Why CBD Isolates Don’t Work Topically
When shopping for or researching CBD, you’ve probably come across a variety of products – full-spectrum CBD, broad-spectrum CBD, CBD isolates… the list goes on. While you may think different types of CBD generally work the same, the opposite is true. Different types of CBD have different uses and distinct ways in which they’re most useful – especially CBD isolates.
Why don’t CBD isolates work topically? CBD isolates don’t work topically on their own because CBD isolate molecules are too large to be absorbed through the skin. For CBD isolates to work topically, they need to be combined with a carrier oil. Even then, they aren’t the most effective topical CBD solution.
To help you understand just why CBD isolates don’t work topically, we’ve compiled all the important information – from what CBD isolates is, to exactly why CBD isolates don’t work topically, to how you can best enjoy the benefits of CBD isolate. Relax, keep calm, and read on.
Why CBD Isolates Don’t Work Topically: A Breakdown
Humans have long harnessed plant medicines and all their benefits, and that still holds true today. Cannabidiol, commonly known as CBD, is one such example of harnessing plants to use them to their full potential. This practice has boomed significantly in the last several years.
Those that aren’t familiar with CBD may not be aware that there are, in fact, different types of CBD and different methods of use for it to be most beneficial. This tends to commonly happen when considering or discussing CBD isolates.
So, just what are CBD isolates? How do they work, and why don’t they work topically?
Luckily, you don’t need to have any scientific or plant knowledge in order to understand – we can break it down into simple terms. Let’s take a look.
What is CBD Isolate?
First things first, in order to understand why CBD isolates don’t work topically, you’ll want to know what CBD isolate is.
CBD is a type of cannabinoid that is derived and extracted from hemp plants. Put simply, CBD isolate is the CBD in pure form—the CBD isolated from all other compounds.
Some of its characteristics are:
It often comes in the form of a powder or crystal(s)
It poses no risk of psychoactive effects – there is no THC
Extracting CBD isolate is a lengthy and sometimes complicated process. Some may say that CBD isolates are more “processed” than other types of CBD due to the difficult and lengthy extraction process.
First, the hemp must be harvested in order to undergo extraction. Next, the hemp’s cannabinoids and compounds are extracted. During this process, extra steps must be taken to isolate the CBD from the hemp plant and keep it free of any other substances or compounds.
The result is a cannabidiol with absolutely no THC or other cannabinoids.
Therefore, CBD isolate is great for those who have sensitivities to THC compounds and/or those who cannot have any traces of THC show up on a drug test.
CBD Isolate vs. Full-spectrum CBD
In order to fully understand CBD isolate and how it works (or doesn’t work, in the topical sense), it’s important to understand a bit about full-spectrum CBD as well.
Full-spectrum CBD, unlike CBD isolate, is a CBD product that contains a wide array of cannabinoids. Essentially, full-spectrum CBD is not “pure” CBD like CBD isolate is. Full-spectrum CBD can and often does include THC, but just traces of it – full-spectrum CBD can legally only have up to .3% THC. Those traces of THC won’t allow for a mind or body high, and just accompany the other cannabinoids. Not only that, but any traces of THC are extracted from hemp plants, not cannabis plants.
People used to think that CBD isolate was more powerful than full-spectrum CBD. Upon more research, it’s been found that the opposite is true (source).
There are a few specific reasons why full-spectrum CBD has been found to be more powerful than CBD isolate, and they tie in with just why CBD isolates don’t work topically.
Why CBD Isolates Don’t Work Topically: Molecules, Entourages, and Response Curves
You’re probably thinking, “Wait – molecules and entourages? Response curves? I thought you said this wasn’t going to get scientific or hard to understand.”
Don’t worry – it still isn’t!
CBD isolates don’t work topically for a few of the same reasons full-spectrum CBD is said to be more powerful and effective than CBD isolates.
These reasons have to do with the size of the molecules of CBD isolate, something called the “entourage effect.” An additional effect, the “bell-shaped response curve,” contributes to this
Molecule Size Matters
Since CBD isolate typically comes in the form of a powder or crystal(s), you can imagine that the size of its molecules (two or more atoms held together by chemical bonds) is large.
