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Full-spectrum CBD is a substance made up of all chemicals found in the cannabis plant, popularized for its potential to ease pain and other ailments. You’ve likely come across a few different options when looking at various CBD products. Full spectrum CBD oil, broad spectrum CBD, and CBD isolate are three common choices consumers come across when shopping for CBD. If you’re new to CBD, you might be wondering what these terms actually mean. Basically, they’re used

What Is Full-Spectrum CBD?

Substance Made From All Extracts of the Cannabis Plant

Cristina Mutchler is an award-winning journalist with more than a decade of experience in national media, specializing in health and wellness content. A multilingual Latina, Cristina’s work has appeared on CNN and its platforms, local news affiliates across the country, and in the promotion of medical journal articles and public health messaging.

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Rochelle Collins, DO, is a board-certified family medicine doctor currently practicing in Bloomfield, Connecticut.

Full-spectrum CBD is a substance that contains all of the extracts naturally found in the cannabis plant, including very small amounts of THC, the psychoactive ingredient associated with the marijuana “high.”

It’s recently been popularized for its potential to help alleviate a variety of health conditions—like pain, anxiety, inflammation, and epilepsy—but more research is needed to fully back up all of the claims about its benefits.

David Trood / DigitalVision / Getty Images

What It Is

Before exploring full-spectrum CBD, it’s helpful to understand what CBD is to begin with. CBD—short for cannabidiol—is what’s known as a cannabinoid, one of more than 100 chemical compounds found in the Cannabis sativa plant. Most CBD products are derived from the hemp species of that plant.

The two most well-known cannabinoids are CBD and THC:

  • Cannabidiol (CBD)is often derived from hemp and doesn’t usually cause a “high” on its own.
  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the psychoactive compound that causes the euphoric “high” feeling associated with marijuana.

The Cannabis Plant

Both hemp and marijuana are species of the cannabis plant, and both contain CBD — but hemp plants have 0.3% THC or less, while marijuana plants have higher levels of THC.

Types

Ever since a 2018 federal law has made it legal to grow and sell hemp in the U.S., CBD has been popping up everywhere in different forms — from tablets to oils to creams to gummies.

Full-spectrum CBD is one of three main types of CBD available. It’s important to understand the differences between the most common types, as the ingredients do vary.

  • Full-spectrum CBD contains CBD and all other cannabinoids, including trace amounts of THC (0.3% or less).
  • Isolate CBD contains just CBD.
  • Broad-spectrum CBD contains CBD and multiple other cannabinoids, but no THC.

Some CBD connoisseurs consider full-spectrum CBD products to be more effective than the other forms, because they include all of the cannabis plant’s compounds plus up to 0.3% THC. That combination produces what researchers have dubbed the “entourage effect,” meaning that all of the elements in full-spectrum CBD may work better together than a single cannabinoid used alone.  

How It Works

The major cannabinoids found in full-spectrum CBD—CBD and THC—work on different areas of the brain. Researchers are still studying their full effects on the body, but what they have found is that cannabinoids in general help regulate the body’s endocannabinoid system.

That system is responsible for nervous and immune system function, along with mood, sleep cycle, and inflammation response regulation, and more. Basically, the endocannabinoid system helps correct many different imbalances within the body via activated receptors found throughout our central and peripheral nervous systems.

It’s also connected to the way we experience pain, prompting researchers to think that CBD helps the body’s systems achieve better balance.

Benefits

So far, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved one cannabis-derived medication, a prescription drug product used to treat certain severe forms of epilepsy, a seizure-causing disorder.

While there’s currently no solid scientific evidence pointing to other specific health conditions that full-spectrum CBD may help treat, research suggests that in addition to acting as an anti-inflammatory, it shows promise for treating anxiety, panic, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorders in some people.

Risks

Here’s the million-dollar question: Does full-spectrum CBD get you “high,” since it technically contains trace amounts of THC? Generally speaking, experts say no, it should not produce a “high.” But the answer isn’t crystal clear and may vary by product and person.

