The Heylo Cannabis Blog

Distillate vs Full-Spectrum Cannabis Oil and Everything In-Between

Distillate vs Full-Spectrum Cannabis Oil and Everything In-Between

August 5, 2019
All cannabis oils are not created equal. If you compare distillate to refined oil to raw cannabis oil you are evaluating fundamentally distinct product categories with vastly different chemistry and effects on the human endocannabinoid system (ECS).

Before you can consider what strain might be a fit for you it is critical to consider the type of product to be consumed. The same strain as a distillate versus a raw oil will affect you differently. To make an educated decision about your personal experience, it is critical to distinguish distillate from full-spectrum extract, and what other nuances exist within cannabis oils. By knowing the difference in chemistry between these product types you will be able to make better buying decisions that ultimately lead to better experiences with cannabis.

Comparing Distillate, Isolate, and Full-Spectrum Cannabis Oils in Chemistry and Effect

What is Distillate?

Distillate is cannabis oil that has been heavily refined and separated into a cannabinoid-dominant fraction. This means the plant goes through extensive processing to narrow in on a specific subset of compounds, e.g., cannabinoids.

How is distillate made?

The first step in making distillate is to extract cannabis oil, typically through ethanol, hydrocarbon. or CO2 extraction. Raw cannabis oil is winterized and waxes are removed through vacuum filtration. Refined cannabis oil is then run through a short path distillation system to separate out various fractions based on molecular weight. The cannabinoid fraction is what will be sold as distillate, often with added terpenes or flavorings in vape cartridges or pods. Heylo never uses distillate.

The pros and cons of cannabis distillate:

Pros of Distillate:

  • Distillate yields an ultra-high potency oil. It is predictable, relatively cheap to produce, and can be made from low-potency material, like trim. Distillate oil can easily be combined with artificial flavorings to mask a taste or standardize a product.

Cons of Distillate:

  • High-potency does not necessarily mean good experiences. In fact, distillate is more likely to lead to potential negative experiences with cannabis. The science behind this stems from our understanding of the Entourage Effect. For some, the taste of distillate is off-putting.

Distillate has a limited profile of compounds interacting with your ECS compared to full-spectrum cannabis oil or the cannabis flower (bud). A more narrow spectrum means less modulation of effects between the various compounds. The Entourage Effect dictates that the various cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids and other compounds in cannabis work together synergistically to create the effects of being “high”, as well a supporting overall wellness and medicinal applications. If you take away some of these compounds you close the door on a well-rounded experience and open the door on potentially “overdoing it” with any one compound. THC can be particularly impactful on its own - inspiring paranoia and worsening anxiety at high doses in some people, especially without the modulation of CBD, CBG, and cannabis terpenes.

Heylo's RawX Cannabis Oil (Photo by Danielle Halle)

What is full-spectrum cannabis oil?

Full-spectrum cannabis oil is named such because it provides a wide array of the compounds (chemicals) found in cannabis, including cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and potentially the plants waxes and potentially unknown native compounds.

One important thing to note about “full-spectrum” is that there is no regulation guiding what “full-spectrum” is defined to be. Unlike the term “Organic”, anyone can claim their product is “full-spectrum”. Therefore it is critical the source provides trusted third-party analytics with the product.

How is full-spectrum cannabis oil made?

Full-spectrum cannabis oil can be made a variety of different ways, including through pressure along (e.g., rosin press), ethanol extraction, and supercritical CO2 extraction. CO2 Extraction is the method Heylo employs because it is safe, clean, and versatile. The versatility of CO2 allows Heylo to target a very wide array of compounds in cannabis during extraction and create an oil that has similar chemistry to the flower used for the extraction. Learn more about Heylo’s RawX extraction process here.

The pros and cons of full-spectrum cannabis oil:

Pros of Full-Spectrum:

  • Greater likelihood of experiencing the Entourage Effect and potential medicinal benefits of cannabis. A taste that resembles the plant.

Cons of Full-Spectrum:

  • It can be difficult to produce and requires expensive input material (full bud, high-potency, terpene-rich flower).

The Entourage Effect is Your Friend - Use It

Ultimately, what makes full-spectrum cannabis oil superior to distillate or “ultra-refined” oils is the experience it enables. This occurs through the Entourage Effect, explained earlier. If you look for products with diverse chemistry, native terpenes, and minor cannabinoids you can increase the likelihood of benefiting from the Entourage Effect. Check out resources regarding The Entourage Effect and other cannabis chemistry topics on the Heylo Scientific Reference page.

Authored by

Daniel Luebke

Daniel is the Director of Marketing and Brand at Heylo Cannabis. He likes exercising both hemispheres of his brain in environments that require analytical and creative thinking. Daniel studied economics at Northwestern University before working for a fast-growing Silicon Valley company as the first marketing hire. His transition to the cannabis industry came when his partner, Lo, dove head first into launching Heylo in 2017.

Join the Discussion

heylo cannabis hat

Shop Heylo Swag

Shop Now