If you’ve spent some time researching CBD and trying to find the best product for your needs, there’s a good chance that you’ve come across some confusing terminology. Three terms that we’ve found our clients ask us about are broad-spectrum, full-spectrum and CBD isolate. Clients want to know what they are, what the difference is between the three and which is the best fit for their needs. We understand the confusion! Despite the fact that they sound quite similar, they are far from the same.
Before we get into the differences, it’s important to have an understanding of THC and the ‘entourage effect’:
What is THC?
THC is a cannabinoid found in high concentrations in marijuana (sometimes upwards of 95%), and very low concentrations in industrial hemp (less than 0.2%). THC binds with CBD 1 receptors in the brain to produce psychoactive effects in the form of a high or a sense of euphoria. Keep in mind that CBD sold in the UK is produced from industrial hemp which has very low levels of THC which is why CBD does not have any psychoactive effects.
What is the entourage effect?
When you use CBD your body takes in hundreds of botanical compounds, each with their own unique effects and benefits. Their behaviour may also change based on its interactions with other compounds and this is known as the ‘entourage effect’.
A practical example of this is how CBD and THC interact. One study looked at patients with cancer pain who were given either THC and CBD in a near 50:50 ratio, or a pure THC extract. The findings showed that the THC and CBD combination was more effective in relieving pain. There are also other compounds to consider, such as important cannabinoids including CBN, CBG and CBC, as well as terpenes, flavonoids and more.
With a clear understanding of THC and the entourage effect, we can now look at the different types of CBD and who they are best suited to as the right choice varies from person to person:
Full-spectrum CBD is made from industrial hemp extract and contains the full spectrum of compounds found in the plant. These naturally occurring compounds include terpenes, flavonoids, essential oils and other cannabinoids. These compounds work together in synergy to magnify the benefits of each individual compound (called the entourage effect).
What makes full-spectrum CBD different to isolate and broad-spectrum is that it contains very low levels of THC (in the UK it’s below 0.2%), while broad-spectrum and isolate contain none at all.
CBD isolate is considered the purest form of CBD. It’s produced by isolating the cannabinoid CBD from all the other compounds. This means that all the other potentially beneficial compounds such as flavonoids, terpenes and other cannabinoids are also removed.
Broad spectrum CBD is somewhere between CBD Isolate and full-spectrum CBD because, while it does contain the other compounds found in full-spectrum CBD, like CBD Isolate there is no THC at all. This is ideal for many users because it is still possible to enjoy the ‘entourage effect’, but the risk of any psychoactive effects from the THC is completely removed.
Which type should I be using?
With a broad understanding of the different types of CBD, you can start to think about which type is you should choose. There’s no one type that is better, everyone has different needs and those needs determine which type of CBD you should try. Understanding the pros and cons of each, and knowing which type is best suited to which situation can help you narrow down your choices.
CBD extract from industrial hemp along with all the other compounds offers the full benefits of hemp and users can experience the entourage effect. It’s also a more natural, less demanding extraction process .
This is ideal for people who are looking for a specific THC to CBD ratio and those who have tried CBD isolate and broad-spectrum CBD but have not received relief for their symptoms.
This pure form of CBD (with all other compounds completely removed) offers no risk of psychoactive effects at all (and you won’t test positive for THC). It is tasteless and odourless, and is generally considered to be safe. On the downside, users won’t enjoy the enhanced synergistic benefits of the entourage effect.
CBD Isolate is therefore an ideal choice for individuals who regularly undergo random drug testing (such as sports professionals), and those who struggle with the somewhat earthy taste of CBD. If you have sensitivity to THC or any other cannabinoids, were recommended to consume CBD in high doses or are a first-time user and hesitant about trying CBD, then isolate might be the ideal solution.
Broad-spectrum CBD is different to full-spectrum only in that it does not contain THC. It therefore offers the ‘entourage effect’, and there is no risk of any psychoactive effects as the extract contains no THC. Two things to keep in mind with broad-spectrum CBD is that there is less research available about the effects, and the strong natural flavours may be off-putting to some.
It’s an ideal option for those who have tried CBD isolate but have not had resolution for their symptoms, for people who have a known THC -sensitivity, for cautious first-time users, and for those who undo regular drug screening and are concerned about testing positive for THC.
Research into the effectiveness of the different types of CBD on the spectrum is ongoing and there are no definitive answers as yet, so it may take some time and experimentation on your part to determine the best choice for your specific needs. If you have been using CBD for a while and are looking for ways to make your dosing more effective, you may wish to use full-spectrum CBD. If you’re just starting out, or undergo regular drug testing you may choose to try broad-spectrum CBD to start. With both these options you get the benefits of the CBD as well as the ‘entourage effect’. If you need to take other factors into consideration, such as a sensitivity to other cannabinoids (or if you really don’t enjoy the taste of CBD), then CBD isolate may work for you.