The amounts of THC found in full-spectrum CBD are at low quantities of less than 0.3%, which is considered to be pretty insignificant. Many experts agree that such a small amount likely isn’t strong enough to have significant psychoactive effects, and likely wouldn’t register on a drug test, but you shouldn’t rule out those possibilities.

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Some people may experience some of the milder psychoactive or sedative effects that are associated with THC, and there’s a chance it could show up on a drug test.

Side Effects

Because research on full-spectrum CBD is still fairly preliminary, experts don’t have all of the answers to many consumer questions about the pros and cons of using it for various health issues. That said, a 2018 World Health Organization (WHO) report indicates that CBD in general is typically well-tolerated, with reported adverse effects usually happening as a result of medication interactions.

Still, there’s a possibility for the following side effects to occur:

  • Mood changes
  • Appetite changes
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Keep in mind that full-spectrum CBD is not regulated by the FDA, though the agency is currently working on how it may approach regulating the CBD industry in the future. For now, there is no guarantee that a full-spectrum CBD product is safe, or that it’ll be effective for you.

Standard and daily-use guidelines don’t exist, and ingredients and dosages may vary widely. It’s also worth noting that mislabeling appears to be a fairly common issue with CBD products, according to some studies.

It’s a good idea to read the label and ingredient list closely. You’ll want to look for added preservatives, flavorings, or other ingredients you don’t recognize, and double-check them online or confirm with a trusted medical source.

While you don’t need a prescription for full-spectrum CBD, consider checking with your doctor or healthcare professional to make sure it won’t counteract with any other medications you’re taking, and to ensure the condition you’re using it for makes sense based on what we know about the substance.

Legality

You may be confused about the legality of full-spectrum CBD. As referenced, hemp-derived CBD products containing less than 0.3% THC are legal federally, but may not be legal under some states’ legislation. You may want to check out local legislation before purchasing any CBD products (full-spectrum or not) and before traveling with CBD products to other states.

The decision to try full-spectrum CBD may depend on whether you are OK with consuming THC in any amount, particularly if marijuana or CBD is not legal in your state, or if you anticipate being drug tested.

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

Skaper SD, Di Marzo V. Endocannabinoids in nervous system health and disease: The big picture in a nutshell. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2012;367(1607):3193-3200. doi:10.1098/rstb.2012.0313

U.S. National Library of Medicine. Cannabidiol (CBD).

Bonn-Miller MO, Loflin MJE, Thomas BF, Marcu JP, Hyke T, Vandrey R. Labeling accuracy of cannabidiol extracts sold online. JAMA. 2017;318(17):1708–1709. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.11909

By Cristina Mutchler
Cristina Mutchler is an award-winning journalist with more than a decade of experience in national media, specializing in health and wellness content.

Full Spectrum vs. Broad Spectrum vs. Isolate CBD Oil: What’s the Difference?

You’ve likely come across a few different options when looking at various CBD products. Full spectrum CBD oil, broad spectrum CBD, and CBD isolate are three common choices consumers come across when shopping for CBD. If you’re new to CBD, you might be wondering what these terms actually mean.

Basically, they’re used to describe what kind of CBD oil is used to produce a product. Each contains CBD and has an array of potential benefits, yet each has a slightly different chemical composition. As a result, you may have an experience with one product that you might not necessarily have with another.

What is the difference between full spectrum and broad spectrum CBD, and what is CBD isolate?

Here we’ll take a deeper look at the different types of CBD—full spectrum vs. broad spectrum vs. isolate—to make it easier to determine which option might be best for you.

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

Cannabis is an extremely complex plant, composed of hundreds of different chemical compounds. Over 100 of these compounds have been identified as cannabinoids. The most popular, of course, are CBD and THC—but they’re only a small fraction of the cannabinoid content and chemical profile of cannabis. Other important compounds include terpenes, flavonoids, and essential fatty acids.

We mention these cannabis compounds because they determine the difference between a full spectrum, broad spectrum, or CBD isolate oil.

All these compounds are believed to work harmoniously together to provide what’s known as the “entourage effect.”

