Cannabinoids remain the same regardless of how they are packaged, but the various types of cannabinoid extracts on the market offer significantly different benefits and potential uses. As the hemp industry has evolved, distillate and isolate extracts have risen to the fore as the most popular bulk cannabinoid ingredients, and each of these extract types has its strong points. In this guide, we’ll provide details on the properties of both distillate and isolate, we’ll explain the differences between these extract types, and we’ll help you decide whether distillate or isolate is right for your brand.
What is distillate?
Distillate is a distilled form of hemp extract that does not contain chlorophyll, waxes, or other potentially undesirable substances that are present in crude cannabinoid concentrate. This type of cannabinoid extract is usually honey-like in both appearance and consistency, and since it still contains the terpenes and flavonoids that provide hemp with its unique flavors and aromas, this extract smells rather “hempy.”
Depending on the strain of Cannabis sativa from which it was extracted, distillate may be dominant in cannabidiol (CBD), cannabigerol (CBG), or another cannabinoid. Cannabis strains with CBG as their dominant cannabinoid are now nearly as common as high-CBD strains, which makes it reasonably simple to produce high-CBG distillate. Additionally, hemp farmers are now working on developing Cannabis sativa strains that are high in cannabinol (CBN), cannabichromene (CBC), and other non-intoxicating cannabinoids that may have impressive benefits.
In addition to a single dominant cannabinoid, distillate also usually contains a variety of other cannabinoids that serve more minor roles. Exact percentages vary, but most types of CBD distillate, for instance, contain approximately 35-65% CBD, but they may also contain around 5-25% “minor” cannabinoids such as CBG, CBN, and CBC.
Some types of distillate may also contain up to 0.3% THC, which is the limit imposed by the 2018 Farm Bill and prior legislation. In many cases, however, THC is removed in the distillation process, and the resulting cannabinoid-rich distillate is called “broad spectrum” since it would contain the full spectrum of hemp constituents if THC hadn’t been eliminated.
Due to its purity, potency, and reliability, cannabinoid-rich distillate is generally regarded as a high-end, highly desirable form of hemp extract. Distillate becomes even more desirable when it has been subjected to processes that prevent crystallization, which is a common issue with cannabinoid extracts that reduces their quality. Crystal Resistant Distillate is extremely new, but will likely become widely used as the market evolves. This highly coveted extract can only be purchased from select industry leaders like GVB Biopharma.
Distillate and the entourage effect
Since cannabinoid-rich distillate usually contains one main cannabinoid along with an “entourage” of minor cannabinoids, this type of extract may provide the intriguing form of potential cannabinoid synergy called the entourage effect. According to scientific research, cannabinoids may exert more potent benefits when they are used in tandem with other cannabinoids, so many consumers and brands prefer CBD and CBG extracts that contain other cannabinoids as well.
It may even be possible to boost the potential entourage effect provided by distillate by including higher concentrations of minor cannabinoids. Distillate that is resistant to crystallization can naturally contain greater percentages of minor cannabinoids due to its unique structure, and it’s also possible to introduce additional minor cannabinoids into finished CBD or CBG distillate to capitalize on this theorized form of cannabinoid synergy to the fullest extent possible.
What is isolate?
Isolate is a nearly molecularly homogenous extract of one particular cannabinoid. Most forms of cannabinoid isolate contain 99%+ of a selected cannabinoid, and it’s now possible to produce cannabinoid isolate extract with CBD, CBG, or CBN. In the near future, isolate extracts containing CBC and other non-intoxicating cannabinoids will also be available.
In the past, cannabinoid isolate was widely desired for its lack of THC. It was only a few years ago that it became possible to remove THC from cannabinoid extract without the cannabinoid isolation process, and ever since this development, cannabinoid isolate has lost one of its main draws for both brands and consumers.
At the same time, isolate remains a highly useful bulk ingredient for a variety of reasons. First, cannabinoid isolate is relatively inexpensive to produce, so it is likewise offered in bulk at a reasonably low price. Also, it’s easy to add isolate to a wide variety of different products, and since this extract consists almost entirely of cannabinoid molecules, it’s also easy to calculate dosages of cannabinoid isolate products.
Isolate and the entourage effect
On its own, cannabinoid isolate has no capacity to provide the entourage effect. Since it only contains detectable levels of a single cannabinoid, this extract cannot provide the interactions with other cannabinoids that are necessary to trigger this theorized synergistic effect.
However, it is possible to combine an isolate of one cannabinoid with an isolate of another cannabinoid, and you can also reintroduce isolated CBD, CBG, or CBN into either a full-spectrum or broad-spectrum cannabinoid extract. By doing so, you provide cannabinoid isolate with the potential to provide the entourage effect while also boosting the potency of the target extract.
