CBD Isolate benefits many serious health conditions, and is the subject of hundreds of clinical trials. It also has many practical benefits as a pharmaceutical drug ingredient, a botanical extract, a manufacturing ingredient and article of commerce, but may not match the therapeutic benefits of other hemp and cannabis extracts.
CBD Isolate (Cannabidiol) is a purified cannabinoid derived from the flowers, leaves and other parts of Cannabis sativa and used in pharmaceutical medicines such as Epidiolex (prescribed for drug resistant epilepsy) as well as in unregistered medicines such as CBD oil tinctures. Research on Cannabidiol has shown many potential therapeutic benefits, and clinical trials for CBD are currently underway for a range of conditions including epilepsy, chronic pain, autism, PTSD and many others. CBD shows great promise, but research comparing CBD isolate to less refined extracts show that best results are often obtained using Cannabis Oil rather than purified CBD.
The benefits of CBD isolate include high purity, consistency, stability, ease of handling, ease of measurement, mild flavour/smell and low or negligible levels of THC. These qualities have made CBD the premier commodity hemp/CBD product. The low levels of THC mean that it should reliably be below the 0.3% THC level required for hemp, allowing it to be traded in some jurisdictions more readily.
The apparently pure nature of CBD also makes it relatively simple to understand, measure and trade even for unqualified or uneducated buyers and sellers – in short CBD approaches the requirements for a commodity, making it attractive to people who want to benefit from CBD commercially without the risk, complexity and confusion often associated with other hemp and cannabis extracts, which are inherently complex mixtures (which accounts for their improved efficacy).
This article explores the various benefits of CBD isolate as both a pharmaceutical drug, a botanical extract, a research compound, a manufacturing ingredient and article of commerce. I will review the benefits and disadvantages of it’s use in various settings, and refer to other resources discussing how these compare to other hemp and CBD extracts such as hemp oil and CBD distillate. I will also specifically look at the use of CBD isolate in various product types and their pros and cons.
I will pay particular attention to the benefits of CBD isolate as a manufacturing ingredient and as a commodity, because these factors drive the popularity of CBD outside of the pharmaceutical industry. This popularity often causes hemp industry participants to focus on CBD isolate rather than more natural, economical and beneficial products.
CBD shows great promise as a treatment for an incredibly wide range of diseases. This diversity of impact is due to it’s impact on the EndoCannabinoid System – a vital homeostatic system regulating many aspects of human and animal health including inflammation, immune function and neurologic activity.
Note though that CBD isolate is broadly considered not to be as beneficial as other medical cannabis products and hemp extracts, because of the entourage effect.
Cannabidiol has been shown to have promise for a range of health areas – note that this research is at an early stage and is ongoing, and the only registered CBD drug is used for epilepsy.
Of all cannabinoids studied to date, CBD has shown the widest range of benefits, though this could be due to the lack of research on lesser known compounds. Regardless, it demonstrates a remarkable amount of medical promise for any “new” or existing drug category.
Some of the potential benefits of CBD isolate may include:
Remember – these are all potential mechanisms at this stage.
In general they have good underlying science (mechanisms of action, animal studies) and anecdotal benefits. Some have been demonstrated in early stage clinical trials. Most of the above uses are currently the subject of formal clinical trials.
For more information see the clinical trials currently underway below, or contact a clinician who specialises in cannabis therapy.
As the above chart (source) shows, CBD shows promise in many therapeutic settings. The range of CBD isolate benefits are one of the widest of any drug known.
CBD Isolate may benefit patients with many health conditions, and is currently the subject of hundreds of medical research studies and clinical clinical trials. Most of these are still in their early stages, but show that CBD is generally safe, well tolerated and rarely abused.
CBD Isolate’s most promising use is as a pharmaceutical ingredient in the treatment of various serious diseases, including diseases where other treatments are ineffective.
The “poster child” disease which pioneered CBD’s use and led to it’s eventual registration, legalisation and re-scheduling is in the treatment severe cases of drug resistant paediatric epilepsy.
