Close up image of CBD Oil

CBD is available in many different formats, from oils to capsules, edibles, vapes, topicals, and even pet products.

But once you figure out which form of CBD suits you best, another question demands an answer.

Which cannabinoid spectrum should I choose?

Is full-spectrum CBD the best for me? Or should I rather choose between broad-spectrum CBD and isolate?

You will see these names each time you browse through different CBD products, so it’s worth knowing the difference. So, what does each option tell you about the properties of CBD oil, and is the difference really that significant?

In this article, we’ll leave no stone unturned explaining the meaning of different cannabinoid spectra and their benefits.

But before we dive deeper into this, let’s take a look at the role of cannabinoids in our health.

Why Are CBD and Other Cannabinoids Important for Our Well-Being?

Cannabinoids are the most abundant active ingredients found within cannabis plants.

To date, scientists have identified 115 cannabinoids. CBD and THC are the most thoroughly researched of them.

The interaction between cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a key to understanding the plethora of health benefits associated with using cannabis.

The ECS is a complex network of cannabinoid receptors and neurotransmitters known as endocannabinoids. There are two types of receptors in the ECS — CB1 and CB2.

The ECS is found throughout the whole body. CB1 receptors are found mostly in the brain and central nervous system, while CB2 receptors appear in the peripheral nervous system, skin cells, and the immune system.

The Role of the Endocannabinoid System in Cannabinoid Signaling

The ECS is responsible for maintaining an internal balance between a wide range of biological functions, including pain signaling, sleep regulation, emotional processing, cognitive function, and more.

According to a 1995 study on cannabinoids, CBD and THC have many health benefits for the body and brain.

Later in the 90s, the researchers found that each endocannabinoid interacts with the endocannabinoid system in its own unique way.

For example, THC can cause the signature cannabis high and promote deep relaxation, euphoria, appetite, and sedation to name a few.

CBD, in turn, doesn’t have intoxicating properties. To put it simply — you won’t get high off of it.

CBD can actually counter the psychoactive effects of THC by blocking the sites of CB1 receptors to which THC tries to bind. That’s because CBD has a different relationship with the ECS.

CBD is not an agonist; it doesn’t have a direct affinity to any of the cannabinoid receptors. Instead, it signals the endocannabinoid system to perform certain actions on these receptors and thus produce its positive effects on the body and brain.

People who regularly take products like CBD oil report better stress management, less discomfort, more energy and productivity throughout the day, and more restful sleep. For many people, CBD has been a life-changer.

CBD may have different effects at different doses. Small amounts can be mildly stimulating, while higher levels of CBD in the body may result in a feeling of sedation.

There are also other cannabinoids, such as cannabigerol (CBG) or cannabinol (CBN).

Cannabigerol accelerates the production of other cannabinoids in the cannabis plant and may amplify their health benefits, while CBN is known to have a tranquilizing effect on the body.

When you put all these elements together, you get something known as the “cannabinoid spectrum.”

Full Spectrum vs Broad Spectrum vs CBD Isolate: Differences Explained

CBD oil and hemp seed on a wooden table

Cannabis plants are the source of all CBD products. The majority of CBD extracts available for sale are made from hemp, which is the non-psychoactive variety of cannabis. Unlike marijuana — which has high levels of THC — hemp is rich in CBD and usually contains 0.3% of THC or less. This is not enough to get anyone high.

Of course, marijuana may have higher concentrations of CBD too. Some selective marijuana strains even come with a 1:1 CBD to THC ratio.

If you want a product that is legal in all 50 states, we suggest that you purchase hemp-derived CBD oil, as such products are now authorized on the federal level since the passage of the amended Agricultural Act.

There are different ways to obtain CBD oil, but the best method so far is CO2 extraction. Using carbon dioxide in a supercritical state — when it acts like gas and liquid at the same time — enables the manufacturer to pull all the beneficial compounds from hemp without adding extra heat or solvents. CO2-extracted CBD oils are the safest products out there.

Wondering what happens with cannabinoids and other substances after initial extraction?

Let’s break down different CBD oil spectrum options.