Simply by combining isolate CBD and isolate CBG together, for instance, you may be able to boost the effectiveness of each compound, providing a miniature form of the entourage effect. The potential benefits of adding isolated cannabinoids to cannabinoid extracts that contain the full-spectrum of non-intoxicating compounds found in Cannabis sativa flower could be even more profound.
How is distillate better than isolate?
While distillate is usually more expensive than isolate, this type of extract provides the potential of the entourage effect without needing to take any further steps or incorporate additional ingredients. Broad-spectrum distillate provides the added benefit of containing undetectable levels of THC, and all forms of distillate offer significant concentrations of the minor cannabinoids that are currently catching consumer interest.
Distillate also has a mild taste that’s very different from the taste of isolate or even crude hemp extract. This flavor varies from batch to batch, but it’s common for distillate to offer taste notes of citrus, mango, or pine, which can eliminate the necessity of adding flavoring to tinctures, edibles, and other types of orally ingested hemp products.
In summation, distillate is a high-end product that offers unique benefits that isolate does not. There are still, however, situations in which you might find isolate to be preferable.
Which product types are ideal for distillate?
Distillate is ideal for products that are designed to capitalize on the entourage effect, which is an increasingly valuable selling point for hemp consumers. Educated CBD users will often avoid buying hemp products that do not provide the entourage effect, and they are prone to view broad-spectrum and full-spectrum hemp products as being more effective.
Since distillate blends well into oil-based substances, this honey-like hemp extract is ideal for capsules, tinctures, edibles, and any other cannabinoid products that are compatible with oily ingredients. Distillate even works well with many types of oil-based and water-based topicals, but since topical hemp product formulations vary widely, this extract type may not work with every topical recipe.
It’s even possible to make distillate compatible with water-based formulations by transforming it into water-soluble liquid. This bulk ingredient type retains all the benefits of distillate while making this extract evenly dispersible within liquid bases. All things considered, distillate is an incredibly versatile bulk ingredient that’s compatible with practically every product type.
How is isolate better than distillate?
Isolate is primarily superior to distillate in terms of price. While most forms of cannabinoid distillate are at the upper end of the pricing spectrum, isolate is consistently at the lower end, making this type of extract more accessible to start-up brands. Isolate is also ideal for lower-priced products manufactured by either new or fully established cannabinoid companies.
Cannabinoid isolate may also be superior to distillate in the context of product formulation. While it can be difficult to calculate the concentration of cannabinoids in finished products when using distillate since this extract contains so many different compounds, it’s easy to calculate how much isolate is in a finished product because this extract is almost entirely molecularly homogenous. Some brands may also prefer the reduced mess and easy handling provided by isolate powder versus the potential production headaches caused by viscous, sticky cannabinoid distillate.
Which product types are ideal for isolate?
Isolate is ideal for lower-priced cannabinoid products, and it may also be useful to add this simple extract to distillate or other bulk cannabinoid ingredients to improve their potency. Due to its no-nonsense, powdered form, it’s easy to add cannabinoid isolate to practically any type of product, and the comparatively low price of this bulk ingredient may make isolate an ideal solution for a wide variety of product applications.
How to choose the right extract for your brand
In the end, both distillate and isolate have unique benefits that make each of these ingredients desirable for certain applications. While it would be tempting to label cannabinoid distillate as fully superior to isolate, there’s no denying that this high-end extract might not be ideal for certain product applications. Since it’s even possible to add isolate to distillate to increase its potency, it would be a mistake to view cannabinoid isolate as either outmoded or inferior.
Before you make a final decision on which type of bulk ingredient you want to rely on for your brand’s next venture, carefully consider your needs. Does the importance of capitalizing on the entourage effect, for instance, fully eclipse the decreased price of cannabinoid isolate? On the other hand, does the simplicity isolate provides during the production process make the added benefits of broad-spectrum or full-spectrum distillate less desirable?
In the end, you might follow the same path as many other successful brands by offering both cannabinoid isolate and cannabinoid distillate products. Whether you combine isolate and distillate in a single product line or offer products with these highly useful extracts separately, you may find that the benefits that both isolate and distillate offer are too compelling to ignore either bulk ingredient.
GVB Biopharma is a vertically integrated, global leader in the ever-growing hemp industry. We prioritize cannabinoid research, industry innovation, and traceable quality control. GVB operates two state-of-the-art facilities: a 30,000-square-foot food-grade hemp processing facility in Central Oregon and a 40,000-square-foot white-label consumer product manufacturing facility in Las Vegas.