What exactly is the entourage effect, and what does it have to do with full spectrum vs. broad spectrum CBD oil?

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Let’s take a look.

The Entourage Effect Explained

We’ve mentioned the complexity of cannabis and the harmonious way its contained compounds work together to create the entourage effect.

The entourage effect is commonly defined as “the combined effect of different compounds found in cannabis that work together as a whole to produce a greater effect than if working separately to produce separate effects.”

The three major cannabis compounds that lend to the entourage effect are cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. The idea of the entourage effect is that whole plant extracts often have greater benefits than their isolated counterparts. This is exactly why CBD isolate is considered the “least” beneficial CBD option.

As their names imply, full spectrum and broad spectrum CBD oil both contain a wide range of cannabinoids and other cannabis compounds that could potentially lend to the entourage effect. However, to understand the difference between them and the benefits they might contain, it’s best to understand them individually.

What Is Full Spectrum CBD Oil?

Before CBD oil becomes CBD oil, it must first be extracted from the cannabis plant. Hands down, one of the most popular extraction methods that has quickly become an industry leader is CO2 extraction. It’s safe, sustainable, and results in the cleanest and purest CBD products.

Full spectrum CBD oil is the result of CO2 extraction. The words “full spectrum” refer to the full spectrum of cannabinoids and other compounds found in cannabis associated with the entourage effect.

Full spectrum CBD oil has had zero cannabinoids removed, including intoxicating compounds like THC. The reason for this goes back to the entourage effect. All of the cannabinoids work in unison for the betterment of the whole—THC included.

If you see “full spectrum” on the label, be sure to check out the company’s lab reports. Although the industry has not regulated the terms, a full spectrum CBD oil will most likely have THC in the formula.

That being said, most full spectrum CBD products generally contain less than 0.3% THC, which typically isn’t enough to elicit any psychoactive effects.

There are, however, individuals that can’t tolerate THC or have any THC in their system but might still want to benefit from the entourage effect.

Here’s where broad spectrum CBD might be beneficial. Broad spectrum CBD is very similar to full spectrum CBD except that THC has been removed. This means they still get all the benefits of the entourage effect, minus the THC.

What Is Broad Spectrum CBD Oil?

After initial extraction, some CBD companies opt to remove THC from their products. They will, however, keep the other cannabinoids in the formula. Companies that remove THC from the final product tend to market their products as broad spectrum CBD oil.

The refining process is critical for crafting broad spectrum oil. During this step of the process, unwanted cannabinoids are removed from the formula. Companies are given an option of which cannabinoids are eliminated.

Understanding that many consumers aren’t keen on THC but still want to benefit from the entourage effect, most remove only THC to create broad spectrum CBD oil. Broad spectrum CBD still offers the synergy of the other cannabinoids. The only one missing from the party is THC.

Because the THC has been removed from broad spectrum CBD oil, it’s commonly assumed that it doesn’t lend to the entourage effect.

Here’s the thing, though: Broad spectrum CBD still contains all the other cannabis compounds, including other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids, meaning it still allows consumers to experience the entourage effect.

Consider this: The only compound that has been removed from a broad spectrum CBD product is THC. All the other beneficial compounds that lend to the entourage effect are still in there—cannabinoids like CBG, CBN, and CBC; terpenes like myrcene, linalool, pinene and limonene; various flavonoids known to support homeostasis and overall wellness—working harmoniously together to create the widely accepted concept of the entourage effect.

Broad spectrum CBD gives consumers all the benefits of the entourage effect without having to consume THC. It’s an excellent choice for those people that can’t or don’t want THC in their system, whether for legal, professional, or personal reasons.

The entourage effect is real. Those that are interested in its benefits but aren’t interested in THC will find that broad spectrum CBD products offer exactly what they’re looking for, including the peace of mind that they’re consuming a 0.0% THC product.

What Is CBD Isolate?

CBD isolate is what it sounds like: Isolated CBD.

