Broad Spectrum CBD vs. Full Spectrum CBD
What’s the difference?
When you’re buying CBD (cannabidiol), reading the label carefully so you know exactly what you’re getting is crucial. There can be a lot of technical words and buzz words around CBD-products, no matter what form they come in. You will have probably seen the words full spectrum CBD, broad spectrum CBD, or CBD isolate on the description of a CBD product. So what exactly do these terms mean? And how do you know which one is best? In this guide, we’re going to explore the differences between these extracts and how they may affect you.
Of course, while CBD products are a celebration of Mother Nature’s greatness, you won't find bottles of CBD oils growing on trees. What you will find growing (as plants, not trees) is cannabis sativa (hemp) from which the CBD is extracted, using methods such as CO2 or ethanol extractions. The extraction process takes the plant goodness and refines it into a concentrated extract.
To understand this all in the best way possible, it’s important to take this from the beginning. CBD (cannabidiol) is just one of over a hundred different phytocannabinoids which occur naturally in the cannabis plant. Cannabinoids are crucial to our well-being. They interact with the body via sets of receptors (known as the endocannabinoid system - and we all have one!), found in the brain and the nervous system, and control a large amount of processes. Some of these include: pain perception, stress management, immune response, and mood regulation.
The two most well-known cannabinoids are CBD (which provides a range of therapeutic benefits which you’re seeking), and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). THC is the active compound responsible for the psychoactive effects associated with cannabis. The concentration of CBD to THC varies from strain to strain of cannabis. CBD-based products are extracted from cannabis sativa (hemp) which has an extremely low amount of THC. Furthermore, there is a general legal requirement (may differ depending on where you are) that CBD products must have a THC level of less than 0.2%. Consequently, CBD products will not provide any psychoactive effects.
There are other important cannabinoids present in the cannabis plants, albeit lesser known. Researchers are currently working to find out the function of these and how they could be medically and therapeutically beneficial. Some of these phytocannabinoids include:
And it’s not just cannabinoids present in the raw, natural extract. There are also compounds such as terpenes, which are responsible for taste and smell, and flavonoids - phytonutrients responsible for natural colouring as well as having intense antioxidant properties that can fight off toxins.
Initially, when researchers were only interested in the benefits of CBD, and none of the other plant materials, it was thought that CBD isolate, as the purest form, would be the most effective. As you may guess from the name, CBD isolate is an extract which only contains cannabidiol and all other compounds have been removed.
However, in 2015, The Lautenberg Center for General and Tumor Immunology in Jerusalem carried out a study looking into why there was a bell-shaped dose-response in the use of CBD. (1) What this means is that as the dosage increased (for CBD isolate) the effects increased, but only up to a certain point, after which the effectiveness would quickly taper off (like the shape of a bell). When the study was carried out with an extract that had not been refined and contained all the natural components (full spectrum), researchers found not only were there enhanced effects but also higher levels of relief (for pain and swelling).
So, what’s the reason behind this enhanced effect? It has been discovered that when all the components of the cannabis are kept together in the extract (all cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes) they actually synergise to make the overall effect stronger. This concept is often referred to as ‘the entourage effect’. And this kind of extract, where all elements are present as they would be in the plant, is called full spectrum.
It’s pretty easy to remember the difference between full spectrum and isolate CBD extract. After all, the clue is in the name. Full spectrum is full of all the natural components, whereas isolate is just the cannabidiol compound - isolated. This leads onto a very commonly asked question, what is broad spectrum?
As mentioned earlier, the second well-known phytocannabinoid which is found in cannabis is THC - which elicits the mind-altering effects which are sometimes associated with this plant. Due to regulations that CBD products must contain less than 0.2% THC, combined with the fact that the strains of cannabis sativa (hemp) used have low THC, CBD products will not invoke any psychoactive effects. That said, sometimes a product which promises 0% THC is preferable, and this is where broad spectrum comes in.
Broad spectrum CBD extract contains all the naturally occurring cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes which are found in the plant, however the THC has been removed. There will be no trace of THC in any broad spectrum products.
Now that we’ve established the differences between the types of CBD extract, you may be wondering which one is best. After the publication of results from the study by The Lautenberg Center, it was founded and established that CBD isolate was not the most beneficial type of extract, due to the lack of entourage effect. However, when choosing between broad spectrum and full spectrum, research thus far shows that neither one could be definitely marked as ‘better’ than the other. The question you may want to ask is which one is best for you, personally.
Full spectrum CBD extract is a popular choice for both manufacturers and customers as it is the closest representation to the chemical makeup of the natural plant.
For some, the most important thing to think about when buying CBD is, ‘is this how Mother Nature intended it?’. As all the components of Full spectrum extract goes through minimal processes during the extraction process, which may boost its purity levels for some. Full spectrum extract is often referred to as offering ‘the maximum benefits’ of the three extracts.
The greatest draw to broad spectrum CBD extract is the promise of 0% THC.
Although there are no psychoactive effects which come as a consequence of taking full spectrum CBD (which has an extremely low amount of THC), there are reasons people may be adverse to it. It is possible that THC could raise flags on a drug test, whether you’re taking the test for sport or for work. CBD has become increasingly popular in the sports world and the athletes who endorse the use of this natural alternative will tend to use a broad spectrum extract, so that their drug testing is not compromised. You may have also noticed that ranges of CBD products particularly for sports and exercise will be formulated with a broad spectrum extract. Broad spectrum extract is also the go-to choice for those who are THC sensitive.
Both broad spectrum and full spectrum CBD extract will have a full and earthy taste. Meanwhile CBD isolate is tasteless, odorless, and colourless due to the removal of the terpenes and flavonoids.
Buying CBD, either for the first time or the tenth time, can be a complicated process. There’s many things to consider, and while the kind of extract is only one of these factors - it is one of the most important. The type of extract should be clearly displayed on the label and product description, and you should also be able to access the manufacturers third party lab testing results to verify the extract type, the purity, and the content levels of different compounds (i.e. THC).
The other things you may need to take into consideration is product type, the condition you’re treating, and dosage. Of course, as ever, if you have any doubts or questions, do not hesitate to reach out to the company to ask for guidance.
Research into the effectiveness of each phytocannabinoid and the different extracts is being carried out, and it looks like we have a lot to learn and discover about the capabilities of cannabinoids. (2)
At Reakiro we have a mixture of full spectrum and broad spectrum products available for purchase. For 0% THC, broad spectrum extract, take a look at our Full Swing range (CBD Sport) and Sool range. Whether you feel the broad spectrum or full spectrum is the best choice for you, we hope this guide has been useful to help you understand what each extract consists of, how they differ, and which one is preferable for you.