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

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If you’re interested in using CBD to treat health conditions, full spectrum vs broad spectrum CBD is one of the most important decisions to make.

Over the past three years, the world has seen a fast introduction to the world of CBD. Because our initiation came at lightning speed, it’s no surprise that CBD is still poorly understood.

CBD products aren’t all the same. In fact, there’s such thing as ‘CBD.’ Rather, CBD products fall on a cannabinoid spectrum, and you need to choose between them.

Are you looking at trying a CBD oil? Here’s what you need to know about full-spectrum vs. broad-spectrum CBD.

Cannabinoids 101: What You Need to Know Before Trying CBD

Cannabidiol, fondly known as CBD, is a natural phytochemical known as a cannabinoid. Cannabinoids exist in plants, including the cannabis plant, to help them with a variety of functions. Different cannabinoids can do things like:

  • Protect the plant from over-heating
  • Attract pollinators
  • Lure prey

The Cannabis plants are complex with over 400 chemical entities. Over 60 of those are cannabinoid compounds, but they aren’t as well researched as CBD or its psychoactive cousin THC.

Cannabinoids aren’t isolated among the Cannabis plant family. Other members of this phytochemical group also exist in other plants. However, not all cannabinoids interact with the human endocannabinoid system.

Why is this information important for understanding the difference between different CBD products? Because the distinction between full-spectrum vs. broad-spectrum CBD lies in the types of cannabinoids contained in their formulas.

What is Full-Spectrum CBD?

Full-spectrum CBD means that the plant extract contains all the phytochemicals found in the plant. In other words, it includes:

  • CBD
  • Other cannabinoids (cannabinol, cannabichromene, cannabidivarin, cannabidiol acid, etc.)
  • Essential oils
  • Terpenes

Terpenes are aromatic chemical compounds found among Cannabis plants that contribute to the plant’s smell and flavor. There are over 200 terpenes in cannabis that also work with different receptors in your body.

When you choose a full-spectrum CBD oil, you get a formula full of phytochemicals that team up to provide an effect called the “entourage effect.” Essentially, the entourage effect is the impact of all the components of the cannabis plant working together to enact the plant’s benefits. For example, terpenes work with cannabinoids to produce the calming effect the oil has on your body.

Does full-spectrum CBD have THC? Yes, it can have a THC content of below 0.3%. While 0.3% (or under) isn’t enough to get you high unless you’re very sensitive to THC, it can produce a false positive if you take a drug test. Drug tests are sensitive to THC – not to CBD or other cannabinoids. So, in theory, a full-spectrum oil can cause you to fail your drug test, particularly if you take CBD oil regularly or in high doses.

What’s Broad-Spectrum CBD?

Broad-spectrum CBD includes all the compounds found in full CBD, including CBD, other cannabinoids, essential oils, and terpenes. However, it’s missing something important: THC.

CBD oil manufacturers will extract all the cannabinoids from a plant to start. But when they produce a broad-spectrum CBD product, they go back in and remove the THC manually so there should be no trace of THC left in the product.

What you get is a compound that creates the entourage effect but without the benefits (or risk) of THC.

What Are the Benefits of Full-Spectrum vs. Broad-Spectrum CBD?

Now that you understand the difference, you might wonder if one product offers benefits that the other doesn’t.

The answer is yes.

The benefits of full-spectrum CBD include minimal processing and the entourage effect. At the same time, there are a few things that some people might object to, including:

  • Potential side effects from THC
  • Ability to trigger false positives on drugs tests
  • Stronger natural flavors

You might be best suited to full CBD when you live in a state with recreational legalization or if you have conditions that broad-spectrum compounds can’t touch.

Even then, remember that legalization doesn’t mean that there aren’t social implications for THC. Your employer can still fire you for failing a drug test, even if the substance you use is legal in your state.

What about broad-spectrum CBD? What are the pros and cons? Well, you get the entourage effect without the risk of psychoactive effects because there’s no THC. The lack of THC can be very important to people who are sensitive to the compound.

At the same time, there’s less availability and less research on broad-spectrum products. So, if you’re taking CBD to support a serious medical condition, you could find the broad-spectrum CBD doesn’t suit you.

Meet Pure CBD: CBD Isolate

Full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD are common forms, but there’s one other group of products that’s increasing its market share: CBD isolate.

CBD isolate offers all the benefits of a high dose of CBD but without the entourage effect. To make the product, manufacturers pull a full-spectrum CBD and then work to single it out from all the other plant chemicals and materials.

Unlike full and broad CBD, CBD isolate isn’t an oil. Because it’s the purest form of CBD available, it comes as a powder or crystal.

Why would you skip the entourage effect? CBD isolate best suits those who are very wary of ingesting any THC.  It’s also suitable for making your own DIY CBD products. Some people also say its easier to take, particularly if you don’t like the taste of oils.

What CBD Oil Will Work Best for You?

CBD products comes in many shapes and sizes, but before you buy, you need to know the differences between full-spectrum vs. broad-spectrum CBD.

Remember, full-spectrum has a minimal THC content and broad-spectrum doesn’t. Much of your decision will likely be based around your personal tolerance to THC and whether you have to consider the issue of legalization and drug tests.

Did we answer your question? Find out more in our Mind and Body archive.

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