Full Spectrum, Broad Spectrum and Isolate CBD: What’s the Difference?

The world of CBD can be confusing for newcomers. If you are just becoming familiar with the compound, you may wonder what product is best for you, what retailers you should purchase from and have questions about what dosage is right for your condition.

You may also hear terms like full spectrum, broad spectrum and isolate being thrown around. These terms refer to what the CBD product contains. These ingredients will result in varying effects in your CBD experience. Let’s look at each more closely.

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Cannabinoids, Terpenes and THC, Oh My!

When CBD is extracted from cannabis, it can be done so in such a way that certain cannabinoids and terpenes can be included or excluded. Before we explore each type of CBD to discover what each does and doesn’t contain, let’s look at these cannabinoids and terpenes more carefully.

Cannabinoids: Cannabinoids are a diverse class of chemical compounds that exists naturally in the human body (endocannabinoids) and can also be found in the cannabis plant (phytocannabinoids). They work with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) to trigger physiological reactions.

Cannabinoids work in the body as they bind to cannabinoid and non cannabinoid receptors. These receptors are embedded in the cellular membrane in the central nervous system, the immune system, and other organs in the body. When cannabinoids bind with the receptors, they help the endocannabinoid system to stay in balance and also produce a number of health benefits throughout the body.

CBD (cannabidiol) provides several health benefits including its ability to work as an anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, antidepressant and pain killer. It can also minimize the symptoms of several diseases.

Here are some other popular cannabinoids and the benefits they can provide:

  • Cannabigerol (CBG): analgesic, antibacterial, anti-convulsant, anti-inflammatory, sleep aid, anti-cancer, antidepressant, aids in bone health, brain stimulant, appetite stimulant.
  • Cannabichromene (CBC): anti-inflammatory, aids with digestive disorders, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, could boost brain health
  • Cannabinol (CBN): anti-anxiety, stimulates bone growth, anti-inflammatory, may help skin conditions, anti-bacterial, sleep aid, pain relief, appetite stimulant
  • Cannabicyclol (CBL): appetite stimulant, sleep aid, pain relief, anti-anxiety, prevention in toxins, anti-inflammatory, improves mood, anti-convulsant, anti-cancer

Tetrahydrocannabinol THC: another cannabinoid. It is also known to provide health benefits similar to those of other cannabinoids. However, it also has mind altering effects. Here are some health benefits THC provides:

  • Pain killer
  • Eases nausea and vomiting
  • Protects brain cells
  • Sleep aid
  • Helps treat PTSD
  • Promotes brain growth
  • Increases appetite
  • Enhances senses
  • Anti-bacterial
  • Antioxidant
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Bronchodilator
  • Anti-tumor
  • Anti-convulsant
  • Muscle relaxant

Terpenes: Terpenes are essential oils that provide a number of medical benefits. They are aromatic organic compounds that are found in plants and insects.

Cannabis has naturally high levels of terpenes. These terpenes are said to work together with cannabinoids to boost the effects they have on the endocannabinoid system. Like cannabinoids, terpenes bind with endocannabinoid receptors in the brain and body and can also act directly on tissues and cells in the immune system to provide health benefits.

Here are some popular terpenes and how they can benefit you:

  • Myrocene: This is the most common type of terpene in cannabis. It provides sedative effects.
  • Limonene: Common in citrus, limonene can boost energy and relieve depression.
  • Terpinolene: This oil provides a woody aroma and works as a sedative, antioxidant and has anti-cancer & anti-bacterial properties.
  • Beta-Caryophyllene: This oil is gastroprotective and works as an anti-inflammatory agent.
  • Alpha-Pinene: Common in pine needles, this terpene works to provide energy and has therapeutic effects
  • Humulene: Found in hops, this works as an anti-inflammatory and hunger suppressant.

Terpenes can be found in CBD products, but they are also available in isolated forms. You can buy them to add to foods or you can even add them to your own cannabis and marijuana products. Research shows that they are most effective when consumed with cannabinoids.

CBD Extraction:

There are many different types of extraction methods that are used in removing CBD from the cannabis plant. CO2 extraction is the most popular and preferred of these methods.