1. What is Full-Spectrum CBD?

If your CBD oil is labeled as “full-spectrum,” it contains all phytochemicals from the hemp plant, including CBD, minor cannabinoids, terpenes, essential oils, and traces of THC. Don’t worry, the THC content in CBD oils can’t exceed 0.3% by law, so once again — hemp won’t get you high.

The ingredients in full-spectrum extracts work synergistically to enhance the health benefits of each individual cannabinoid while reducing their potential side effects. Cannabinoid researchers call this “the entourage effect.”

When you take extremely large doses of CBD on a daily basis — like 1900 mg a day — you may test false positive for THC during drug screening. The good news is that most people don’t use more than 50 mg throughout the day.

Nevertheless, if you’re afraid of consuming any amounts of THC in your CBD oil, you may want to consider the broad-spectrum CBD.

2. What is Broad-Spectrum CBD?

Broad-spectrum CBD is pretty much the same as full-spectrum CBD, except for the lack of THC in the broad-spectrum version. The intoxicating cannabinoid is completely removed during the later stages of the extraction.

Since broad-spectrum CBD oil contains multiple cannabinoids, they also evoke the “entourage effect,” although not to its full potential.

In other words, broad-spectrum CBD is something between full-spectrum CBD and CBD isolate.

Speaking of which, let’s take a look at the purest form of cannabidiol.

3. What is CBD Isolate?

CBD isolate is exactly what it sounds like — pure, isolated CBD made from separating it from its natural environment.

According to Augustine Hanger, Colorado-based hemp CBD grower from IHF, LLC says that the undisputable advantage of CBD isolate over other forms is high versatility and the highest concentration of CBD per serving.

“The advantage of using CBD isolate over other formats is the concentration of CBD per serving. Isolates are usually 99% pure, meaning that one gram of isolate powder contains about 990 mg of CBD. There’s no entourage effect, though — you can benefit solely from the effects of cannabidiol, hence the lower price of such products and lower demand than full-spectrum or broad spectrum CBD.”

You’ve probably noticed that we’ve used the term “entourage effect” a few times in the text already.

In the next section, we elaborate on this interesting phenomenon to help you understand the synergy between all naturally occurring compounds in cannabis.

Explaining the Entourage Effect

This seemingly complex term is fairly easy to understand. The entourage effect describes the synergy achieved by all constituents of cannabis. These substances work together to amplify the potential benefits of the plant. Each compound can enhance the therapeutic properties of the others while preventing their potential side effects (1).

Some of the additional cannabinoids in full-spectrum CBD oil include:

  • Cannabichromene (CBC)
  • Cannabigerol (CBG)
  • Cannabinol (CBN)
  • Cannabidiol acid (CBDA)
  • Cannabidivarin (CBDV)

Full-spectrum CBD products are priced higher than their broad-spectrum counterparts or CBD isolates due to the aforementioned benefits. It also requires advanced technologies and knowledgeable staff to maintain consistent ratios of these cannabinoids when making a full-spectrum extract — contributing to higher costs of these oils.

Before 2015, it was widely believed that CBD isolate was more effective than full-spectrum CBD because of its purity and high dose per serving. However, this myth was debunked by a 2015 study performed by researchers from the Lautenberg Center for General Tumor Immunology in Jerusalem (2).

In the study, the authors found that participants treated with full-spectrum cannabis extracts reported higher levels of relief in comparison with the group that took CBD isolate.

The researchers also concluded that full-spectrum CBD didn’t lose efficacy upon increasing the dose, while the effects of CBD remained the same even with increased intake.

How Much Do You Know About Terpenes in CBD Oil?

Terpenes in CBD Oil illustration

Terpenes are volatile compounds that give plants, fruits, vegetables, and spices their unique aromas. Aromatherapists have practiced using terpenes for medical purposes for centuries.

Cannabis plants contain more than 200 terpenes which, similarly to cannabinoids, interact with different receptors in the body to provide a range of potential health benefits.

