You can try CBD isolate for yourself, but it’s always worth trying less expensive CBD products at the same time (or beforehand) to determine whether you truly need such purity.