Educational

Broad Spectrum vs. Full Spectrum CBD

Broad-Spectrum vs. Full-Spectrum CBD: A Small Difference Can Make a Big Deal

When figuring out what CBD products are right for you, it’s important to determine whether your product is made with full-spectrum CBD (whole-plant CBD) or broad-spectrum CBD.  

Both full-spectrum CBD and broad-spectrum are derived from legal hemp, but vary in effect and efficacy.

What is Full-Spectrum CBD?

CBD can seem a little complicated to new users, so let’s back up a little bit. The hemp plant that CBD is derived from contains a few classes of beneficial compounds: 

  • Cannabinoids – There are more than 100 cannabinoids present in hemp plants; CBD, THC, CBG and many more among them. 
  • Terpenes – These are responsible for hemp’s fragrance. Terpenes, for the most part, make up the hemp plant’s essential oil. They can also have therapeutic benefits. 
  • Flavonoids – These are found in all kinds of plants including everyday fruits, vegetables, and more. Like terpenes, flavonoids have been shown to have some therapeutic applications, too. 

When a product is labeled as “full-spectrum CBD” it means that all cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids present in the hemp plant at the time of harvest are still in your product. Sometimes called “whole-plant CBD” a full-spectrum CBD product isn’t chemically remediated before it reaches you. 

Full-spectrum CBD products do contain trace amounts of THC and THCa. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though. When consumed alongside other cannabinoids, CBD produces what some call the entourage effect; the idea being that every cannabinoid works together to produce a desired effect. Take one or some cannabinoids out and the synergy risks falling apart.

Hemp Flower is Considered Full-Spectrum CBD

Hemp flower is one of the least processed CBD products on the market. After drying, processing includes removing hemp buds from the stalk and trimming excess stems and leaves. 

While geneticists are actively breeding hemp with different cannabinoid concentrations, there’s no way to completely remove any one cannabinoid from hemp flowers, making it by default, full-spectrum.

What is Broad-Spectrum CBD?

Broad-spectrum CBD is a nice substitute for folks looking for the benefits of full-spectrum CBD, but who are worried about the presence of THC and THCa. 

There are two ways to make broad-spectrum CBD: 

  • The first involves starting with CBD isolate and adding back desired cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes.
  • The second involves removing just the THCa and delta-9 THC from the rest of your cannabinoids via one, or a combination, of three different chromatography methods.

Full-Spectrum vs. Broad Spectrum CBD: What’s right for you?

Because CBD products are still relatively new there’s a discovery process that consumers will have to work through before finding the products that suit their needs. 

Full-spectrum CBD Pros 

Unadulterated and Available

Hemp in its most unadulterated form: hemp flower, smokables, full-spectrum tinctures. This lack of extra processing also means full-spectrum CBD is widely available and easy to find from most vendors.

Entourage Efficacy 

Many folks claim that full-spectrum CBD provides more relief than broad-spectrum products because of the entourage effect. Some studies too have suggested that CBD’s therapeutic effects are stronger when mixed with cannabis’s other chemical compounds. 

Full-spectrum CBD Cons 

Contains THC

Contains trace amounts of THC and THCa. You may want to avoid full-spectrum CBD products if you’re worried about an upcoming drug test. 

Read more about CBD showing up on a drug test here

Undesired Side Effects 

Some folks are more sensitive to other cannabinoids like THC and CBN. The former is responsible for cannabis’s psychoactive effects, and the latter may make you quite sleepy. If that’s not what you’re looking for in your CBD product, you may want to avoid full-spectrum CBD products. 

Broad-spectrum CBD Pros

No THC

As we’ve mentioned, broad-spectrum CBD products have had their THC and THCa removed. There is no need to worry about a THC urine test if you’re using a third-party tested broad-spectrum CBD product. 

Broad-spectrum CBD Cons

Requires Additional Processing 

Removing THC from the equation requires more manipulation. While the process is safe, tried, and true, making broad-spectrum CBD does require more work than full-spectrum CBD. 

More Expensive Than Full-Spectrum CBD 

The further processing described above requires more intricate machinery, time, and labor; all of which will make your broad-spectrum CBD products more expensive than a full-spectrum option.

Updated: 8/6/2021

Sources

  1. “Farm Bill.” USDA, United State Department of Agriculture, 2018, <www.usda.gov/farmbill.>
  2. Andre, Christelle M et al. “Cannabis sativa: The Plant of the Thousand and One Molecules.” Frontiers in plant science vol. 7 19. 4 Feb. 2016, doi:10.3389/fpls.2016.00019
  3. Russo, Ethan B. “The Case for the Entourage Effect and Conventional Breeding of Clinical Cannabis: No “Strain,” No Gain.” Frontiers in plant science vol. 9 1969. 9 Jan. 2019, doi:10.3389/fpls.2018.01969
  4. Downer, Sabine. “THC Remediation for Hot Hemp.” Green Machine Labs, Heady Vermont, 6 May 2020, https://www.grmlabs.com/post/thc-remediation-for-hot-hemp
  5. Russo, Ethan B., and Jahan Marcu. “Cannabis Pharmacology: The Usual Suspects and a Few Promising Leads.” Cannabinoid Pharmacology, Elsevier, 2017, pp. 67-134, https://doi.org/10.1016/bs.apha.2017.03.004