Full-Spectrum vs. Broad-Spectrum CBD

Dec 16, 2021

Navigating the world of CBD can be difficult, with all of the names, extraction processes, and types, it can get confusing! One commonly misunderstood aspect of CBD is the differences between full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD. 

From the label of any CBD product, you should be able to clearly identify if the product you are purchasing is full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or CBD isolate. And these monikers are an important distinction for getting you the results you want!

At the most basic level, CBD oil comes from the hemp plant. When it is extracted, it can be heavily purified to ensure only CBD is present, or can be extracted in a way that leaves other cannabinoids that are found naturally in the plant too. 

Full-spectrum

With full-spectrum products, both the leaves and flowers are used in the extraction process to ensure the presence of every compound. So that means full-spectrum CBD contains more than just CBD. 

Full-spectrum means that the product you are buying contains many naturally occurring cannabinoids, alongside CBD. Full-spectrum products have small amounts of THC (up to 0.3%), as well as all of the terpenes, flavonoids, and many cannabinoids found naturally in the plant. 

It’s called full-spectrum because it is the fullest and most robust form of the hemp plant in an extract form. 

Broad-spectrum 

Broad-spectrum CBD product’s main claim to fame is that while they do indeed have arich cannabinoid profile, they normally do not contain THC (or only trace amounts). For some people, having no THC in their CBD product gives them peace of mind that there is no risk of experiencing psychoactive effects or of potentially failing a drug test. 

Another way to think of this is that Broad spectrum CBD is basically just Full-spectrum extract that has had the THC removed.  Broad Spectrum CBD tends to be the most popular as it is believed to provide most of the intended benefits, without the use of THC. 

CBD isolate

CBD isolate is the purest form of CBD oil. It is extracted from hemp flower, with no leaves or other parts of the plant used. Unlike full or broad spectrum CBD oil, CBD isolate does not contain any other cannabinoids, terpenes or flavonoids, and is only CBD. 

However, even though CBD isolate is the “purest” form of CBD on the market, it is not regarded as the most popular option by CBD connoisseurs. And that has to do with something called the entourage effect. 

What is the entourage effect?

The Entourage effect is thrown around frequently in the CBD world.

And while it sounds intimidating, the entourage effect is simply the idea that CBD works better when it is kept with other cannabinoids and terpenes that are found naturally in the hemp plant. This is compared to when CBD is completely isolated from the other natural cannabinoids into its “purest” form. 

Let’s start with the basics. If you think of the word entourage, it refers to a group of people surrounding an important person. So if we translate that idea to CBD: CBD is the star of the show, and the surrounding posse is all the other cannabinoids. Hence, the entourage effect. 

Now you may be wondering – why would I want to buy CBD isolate if CBD works better when it is not isolated?

And to that question, there is some discrepancy, because the entourage effect is a theory. Because the entourage effect has not been widely researched enough to have any definitive proof of its efficacy, it remains an anecdotal idea widely regarded by the CBD community. 

Despite the lack of research, there is certainly validity to the entourage effect, as it is not just visible with cannabis, but also throughout the plant kingdom as a concept known as synergy.

Synergism is the idea that substances, when combined together, can create an effect more powerful than either substance individually. For example, this is why many supplements combine various plants into one capsule. While Valerian root may be a powerful sleep agent on it’s own, it may well have a synergistic effect when combined with something like CBD, which is known to promote relaxation. 

So why is the entourage effect so important (and disputed)? Because the benefit of the entourage effect is that it increases the therapeutic effect of your CBD product. So of course people want to know the best way to increase the likelihood of their CBD working!

One way to think about this is like juicing your favorite fruits and vegetables. It’s commonly understood that in the process of juicing produce, some of the nutrients and fiber is lost. So while the end product of juice is delicious and nutritious, it may be even better to just eat the fruits and vegetables to avoid losing any of those nutrients. 

The same applies to CBD. You can extract the CBD out of the hemp plant and have positive effects, but the more naturally occurring cannabinoids present in the end product may have even more powerful results. And in the case of CBD, that could mean an even more prevalent sense of calm, relaxation, and pain relief!

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