Full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and CBD isolate are the three types of hemp extracts you'll find in your CBD products.
Cannabidiol (CBD) has become a popular health ingredient, but it's only one of over a hundred compounds found in the hemp flower resin that has shown to have potential wellness benefits.
The 2018 Farm Bill permitted cannabis plants to be grown and sold commercially, as long they contain no more than 0.3% of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound responsible for the high caused by marijuana.
Since 2018, the varieties of CBD products and the number of sellers and producers grew rapidly.
Popularity can have its drawbacks, however. If you are new to the CBD world, the different types of extracts, like isolates, full-spectrum, or broad-spectrum, can be confusing. In this article, we’ll discuss the differences between the major hemp extract preparations. We'll also discuss which users may benefit most from using broad-spectrum CBD oils.
Comparing Isolate, Broad-Spectrum, and Full-Spectrum CBD
CBD Products are Derived from the Cannabis Plant
CBD is a major cannabinoid found in cannabis plants. It is one of the most abundant cannabinoids in hemp and marijuana, along with THC. But unlike THC, however, CBD does not cause a high or intoxicating effect .
The hemp plants used for CBD oils and extracts must legally contain very small amounts of THC. So while CBD oils and preparations may contain these trace amounts of psychoactive compounds, they should not produce their typical effects.
CBD Isolate vs. Spectrum CBD
CBD isolates are products that contain only cannabidiol—all the other cannabis plant compounds are removed during the production process. CBD isolate oils, lotions, and tinctures may not provide effects as intense as full-spectrum CBD or broad-spectrum extracts, but they remain popular health and wellness products.
CBD, even independently, has been shown to support relaxation, feelings of well-being, and a healthy sleep cycle, among other benefits.
Spectrum CBD products are those that contain cannabidiol along with other phytochemicals from hemp. These compounds are all the flavonoids, cannabinoids and terpenes, produced by the plant. Together these elements give marijuana and hemp their distinctive aromas, colors, flavors, and effects.
Full-Spectrum vs. Broad-Spectrum CBD
Both full and broad-spectrum extracts contain various cannabinoids and terpenes found in cannabis plants, with the one difference between them, THC.
Full-spectrum CBD includes all the compounds produced by hemp, including THC. These are sometimes called "whole-plant preparations." The small amounts of THC in full-spectrum CBD oils are unlikely to cause any intoxicating effects in most people.
Broad-spectrum CBD contains the same compounds as full-spectrum products—excluding THC. During the production process, broad-spectrum CBD oils have all of the THC removed.
Both spectrum variants may help support health, but a full-spectrum oil is believed to provide a stronger response in the body.
Full and Broad-Spectrum CBD Leverage the Entourage Effect
The Sum is Greater Than Their Parts
We often refer to the "entourage effect" when discussing the activity of full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD. It's believed that cannabis compounds provide a greater health benefit when taken together instead of individually. The combined action of multiple plant compounds may result in a stronger, more balanced experience, with fewer side effects .
The cause of the entourage effect is thought to be the simultaneous interaction between cannabinoids and the brain. The presence of others compounds may influence the effects of some cannabinoids. For example, studies have shown that CBD may even reduce the undesirable effects of THC when taken together [3,4].
Other Plant Compounds That Contribute to the Entourage Effect
Cannabinoids are not the only contributors to the activity of spectrum products. Even plant chemicals that are considered inactive are believed to add to this synergy. Terpenes, for instance, have been identified as possible contributors to feelings of calmness or mood elevation that spectrum CBD users report [2,5]
Full-spectrum CBD oil would provide the best example of this interplay since the entire hemp plant is represented (chemically) in the extract. Broad-spectrum CBD oil would provide similar effects but reduced in the absence of THC.
Pure CBD would provide the mildest interaction since its activities in the endocannabinoid system and brain is highly specific.
Who Should Take Broad-Spectrum CBD?
Determining which CBD extract to take is an individual decision, and there are valid reasons you may prefer to use a THC-free spectrum extract.