To create CBD isolate, the refinement process is taken a step further to remove all other cannabis compounds. This includes other cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and all other plant compounds. The result is a product that is 99%+ CBD. By definition, CBD isolate is the purest form of CBD there is.

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Typically, those who choose CBD isolate are sensitive to other cannabinoids. CBD by itself does have its benefits. However, the results may not be as promising as a broad spectrum or full spectrum CBD oil.

When you are purchasing a CBD isolate, make sure it is 99+% pure. Otherwise, there will be traces of other cannabinoids in the formula. Although these numbers are most likely negligible, it does defeat the purpose of seeking out a pure CBD product.

Choosing CBD: Full Spectrum vs. Broad Spectrum vs. CBD Isolate

Wondering what type of CBD might be best for you?

Now that you’ve got an understanding of the difference between full spectrum vs. broad spectrum vs. CBD isolate, it can be easier to determine which form of CBD will fit your personal needs.

When it comes to taking CBD, everyone has different needs. These needs will reflect which type of CBD might be best suited for someone personally, despite the daily serving.

Keep in mind that activation time (how long it will take to feel the effects) and bioavailability (how much CBD is absorbed by the bloodstream) of full spectrum, broad spectrum, and CBD isolate both depend on the type of product being used, not the type of CBD oil one is consuming.

Let’s quickly recap each to see how each might fit the needs of different individuals.

Why Choose Full Spectrum CBD?

This is CBD that contains all cannabinoids and chemical compounds naturally present in cannabis. Full spectrum CBD is believed to best lend to the entourage effect and has gone through the least amount of processing and refinement.

Full spectrum CBD does contain trace amounts of THC. While typically less than 0.3%, THC found in full spectrum CBD oil might still show up on a drug test. Those with acute sensitivities to THC might also find that a full spectrum oil comes with some undesirable effects.

Why Choose Broad Spectrum CBD?

Broad spectrum CBD is CBD oil that has gone through further refinement after extraction to remove THC. Although THC has been removed, broad spectrum CBD oil still lends to the entourage effect. The only thing usually missing from the vast array of cannabinoids and other cannabis compounds is THC.

Because broad spectrum CBD is 0.0% THC, it’s excellent for those with sensitivities to THC or who can’t have THC in their system for whatever reason. Broad spectrum CBD products are a great introduction to the world of CBD for those who might be uncertain about trying a product that contains THC. Broad spectrum CBD products are also beneficial to individuals living in states that still have strict laws concerning the use of THC.

Why Choose CBD Isolate?

CBD isolate is 99%+ pure CBD. It has gone through several refinement processes to remove all other cannabinoids and various plant compounds. This odorless, tasteless form of CBD is considered the purest form of CBD that exists and contains zero probability of any intoxicating effects.

Because all other compounds have been removed to create CBD isolate, this type of CBD does not lend to the entourage effect like a full or broad spectrum product. CBD isolate is typically best for those with extreme sensitivities to THC or other cannabinoids, people living in states with strict THC laws, or CBD newbies who are tentative to use cannabis-based products.

Final Thoughts: CBD Full Spectrum vs. Broad Spectrum vs. Isolate

Staying educated about CBD is key for the best experience possible. If you’re new to CBD, understanding all the different terminology and plethora of products can be really confusing!

We’re here to ease this confusion by offering consumers the information they need to choose the best CBD products to fit their personal wellness needs.

Whether you’re looking at purchasing CBD online or at a local retail location, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is the type of oil you buy. Knowing the difference between full spectrum CBD, broad spectrum CBD, and CBD isolate is key.

While the effects of each might be similar, you’re now equipped with the knowledge of what makes them different, which is paramount in making an educated buying decision. Still have questions about the difference between full spectrum vs. broad spectrum CBD? Feel free to contact us anytime. We’re always here to help!

Joy Smith is Joy Organics Co-founder and visionary. After her own life-changing experience with CBD, Joy started Joy Organics to create a line of sustainable and premium CBD products consumers could trust. Before founding Joy Organics, Joy worked as an itinerant speaker, traveling to over four continents to empower women across the globe.

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