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What’s the Difference Between Cannabis Distillates and Isolates? 

By Cheri Sicard
June 9, 2021

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Dear Cheri,

Are cannabis distillates and isolates the same thing, and if they’re not what’s the difference?

They are similar yet different.  

Both are specialized forms of cannabis concentrates.  It is said by many, especially in the medical and scientific communities, that distillates are the future of cannabis.  That is because, unlike the whole plant, they are consistent batch after batch, with each one containing the exact same cannabinoids and terpenes in the exact same ratios.

Without getting overly technical and wonky in this post, both distillates and isolates are made by an “extraction artist” using a lot of expensive and sophisticated lab equipment.

The process involves separating out the various natural chemical components of cannabis, then adding them back in specific amounts in order to achieve specific effects.

Because the extraction process of making cannabis distillates and isolates removes everything including contaminants, waxes, and terpenes – the end product will have no flavor, unless the extraction artist opts to add terpenes back in (and some do).  But the flavorless varieties are favored by commercial edibles makers as they add potency without that weedy flavor most of us are trying to avoid.

Isolates take distillates a step further and isolate out only one single component, usually THC or CBD.  Likewise, isolates present these cannabinoids in their purest and most potent forms, with THC or CBD ranges as high as 99%.

Personally I prefer natural whole plant extraction, but a lot of folks ask about distillates and isolates, and for some people that is all they can get. That said, even using natural whole plant extraction, I will often augment my edibles with an isolate, especially if I need to make something extremely potent.

When it comes to cannabis cooking, I see 3 main advantages to cannabis distillates or isolates:

  • They make it easy to make very potent edibles, for those who need high doses.
  • They are good choices for those who cannot tolerate the flavor of cannabis. 
  • They also making calculating dosages very simple.
What is the difference between cannabis distillates and isolates?

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