In the past few years, CBD has proven itself to be far more than a passing trend; with its expanding market and numerous potential benefits, more customers are turning to CBD to help manage ailments like pain, anxiety, and poor sleep.
But when you’re a beginner to CBD, the endless lists of options can be daunting.
For starters, what does it even mean some products are labeled as “full-spectrum,” while others are “broad-spectrum?” What is CBD isolate, anyway?
In the piece, we’re taking an in-depth look at the differences between full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD products.
First, let’s talk about the different extraction methods we use for hemp.
CBD and Its Extractions
When it comes to extracting CBD from hemp, there are three main methods, which are:
- Solvent extraction: Solvent extraction involves soaking hemp plant matter in a solvent, typically ethanol, which strips and separates the cannabinoids from the plant. While this method is effective, it often leaves a solvent residue, which can pose a potential health risk, and it can negatively impact the flavor and aroma of the final product.
- Steam distillation: Steam distillation is a classic method for creating essential oils, and it involves the use of steam to separate the oil from the plant matter. While this technique is effective for essential oils, it’s not quite as much in the case of CBD.
- Carbon dioxide extraction: CO2 extraction is often considered the cleanest, most effective way to extract hemp, making it the most popular method.
Full-Spectrum vs Broad-Spectrum: What’s the Difference?
We often discuss CBD as one singular item, but it’s actually one of over 100 different compounds found in hemp, and these compounds are known as cannabinoids. So really, when we call a product “full spectrum CBD,” we actually mean “full-spectrum hemp extract,” and the same goes for broad-spectrum.
Now that we’ve clarified this term, let’s talk about the difference between “broad-spectrum” and “full-spectrum,” specifically.
When a product is considered “full-spectrum,” this simply means that all of the cannabinoids we referred to are present, along with all of the other compounds naturally occurring in the plant, including terpenes and flavonoids.
That being said, it’s worth noting that yes, this means that full-spectrum hemp products contain THC, however, the amount is very small. Under federal law, CBD products are only legal as long as they contain less than 0.3% delta-9 THC, which is not enough to give the average user any kind of intoxicating effect.
So how does this compare to broad-spectrum hemp?
Broad-spectrum products are actually quite similar, containing many of the naturally occurring plant compounds, but typically, it is entirely free of THC. Sometimes, though, there may be trace amounts of THC in broad-spectrum CBD products.
Now that we understand the key differences between full-spectrum and broad-spectrum, let’s explore each product more in-depth.
As mentioned above, full-spectrum hemp products contain all beneficial compounds naturally found in the cannabis plant, such as:
- Cannabinoids: CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) included, there are over 100 different cannabinoids present in hemp. CBD and THC tend to get the most recognition, however, for their therapeutic and psychoactive effects. While THC has an intoxicating effect, CBD does not.
- Terpenes: Hemp plants contain more than 150 terpenes, which are responsible for giving a plant aroma; if you’ve ever smelled a culinary herb like lavender or rosemary, terpenes are behind their delicious fragrances. And similarly, cannabis plants have them, too, hence their distinct scent. And as demonstrated by the soothing quality of lavender, or the invigorating characteristics of citrus, terpenes can also offer some therapeutic benefits.
- Flavonoids: Flavonoids are present in all kinds of plants, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, and more. Like terpenes, they have therapeutic effects, and may particularly possess anti-inflammatory properties.
Full-Spectrum CBD and the Entourage Effect
While there are several benefits to full-spectrum CBD, the entourage effect is one of the most appealing factors.
The entourage effect describes the theory that when a product contains many or all of hemp’s naturally occurring compounds, the overall benefits of CBD may become amplified. And while the entourage effect has not yet been proven, there are studies indicating its possibility.
And although broad-spectrum CBD does include CBD among a few other key compounds, it doesn’t contain THC, whereas full-spectrum CBD does. And it’s been theorized that the THC in full-spectrum hemp may help amplify CBD’s pain-relieving benefits.
Pros and Cons of Full-Spectrum CBD
With full-spectrum CBD, you’re going to benefit from a wealth of different compounds, including low levels of THC, which typically isn’t potent enough to create the “high” we often associate with cannabis use.
Additionally, full-spectrum CBD will also include all of the plant’s natural terpenes, which can provide a fuller-bodied aroma, as well as some extra stress relief benefits.
However, it’s worth noting that users should be cautious with dosing their full-spectrum products, as a large enough dose may create an intoxicating effect, or high.
On top of that, those who frequently use full-spectrum products may run the risk of a positive drug test.
Pros and Cons of Broad-Spectrum CBD
As with full-spectrum CBD, there are a number of benefits associated with broad-spectrum products; for starters, there is some evidence suggesting that even with only trace amounts of THC, it may still be possible to achieve the entourage effect.
Meanwhile, a potential disadvantage to broad-spectrum CBD lies in its lack of THC, meaning that it might not have the same potency to its benefits as full-spectrum CBD might.
Moreover, those who use broad-spectrum CBD products may still run the risk of a positive drug test, albeit not as much as full-spectrum products, due to trace amounts of THC.
While there is evidence suggesting that full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD products may be more efficacious than CBD isolate, more research is needed before such claims can be made.
That being said, it’s also possible that the presence of additional plant compounds from hemp may increase the benefits of CBD, but because the terms “CBD isolate,” “broad-spectrum” and “full-spectrum” are not officially regulated, it’s not enough to determine the exact contents or nature of a product.
With that in mind, those interested in trying CBD to ease various ailments, such as anxiety or chronic pain, should look into manufacturers that engage in third-party laboratory testing.