Cannabidiol, abbreviated as CBD, is a cannabis compound believed to have numerous health benefits. Many people are increasingly swearing by CBD's ability to cure or vastly improve various health conditions, e.g., pain and inflammation, stress and anxiety, and sleep disorders.
If you use CBD products, you may have noticed that some labels describe the product as 'full spectrum' or 'broad spectrum.' You might probably have wondered what these terms mean, right? Well, we've got you covered.
At the basic level, CBD can be full spectrum, broad spectrum, or a CBD isolate, depending on the extraction process and the plant from which the cannabinoids were obtained.
What's the difference between full spectrum and broad spectrum CBD?
CBD exists in three forms – CBD isolate, full spectrum and broad spectrum. So, how do we end up with these three different forms of CBD?
Isolation of CBD from other compounds
Full spectrum CBD contains all the compounds that occur naturally in cannabis plants. Apart from CBD, the other well-known cannabinoids are Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabigerol (CBG), and cannabinol (CBN).
The exact number of cannabinoids is unknown, probably because cannabis research has primarily been non-existent due to federal regulations.
Nonetheless, it's estimated that cannabis could potentially have 80 to 100 different cannabinoids, with some publications quoting figures north of 140!
So, full spectrum CBD is a cannabis extract containing all cannabis' beneficial compounds, including cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes.
Cannabis has over 150 different terpenes and 20 different flavonoids. Most of these compounds are shown to be beneficial and complement the properties of the major cannabinoids.
On the other hand, broad spectrum CBD is essentially cannabis extract without THC. So you'll get the usual cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes.
Most broad spectrum CBD products contain minute amounts of THC (usually less than 0.3%). THC is psychoactive (makes users' “high”), perhaps explaining why it's often removed from medicinal marijuana.
Marijuana extracts can have THC concentrations of 50 to 90%. Such high concentrations are potentially harmful because THC is mood-altering. In normal circumstances (when smoked), it may induce fear, panic, and paranoia, yet the THC content is roughly 12%.
In fact, THC contents of above 15% are considered high. So, marijuana abuse can potentially be detrimental to health.
What does CBD isolate mean?
CBD isolate is a cannabis extract that does not contain any other compound apart from cannabidiol. It's usually a tasteless, crystalline solid or powder. It is then ground to make it easier to consume.
Manufacturers extract pure CBD from cannabis extract in five main ways:
- Solvent extraction: natural solvents or hydrocarbons are used to extract CBD oil from the cannabis plant. The resulting mixture is heated to evaporate the solvent leaving the extract behind. Despite being efficient, the distillate can be contaminated by chlorophyll or solvent residue.
- Steam distillation: This method is ineffective because very hot steam can alter the chemical properties of cannabinoids. It also requires a large amount of plant material.
- Carbon dioxide extraction: is the best way to extract CBD from cannabis. It produces highly concentrated CBD extracts.
- Lipid extraction: is probably the oldest method for CBD extraction. The plant material is first heated for roughly an hour. It's then immersed in oil (MCT, sunflower, almond, or olive oil) at heated at 212°F. The resulting mixture may not be highly concentrated.
- Dry ice extraction: this method is the safest and most cost-effective way to extract CBD from cannabis.
The resulting CBD oil is full spectrum. Hemp generally produces CBD oil with lower THC concentrations (0.3% or less). However, CBD oil from marijuana can contain higher THC concentrations.
This explains why most medicinal marijuana products are made from hemp.
What is full spectrum CBD?
Full spectrum CBD is a cannabis extract with all the compounds that occur naturally in cannabis. These include cannabinoids, terpenes, essential oils, vitamins, and flavonoids.
These extracts maintain the complete compound profile from the plant it was extracted from, with all its naturally ocurring components.
What is full spectrum CBD oil?
Full spectrum CBD oil is cannabidiol extract containing all cannabis compounds mixed in a carrier element like MCT, sunflower, almond, coconut, or olive oil.
Benefits of full spectrum CBD
There's little doubt that full spectrum CBD has a lot of health benefits. However, it's believed that terpenes and flavonoids also have immense health benefits.
Let's examine some.
These naturally occurring compounds are responsible for the flavors and aroma emitted by different plants and some animals. Cannabis has over 20 terpenes accountable for the differences in smell for different strains of cannabis.
Besides aroma and flavor, terpenes are believed to work in collaboration with cannabinoids to enhance their effects (entourage effect). Researchers think terpenes could be responsible for the different experiences induced by various strains of cannabis, even if the THC content is the same.
