As hemp plant derivatives become more of the mainstream market, including CBD and Delta 8 extracts, it is important to know what you are buying. There are a few reasons why someone would want a broad-spectrum over a full-spectrum product, and vice versa. We will discuss those reasons and the main chemical differences between the two forms of extract.
What is a Hemp Extract?
An extract is a desired substance that has been removed from a mixed substance through the use of a solvent. In the case of hemp, the flowers, leaves and stalks make up the mixed substance. When that mixture comes into contact with a solvent, such as CO2 distillate, very specific compounds can be pulled from the mixture. These compounds include cannabinoids (such as CBD, CBG, CBN, Delta-8 and THC). Once these compounds are pulled from the mixture via the solvent, they can then be further processed to be used in other products as an additive, or used on their own as a highly potent extract. A CBD (Cannabidiol) extract can be a liquid distillate or a powder substance that is either added to other ingredients to create endless therapeutic products, or can be inhaled through smoking or vaporizing. When you are looking at the product label for your extract, make sure you are finding out whether or not the extract is broad-spectrum, full-spectrum or isolate.
What is Full-Spectrum Extract?
When the solvent removes the cannabinoids and few other plant compounds from the mixture, the remaining extract will contain all the types of cannabinoids found within the hemp plant. As long as the hemp plant that is being extracted contains less than 0.3% THC, as per the 2018 Federal Farm Bill, it is legal to sell and consume in most states. This means that there will be varying amounts of CBD, CBG, CBN, CBC, CBDA, Delta-8, THC (less than 0.3 percent) and other trace cannabinoids. It also means there will be terpenes and flavonoids in the extract. These additional plant compounds have been found to be beneficial to the Entourage Effect theory of whole plant therapy.
What is Broad-Spectrum Extract?
When the solvent removes the cannabinoids and few other plant compounds from the mixture, the remaining extract will contain all the types of cannabinoids found within the hemp plant, however, with broad-spectrum, an additional processing step is taken to remove all THC. This means there will be zero THC in broad-spectrum extracts and products. The reason for this is because some people do not want any THC at all in their system, either due to sensitivity or law related reasons. There will be varying amounts of CBD, CBG, CBN, Delta-8, and other trace cannabinoids, with zero THC. It also means there will be terpenes and flavonoids in the extract that remain. These additional plant compounds have been found to be beneficial to the Entourage Effect theory of whole plant therapy.
What is CBD isolate?
CBD isolate is an extract that has had all the compounds of a full-spectrum extract removed, to leave only a compound powder of CBD crystals. This isolate extract will have near 100% CBD purity and will be absent of any THC and other plant compounds. It will be a powder that has many benefits on its own. Unless the isolate is added to other beneficial cannabinoids and terpenes, it will have a more limited effect than broad and full spectrum products. The benefits of CBD alone are quite numerous, and many find isolate useful in products that full spectrum and broad spectrum extracts are unable to be used due to the consistency or nature of reaction in another product. Check out our full article on CBD Isolate to learn more about how to use CBD isolate.
What is the Entourage Effect?
When a full-spectrum or broad-spectrum extract is ingested, smoked, vaporized or consumed in another product, our bodies are given many plant compounds. These include CBD, CBG, CBN, Delta-8, THC (less than 0.3 percent for full-spectrum or zero for broad-spectrum) and other trace cannabinoids. It also means there will be terpenes and flavonoids in the extract. Each of these compounds has a unique effect and benefit found within the body and mind. These compounds may also behave differently when in the presence of the other compounds, causing them to effect each other in an ensemble, or entourage form. The Entourage Effect is when these compounds are found to enhance the benefits of the other compounds, as compared to their benefits found in isolate form. Check out our full article on the Entourage Effect.
Is Full-Spectrum Better Than Broad-Spectrum or Better Than isolate?
The reality of your lifestyle will determine which product is best for you. It is important to take into account the exact benefits you are looking to attain. For some people, full-spectrum is seen as the best due to the full ability of the Entourage Effect. It is argued that the full benefits of the Entourage Effect will not be felt unless there is a balance of THC to the CBD, the two most common cannabinoids in the hemp plant. For others, broad-spectrum is desired over full-spectrum and isolate because there is a specific desire to have a product that is THC-free. Some people are simply very sensitive to the mind altering effects of THC. Even though hemp-derived extracts will contain less than is accepted by the FDA (0.3%) to not cause psycho-active effects, some people can still undesired effects. Another reason for not wanting a full-spectrum product is for the people who are concerned with taking a drug test. It is possible to have a positive THC result when consuming only full-spectrum products. When it comes to CBD isolate, there are reasons to simply want a high potency CBD extract. The main reason being that the potency of the CBD isolate is near 100%. This allows for very controllable dosing when used in powder form. It also allows for products to contain very high amounts of CBD while keeping the product ingredients in balance. Whatever your choice, be sure to research what the product or extract you are buying as that will help you find the proper balance of benefits. There are many different products that contain varying amounts of the extracts. Be sure that you are receiving enough to feel your desired benefit. You may find yourself trying different ways of ingesting your product as well, so be sure you know how the different routes of ingestion effect absorption rates.
Author: A.J. Varela, Biologist