Full Spectrum Vs. Isolate: CBD Types Explained
If you’ve been browsing the many CBD tinctures available in the Apotheca store, you’ve probably noticed the product description table. This is designed to answer questions about tinctures quickly and simply so you can spend less time shopping and more time enjoying excellent CBD products.
However, it’s not all self-explanatory for newcomers. If you’re new to CBD, the “CBD Type” column might be confusing. Even if you’re an avid consumer, you may have some misconceptions about what terms like “full-spectrum,” “broad-spectrum,” and “isolate” actually mean. Understanding these concepts is crucial in finding the product best suited for your needs.
Full-Spectrum: Bringing You Every Part of the Plant
Full spectrum tinctures have every phytonutrient that is extracted from the hemp plant. While CBD is the most prominent molecule in hemp research, there are over 100 other known cannabinoids—typically referred to as phytocannabinoids to differentiate them from the endocannabinoids found in the human body.
In addition to those phytocannabinoids, there are additional compounds called terpenes and flavonoids. All three of these compound varieties are most highly concentrated in unfertilized flowers of female hemp plants. Here’s a quick overview of those compounds:
- Cannabinoids: Some of the most well-known cannabinoids include CBD, THC, CBG, and CBN. These compounds are unique to cannabis plants and interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system. For an in-depth breakdown of some of the most prominent phytocannabinoids, read this post.
- Terpenes: Unlike cannabinoids, terpenes aren’t unique to cannabis plants. These compounds are found in all plants, although they’re more common in coniferous trees and citrus plants. Some of the most common terpenes in hemp plants are limonene, pinene, and myrcene. There are about 140 terpenes, and each hemp strain has a unique combination of terpenes present. Many third-party lab results include terpene content, so always check those reports before buying a new product.
- Flavonoids: These compounds don’t get as much attention as phytocannabinoids and terpenes, but are valuable in their own right. Flavonoids are found in fruits, vegetables, flowers, bark, and tea and wine. These compounds have gained attention in nutraceutical, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic applications thanks to research that suggest they have anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects.
CBD Isolate: 99% Pure Cannabidiol Tinctures and Powder
CBD isolate is exactly what the name implies: the CBD compound on its own, removed from all of the other phytocannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. Isolate tinctures are common, although powdered isolate is also available. This powder is typically 99% pure CBD, meaning one milligram of isolate powder has one milligram of CBD. This extremely potent product makes it easy to get high doses of CBD.
CBD isolate itself is tasteless and odorless. It’s an ideal product for people who are looking for the benefits of CBD but don’t like the plant-like taste that comes with whole-plant products.
The proliferation of CBD isolate is tied largely to regulation in the United States. It’s easy to forget, but CBD-only products were illegal for a long time, and even as recently as 2013 only a handful of states had legalized CBD products. As hemp legislation loosened with the 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills, and those pieces of federal legislation codified the 0.3% limit on THC in hemp that is currently in place.
CBD Isolate remains popular with some customers due to its high potency, lack of THC, and the fact that it is tasteless and odorless.
Broad-Spectrum Hemp Extracts: Everything But the THC
Broad spectrum CBD tinctures are close siblings to full-spectrum products, with a key difference: they do not contain THC. Full-spectrum hemp extracts are typically created through a process (often using an ethanol-based solvent or CO2) that pulls every possible molecule from the plant fibers indiscriminately.
Broad-spectrum extracts are often made by taking full-spectrum hemp extract and further refining it to remove any trace amounts of THC found in hemp. Alternatively, some companies start with a CBD isolate and add desired cannabinoids and phytonutrients. These broad-spectrum products are ideal for customers seeking the entourage effect (see below) of full-spectrum products who do not want even trace amounts of THC in their system.
Blended Tinctures: A High-Potency Alternative
Some products in the Apotheca store, like those from Hemp Flower Naturals, are listed as a blend: 60% full-spectrum and 40% CBD isolate. The reason behind this is a bit more complex. As mentioned above, full-spectrum products contain a small amount of THC with a federally mandated maximum of 0.3%.
When making a tincture, CBD content and THC content are linked. For instance, if there is 1mg THC for every 1,000mg CBD, there are 2mg of THC for every 2,000mg CBD and so on. This means full-spectrum tinctures have a legal limit on just how potent they can be, while CBD isolates (which contain no THC) do not.
To achieve the effects of a full-spectrum tincture and deliver a high-potency dose of CBD, some companies bolster their full-spectrum tinctures with CBD isolate.
The Entourage Effect: How Cannabinoids Work Together
So, why are companies concerned with including all of these phytonutrients, even if they are only found in trace amounts and CBD is the main active compound anyways?
The answer is the entourage effect. A study from the Lautenberg Center for Immunology and Cancer Research found that CBD isolate had a narrow effective dose window when used for swelling: in other words, the effects of CBD have a bell curve, where CBD reaches peak effectiveness at a certain dose, and is less effective both before and after that dose amount. The study found that full-spectrum products did not have the same dose window, and CBD’s effectiveness continued to increase with dose size.
In addition to the benefits trace amounts of other cannabinoids provide, studies show terpenes could potentially increase the effectiveness of hemp extracts. Myrcene is shown to reduce resistance in the blood-brain barrier, which could allow for easier passage and faster benefits from other compounds. Studies suggest a combination of linalool, limonene, and CBG may be effective in treating MRSA.
Research into hemp extracts and its potential benefits continue to find interactions like these, which makes studying the properties of hemp vital in creating more beneficial products specifically tailored to particular needs.
The THC-Free Option
This isn’t to say that full-spectrum products are the only way to go, though. In fact, broad-spectrum and CBD isolate products are preferable for some customers. The benefit of having so many brands and product types available is everyone can find exactly what they need.
The main benefit of broad-spectrum and CBD isolate products is that they do not contain THC. While hemp products do not contain enough THC to have psychoactive effects, they may have enough to cause a customer to be flagged by an employee drug screening in some circumstances. While it is not likely, many people find that it just isn’t worth it to take a chance. Likewise, some customers are reluctant to give any amount of THC to children, pets, or themselves. Broad-spectrum products allow customers to receive the majority of benefits found in full-spectrum extracts while avoiding the one cannabinoid they don’t want.
In a similar vein, allergies and sensitivities may mean full- and broad-spectrum products aren’t an option. While it is possible to hunt down a strain that doesn’t have the particular compound that is causing an unpleasant reaction, it’s much quicker and easier to simply buy a CBD isolate product.
Find the CBD Extract That Is Right for You
There isn’t a right and wrong option for hemp extract products, only what’s right or wrong for you. It’s important to research products extensively and understand the various phytonutrients present in each individual hemp strain, tincture, vape oil, or cream. You should also always check with your doctor before changing your diet or adding any wellness products to your daily routine, including hemp extract.
While it can certainly be a time-consuming task, extensive research will make it far more likely that you will purchase an extract that provides the desired effects.