Comparing full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and cbd isolate

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When navigating the CBD market, you will notice that there are many unique CBD products to choose from, each with a different flavor, strength and dosing method. While some decisions are easy for consumers to make, such as choosing a flavor, other things may not be so clear-cut.

Choosing between full spectrum, broad spectrum and CBD isolate is a common decision that confuses new consumers, but it doesn’t have to be difficult! Understanding a few key differences between each hemp extract formula and the benefits they offer can help clarify the decision.

So, is full spectrum, broad spectrum or CBD isolate right for you?

Let’s compare to find out:

What is full spectrum CBD?

Full spectrum CBD refers to a CBD product made with “whole plant” hemp extract or “full spectrum” cannabinoids. In other words, full-spectrum hemp formulas primarily contain CBD, but also contain trace amounts of other cannabinoids found in the original hemp material, including THC. Of course, CBD products made from industrial hemp will contain less than 0.3 percent THC to meet the requirements of the 2018 Farm Bill, which is not enough to cause psychoactive effects.

Full-spectrum formulas are sometimes known for having a “hemp” flavor because they are less refined and sometimes disguised with natural flavorings or other additives. Almost any type of CBD product can be made from a full-spectrum extract, and raw hemp flower is always considered full-spectrum by definition.

Regardless of how it is used, the “natural” composition of a full-spectrum formula is what gives it so much support, and many suggest that full-spectrum CBD is the most beneficial type of CBD because of its full cannabinoid profile.

What is Broad Spectrum CBD?

Broad spectrum CBD is similar to full spectrum products in that it uses a “whole plant” extract packed with CBD and other minor cannabinoids, but with one important difference – it does not contain THC.

Simply put, broad spectrum hemp extract is a full spectrum hemp extract that has gone through an extra round of purification to remove even traces of THC. This formula is less common than full spectrum or CBD isolate, but is meant to bridge the gap between the two.

Like full spectrum, broad spectrum extract can be used to make a variety of tinctures, topicals, vaporizers, edibles and more.

What is CBD isolate?

CBD isolate is exactly what it sounds like – isolated CBD molecules. CBD isolate products contain no other cannabinoids, including THC and minor cannabinoids such as CBG or CBN.

The purest form of CBD isolate is a fine, crystalline powder whose purity is typically 99 percent or higher. The powder can be vaporized, taken orally, or mixed with a carrier oil or other ingredients to create tinctures, edibles, capsules, topicals, etc.

Where do terpenes come into play?

Although terpenes complicate things a bit, we wanted to include them as they often show up in various cannabis formulas to create a wider range of benefits or other symptom-specific effects.

Terpenes, or aromatic compounds found in cannabis, have been shown to have a number of therapeutic benefits on their own (think: essential oils). Terpenes are usually present by default in both full-spectrum and broad-spectrum formulas, but some brands may filter them out.

Sometimes they even appear in the CBD isolate, but they need to be added back into the final formula after the refining process is complete. Terpenes are responsible for the hemp, floral, sweet or lemony smell and taste of various natural cannabis products, so many brands really play with the terpene composition of their products.

Comparing the Benefits of Full Spectrum, Broad Spectrum and CBD Isolate

While each type of hemp formula has received quite a bit of support and many people even swear by their preferred CBD formula, there is not a lot of evidence comparing the effects of different CBD formulas side by side.

Here’s what we know:

Full-spectrum CBD has gained popularity thanks to a theory called the “entourage effect”, which suggests that CBD and THC (and other trace cannabinoids) act synergistically to reverse each other’s effects. Some people suggest that the effects are enhanced, while others suggest that the effects are “not enhanced” but “offset.”

“Taming THC: Potential Cannabis and Phytocannabinoid-Terpenoid Entourage Synergy” served primarily to evaluate the effects between non-psychoactive cannabinoids and THC. The study points to evidence that CBD may reduce potential negative effects associated with THC, such as paranoia or anxiety.

The research examines in more detail the synergistic relationship between cannabinoids and other cannabinoids, as well as cannabinoids and terpenes. Still considered preliminary, the research points to studies linking these phytocannabinoid and terpene combinations to symptom-specific effects, such as increased abilities as antifungal agents, antidepressants, sedatives, anesthetics, etc.

Another study suggests that CBD isolate may have a bell-shaped efficacy curve in which higher doses are actually less effective, and that full-spectrum formulas can overcome this curve.

Yet CBD isolate is the formula used in Epidiolex, the only CBD-based drug approved by the FDA and used to treat a rare form of childhood epilepsy. Many people are also advocates of CBD isolate or broad-spectrum CBD because of THC’s links to causing anxiety in some people, but there is no evidence to suggest that negative consequences are possible when THC is consumed in trace amounts.

Which Type of CBD Should You Choose?

Choosing a CBD formula comes down to personal preference, but there are a few simple factors that can come into play.

Full spectrum CBD products may be best for anyone who wants to experience the “entourage effect” and synergy of cannabinoids. This type of CBD contains trace amounts of THC that won’t get you high, but may not be the most suitable option for everyone who is subject to routine drug testing.

Broad spectrum CBD is generally a safe option for all users as it does not contain THC, but may still offer some of the benefits of cannabinoid synergy. Broad spectrum is less common than the other two types, so there may be less variety.

CBD Isolate is a THC-free option that is generally tasteless and odorless. It can be a good option for users with THC restrictions or who want to supplement their CBD dose. CBD isolate powder is also potent and very cost-effective, so it may be best suited for large doses or for making your own CBD meals at home.

Note about labeling inconsistencies

The CBD market is still widely unregulated, which leads to inconsistencies in labeling between different CBD brands. Here are some things to watch out for:

Products containing only CBD and terpenes (but no other trace cannabinoids) may be called “broad spectrum”, but it is more accurate to call them “CBD isolate enriched with terpenes”.”

A product containing CBD and trace amounts of THC but no other trace amounts of cannabinoids may be called “full spectrum”, but may not provide all the benefits of whole plant synergy.

Also, some users confuse the terms “THC-free” or “THC-free” with CBD isolate, but this is not always the case. Keep in mind that broad spectrum products also do not contain THC.

Checking the results of third-party brand testing for cannabinoid and terpene potency is the best way to find out what’s really in each bottle.

YouTube video: Comparing Full-Spectrum, Broad-Spectrum, and CBD Isolate


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