Large molecules pose a problem for any substance that wants to be absorbed through the skin (topically). Simply put, the molecules of CBD isolate are too large to move through the skin’s barrier.
The forms in which CBD isolate often comes also pose a problem for being absorbed through the skin. When giving it some thought, it’s easy to understand – could you really absorb a powder or crystal through your skin? On their own – no, you couldn’t.
Since CBD isolate can’t be absorbed through the skin’s barrier due to the size of its molecules and the forms it takes on, the isolate needs some assistance. CBD isolates can’t work topically on their own, but they can work topically when added to a carrier oil. We’ll discuss this in-depth later.
The Entourage Effect
Something that’s unique and interesting about cannabinoids is that their (very many) compounds work together to be more effective. This trait, which has only been discovered recently, has been dubbed “the entourage effect.”
In short, CBD works more effectively when it’s accompanied by other cannabinoids. CBD isolate is isolated, pure CBD, and isn’t accompanied by any other cannabinoids. That means its general use (and topical use especially) aren’t as powerful or effective as other types of CBD.
The Bell-Shaped Response Curve
The bell-shaped response curve is named for the shape it takes on when it’s graphed out. We won’t get into the nitty-gritty and more scientific aspects of the bell-shaped response curve, but we’ll simplify it a bit.
CBD isolate, when observed for relieving anxiety and inflammation in both rodent and human experiments, was found to peak ineffectiveness at a medium dose. That means that both lower doses and higher doses, CBD isolate’s efficacy decreases.
Additionally, it’s hard to pinpoint the effective (or medium) dose for CBD isolate every time.
However, when studying the bell-shaped response curve, scientists found out that when CBD is accompanied by other cannabinoids, terpenes, and phenolics, it became more effective as the dose went higher.
Essentially, CBD-rich extracts that have a variety of other cannabinoids, terpenes, and phenolics (as opposed to CBD isolates) work at almost every dosage level and work more effectively as the doses get larger.
CBD isolates are subject to producing the bell-shaped response curve, where CBD extracts with their “entourage” are not (source).
Can CBD Isolates Work Topically at All?
We mentioned briefly that CBD isolates can’t work topically on their own – but they can work topically when mixed with a carrier oil.
What’s a carrier oil, you ask?
Carrier oils are types of oils used to dilute other substances (like CBD isolates, in this instance) in order to carry them through the skin’s barrier (source). This solves the problem of CBD isolate’s large molecules not being able to be absorbed by the skin.
Think about it – if you just set some CBD isolate powder or crystal on your skin, would it dissolve and absorb? Most likely, no. However, what about if you dissolved that powder or crystal into an oil? Would the oil (containing your CBD isolate) be absorbed by your skin? Probably!
So, while CBD isolates can’t work topically on their own, they can work with some help from carrier oils.
Popular carrier oils that can be mixed with CBD isolates to allow them to be absorbed through the skin are:
The CBD isolate powder or crystal(s) have to be fully dissolved in the oil before use, or there’s a risk that they won’t be absorbed by the skin well enough (source). Remember, the smaller the molecule (and more dissolved), the easier it’ll be absorbed into the skin.
The Best Ways to Use CBD Isolates
Even though CBD isolates have recently been found to not be as effective or powerful as other types of CBD (like full-spectrum CBD), that doesn’t mean they aren’t beneficial.
CBD isolates are still great for those who are sensitive to other cannabinoid compounds like THC, or those who can’t risk any traces of THC showing up on a drug test. They’re also great for those who simply prefer them.
So, what are the best ways to use CBD isolates, considering its topical use isn’t all that great? What are the benefits of using CBD isolates?
Let’s discuss it all in detail.
The Benefits of Using CBD Isolates
CBD isolates are still very beneficial. But what are some of the specific benefits of using them?
Some of the benefits have scientific terms, but we can break them down into layman’s terms.