For example, one of the most common terpenes in cannabis plants is beta-caryophyllene, a gastroprotective molecule found in leafy greens, black pepper, and oregano. That’s why specific cannabis strains are prescribed to patients with gastrointestinal problems in states where medical cannabis is legal. Strains with high beta-caryophyllene levels also carry spicy and herbal scents.

Different Cannabinoid Spectrum Options: An Overview of Pros & Cons

Now that we’ve covered the whole spectrum of CBD, you’re probably wondering which one should you choose.

First of all, it’s simply unfair to think that either spectrum is inherently superior to the others. Everyone reacts differently to CBD and needs different doses or additional compounds. The only thing you should base your judgment on is which CBD spectrum will provide the best results in your case.

We’ve highlighted the pros and cons of each CBD spectrum as well as specific types of users who may benefit the most from each option.

Full Spectrum CBD: Pros & Cons

Pros Cons
  • Creates the entourage effect
  • The least processed version of CBD oil
  • Contains terpenes and flavonoids for additional health benefits
  • THC content may cause problems with the local law
  • Taking high doses of full-spectrum CBD daily may result in a false-positive test for THC.
  • The natural aroma and flavor of hemp is pretty strong

Who Should Choose Full-Spectrum CBD

  • CBD users looking to benefit from the entourage effect to the full extent.
  • People with more complex needs that CBD isolate and broad-spectrum products can’t meet.
  • Individuals living in states or countries with legal cannabis industry.

Broad-Spectrum CBD: Pros & Cons

Pros Cons
  • Evokes some of the entourage effect
  • No risk of taking any THC in the product
  • Less processed than isolate
  • Less common than full-spectrum CBD or isolates
  • Still carries a strong, hemp flavor
  • Less researched than the other spectra

Who Should Choose Broad-Spectrum CBD

  • CBD users who can’t take full-spectrum CBD for some reasons but don’t want to use CBD isolate
  • Individuals apprehensive toward THC
  • People living in places with a zero-tolerance policy around THC

CBD Isolate: Pros & Cons

Pros Cons
  • Highest dose of CBD per serving
  • Zero THC
  • Safe for all types of CBD users
  • High versatility
  • No odor and flavor
  • Doesn’t offer the health benefits of the entourage effect due to the lack of other cannabinoids and terpenes.

Who Should Use CBD Isolate

  • CBD users aiming for high doses of CBD
  • Individuals allergic to other hemp compounds
  • People afraid of failing a drug test
  • CBD users who prefer flavorless and odorless products
  • Individuals in states with harsh THC laws
  • Ne CBD users who want to start with pure cannabidiol

Summarizing Different CBD Oil Spectra

Choosing the best CBD oil spectrum is a multi-factor process that requires some research on the effects of different cannabinoid profiles.

Whether a particular spectrum will be better than another depends on your unique body chemistry, your age, weight, metabolism, lifestyle, as well as your history with CBD and other substances. All these factors can affect your body’s reaction to different CBD spectra.

The most beneficial spectrum of cannabinoids according to researchers is the full-spectrum. This type of CBD contains the original plant profile and creates the entourage effect. For others, broad-spectrum CBD may be the best choice because it evokes some entourage effect without any THC inside the product. There are also people for whom CBD isolate is the last resort, both in terms of legality and individual preferences.

As mentioned, we still need more longitudinal studies to evaluate the effectiveness of each cannabinoid spectrum, so the best thing you can do to figure this out is some experimentation. You can buy each spectrum and test your options for, say, two weeks, and compare the results.

Which type of CBD do you use? Is it full-spectrum CBD, broad-spectrum CBD, or CBD isolate? Let us know in the comments below!

References:

  1. Russo, E.B. (2011). Taming THC: Potential Cannabis Synergy and Phytocannabinoid-terpenoid Entourage Effects. British Journal of Pharmacology, 163(7), 1344–1364.
  2. Gallily, R., Yekhtin, Z., Hanus, J.O. (2015) Overcoming the Bell-Shaped Dose-Response of Cannabidiol by Using Cannabis Extract Enriched in Cannabidiol. Pharmacology & Pharmacy, 6, 75–85.
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