Even though most people generally focus on THC or CBD, cannabis connoisseurs recommend paying more attention to terpenes because certain profiles are actually responsible for the experiences users derive from cannabis.
Research is still in its early stages, but some preliminary findings suggest terpenes could immensely benefit people with mental health issues like anxiety, bipolar disorder, and depression.
Here are the common terpenes and their benefits:
- Beta-pinene – believed to have mood enhancing properties.
- Beta-caryophyllene – predominant in hops, cloves, and rosemary. It's believed to be beneficial in managing anxiety and depression.
- Limonene – has a distinct citrus flavor and may potentially have anxiolytic properties.
- Humulene – found in ginseng and has been used in ancient medicine due to its energizing properties.
- Linalool – may help reduce stress.
- Myrcene – abundant in mangoes. It's believed to have antibacterial, antifungal, and sedative properties.
Like terpenes, flavonoids are the reasons behind the different plant colors and flavors. Many plants besides marijuana contain flavonoids.
Researchers contend there are roughly over 6,000 different types of flavonoids falling into these three main groups – neoflavonoids, isoflavonoids, and flavonoids.
Flavonoids can further be distinguished into 11 categories, i.e.
Besides their vital functions in plants, such as UV filtration and reproduction, flavonoids also have wide-ranging health benefits for people. These include:
- Antioxidants – protect cells from damage
- Improve cardiovascular functioning
- Prevent inflammation
- Reduce risks of diabetes, and other diseases
- Cure viral infections
- Slows down cognitive decline in dementia
Studies suggest flavonoids interact with cannabinoids and terpenes to produce wide-ranging physiological effects. These natural compounds help the endocannabinoid system manage various health conditions, more so when taken in dosages of different concentrations.
The major flavonoids in cannabis are:
- Cannflavins A, B, C – these flavones have been shown to be antioxidant, and neuroprotective.
- Beta-Sitosterol – has a cholesterol-like chemical structure. It combines with THCV (Tetrahydrocannabivarin) to combat heart diseases and obesity. It's obtained from nuts and avocados.
- Kaempferol – may have antioxidant properties. It may also help the body generate new blood cells. Kaempferol is obtained from spinach, tea, broccoli, beans, and kale.
- Orientin – a potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibiotic agent.
- Quercetin – has anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antifungal, antimutagenic, and antioxidant properties. It can improve physical and mental performance. This flavonoid is majorly found in vascular plants like apples, kales, capers, and red onions. Red wine is also a source.
- Luteolin – a flavonoid with powerful antioxidant properties found in chamomile tea, thyme, green pepper, and celery.
- Apigenin – has anti-anxiety, sedative, and muscle-relaxing effects. It may also help lower blood pressure. Other therapeutic benefits of apigenin include improving sleep quality (which is why chamomile tea is a popular bedtime drink) and immunosuppression. It's found in chamomile tea.
- Isovitexin and vitexin – vitexin is believed to have pain-relief properties. Further, scientists are exploring its neuroprotective properties, especially with regard to slowing down the progression of Alzheimer's disease.
- Galangin – has been shown to have antiviral, anti-tumor, and antibacterial properties in vitro. Galangin is found in the root spice galangal – a spice that belongs to the turmeric and ginger family.
- Naringin – one of the most versatile flavonoids believed to be anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective. It also plays a crucial role in bone regeneration, metabolism, and preserving DNA fidelity. It's found in fruits like grapes.
- Rutin – found in apples, citrus fruits, and buckwheat. It's been shown to prevent blood clots.
- Hesperetin – may be used in treating lethal cardiac arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats). It's found in lemons and sweet oranges.
- Catechin – this flavonoid is found in barley grain, green tea, peaches, and vinegar. It may help with arthritis, cardiovascular diseases, obesity and diabetes, infections, and oral and neurologic health.
- Aromadendrene – this flavonoid with a woody, minty taste is found in sweet marjoram, safflower, spearmint, eucalyptus, and sweet bay. It interacts with the cineole terpene to yield antibacterial functions. Its interaction with THC is considered bronchodilatory (opens the airway for better breathing).
These are naturally occurring cannabis cannabinoids formed through the carboxylation of two carboxylic acids by light, heat, or alkaline conditions. Phytocannabinoids are found in the trichomes of cannabis plants.
THC is the most well-known phytocannabinoid. It's a psychoactive compound also known for its neuroprotective and pain-relieving properties.
The other well-studied phytocannabinoid is CBD. It's a CB1 receptor antagonist and can also relieve seizures and disorders, inflammation, anxiety, and nausea. Research studies also highlight its sleep-aiding properties.
