Full Spectrum, Broad Spectrum, and CBD Isolate. What’s the difference?
Due to its non-psychoactive healing properties, cannabidiol (CBD) has become a very popular option for people seeking a natural alternative to treat conditions such as athletic induced joint pain, 3 a.m. insomnia and the occasional social anxiety.
As users begin to step into their role as conscious consumers, many questions may arise as you begin to explore this recent soar of CBD products hitting the markets. One question, in particular, is centered around the three most common forms of CBD on the market. These are:
- Full spectrum
- CBD isolates
There are a number of key differences between the three, each providing their own unique benefits.
When it comes to herbal medicine, sometimes the strength of a plant is in its many little variations. And in the case of cannabis and other complex botanical, the collective activity of all these varied molecules contributes to the plant’s unique effects on people’s unique bodies. Approaching the choice between what cannabinoids are the right choice for you, is different for each person and their desired outcome. In this note, we’ll explore what each of these products entails and how they can bring harmony to your health.
Both plants and human bodies produce cannabinoids (chemicals which are named after the cannabis plant, but which can be found throughout nature). Plant cannabinoids all share a similar architecture make up, and each variation has a slightly different effect on our neurochemistry and other systems within our bodies. The most common cannabinoids are THC and CBD, but the cannabis plant produces more than 100 (known) varieties of cannabinoids, including CBG, CBN, and CBC to name a few. It also contains terpenes, which have anti-inflammatory properties and are regarded as increasing the efficacy of cannabinoids.
Full Spectrum CBD
When CBD is referred to as “full-spectrum” or “whole-plant extracts”, these products typically contain a carefully measured amount of the cannabis plant’s most prominent cannabinoids, THC, although usually not in a large enough amount to have any psychological effects. Regulated by the FDA, all products that contain the THC compound must be under legality levels of .3%. When present together, CBD and its cannabinoids, as well as terpenes produce what is known as an entourage effect. The synergistic relationship between cannabinoids and terpenes has been shown to increase the healing properties of each.
When you select a full-spectrum hemp product, you benefit from this multitude of potentially beneficial exogenous cannabinoids, as well as the plant terpenes and flavonoids found in the original hemp plant. With a full-spectrum product, these compounds are left available in the same ratios that nature intended. The additional compounds found in a full-spectrum hemp product include:
- All 20 essential amino acids
- Calcium and Magnesium
- Iron and Potassium
- Phosphorus and Zinc
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- B-complex vitamins
- Vitamins C, E, and A
The newest spectrum on the block, broad-spectrum products are a little bit of both worlds. Broad-spectrum CBD is full-spectrum CBD without any THC. To create broad-spectrum CBD, companies will put their products through additional processing to isolate and remove as much trace amounts of THC possible while preserving the other natural cannabinoids and terpenes including CBD, CBG, and CBC, allowing you to still reap the health benefits of these cannabinoids.
This route offers all of the entourage benefits associated with full-spectrum CBD without any THC. It offers all the entourage benefits associated with full-spectrum CBD, without any chances of THC being ingested into the body, which can be a deal-breaker for those who have common drug tested.
Previously the only THC-free options on the market were CBD isolate, which we cover below. Broad-spectrum creation was enabled by advances in technology which allow extractors to filter out all THC using a special chromatography process (more to come on this complex dynamic of extract in a future blog)
CBD Isolate is typically the CBD product of choice for those who are sensitive to other cannabinoids such as THC, or for those that have regularity drug tests. During the CBD isolate extraction process, everything contained in the plant matter is removed, including any traces of THC, terpenes. What is left is 99 + % pure CBD. When looking at isolate, it’s very important to verify the purity.
In order to get CBD out of hemp, it must be extracted. CBD isolate is produced by using a bit of a more detailed extracted process of its own. CBD isolate extraction starts out like other extraction process used to make CBD.
Once the initial extraction takes place, concentrated CBD is still full of all the plant materials contained in the hemp plant itself. In order to get this ultra-pure form of isolated CBD, a purifying process follows the actual extraction process. This purification process includes filtration where all plant material is filtered out of the extract. What is left is a fine, white power that can be mixed with MCT oil for a sublingual consumption or mixed with a delicious blend of herbs to finish off your favorite meal.
Which CBD Product Is Right For Me?
While many people have their own preferences about which type of CBD product is best, unfortunately, there is still very limited scientific research on the topic. However, some studies have suggested that full-spectrum CBD is superior to CBD isolate because of its extended cannabinoid and terpene profile that creates that desirable entourage effect. The study concluded that full-spectrum CBD was more effective in the treatment of conditions than single-molecule CBD isolate. This whole-plant approach is commonly referred to as the ‘entourage effect’. Many people believe that other cannabinoids, especially THC, are necessary to enhance every benefit the cannabis plant has to offer. Those in favor of a more holistic approach to medicinal cannabis treatment may favor Full-Spectrum CBD for this reason. Ultimately, however, each CBD user is different and the decision is in their hands on what CBD product the pursuit for their unique benefits.