Full spectrum CBD, broad spectrum CBD, and regular ol’ CBD. 

With so many different options, names, and categories available for CBD, finding a medicative solution that fits your needs is, without a doubt difficult. 

Most of us have seen the term full spectrum CBD mentioned all the time when talking about cannabis. If you’re anything like us, you’re probably wondering what the difference is between all these different types of CBD and whether or not they even make a difference! 

While all forms of CBD are effective for medicinal marijuana purposes, there are some benefits and negatives to full-spectrum CBD oil that may influence what product you’ll end up buying. 

Whether you have no idea what this term means, or you just want to learn more, we’ll answer all your questions. We’ll explore full spectrum CBD throughout this guide! 

What Does Full Spectrum CBD Oil Mean?

Put simply, full spectrum CBD oil is any CBD oil product containing all the cannabinoids in the cannabis plant starting material. 

The extraction process is what ultimately leads to the differentiation between various types of CBD oil products.

Most of us know about Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD) by now, but the cannabis plant also produces at least another 90 cannabinoids

While many cannabis plants are grown to maximize THC, the ones used to make CBD oil products (hemp) come from ones that maximize CBD. While these plants contain mostly CBD, they produce numerous others, including THC in lower amounts.

If a producer wants to create a distillate CBD product, they don’t care about these other cannabinoids. They use extraction processes that only capture CBD compounds from the cannabis plant material.

This pure CBD distillate is then processed further into different consumer products, from powders to oils and edibles. Inside these CBD isolate products, the only cannabinoid you’ll find is CBD.

This is the opposite goal regarding full spectrum CBD oils. 

These and other full spectrum CBD products try to replicate the weed plant itself as best as possible. This means that certain extraction processes are used, which are able to pull out as many different compounds as possible. And so, you can see that it is the extraction stage of the CBD product making process that differentiates full spectrum and CBD isolate.

Simply put: full spectrum CBD will have the “full spectrum” of the plant’s cannabinoids available in the product, while regular CBD will tend to only contain CBD and nothing else. 

One final point to consider is the product type called broad spectrum. Broad Spectrum is sort of a hybrid between these two opposites. A broad spectrum product may have CBD compounds along with under 0.3%. THC. Whether THC CBD or others, a broad spectrum product should have at least a couple of cannabinoids.

full spectrum CBD benefits

You may be wondering about that 0.3% THC number that keeps popping up. This number is so critical due to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

This regulatory body determined that only trace amounts of THC are allowed in a legal CBD product in America. More specifically, the FDA said that the cannabis plants and CBD products must both have 0.3% THC on a dry weight basis. 

We have gone with the term cannabis plant, but it is important to note that this legal definition is how we define the hemp plant. Hemp and cannabis are the exact same plant, but legally the use of industrial hemp has been used to define FDA-compliant cannabis plants.

And so, you now understand that the cannabis plant is grown to be legal under the FDA regulations. As such, they have high amounts of CBD and less than 0.3% THC by definition

Within the plants selected and grown for these purposes, producers then try to replicate the precise cannabinoid content of the cannabis plants they cultivate. 

Is Full Spectrum CBD Better?

To understand the benefits of full spectrum CBD, we must turn to science. 

There is a term that researchers created called the entourage effect. The entourage effect claims that combining various cannabinoids results in enhanced effects. This synergy results in effects that are greater than the sum of its parts. 

To put this into simple English, let’s say THC-alone improves a score by 2, and CBD-alone increases a score by 3. The suggestion is that combining the two could result in an improvement of 6 or more, instead of just adding to 5.

Basically, the whole is greater than the sum of its two parts. 

While we need far more research to say with certainty, the evidence suggests that the case for the therapeutic potential of cannabinoid synergy is sufficiently strong

One potential benefit of this synergy is that individuals seem to require a smaller dose of CBD to attain the same level of effects as when they consume distillate CBD. Full spectrum products are generally considered to be better at achieving symptomatic relief goals.

Here are some of the cannabinoids that may be included in a full-spectrum CBD product:

3 Reasons Why it Should be Used Over CBD Isolate 

1.The Entourage Effect is Utilized with Full Spectrum CBD

“It’s not in numbers, but in unity, that our great strength lies”
– Thomas Paine

The entourage effect is a term that perfectly conveys the idea that there’s strength in unity. Coined by scientists, it describes the combined medical power of cannabis’ HUNDREDS of different molecules when used together.

For instance, in studies that have compared Full Spectrum CBD and CBD isolate on the same sample groups, Full Spectrum shows to be more effective in treating pain and inflammation, and just as effective in tackling tumor cell growth for different types of cancer.

Figure 1: The entourage effects get its name from CBD playing the main rock star role, while the many other molecules play the “entourage” role. Some scientists argue it should be labeled “the ensemble effect” instead because they all have an equally important role. Click for a better view.

Along with this, there are also piles of more clinical studies detailing the strength of cannabis’ molecules in numbers.

