Full Spectrum Oils vs. Isolate
Full Spectrum is the term given to the products where the extraction process captures a greater amount of the total plant contents. There are varying stages where some full spectrum products will contain more than the next. For example, a crude extract contains waxes, terpenes, flavonoids and sugars. They also possess cannabinoids in a lower concentration than a distillate where much of those things have been removed. Full Spectrum Distillate is a product that has focused extraction, post winterization, to capture the entirety of the cannabinoid profile. The distillate may still contain some flavonoids, but the terpenes are usually gone. Full spectrum can be a misnomer when describing any extract, as some favorable components are going to be missing. The only true full spectrum product is the plant.
Isolate is a product where individual cannabinoids are isolated via a varied extraction process such as CO2, HPLC, or Chemical Crushing. These processes aim at producing a single cannabinoid. Once obtained the isolate is usually a crystalline powder which can be precisely added to products in known amounts. Terpenes and flavonoids as well as the “spectrum” of other cannabinoids are usually lost in this process. In this sense an isolate is exactly opposite of full spectrum.
There are pros and cons to each product, be it full spectrum or isolate. A full spectrum product lacks reproducibility and product control. This is because, “the spectrum” is nature dependent and will vary based on environmental differences. The chemical distribution of terpenes, flavonoids, cannabinoids will vary from crop to crop. The full spectrum is often thought to be the only means to the “entourage effect”. The entourage being the effect by which an entourage of chemicals are working together to produce. Many proponents to full spectrum products point to this entourage effect as superior to isolate products. The problem is this; if you have a different entourage you have a different effect and this will occur as nature varies. Isolates provide certainty of dose and effect, while making it possible to make the same product again and again. As more products become isolated from the plant it becomes possible to fabricate an entourage, though not yet with the complexity of nature. The advantages of an isolate product are certainty and reproducibility. As this industry moves forward there will be increasing access to more of what the plant has to offer in isolate form, and the ability to customize the entourage effect in the future will be controlled to target a specific condition.