What are the benefits of full spectrum CBD oil?
Since full spectrum CBD oil contains all the naturally occurring compounds in the cannabis sativa plant, it may have more health benefits than pure CBD.
CBD has been shown to possess anti-seizure properties. In fact, a CBD-based drug called Epidiolex is an FDA-approved medication for a rare condition called Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
Even though research is ongoing, existing findings suggest that full spectrum CBD oil may pack more powerful anti-inflammatory properties. This is because, besides CBD, it also contains other marijuana elements—terpenes, essential vitamins, proteins, fatty acids, and flavonoids—that contribute to the entourage effect.
On its own, CBD is a potent antioxidant. So, combined with the tens of hundreds of terpenes known to have antioxidant properties, it's apparent why full spectrum CBD oil is also a powerful antioxidant.
CBD is a well-known pain reliever. Various components in cannabis have been shown to reduce inflammation and body tension. For instance, a 2020 study found that full spectrum hemp effectively treated pain.
Many cannabis components are anxiolytic. These include cannabinoids like CBN and terpenes such as apigenin. Research further shows that CBD has powerful anti-anxiety properties owing to its interaction with 5HT1A receptors.
For instance, this study showed that in higher doses (600mg), CBD could reduce social anxiety.
Muscle spasm relief
Full spectrum CBD oil is believed to promote muscle relaxation. This is because it contains CBD, which inhibits the release of hormones known to cause spasms and muscle rigidity. For example, a 2017 study established that a CBD-THC combination in a mucosal spray helped improve gait in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS).
A 2019 study further noted that a CBD-based treatment regimen for patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis helped reduce muscle spasticity.
Such findings support the view that full spectrum CBD oil bolstered with flavonoids such as aromadendrene would be a more effective muscle relaxant.
What is broad spectrum CBD?
CBD extract is called 'broad spectrum' if it contains all naturally occurring cannabis compounds except THC or less than 0.3% THC. This type of CBD extract is suitable for people who appreciate cannabis without the psychoactive effects of THC.
What is broad spectrum CBD oil?
CBD extract without THC in a carrier element like MCT, coconut, almond, or olive oil is essentially what is referred to as broad spectrum CBD oil.
Like full spectrum CBD, broad spectrum CBD contains various cannabis compounds like terpenes, flavonoids, and other minor cannabinoids like CBC, among others.
Generally, the composition of broad spectrum CBD is influenced by the extraction process and the strain and classification of the cannabis plant. Essentially, this means the contents of broad spectrum CBD vary from one strain to another.
Benefits of broad spectrum CBD
The health benefits of broad spectrum CBD come down to what researchers call the entourage effect. This means cannabis compounds synergize to produce stronger and longer-lasting effects.
Mounting empirical and anecdotal evidence shows that CBD may promote pain relief. However, a combination of CBD and THC has been shown to be more potent in pain management.
The exact science behind it is still unknown, but scholars hypothesize that THC and CBD use different mechanisms to reduce pain.
Studies indicate that THC modulates pain by activating CB1 receptors in the brain and spinal cord. This indirectly increases the activation of opioid receptors. It also activates CB2 receptors in immune cells to numb pain perception.
On its part, CBD mitigates inflammation by impeding inflammatory mediators and instead activates anti-inflammatory macrophage repair cells.
Further, this compound stimulates the production of an endogenous cannabinoid called anandamide which activates CB1 receptors much like THC.
Besides the receptors in the endocannabinoid system targeted by CBD, research also shows that CBD enhances γ-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) activity by stimulating its receptors in the brain.
GABA is a chemical messenger (neurotransmitter) that blocks intercellular impulses in the brain. By doing so, CBD stops pain signals from reaching the brain.
Since full spectrum CBD oil contains both THC and CBD, among other vital cannabis compounds, it's a more potent pain reliever than either THC or CBD alone.
Improved skin health
Hemp oil is widely used for several skin diseases. This is because hemp oil is a rich source of fatty acids and vitamins that help build healthy skin.
These vital minerals are responsible for hemp oil's skin-nourishing properties that protect the skin against oxidative stress. Hemp oil also soothes and moisturizes the skin and protects it from inflammation.
Of course, many other studies have highlighted CBD's skincare properties. Therefore, based on these findings, there's little doubt that broad spectrum CBD may have immense skin health benefits.
One of CBD's best-known health benefits is the ability to reduce stress and anxiety. A growing body of animal and human studies suggests that CBD is hugely anxiolytic.
