What does full-spectrum CBD even mean (and is it better)?

The most common CBD product types are: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and CBD isolate. But what’s the difference?

CBD is just one of the 100+ cannabinoids identified in the Cannabis Sativa plant.

Depending on what parts and how the plant is extracted, determines if a product is full-spectrum, broad-spectrum or an isolate.

What does full-spectrum even mean?

Full-spectrum products include not only CBD but also other naturally occurring cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids in the plant. There is no removal or isolation of any of the naturally occurring compounds.

This means no refinements are done when the trichomes (the resin-rich crystals formed on the buds) are extracted from the plant.

Trichomes are the most important content of the extraction because that’s where a majority of the cannabinoid content is.

To create a broad-spectrum or isolate product, extractions go through further refinements to remove selected compounds—in the case of broad spectrum—or everything but CBD—in the case of isolates.

In short, full-spectrum means that no other naturally occurring cannabinoids have been removed during the extraction process.

Why would someone want full-spectrum CBD over CBD broad-spectrum or CBD isolate?

The biggest reason why someone may want to use full-spectrum products is to achieve the entourage effect.

Many in the industry have asserted that the best benefits come if all cannabinoid compounds work together instead of being isolated.

The two cannabinoids discussed working best together are CBD and THC (the cannabinoid found predominantly in marijuana).

Full-spectrum is the only option that includes both CBD and THC (usually in very small quantities).

Full-Spectrum CBD is not the same as whole-plant CBD

Another term you may see that’s often used interchangeably with full-spectrum is ‘whole-plant’.

While both will achieve the entourage effect, whole-plant means sourcing the entire plant (seed, stalk, stem, leaves, etc.) and for most CBD products, you aren’t really using the entire plant.

The important thing to be aware of is that full-spectrum products may be marketed as whole-plant, which likely means this product will have naturally occurring cannabinoids.

Who should consider full-spectrum CBD products?

The main difference between full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate CBD products is the presence of THC.

Broad-spectrum and CBD isolates have zero THC, whereas full-spectrum does.

The amount of THC is very low (less than 0.3%) and is not enough to make users feel ‘high’.

However, if you think you might be sensitive to THC, full-spectrum may not be the first product you’d want to try.

Full-spectrum CBD is best for two types of people:

  1. Those who believe they could benefit from the entourage effect. If you are interested in experiencing the entourage effect and have no sensitivities to THC, full-spectrum is what you’ll want to make sure to get.
  2. Those who are not at risk for having to take a drug test. As mentioned above, the THC amount is very minimal but can still show up in a drug test.

So there you have it. Full-spectrum CBD and whole-plant CBD are not the same things.

Broad-spectrum and CBD isolate products are those that have undergone additional filtering and refinement.

Finally, the primary benefit of full-spectrum CBD is the entourage effect—and depending on the user, could provide additional benefits.