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What’s the Difference Between Full Spectrum and Broad Spectrum CBD?

Although the CBD industry continues to grow by leaps and bounds, many people interested in the cannabinoid's therapeutic potential are still hesitant to make that first purchase. Some feel understandably overwhelmed by the sheer number of product options available. Others likely find the industry-related terminology a bit confusing.

For example, full spectrum versus broad spectrum CBD. What’s the difference?

If you're intrigued by the many potential health and wellness benefits of CBD but still trying to narrow your options, maybe we can help. It's much easier to determine which type of CBD oil might be best suited to your needs once you understand the similarities and differences between full spectrum and broad spectrum CBD.

Discover the difference between full spectrum and broad spectrum CBD in our article below.

Understanding the Basics of CBD Oil

CBD (cannabidiol) is a cannabinoid, a non-intoxicating plant element with two potential sources, the cannabis plants marijuana and industrial hemp. Marijuana plants produce lower levels of CBD and high levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the cannabinoid responsible for the plant's psychoactive effects. Legality for medicinal or recreational use varies by state, and products are typically sold through a cannabis dispensary.

The CBD products sold through retail stores, specialty shops, and online merchants are typically sourced from industrial hemp, a cannabis plant that produces only trace amounts of THC (0.3 percent or less), not nearly enough to cause intoxication.

Hemp-derived CBD products are readily available to nearly everyone interested in the therapeutic potential of the plant species, without a prescription. But this brief description reveals only part of the story.

When the CBD industry was relatively new, most CBD companies offered two basic options: CBD products made with full spectrum oils and THC-free alternatives made with CBD isolate powder.

Most CBD users were initially unaware of an intriguing third alternative, broad spectrum CBD. Although broad spectrum and full spectrum CBD oil deliver similar benefits, they are not the same.

What is Full Spectrum CBD Oil?

Full spectrum CBD oils are the least processed product options. The oils extracted from the stems, stalks, and flowers of industrial hemp plants contain CBD plus more than 100 additional cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes in the same ratios as the original plant source. Each element contributes to the extracts overall effect. Full spectrum oils also deliver an impressive number of essential nutrients, including:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Plant proteins
  • Iron and zinc
  • Calcium and potassium
  • Vitamins E, A, and C
  • A full range of B vitamins

Because full spectrum CBD oils deliver all the additional cannabinoids synthesized in the plant, they do contain non-intoxicating levels of THC (0.3% or less by federal law). Many CBD oil users consider full spectrum products the most potent option because of the way the trace amounts of THC and other lesser-known minor cannabinoids contribute to a phenomenon unique to cannabis known as the entourage effect.

Synergy of the Entourage Effect

Like many other plant extracts and essential oils, industrial hemp oil contains a considerable number of active plant elements. Although each of the nearly 500 active components in CBD oils contribute to the overall health and wellness potential of the extracts, their overall effects are much stronger when working together, a concept known as synergy. If you were to put the concept of synergy into mathematical terms, 1+2=5. The sum is greater than the total of its parts.

While synergy describes the combined effects of active plant elements, researchers noticed something unusual while evaluating similar properties in cannabis. They observed previously inactive substances combining with other inert elements to form active compounds that magnified and multiplied the therapeutic potential of the plant's cannabinoids and terpenes, creating the impact known as the entourage effect.

What is broad spectrum CBD oil?

Broad spectrum CBD oils contain many of the same additional cannabinoids, aromatic terpenes, flavonoids, vitamins, minerals, and other phytonutrients as full spectrum CBD.

While similar in composition, broad spectrum CBD oil contains 0% THC. 

A process known as chromatography is used to remove the trace amounts of this somewhat controversial cannabinoid from the extracted oils. Since most of the additional cannabinoids and other active plant elements remain, CBD users using broad spectrum products can still benefit from the potency-boosting potential of the entourage effect while using a THC-free CBD option.

Broad Spectrum CBD vs Other THC-Free Options

Full spectrum and broad spectrum extracts represent two of three CBD product types. CBD users also have the option of selecting products made with CBD isolate, a white, crystalline powder that is nearly 100 percent pure cannabidiol. All the additional cannabinoids, plant oils, flavonoids, and terpenes are removed during extraction and processing.

