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Cannabis Isolate vs Distillate: What’s Difference? What’s Better? 

By Cheri Sicard
June 9, 2021

Dear Cheri,

Are cannabis distillates and isolates the same thing, and if they’re not what’s the difference? Comparing cannabis isolate vs distillate, which is better?

THC and/or CBD distillate and isolate 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 distillate and isolate 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.

What is the Difference Between THC or CBD Distillate and Isolate?

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%.

Is Cannabis Isolate or Distillate Better?

"Better" is a relative term.  I suppose to the answer to the question would depend on the quality of the individual isolate and distillate samples being compared.

In a more general sense however, my motto is the more cannabinoids and terpenes the better as they contribute to the power of while plant medicine.  True, distillates are not the same as all-natural whole plant medicine.  But in my book, more cannabinoids and terpenes working together are usually preferable to less, so all things being equal, I would choose distillates over an isolate.

That said, even when using natural whole plant extraction, I will often augment my edibles and infusions with THC or CBD isolates, especially if I need to make strongly dosed edibles.

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.
  • Isolates especially are a good choices for those who cannot tolerate the flavor of cannabis. 
  • Isolates and distillates also making calculating edibles dosages very simple.
What is the difference between cannabis distillates and isolates?

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About the author

Cheri Sicard is the author of Mary Jane: The Complete Marijuana Handbook for Women, and The Easy Cannabis Cookbook.  Her online courses at have educated 1000s of students about marijuana, cannabis cooking for home cooks, and making infused topicals.

    • I am not currently in a place where I can get it, but I can work on that later this year. However, I don’t personally like cooking with isolates and distillates so I rarely do it. But yes, when I get my hands on some, I will try to do that.

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