There have been decades of scientific and medical research into the possible benefits of CBD by many organisations and countries. Cannabis prohibition has greatly limited research, resulting in only a handful of companies and countries making significant strides in formal, legal scientific cannabis research.
The use of cannabis to treat epilepsy and other neurological conditions has been studied for a number of years. It has been hotly debated too.
On June 25, 2018, the United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved CBD Isolate drug EPIDIOLEX® for use in the treatment of seizures associated with two severe epilepsy syndromes – Lennox-Gastaut syndromeand Dravet syndrome.
Epidiolex is highly significant because it is a promising new treatment for an often intractable disease. It is also the first FDA approved drug based on a natural cannabis extract. Epidiolex is now rated as Schedule 5, while other cannabinoids and most cannabis (except hemp) are schedule 1 – the most dangerous and least medical useful category.
This was a major win for GW Pharma – a UK based cannabis company which has been researching and developing cannabis-derived drugs for rare diseases. This specialisation in rare diseases has been because international drug law has prevented the use of medical cannabis except as a drug of last resort. This has led to paediatric epilepsy being the “foot in the door” which has allowed advancement of this research and drug registration pathways in spite of enormous, unreasonable restrictions and interference by governments (with the US government being particularly difficult). As a result, it is notable that GW Pharma developed in the UK.
I discuss this drug and use in detail, because it sets many precedents and illustrates how nuanced and multifaceted the CBD isolate benefits can be.
The challenge with Sativex is that the presence of THC adds several significant challenges, risks and concerns that have limited the ability of GW Pharma to develop, commercialise and distribute Sativex. THC is intoxicating – it causes disorientation, euphoria, altered perception of sensations and time, and often paranoia or anxiety. It is also the active ingredient int he world’s most popular and widely used (aka abused) recreational drug, marijuana. This means that there are practical patient-focused considerations for developing a THC free drug. Even more significant, there are enormous legal, regulatory and perception based benefits of developing a THC-free, CBD only drug. One of the most significant is the attitude of prescribers, regulators and other stakeholders. Broadly speaking they are reluctant to prescribe something that may be seen as a recreational drug that might get patients “high” or otherwise have unpredictable effects. Further, they require strong evidence including clinical trials before these drugs are easy to access and prescribe. These clinical trials have been difficult to run for THC because THC has historically been defined as a Schedule 1 drug in the USA – dangerous drugs of abuse with no medical benefit.
Realistically THC doesn’t belong in Schedule 1 – this is an artefact of historical political and racist policies which have no real backing. Cannabis is safer than most drugs – but THC is intoxicating comparable to opiates and sedatives like valium. A sensible scheduling would place THC at a level comparable to some medically useful opiates, and CBD at a level comparable to other prescription drugs.
The rescheduling of Epidiolex is thus a major advance in FDA and DEA drug policy.
Note that the CBD in Epidiolex is derived from Marijuana, not from “Hemp”. This difference is in many ways an arbitrary legal definition, but it is significant in many ways because access, research and use of CBD products are largely driven by regulatory and legal factors.
The first benefit of CBD isolate over other cannabis-derived extracts in pharmaceuticals is that development and registration of pharmaceutical products traditionally involves single compounds, or a combination of a small number (normally no more than 2-3) of compounds which helps to ensure consistency, safety, and attribution of effect to a specific active ingredient.
Pharmaceutical drugs typically contain an active ingredient along with a number of “inactive” ingredients which function as fillers, diluents, carriers, stabilisers, taste modifiers etc.
This allows precise dosage of that specific ingredient, with predictable effects.
In contrast cannabis extracts (and most botanical drugs) contain numerous related ingredients in varying proportions – and these proportions vary with each batch of product. Some of these compounds are “active” (cause a therapeutic effect), others are “inactive” (cause not therapeutic effect), and others modify the activity of the active ingredient but are not active in themselves. Cannabis is a case in point here. When it was first investigated, researchers concluded that THC was the only “active” part of the drug. We now know that there are hundreds of cannabinoids, all with unique activity. There are also 100+ terpenes which have their own (usually more subtle) activity. But most significantly these extra cannabinoids and terpenes significantly modify the effects of THC, CBD and other components.
This is very messy and hard to do good science with!
