Understanding CBD Extracts: From Whole Plant to Full Spectrum to Isolate

June 05, 2019

Hemp Flower

tricolla-farms hemp cbd
Suver Haze: High-CBD hemp flower @ Tricolla Farms

When cultivating hemp for CBD production, it is all about genetics.

Typically, industrial hemp that contains below .3% THC does not produce high-resin flower, which means there is little room for cannabinoid and terpene development.

Cannabinoids: diverse chemical compounds that occur naturally in the cannabis plant. They respond directly with our Endocannabinoid System and its receptors. Most common cannabinoids include THC, CBD, CBG, CBN and CBC.

Terpenes = aromatic compounds produced in the plant. Terpenes work together with cannabinoids to further the plants’ therapeutic effects. We infuse Zone’s full spectrum oil with Limonene and Pinene terpenes for a fresh, citrusy taste and uplifting, stress relieving effect!

“Hemp-Cannabis” genetics have been developed to solve this problem, creating industrial hemp varieties that grow big flowering buds rich in cannabinoids and terpenes.

The profile of these compounds will still not be as diverse and robust as traditional cannabis, but much more than the traditional industrial hemp.

Hemp-cannabis produces high levels of CBD, a broad spectrum of terpenes, a moderate level of minor cannabinoids and a very very low amount of THC (below .3%).

Whole Plant Extract

The primary extraction process produces what is called a crude extract.

Ethanol extractions are refined through a process called winterization to produce a whole plant extract.

Winterizing involves introducing ethanol to the crude extract, (fun fact: CO2 extracts go through winterization too, so it’s not technically solvent-free). The mixture is then frozen to allow for the separation of compounds according to the differences in their melting and precipitation points.

This step removes lipids, waxes and plant matter to produce a cleaner, more refined oil also known as whole whole flower (or whole plant) extract. This extract will have a darker amber or greenish color and more distinct cannabis taste.


Our Grounded Dose is an ethanol-extracted whole plant extract, while all of our other Doses are CO2 extracted. This is because we believe that this method provides the closest connection to the plant in its true form.

The taste, the smell, the coloring. It is still recognizable as cannabis; it connects you to the source in a much greater sense than other CBD products.


Distillate is produced by distilling the whole plant extract that is produced after the winterization process.

A process called short path distillation is used to heat, vaporize, cool and collect the cannabinoids.

What’s left behind is any plant matter or compounds that do not contribute to overall active cannabinoid content.

This produces a much purer, more refined oil which has a golden color.

Broad Spectrum Distillate

Taking the full spectrum distillate produced after the short path distillation and refinement process, it is possible to then remove the THC.

There will likely be a drop off of other compounds when taking the steps to remove THC, but not always!

Terpenes can be reintroduced to varying levels and there can still be a good amount of minor cannabinoids present.


This is CBD in its purest form. There are no terpenes or cannabinoids present other than CBD. It is a crystallized powder form rather than an oil.

Isolate gets a bad rap… but it has its place! When you need something that is much more standardized and predictable – say, for medical treatment – an isolate is the only thing that can really be truly consistent every time and that has a very high value.

There are also ways to incorporate other therapeutic ingredients with isolate to basically recreate the entourage effect. 

The Entourage Effect

It’s not that isolate doesn’t work, it just may not work as well as a full or broad spectrum. That is because of the entourage effect I just mentioned – all the compounds of the plant are working together as they are meant to be (how they would be consumed naturally). When they are working together they affect your Endocannabinoid System in a much more profound, balanced way.

When CBD doesn’t have its entourage to back it up, it is subject to a much narrower therapeutic window, meaning the dosage needs to be much more precise to illicit the desired effect. It could also mean that those effects don’t last as long.

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