In the growing world of CBD products, the wide variety of delivery methods, strengths and product types can be very difficult to understand and differentiate in between. Full spectrum vs broad spectrum vs CBD isolate is a good place to start.
In fact, this should be one of the first things that you are concerned with while shopping CBD. By knowing the difference between the three types of CBD you’ll know exactly what you’re getting when you consume your CBD product.
The good news is that it is not hard to explain the differences between the three. It just comes down to cannabinoids found in the products. So, what are cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids and the Hemp Plant
CBD comes from the cannabis plant and is one of over a hundred known cannabinoids also found and extracted from the plant.
THC is probably the best known of these cannabinoids, as it is responsible for the high that is normally associated with smoking cannabis, and the negative stereotypes that go along with it. CBD, while having a similar chemical profile as THC, does not have the same psychoactive effects while sharing many of the same benefits.
This is why CBD is legal is so many more places than THC products are. To guarantee a low quantity of THC in their products, companies use a special strain of cannabis called Hemp to make their CBD products from.
To be classified as hemp, a cannabis plant has to contain less than 0.3% THC. This essentially eliminates the possibility of getting high from products made from this plant, while getting the benefits of the other cannabinoids.
You might ask why the small amount of THC, and other cannabinoids are even necessary, which leads us to the entourage effect.
The Entourage Effect
Researchers who are studying cannabis and the effects of different cannabinoids believe there is a synergistic effect to the components of cannabis.
As many topics with medical and therapeutic cannabis research, not enough studies have been performed on humans to definitely say one way or another the efficacy of this theory, but anecdotal evidence is growing stronger every day.
The entourage effect applies to the other chemical substances found in the cannabis plant, including terpenes and flavonoids.
Now that we have established a base of knowledge for cannabinoids, we can talk about the differences between full spectrum, broad spectrum, and CBD isolate products.
To make any CBD product, the hemp plant must go through an extraction process that separates out the cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids and fatty acids from the plant material. This process includes a purification and activation stage before reaching the final, full spectrum product.
Already know which product you want? Check out our list of Best CBD Brands to find the highest quality products!
What is Full Spectrum CBD?
After the activation step you are left with full spectrum CBD oil. This product has all of the cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids of the original plant, including a small amount of THC.
This product is extremely popular with those who believe the entourage effect is a real thing, and are ok with a trace amount of THC.
Full Spectrum is not Whole Plant CBD
This is something we often see that we feel needs to be clarified. These terms are often used interchangeably but there is a distinction.
For full spectrum, broad spectrum and CBD isolate, just the hemp flowers are used to make the product. Whole plant CBD products use the stems and other materials from the plant in the extraction process.
There is very little CBD and cannabinoid content in the stems of the hemp plant, so whole plant is generally not as strong of a product as flower-based products. If a brand is advertising whole plant, you should clarify this point before purchasing.
Pros and Cons of Full Spectrum
From a health perspective, many believe that full spectrum is the best possible option thanks to the entourage effect. Not only do you get the full range of cannabinoids, but many terpenes have been given credit for their individual health benefits as well.
These products are also the least processed of the three options.
There are two main drawbacks to full spectrum CBD products. The first is that you still have trace amounts of THC in the product. For many, this is a turn off. Not only do many users not want to risk the high that comes with THC, but there is an (extremely) minor chance of failing a drug test with this product.
The 2nd is that many don’t care for the taste of full spectrum CBD oil. A byproduct of it being less refined is that it retains some of the woodsy, bitter taste of the hemp plant.
We are currently using Charlotte’s Web full spectrum CBD oil to help us sleep and it works wonders!
What is Broad Spectrum CBD?
Broad spectrum is more similar to full spectrum than it is to isolate. It only goes through one additional refinement process to reach the final product.
Broad spectrum CBD products contain all the cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids that full spectrum does, minus THC. Broad Spectrum products contain 0% THC, but still benefits from the entourage effect since it contains all the other components from cannabis.
Pros and Cons of Broad Spectrum CBD
Broad spectrum shares the same benefits as full spectrum CBD products do. It benefits from most of the entourage effect since it only lacks the THC.
While it is more processed than full spectrum, it is not nearly as processed as CBD isolate products are.
Lastly, the tiny chance that you’ll get high or fail a drug test after taking a full spectrum product are completely nullified with broad spectrum.
Broad spectrum also shares the same less than desirable taste as full spectrum. The bigger concern is that it has less research done on how the lack of THC effects the overall effectiveness of the product. We don’t yet know if the lack of THC significantly diminishes the entourage effect, or if the loss is minimal.
If you are interested in broad spectrum CBD Oil, Medterra is our favorite brand for this product!
What is CBD Isolate?
CBD isolate, as the name implies, is just CBD. This is the purest form of the product and through additional refinements all other compounds from the hemp plant are stripped away.
Thanks to advances in the extraction process, a good CBD isolate powder is 99% pure CBD.
Because isolate products are so refined, it is the most concentrated form of CBD you can buy and it works great to mix with food, beverages, lotions and e-liquids for vaping.
Pros and Cons of CBD Isolate products
As we said, CBD isolate is extremely concentrated so there are no other filler components to the product you take. This also makes dosing extremely easy to do and the white powder form that it comes in makes it simple to mix with other products.
Just like broad spectrum, you also have the benefit of zero % THC so drug tests and highs are simply not an issue.
The biggest downside of CBD isolate is that, assuming the entourage effect is valid, you will not benefit from it using a product without other cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids.
Final thoughts on Full, Broad spectrum, and CBD Isolates
In summary, full spectrum CBD products are extracted from CBD flower and left with all the cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids that are found in hemp. Broad spectrum has all of those compounds, with the exception of THC. CBD isolate is refined even further to be 99% CBD and removes all other cannabis-based compounds.
All three products have their benefits and drawbacks, so picking the right one for you depends on your situation. If THC is not an option for you, then you’ll want to go with a CBD isolate product. If you can’t do THC but you still want to benefit from the entourage effect then broad spectrum is where you should be!