Add to this, the proportion of these Different parts of the plant (eg: flowers from the top or flowers from the bottom of the plant), different plants, different locations and methods of cultivation, time of harvesting, and drying, curing and processing methods.
All these factors are well understood in medicinal herbs but scary and unworkable for the pharmaceutical industry.
Thus the big benefit of CBD isolate is turning a cannabis extract into a single molecule which makes it easy to work with as a pharmaceutical compound.
A single compound is easy to measure, dose, test, buy, sell and develop patentable IP around. These are all highly attractive to pharmaceutical companies, drug manufacturers, and anyone else wanting to develop a registered drug through a pharmaceutical clinical trial pathway.
As stated earlier, CBD isolate has many benefits as a botanical extract, but also many disadvantages. Currently THC levels in hemp greatly limit the ability of farmers, processors and manufacturers to produce compliant products. Many countries and states limit or restrict THC levels to >0.3%, >0.2% or even near-zero.
Achieving this with more complex extracts such as Cannabis oil, distillate or isolate can be a challenge.
Currently most hemp with significant THC levels (>10%) have THC levels close to 0.3%. Once they are extracted, the THC level is concentrated. This typically results in the extract (eg: Cannabis Oil) having THC levels >0.3%, and thus not meeting the legal criteria for hemp – they are considered marijuana.
For this reason the CBD industry has traditionally focussed on isolating CBD from hemp extracts to remove all THC and other impurities. This ensures the CBD extract meets the legal criteria for hemp. Removing impurities can also improve stability, handling and other characteristics (see below).
One time that CBD isolate is essential is when performing research or requiring analytic reagents. Here the CBD needs to be a purified standardised reagent grade or API grade (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient) is required. Note that most CBD isolate does not meet reagent or API grade.
CBD isolate is one of the most popular manufacturing ingredients. For similar reasons to pharmaceutical companies, manufacturers desire standardised, pure ingredients of known potency. They also often want an ingredient with minimal flavour or smell (hemp extracts mostly have very strong flavour and smell) tasteless, This is easy to achieve with isolate but difficult using more other hemp extracts and CBD products.
The other big benefits of CBD isolate for manufacturing are convenience and ease of handling of a white crystalline powder, as opposed to CBD oils or distillate which are thick, dark highly viscous sticky liquids that will sometimes crystallise or solidify into a hard mass.
As good analogy is baking a cake: you want sweetness and other qualities that sugar gives. You could use honey, molasses, agave syrup or a fruit juice concentrate but crystalline sugar is much easier to work with, easy to measure and is consistent and stable and won’t overpower your cake with their flavour.
Of all the factors influencing the popularity of CBD isolate, it’s benefits as a commodity product are possibly the greatest.
Interest in the hemp/CBD industry is massive and growing, and many investors, traders, and brokers want to participate in the industry. While some of these are professional commodity traders, many are people who have had personal benefits from CBD, hemp and cannabis and want to contribute to the industry.
To easily buy and sell any product – be it oil, grain or pork bellies, some standardisation is necessary. There needs to be some expected grade and quality that allows both buyers and sellers to agree on requirements and price to complete transactions.
Because hemp and hemp extracts are inherently complex, and there are many different cultivars of hemp and grades of products – it is very hard to establish standard grades and prices.
CBD isolate and other standardised products allow the development of a Hemp Exchange or marketplace where people can buy and sell similar items of standard quality knowing it will be what they expect.
This is particularly attractive because most buyers/sellers lack the scientific or botanical knowledge to assess more complex products. CBD isolate “dumbs down” hemp and CBD to the point that even commodity brokers can understand it!
The benefits of CBD isolate as a consumer product are a composite of all the above.
CBD isolate allows access to standardised doses of CBD with negligible THC for a wide variety of products.
Some popular products for which CBD isolate is desirable are:
As you can see, CBD isolate is a very versatile and beneficial ingredient in the manufacture of a range of pharmaceutical, natural health and consumer products.
When considering using CBD isolate as a manufacturer and consumer you should asses whether CBD isolate benefits outweigh some of the downsides, such as lack of the entourage effect.