For example, a 2015 study indicated that CBD has "considerable potential" in treating anxiety disorders such as PTSD, Seasonal Affective Disorder, panic, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and major depression.
However, the study noted that this is more likely at high oral doses of about 300-600mg of CBD. So, if you consider that broad spectrum CBD oil also contains numerous anxiolytic flavonoids and terpenes, its anxiety-reducing properties might be stronger than CBD's.
Many people who use CBD products to manage sleep disorders attest to its effectiveness. Research shows that CBD plays a role in regulating cortisol levels in your system and, therefore, indirectly influences the sleep-wake cycle.
Cortisol affects the sleep-wake cycle. In higher concentrations, it hinders sleep and might cause insomnia. High doses of CBD may reduce cortisol levels, making sleeping easier.
Moreover, some studies have also shown that CBD affects the production of melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone.
Besides THC and CBD, a less-known cannabinoid called cannabinol (CBN) is also a powerful sedative agent. However, its effects are more enhanced when combined with THC.
Terpenes like myrcene, caryophyllene, terpineol, and linalool are noted for their sedative properties.
Benefits of broad spectrum CBD oil
One of the selling points of CBD oil is that it's convenient to consume. As more and more people learn about CBD's health benefits, different ways of using the compound continue to emerge.
So besides the usual methods, there are other innovative ways for the more adventurous spirit.
For instance, CBD oil can now be infused into cocktails and meals. For the less adventurous, it still makes sense to take CBD oil sublingually, via vapes, or orally (drinks and gummies).
Of course, keep in mind that CBD oil packs the health benefits discussed in the preceding section. However, when diluted in medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) oil as a carrier, the bioavailability of CBD oil increases considerably.
This is because MCT oil bypasses the 'first pass' process allowing higher quantities of CBD to enter the systemic circulation.
MCT oil also has unique health benefits, making it an excellent carrier for CBD. So, a CBD-MCT oil combo is a super supplement.
In general, the true benefit of broad spectrum CBD oil is the positive impact accrued when all the compounds work together in harmony.
What is the CBD entourage effect?
The entourage effect has been mentioned several times in this article. What does it mean? Well, cannabis experts contend that all cannabis compounds working together give cannabis products their 'character.'
They argue that if you take pure THC, the "high" you get is so much different from the one that results from full-blooded marijuana.
This character comes from the hundreds of cannabis chemicals and compounds—terpenes and flavonoids—enhancing each other's medicinal and psychoactive properties.
It is what some cannabis lover and trained chemist Chris Emerson refers to as the "sum of all the parts that leads to the power and magic of cannabis."
While researchers question the idea of a synergistic interaction between cannabis compounds, they find the fingerprinting of experiences with "relaxing" and "uplifting" notes highly debatable. They argue it's all a money-making marketing gimmick.
Nonetheless, a few arguments supporting the entourage effect phenomenon exists. For instance, non-THC cannabinoids like CBD have been shown to mitigate the "high" and paranoia effect of THC.
In fact, cannabis researchers contend that the biggest influencer in the entourage effect is CBD.
They point out that 10mg of THC typically causes toxic psychosis in 40% of people. However, Sativex—a medication used to treat multiple sclerosis—has about 48mg of THC and CBD each.
Nonetheless, in 250 exposures, only four cases of toxic psychosis were reported. It's a vital demonstration of this synergy.
The entourage effect started gaining traction in 2011 when a paper published in the British Journal of Pharmacology reviewed the interaction between THC and terpenes and other cannabinoids.
It showed that a terpene called alpha-pinene could have a role in reducing short-term memory loss often associated with THC because it preserves acetylcholine – a molecule linked to memory formation.
And even though this phenomenon remains deeply entrenched in cannabis folklore, there's no hard evidence supporting its reality. This is mainly because cannabis research is still young.
But we may need to ask why, for example, full spectrum CBD extract is often more effective than CBD isolate? Or why hemp extracts rich in the terpene limonene are more stimulating?
Factors leading to anxiety in THC use
A third of cannabis users in the U.S. cite relaxation and stress reduction as their primary reasons for consuming marijuana. However, cannabis is not a chill-out drug for everyone. A side effect associated with THC is paranoia or anxiety.
This happens even among experienced marijuana users but not all. So why is this so?
According to a 2019 animal study, cannabis predominantly induces positive effects like decreased anxiety and relaxation when it stimulates the brain's frontal lobe. Studies show that this is due to many reward receptors in that part of the brain.
However, in people with higher THC sensitivity in the rear portions of the brain, cannabis use can cause anxiety and paranoia.