Pure CBD isolate powders are flavorless, odorless, and often preferred by CBD users who don't care for the natural flavor of cannabis; a flavor often described as “earthy” or “grass-like.” Although isolate powders are the purest form of CBD available, products made with CBD isolate do not have the additional plant elements necessary to support the entourage effect.

How CBD Influences Numerous Processes Throughout Your Body

Whether you prefer using products made with full spectrum oil, broad spectrum oil, or CBD isolate, the cannabidiol in your hemp-derived product interacts with the receptors of the largest regulatory system in your body, your endocannabinoid system (ECS).

Explained by its interaction with ECS receptors, researchers investigating the therapeutic potential of CBD report considerable anxiolytic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antispasmodic, and neuroprotective properties. Individual results depend on which essential functions are restored to balance through ECS support.

Full spectrum vs Broad Spectrum CBD: Takeaways

Full spectrum CBD oil contains all the additional cannabinoids, flavonoids, terpenes, and other phytonutrients in the same ratios as the original plant source, including trace amounts of THC.

Broad spectrum CBD oil contains many of the same components but 0% THC. That makes broad spectrum CBD a welcomed option for anyone hesitant to use hemp-derived products with even trace amounts of THC but intrigued by the benefit maximizing potential of the entourage effect.

Of course, the purity and potency of your CBD will have a considerable impact on your overall experience. To protect yourself from a potentially costly mistake, look for companies consistently verifying product quality through unbiased third-party testing performed by an independent lab. Third-party testing ensures:

  • Your products are as potent as the manufacturer claims.
  • The THC content falls within acceptable parameters.
  • Products have been screened for heavy metals, chemical residue, and microbial contamination.

Full Spectrum or Broad Spectrum CBD May Not Be Right for Everyone

CBD has considerable health and wellness potential, is not habit-forming, and is generally considered safe for most people. But cannabinoids aren't right for everyone. If you have a medical condition or use medication, please discuss your interest in CBD with your health care provider before adding hemp-derived products to your daily routine. CBD and other plant-based cannabinoids are known to interfere with several prescription and over-the-counter medications.

 

+ 10 sources

Sources:

  1. Katie L. Burke (2017) The Biology of Cannabis - Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society https://www.americanscientist.org/blog/from-the-staff/the-biology-of-cannabis
  2. Alina Bradford (2017) What is THC? - Live Science https://www.livescience.com/24553-what-is-thc.html
  3. Bethan Jenkins (2018) Terpenes and Testing Magazine - Is Full Spectrum CBD Really Better? https://terpenesandtesting.com/category/testing/what-is-full-spectrum-cbd-benefits/
  4. S. Ben-Shabat et al. (1998) Semantic Scholar - An entourage effect: inactive endogenous fatty acid glycerol esters enhance 2-arachidonoyl-glycerol cannabinoid activity. https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/An-entourage-effect%3A-inactive-endogenous-fatty-acid-Ben-Shabat-Fride/c8bb39c56e5fbcfb2363488db6d62bc584a35d86?p2df
  5. Synergy - Farlex, Inc https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/synergy
  6. H. Pasch (2012) Polymer Characterization - Elsevier B.V. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/chromatography
  7. Tylers (2019) How is CBD Oil Made and Extracted? - American Cannabis Company https://americancannabisconsulting.com/how-cbd-oil-is-made-and-extracted/
  8. Peter Greenspoon (2020) Cannabidiol (CBD)-what we know and what we don't - The President and Fellows of Harvard College https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/cannabidiol-cbd-what-we-know-and-what-we-dont-2018082414476
  9. K Mackie | | Cannabinoid receptors: where they are and what they do - National Library of Medicine https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18426493/
  10. Alessia Ligresti et al. (2016) From Phytocannabinoids to Cannabinoid Receptors and Endocannabinoids: Pleiotropic Physiological and Pathological Roles Through Complex Pharmacology - Physiology.org https://journals.physiology.org/doi/pdf/10.1152/physrev.00002.2016

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