CBD Isolates and How They are Processed

What is CBD Isolate?

CBD isolates are a purified and concentrated form of CBD or cannabidiol  – a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in cannabis plants such as hemp. The finished product usually comes in the form of a white crystalline or powder.

High-quality CBD isolates should have 99% pure CBD, without taste and odor, free from additives, terpenes, chlorophyll, wax, oils, and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – one of the cannabinoids that can make you high.

Benefits of CBD

There are numerous studies, claims, and testimonials about the benefits of CBD.  It can treat health issues like diabetes,1 obesity,2 anxiety,3 sleep disorders,4 inflammation,5 epilepsy,6 and many more.

The FDA approved one of the refined CBD extracts, Epidiolex, to treat epilepsy after one of the experimental studies with more than 500 patients shows that it helps to reduce seizures.7 

Types of Cannabidiol (CBD)

If you are interested in the health benefits of cannabinoids but have doubts because of its known psychoactive properties, we need to know the different types of CBD and its terminologies, for us to understand the CBD isolate.

There are two main types of CBD. First is the CBD distillate, and Second is the CBD isolate.

We already know what CBD isolates are, so let’s understand more of CBD distillate.

The CBD distillate has two sub-categories:

  1. Broad-spectrum CBD. This kind of CBD extract retains the cannabinoids, oils, vitamins and other components of the plant, but has next to zero THC, usually, 0.03% or less. This amount of THC is minimal, so you don’t have to worry about getting high from it.
  2. Full-spectrum CBD. For this category, it contains most of the plant components and cannabinoids, including a small to high amount of THC.

Base on the description of these two types of CBD distillate, we now understand that the CBD Isolate is the purest type of CBD, free from other cannabinoids and THC.

The pros and cons of popular CBD isolate extraction processes 

As mentioned in Why is CBD Oil Expensive? the process used to extract CBD will have an impact on the quality of the finished product and will thus affect your health as a consumer. Therefore, knowing the different methods of CBD extractions can give you an idea of the quality and purity of a brand’s CBD extract.

While extraction methods see vast improvements each year, here are the most common methods of CBD extraction used by commercial companies at present.

1. Supercritical CO2 CBD Extraction

The CO2 CBD extraction method is the most advanced, safest, and most preferred method since it is able to efficiently extract CBD. It uses carbon dioxide (CO2) at a certain temperature and pressure as a sort of solvent to extract crude CBD from the hemp. The result will be an amber-colored oil that contains waxes, terpenes, and other cannabinoids. Although it can already be used in this form, it still has to be passed through additional filtration processes before it can become an isolate.

There are few downsides with this method. First, it is not a DIY method. It requires expensive machines to freeze the CO2 gas to solid-state (dry ice), and from solid form to liquid by applying the right temperatures and pressures; Second, only skilled professionals can perform this method and this typically adds to the cost of the final product.

2. Solvent-based CBD extraction

This method uses ethanol, butane, propane, and other similar solvents to extract the CBD. The process is similar to CO2 extraction such that the solvent is used to dissolve the cannabinoids in the plant mass. While somewhat cheaper, solvent extraction on a commercial scale is relatively more dangerous, not as efficient as the CO2 method, and yields CBD oil that may not be as pure.

Still, there are a lot of manufacturers that use this method and some have even fine-tuned their processes to be at par with CO2 extraction. Ethanol extraction can also be done at home without any special equipment.

Turning the distillate into isolate

The extracted CBD oil will still have to go through winterization and distillation before it can be turned into isolate crystals. Winterization, as the name suggests, uses a solvent like ethanol and cold temperatures to separate compounds by the differences in their melting and precipitation points. These unwanted fats and waxes are later removed by filtration and various other separation processes.

After this, the oil is additionally put through short-path distillation, which is a technique often used for compounds which are unstable at high temperatures.

The CBD distillate is ready to be crystallized once it is clear and no longer cloudy. This process involves the use of solvents and a machine that can regulate temperature. The idea is to dissolve the CBD oil in the solvent, typically pentane, ethanol, or CO2, and have it precipitate until the CBD isolate crystals form.

Home extraction processes

It’s practically impossible to get 99% pure, pharmaceutical-grade crystallized CBD using home extraction processes. Although the final extract will still be of high purity, the isolation of CBD using home extraction is hardly viable for business purposes.

As mentioned previously, it is totally possible to extract CBD at home using ethanol. In addition to this, natural oils and even dry ice can also be used.

1. Olive Oil CBD Extraction Method

With this extraction method, you have to decarboxylate8 the raw plant material to activate the chemicals in it. That should mean that you have to heat the plant materials with a specific temperature and time setting. The next step is to reheat it with the olive oil to extract the cannabinoids and other phytochemicals of the plant.

Unfortunately, the final product using this method is perishable and low in quality.

3.The Dry Ice CBD Extraction Method.

The step by step process of the Dry Ice extraction method is easy to follow.

To start with this process:

  • Use hand gloves and eye protection.
  • Next is to chop the plant materials into small pieces, and place it in a plastic container then leave it for three minutes.
  • After three minutes, you can then cover it with the bubble hash bag and shake the combo for four minutes. Be careful not to overdo it to avoid losing the quality of the extract.
  • For the next process, you can turn the container upside down, shaking it consistently, on to another container. You would then see the hash falling through the bubble hash bag.
  • You can use a scraper to scrape the hash and keep it in clean containers.
  • Repeat the process twice or thrice if desired.

Like the olive oil method, using dry ice will not produce a high-quality product.


In a nutshell, isolates are the purest form of CBD and it is also one that has gone through the most processing. This can make it relatively more expensive than oils. It is also devoid of the entourage effect which is mentioned in What is the Best Way to Use a CBD Flower? but CBD users don’t usually look for that since they deliberately try to avoid other cannabinoids, particularly THC.

Nevertheless, CBD isolates are still a good option for people who want pure, tasteless CBD that can be used as it is or as an ingredient.

  1. Abigail Klein Leichman. Cannabis Extract to be Used to Treat Diabetes. [Israel21c]
  2. Le Strat Y1, Le Foll B. Obesity, and Cannabis Use: results from 2 representative national surveys. [PubMed] [CrossRef]
  3. Crippa JA, Guimarães FS, Campos AC, Zuardi AW. Translational Investigation of the Therapeutic Potential of Cannabidiol (CBD): Toward a New Age. [PubMed] [PMC][CrossRef]
  4. Scott Shannon. Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series. [ResearchGate] [CrossRef]
  5. George W. Booz. Cannabidiol as an Emergent Therapeutic Strategy for Lessening the Impact of Inflammation on Oxidative Stress. [PMC]
  6. Serena Silvestro, Santa Mammana, Eugenio Cavalli, Placido Bramanti, and Emanuela Mazzon. [PMC] [CrossRef]
  7. Dawn MacKeen. FDA approved Epidiolex, a purified CBD extract, to treat rare seizure disorders in patients two years or older…[The New York Time] [RelatedRef]
  8. Decarboxylation: A Beginner’s Guide.

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