For better sedation and anesthetic effects, THC with CBN proves to do the trick. For a reduction of cannabis’ short-term memory impairments, pairing THC with the terpenoid Alpha Pinene seems to work better. What about anxiety? The group of terpenoids – pinene, myrcene and caryophyllene shows to be more effective.

The studies go on and on, where finding the ideal proportions and relationships for the hundreds of different molecules in targeting certain ailments remains a hot research field.

2. Finding the “Perfect Dose” is Easier

“Healing was only observed when CBD was given within a very limited dose range, whereas no beneficial effect was achieved at either lower or higher doses”
– Authors of Full Spectrum CBD Study

In clinical studies, CBD isolate shows to have medical value ONLY within a restricted dosage window. Or in technical lingo, its dosage follows a bell-shaped curve.

Figure 2: Finding the perfect dosage with CBD Isolate is not easy. The main reason is because of below the minimum dose and above the optimal dose, it’s medical efficacy is drastically reduced. Click for a better view.

This means anything taken below the minimum and over the maximum levels will have drastically reduced therapeutic effects.

But there’s more to it.

Because when you include that everyone’s dosage window isn’t the same and is dependant on their biology, their symptoms and their circumstances, using CBD isolate becomes an exhaustive quest that requires adjusting day and night. Not to mention needing expert advice.

Yet for Full Spectrum CBD, this exhaustive quest of finding the “right dosage” is SOLVED.

Instead of following a bell-shaped curve, research shows that Full Spectrum CBD follows a linear curve that levels off as the maximum dose is reached.

Figure 3: As you increase the dose of Full Spectrum CBD, you should expect its medical efficacy to increase. That is, up to the “optimal dosage.” were above that, it levels off. Click for a better view.

Or in other words, Whole Plant CBD is dose dependant, meaning, the more you take, the more medical value you can expect, that is, up to a maximum point. And when this maximum point is crossed, the medical value simply stagnates, instead of being drastically reduced, like the case for CBD isolate.

So with Full Spectrum CBD, there’s no more worrying and constant titillating of medication to find the “right dosage”. At least, not to the extent of CBD isolate.

3. Full Spectrum CBD Holds Very, Very Little Psychoactive Effects

We get it. The psychoactive effects of cannabis, especially THC, isn’t for everyone. And it proves why many prefer CBD isolate over-consuming whole cannabis for symptom relief.

But if not feeling mentally perturbed is the main reason why you prefer CBD isolate over Full Spectrum CBD, you might want to reconsider.

Because Full Spectrum CBD can have just as much psychoactive effects as your morning coffee or tea. That being, extremely little and not enough to interrupt your daily responsibilities.

At a maximum, Full Spectrum CBD can hold 0.3% THC because they’re generally extracted from hemp plants, which are required by law to hold that exact level of THC.

But if they’re made from CBD-rich cannabis plants, Full Spectrum CBD can hold higher amounts of THC, ranging between 1-5%, so we suggest you do your research when finding the right Full Spectrum product if psych activity is a factor.

Important to Note: CBD is proven to be WAY more medically effective when paired with THC.

You might be thinking, what about THCv and THCa? Which Full Spectrum can have higher amounts of.

Research shows that THCv in smaller doses produces no psychoactive effects, while still having medical value. And as for THCa, this molecule serves as the mentally harmless precursor to THC, so it holds absolutely zero psychoactive properties. 

Related Article: What is THCA and Is It a Medical Breakthrough?

Figure 3: As you increase the dose of Full Spectrum CBD, you should expect its medical efficacy to increase. That is, up to the “optimal dosage”. where above that, it levels off. Click for better view.

Does Full Spectrum CBD Show in Drug Tests?

Since we now know that full spectrum CBD products contain no more than 0.3% THC, this question can be answered. 

Yes, there is the possibility that a sensitive drug test may detect the THC. 

cbd isolate

That said, the amount of THC present is very low in CBD products. This is a legitimate reason why some individuals who undergo strenuous testing may want to go with CBD isolate that comes with third-party laboratory test results to prove purity.

What is Full Spectrum CBD? A Better CBD Isolate

When it comes to buying CBD products, no matter which category you desire, always be on the lookout for lab results. You may need CBD isolate to ensure you pass your drug test. Or you may rely on the enhanced benefits of full spectrum CBD oil for your symptomatic relief. No matter the reason, you want to be sure you’re getting what you paid for in your CBD oil. Always look for independent laboratory reports to get the certainty you need.

Congratulations on making it through this guide. You can now easily explain the differences between isolate, full spectrum, and broad spectrum CBD oil. We went through just enough plant biology to ensure you have an intuitive understanding of these important product distinctions. Now that you know the differences between the different CBD oil products, you can find the right one to help you reach your goals.

Hey! I’m the editor of Herb Approach News, and i'll write on just about anything cannabis related. You can find me in British Columbia, exploring off the beaten path hiking trails, relaxing on cozy beaches in the summer or strolling through the city streets!