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Full Spectrum CBD vs Broad Spectrum CBD vs CBD Isolate - What are the Differences?

Posted by Tabitha Steemson on
Full Spectrum CBD vs Broad Spectrum CBD vs CBD Isolate - What are the Differences?

Buying CBD can at times feel confusing. There’s a broad range of products and applications available. This can range from the traditional CBD oils in tincture form, that are the most popular form of application to date, to transdermal CBD patches that release CBD slowly over 24 hours and CBD capsules that can be consumed just like any other daily supplement.

To complicate matters further, CBD (on cannabidiol, to provide its full name) itself comes in various forms, and often the terminology around these can feel confusing. One of the terms that commonly appears when shopping for CBD is the ‘spectrum’ of the product. This term refers to the other substances present in the CBD.                        

How is CBD extracted?

There are various ways of extracting CBD from the cannabis plant itself. CBD extraction isolated the cannabinoid (chemical found in the cannabis plant), and distilling it to create a high concentration.

There are many methods for extracting CBD, which range in efficiency and practicality. The most common method found in CBD products is Carbon Dioxide extraction.  This method uses highly pressurised carbon dioxide to extract the CBD from the hemp or cannabis plant. The temperature and pressure needs to be highly controlled throughout this process.

It is the processes that occur to the resulting CBD after this process that determine the spectrum of the oil. 

What does ‘Spectrum’ mean in CBD?

The spectrum term indicates the number of other substances present in the CBD itself.  Even in plants containing very little THC (the psychoactive substance found in cannabis), there are many other chemicals present.  These are other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids.  CBD producers can distill or filter their product after the initial extraction to remove some of these chemicals. The resulting products, therefore, vary in ‘spectrum’.

What is Full Spectrum CBD Oil?

Full Spectrum CBD contains the most naturally occurring extracts. This includes a small amount of THC (less that 0.2%). There is certain scientific evidence of an ‘entourage effect’ – a positive response to the presence of various terpenes in CBD. The entourage effect has particular benefits to those who have not been responsive to other treatments (particularly for anxiety or depression). 

Taking the full spectrum of terpenes, flavonoids, cannabinoids, fatty acids and trace THC is regarded by some scientists as the most effective way for the entourage effect to work. The combination of these compounds seems to help the CBD itself function.

Although there is a trace amount of THC in full spectrum CBD products, it is important to note that this is not enough of the compound to get you ‘high’. The presence of THC in full spectrum products is shown to contribute to the entourage effect.  

What is Broad Spectrum CBD Oil?

Broad Spectrum CBD contains all of the same compounds as Full Spectrum CBD, apart from the THC. Broad Spectrum is proven to offer the entourage effect, even without the 0.2% of THC. The absence of THC means there are no psychoactive properties at all, and if you were to have a detailed drug test, there would be no trace of THC present.

The laws and regulation around THC in the UK are changing (see more below), and so therefore Broad Spectrum CBD will be taking the place of many full-spectrum products, as it provides the same benefits as a full spectrum product.  

What is Isolate (Narrow Spectrum) CBD? 

CBD isolate does not contain any other compounds, only pure CBD. It is commonly flavourless and colourless in this form – as the compounds with cause these effects in broad and full spectrum CBD have been removed.

As it is CBD in its purest form, those who are looking to take specifically high doses of CBD, or are looking to see if CBD itself will have significant effect on their health, this is the best option.

The ‘entourage effect’ is not present in CBD isolate, as there are no other compounds within the CBD adding to the effects. However, this is the purest form of CBD, and for those looking for CBD alone, it is the most effective.  

Which Spectrum CBD is best?  

As outlined above, there are benefits to all three spectrums of CBD. For those who are unsure of CBD, or worried about the psychoactive effects of cannabis it might be best to start with a CBD isolate. For those who are looking for a wider effect, broad or full spectrum CBD could be recommended. It may be worth trying a few different applications and spectrums to see what works the best for you.

How will the New Novel Food Laws affect the Spectrum of CBD?

The ‘Novel Food’ categorisation will apply to edible and aurally consumed CBD products at the end of March, 2021. This is a status applied by the European Commission, which regulated foods that were not widely consumed by the European market before 1997. The UK also follows these guidelines.

These laws have two implications. The first is that CBD producers will need authorisation of their products from the Food Standards Agency (FSA). This will add an additional level of safety to consumers when purchasing CBD products.  

The laws also have an implication on CBD spectrum. The FSA describe CBD products as “derived from most parts of hemp / cannabis plants. They are selectively extracted, concentrating CBD and removing or reducing other chemical components. This process means the final product is different from hemp.” This means that full spectrum CBD products, which are consumed through the digestive system, will no longer be permitted. This has no impact on Isolate or Broad Spectrum products, as they have undergone extraction and concentration to remove chemical compounds. Full Spectrum oils, however, will now be regulated.

Is Full Spectrum CBD still safe? 

These added regulations exist to increase safety to the consumer. Despite this, there is little evidence to show that full spectrum products are not safe to take. It will still be possible to purchase full-spectrum CBD cosmetics and patches. For those looking to reap the benefits of the entourage effect in their CBD oils and tablets, however, Broad Spectrum products remain available for use.  

To Recap: What are the differences between Broad Spectrum CBD, Broad Spectrum CBD and CBD Isolate?

Before leaving this article, we will round up the basis differences between broad spectrum CBD, full spectrum CBD and CBD isolate:

  • Full Spectrum CBD - Full spectrum CBD includes a wide range of components including terpenes, flavonoids, cannabinoids, fatty acids and trace THC (0.2% legal limit in UK). While the presence of THC facilitates the entourage effect, it is not enough to get the user high.
  • Broad Spectrum CBD - Broad Spectrum contains the same range of terpenes, flavonoids, cannabinoids and fatty acids as full spectrum CBD, but crucially, is absent of THC.
  • CBD Isolate - This is isolated CBD in its purest form - removed of all other ingredients. 

Which CBD should I purchase?

The choice in CBD depends on your own personal preferences. For those who are new to CBD, trying an isolate is advisable – as it allows you to see if the CBD itself is helpful for your health. For those looking for a less specific range of effects, a broad spectrum CBD is advisable. If you have been purchasing full spectrum CBD products, there are still cosmetic and transdermal applications that can be purchased after the 31st March, 2021.

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