Drug tests that sample for marijuana test for the presence or absence of THC. They do not reveal which products THC came from, what the concentration of THC was, or if the product consumed was legal.
Hemp-derived CBD extracts contain no more than 0.3% THC, a concentration so low that intoxication is highly unlikely. CBD full-spectrum products could trigger a positive test, depending on the dosage and how long you've been taking it—at which point the true source of the THC may be irrelevant.
If drug testing for marijuana is a concern, then a broad-spectrum CBD oil or extract or isolate is recommended. However, you won't get the entourage effect with CBD isolate.
Research has shown that individuals may respond to THC differently . Some people may have a condition called "hypersensitivity," causing unwanted side effects from even the low dose of THC in a full0spectrum product.
Other users may have found the effects of higher doses of THC uncomfortable and may avoid it altogether based on their experiences.
A broad-spectrum CBD product can promote a positive experience for these users simply by removing THC from the interaction.
An Interest in Broad-Spectrum CBD
Typically, a broad-spectrum CBD tincture or oil is presented as an option only for users who want to avoid THC entirely. But we believe there may be another group that would benefit from a broad-spectrum product—namely, anyone thinking of including CBD in their wellness journey.
As THC hypersensitivity demonstrates, individuals respond to cannabinoids differently.
A broad-spectrum CBD oil may be better suited to certain users, despite a weaker effect than a similar full-spectrum CBD oil might have. Some users even prefer the more limited and milder effects of CBD isolate compared to spectrum CBD products.
The continued growth of the CBD market ensures that users will have the ability to find the correct product for them, using their criteria and approaches to health.
Summary: Who Should Use Broad Spectrum CBD?
Broad-spectrum CBD preparations contain compounds derived from the entire hemp plant, but with the notable exception of THC. These products are ideal for people who wish to avoid exposure to even small amounts of THC for health reasons, drug testing, or personal preference.
Full-spectrum products are likely the most effective preparation to leverage the benefits of the entourage effect, but a broad-spectrum product can still provide many possible health benefits of whole plant preparations. CBD isolate will produce a narrower range of effects compared to a spectrum CBD product.
- de Almeida, D. L., & Devi, L. A. (2020). Diversity of molecular targets and signaling pathways for CBD. Pharmacology research & perspectives, 8(6), e00682. https://doi.org/10.1002/prp2.682
- Ferber, S. G., Namdar, D., Hen-Shoval, D., Eger, G., Koltai, H., Shoval, G., Shbiro, L., & Weller, A. (2020). The "Entourage Effect": Terpenes Coupled with Cannabinoids for the Treatment of Mood Disorders and Anxiety Disorders. Current neuropharmacology, 18(2), 87–96. https://doi.org/10.2174/1570159X17666190903103923
- Hudson, R., Renard, J., Norris, C., Rushlow, W. J., & Laviolette, S. R. (2019). Cannabidiol Counteracts the Psychotropic Side-Effects of Δ-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol in the Ventral Hippocampus through Bidirectional Control of ERK1-2 Phosphorylation. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 39(44), 8762–8777. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0708-19.2019
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- LaVigne, J. E., Hecksel, R., Keresztes, A., & Streicher, J. M. (2021). Cannabis sativa terpenes are cannabimimetic and selectively enhance cannabinoid activity. Scientific reports, 11(1), 8232. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-87740-8
- Norris, C., Szkudlarek, H. J., Pereira, B., Rushlow, W., & Laviolette, S. R. (2019). The bivalent rewarding and aversive properties of Δ 9-tetrahydrocannabinol are mediated through dissociable opioid receptor substrates and neuronal modulation mechanisms in distinct striatal sub-regions. Scientific reports, 9(1), 1-14.
The Food and Drug Administration has not evaluated the statements made regarding CBD in this article.
We are not recommending that our CBD products can treat, cure or prevent any disease. All information presented here is not meant to substitute for or alternative to information from health care practitioners. Please consult your health care professional about potential interactions or other possible complications before using any product.