CBD Isolates Benefits
Benefit Name Benefit Explanation
Analgesic Pain relief
Anti-asthmatic Reduces inflammation in the respiratory system
Antiepileptic Can be used to treat convulsions and epileptic seizures; can be used to stabilize moods
Anti-inflammatory Reduces general inflammation and swelling in the body
Antipsychotic Can help manage psychotic symptoms and psychosis; can be used to treat conditions like severe anxiety, paranoia, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and hallucinations
Anti-tumor Can help slow the growth of or cause death in some cancerous cells
Anxiolytic Can help combat anxiety and depression
Hypoxia-ischemia Can help treat Hypoxic-ischemic brain injury
Neuroprotective Can be used to reduce damage to the nervous system and the brain
Pretty great, right? Even though CBD isolates don’t work topically by themselves, they can be used by the other methods below to provide a lot of useful benefits (source).
It’s Best to Ingest CBD Isolate
CBD isolate is at its best and most effective when ingested. Because it’s both tasteless and odorless, ingesting CBD isolate is easy and comfortable.
As you’d imagine, there are different ways of ingesting CBD isolate.
“Toss and Wash”
The “toss and wash” method of ingesting CBD isolate is basically just what it sounds like and is very similar to the way you’d take a pill.
For this method, simply measure out how much CBD isolate you want to take, toss it in your mouth, and wash it down with your beverage of choice. You won’t taste it or smell it, but washing the dose down with a beverage ensures you ingest it all.
Additionally, it’s recommended to use the “toss and wash” method after you’ve eaten or while you’re eating. CBD isolate is said to be more effective when it’s not taken on an empty stomach.
Incorporate It in Your Cooking
Something cool about CBD isolate is that thanks to its tasteless and odorless qualities, it can easily be incorporated into your favorite recipes – so you can enjoy its benefits while eating your meals.
This method also helps curb the fact that CBD isolate should be taken with food or after food. It knocks out both tasks with one.
It’s important to know that CBD does have a boiling point – at temperatures above that point, it often loses its potency. When incorporating CBD isolate into your cooking, make sure your cooking is done at temperatures below 320 to 356 degrees Fahrenheit. Lower temperatures will allow the CBD isolate to keep its normal potency and effects.
Ingest Under the Tongue
CBD isolate can also be ingested sublingually or under the tongue.
Unlike the “toss and wash” method, the CBD should stay in your mouth and under your tongue for about 2 minutes before taking a drink or ingesting anything else.
This method is one of the fastest methods for ingesting CBD isolate and enjoying its benefits, as the CBD isolate is dissolved directly into the blood vessels under the tongue. It doesn’t have to travel as far or take as long to be absorbed. We mentioned that CBD isolates can be used topically if they’re infused with a carrier oil. CBD isolates can also be used with a carrier oil to be ingested under the tongue. The premise is the same – dilute your CBD isolates in a carrier oil and then place some of your CBD isolate infused oil under your tongue!
CBD isolates can also be ingested through smoking. CBD isolates can be smoked in a myriad of ways
Rolled into a joint or blunt
Sprinkled on top of a bowl
Sprinkled in a pipe
As you’d probably expect, CBD isolates can also be vaped. Vaping is another method of ingesting CBD isolates that pushes them into the bloodstream quickly.
However, when vaping CBD isolates, it’s important to again remember CBD’s boiling point. Vaping CBD isolate requires high temperatures, but if those temperatures eclipse 320 to 356 degrees Fahrenheit, efficiency and potency decrease (source).
Fun and Unique CBD Isolate Ingestion Methods
Those who ingest CBD isolate to enjoy its benefits may have found some fun and unique ways to ingest it.
Here are some ways to ingest and use CBD isolate that you may not have thought of!
Make a “sweetener” for ingesting on top of toast, by the spoonful, or in your drinks by mixing your CBD isolate in heated up honey or agave
Mix CBD isolate in your morning tea or coffee
Mix CBD isolate in a smoothie
Mix CBD isolate into your skincare products or lotions before using
CBD isolates don’t work topically on their own for three main reasons: they have large molecules, they don’t allow for the “entourage effect,” and they initiate the “bell-shaped response curve.”
Although they don’t work topically by themselves, they can be combined with carrier oils that allow the CBD isolates to be absorbed through the skin.
CBD isolates have a lot of benefits, and they can be enjoyed by just about anyone in a myriad of ways.
Whether you want to enjoy your CBD isolates sublingually, by “tossing and washing,” incorporating it into cooking, vaping, or putting it in your coffee in the morning, you can look forward to some advantageous effects.