Moreover, some people are genetically predisposed to develop psychotic illnesses. Such people are likely to experience paranoia and anxiety after taking weed.
Remember the bible teaching, "As a man thinks, so he is?" Well, how you feel after taking cannabis may just be a pointer to your mindset. Research shows that certain personality types get more anxious after taking marijuana than others.
People who think negatively of themselves, have low self-esteem, or are worriers, are likely to feel paranoid after consuming marijuana. This is because THC activates the part of the brain that controls our perception of fear.
So, if you're a worrier by default, taking cannabis might worsen your situation because the amygdala becomes overactive. When this happens, only negative thoughts and feelings will be flowing out!
Infrequent use of cannabis
As we grow older, we tend to reduce the frequency of engaging in certain habits or drop them altogether. Marijuana use, especially smoking, is widely perceived as a teenage fad that often goes away as one enters adulthood.
So if you were a frequent smoker in college, quit, and resumed in later adulthood (e.g., in your 30s), you may notice that you feel paranoid and anxious instead of mellowing down as you used to in college.
It turns out that as we age, so does our endocannabinoid system. In particular, our receptor density diminishes.
This means that over time, an influx of THC overstimulates the amygdala—the part of the brain that regulates negative emotions like fear, anxiety, and paranoia. This sets off stress and fear-based responses.
In the 70s, the concentration of THC in marijuana was around 7%. Nowadays, it's in the range of 20-30% or even higher.
So while you may think you're smoking the same quantity of weed in a joint as did the baby boomers, the reality is that the THC content entering your system may be off the charts.
Prior History of Anxiety
There is evidence that if a user associates marijuana use with anxiety and paranoia, they are likely to get paranoid after consuming it.
This was proved in a survey that showed people are more likely to report paranoia if they've typically linked marijuana with paranoia and anxiety.
Current presence of anxiety disorders
Researchers point out that people with abundant negative emotions are likely to experience paranoia and anxiety after consuming pot.
There's also the concept of the self-fulfilling prophecy. People who know weed induces anxiety are likely to feel fear and paranoia. In a study where the researchers told the participants that they would get paranoid after taking THC, most participants felt paranoid.
The forewarning did not help them not to misinterpret random events.
Environment in which the THC is consumed
Setting plays an important role too. You're already anxious when smoking, where you're likely to be seen or caught by people who know you. As THC enters your system, it only worsens your already paranoid self.
CBD and serotonin
The influence of CBD on serotonin activity is a well-studied topic. So, let's dive in and see what research says on this.
CBD and serotonin receptors
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter hormone that relays information between nerve cells in the brain and body. It also plays a role in vital body functions such as sleep, mood, digestion, sexual desire, bone health, wound healing, and blood clotting.
CBD does not stimulate serotonin production; rather, it affects how its chemical receptors in the brain respond to the body's existing supply.
For instance, a 2015 study showed that the interaction between CBD and these receptors produced anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects.
These findings were corroborated by a 2018 review of existing studies, which showed that CBD could mitigate stress, thereby reducing depression caused by stress.
Is broad spectrum or full spectrum CBD better?
We can't definitively say that one form of CBD is better than the other. It mostly depends on why you're using CBD for.
For instance, a person with a history of PTSD might find full spectrum CBD more helpful because the THC increases slow-wave sleep (no dreams) while minimizing REM sleep.
On the other hand, people with depressive disorders might prefer broad spectrum CBD. THC is known to increase paranoia and anxiety, as highlighted herein.
Remember that the only difference between full and broad spectrum CBD is THC content. Broad spectrum CBD has 0.3% THC content or less.
Full spectrum CBD is undoubtedly a better option if you don't have a health condition that can be exacerbated by THC (or don't mind the 'high').
Best CBD products
At FOCL, we develop high-quality CBD products to address your health and wellness needs. Our CBD products are made from broad spectrum and full spectrum premium hemp CBD and organic ingredients to help you achieve your goals.
We believe that the healing powers of CBD are experienced when you focus on the mental and physical. While CBD topicals offer more localized benefits, our Premium CBD Gummies are the go-to for people interested in a more holistic relaxing experience.
These gummies are made from broad or full spectrum CBD and delicious ingredients to make consuming CBD as stress-free as possible.
You can achieve the same calming experience with our Premium CBD Drops that pack the soothing properties of broad spectrum or full spectrum CBD and the unique health-impacting properties of MCT oil. This product calms your body, soothes your mind, and is precisely what you need to wind down after a tiring, busy day.