CO2 is exhaled by humans and used by plants who convert it to oxygen through photosynthesis. It is also an extremely effective solvent that can be used in removing essential oils from plants using very little heat.

Extraction occurs when carbon dioxide is injected into a container with the plant material. The pressure in the container rises until the CO2 transforms into a nearly liquid state. Next, some heat is added to assist the CO2 in releasing the essential oils from the plant. Aromatics in the oils are then separated from the CO2 solvent mixture resulting in a pure, high quality essential oil.

At this point, full spectrum products would be ready to be lab tested, packaged and shipped. However, in broad spectrum products and isolates, extra steps are taken. In broad spectrum products, special filtration is used to ensure no THC is left behind while other compounds stay. In isolates, an extra step is taken to isolate the CBD from all other cannabinoids and terpenes.

Let’s further explore the difference between these different types of CBD products.

CBD Extraction Process

Full Spectrum vs. Broad Spectrum vs. Isolate

Full Spectrum: Full spectrum, or whole plant products contain CBD, terpenes, other cannabinoids like CBG, CBN and trace amounts of THC. Usually these will be in ratios that are naturally occurring and extracted from the plant or strain. The THC will not be present to such an extent that it will cause mind altering effects. However, it may show up on a drug test becoming an issue for those who are tested regularly.

In some cases, terpenes are extracted from full spectrum products and then added back as an isolated form to raise the potency of the product.

Full spectrum products are the most popular types of CBD. They are preferred due to the ‘entourage effect’ they provide. This occurs when the cannabinoids and terpenes work in synergy to give the user the maximum effects and health benefits of the product. The entourage effect is based on the scientific theory that the therapeutic impact of the whole plant is greater than the sum of its single molecule parts.

Broad Spectrum: Broad spectrum products contain cannabinoids and terpenes, but no THC. Manufacturer lab testing is performed and third party lab reports are readily available from reputable companies to prove the absence of THC. It is important to check these lab reports as some companies have been known to leave behind trace amounts of THC. The reports will also tell you which cannabinoids and terpenes can be found in the products.

Often, additional processing is performed to try and isolate and remove as much THC as possible while ensuring the other cannabinoids and terpenes are still present. In other cases, the CBD is processed to isolate form and then cannabinoids and terpenes are added back in.

Isolate: CBD isolates are completely free of all other cannabinoids and terpenes. They are generally labeled as 99+% pure.

When looking at an isolate product, it is important to verify the purity. Some will list purity as 99.5% or lower. This means that these products may contain trace amounts of cannabinoids and terpenes. Though the presence of these other substances may be too little to come to much, if you are looking for the purest CBD possible, this is something you might want to be aware of.

There are a few types of isolates available. There are pre-made isolate oils that consist of a carrier oil, such as MCT oil, infused with crystalline isolate powder. There is also raw CBD crystalline powder or slabs which are forms of concentrate that can be purchased on their own.

There are also products called terpsolates. Here, the crystalline isolate is infused with terpenes. This product can give you an enhanced effect over the CBD isolate on its own depending on how the terpenes have been used.

Full Spectrum, Broad Spectrum or Isolate: Which is Best?

The type of CBD you choose is completely up to you. While many enjoy the benefits a full spectrum product provides, others may want to do so without worrying about THC showing up in a drug test. Others may prefer the taste of one product over another. Some may just feel more comfortable going with a product that they know is guaranteed to be pure.

However, if you listen to what science has to say, there was one study conducted in Israel at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Lautenberg Center for General and Tumor Immunology in 2015 that serves as evidence that full spectrum CBD may be the way to go.

The study looked at CBD as treatment for inflammation in mice. Results shows that the full spectrum product was more effective in relieving the symptoms.

But if you move back to the isolate camp, you will find there are many benefits available here as well.  For one, isolates are lower in cost than broad spectrum and full spectrum alternatives. Also, because they come in powder form, they are a great option if you think of CBD as an additive. They can be easily added into edibles, topicals, bath bombs or mixed with marijuana. They are also a great choice for dabbing and vaping.

CBD Isolate

Clearly, we can see that there are advantages and disadvantages that come with the purchase and use of each product. We hope you will be able to find a product that works best for you.

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