The market for CBD has expanded a lot recently. More and more people are experimenting with it as the therapeutic potential of it is being discovered by researchers. There are a lot of CBD products on sale these days and the way that they are described matters if you want to get the highest quality products.
The most common products are CBD isolate, which is the cheapeest, and then full spectrum CBD products, which are more expensive but also quite well known, followed by broad spectrum CBD. Knowing the difference between these is important if you want to avoid getting ripped off or buying something that isn’t up to the job that you were planning to use it for.
CBD isolate almost completely pure (99.9%) CBD. When CBD is extracted from a plant to make CBD isolate, almost everything that is found in the plant matter is removed. This means that it is free from terpenes, THC, oils, waxes, chlorophyll and any other contaminants. All you are getting is CBD.
In some ways, this is good. If you want to make sure that you are getting pure CBD and that you are not getting exposed to any THC at all then CBD isolate is a fairly safe bet.
Some people want the extra ‘ingredients’ though because each of those extra ingredients can combine to have additional therapeutic effects known as ‘the entourage effect’. That’s where full spectrum and broad spectrum CBD come into play.
What is Full Spectrum CBD?
Full spectrum CBD is an oil that contains everything that was in the plant. This mas that it contains not just the CBD, but the other cannabinoids (such as CBN, THC, etc) and any terpenes, flavonoids and other substances. The theory is that all of these things work together to provide a greater effect than what you would receive if you took the THC on its own.
What is Broad Spectrum CBD?
Broad spectrum CBD is essentially the same as full spectrum CBD oil, but without any of the THC. It offers most of the entourage effect that you would get from full spectrum CBD, but you can use it confident in the knowledge that you will not be ingesting any THC. Why would you care about this? Well, THC is the part of the cannabis plant that is associated with the ‘high’ that recreational users enjoy. It is a psychoactive substance, and it is something that young people whose brains are still developing should avoid, because of the risk of adverse effects in the long term. There are also many adults who choose to avoid CBD because their work requires drug testing, or because they cannot take THC for legal reasons.
Understanding the Extraction Process
There are several methods which can be used to extract CBD from the cannabis plant. The most common methods that are used today are the alcohol extraction method and CO2 extraction. The alcohol extraction method uses ethanol to extract CBD, and it is the cheapest of the popular methods. However, it produces a lower quality product because there is some risk that there will be traces of alcohol left in the extract. In contrast, CO2 extraction is more expensive since it is a more involved process, but it produces a cleaner, and therefore likely safer, oil. Supercritical CO2 extraction uses very low temperatures in the extraction process, while subcritical extraction uses higher temperatures. The jury is still out on whether the temperature matters when it comes to the potency of the oil, but it is generally agreed that it is worth investing in oil which has been made using a CO2 extraction method, for the purity that it provides.
There are some other extraction processes that are still in use, such as butane extraction, but it is not a good idea to choose products that are made that way since there is the risk of butane contamination of the oil. It is unlikely that you would see a seller of high quality CBD products offer a CBD oil (full spectrum or otherwise) that has been produced using a butane extraction method.
Choosing Between Full Spectrum and Broad Spectrum CBD Oil
For some people, the answer to the question of full spectrum CBD versus broad spectrum CBD oil is simple. Full spectrum CBD oil contains all of the important elements of the cannabis oil, and as such, it is the superior product. THC has uses other than ‘getting people high’. It has been found that THC and CBD have a lot of synergies, with CBD taking the edge off a THC high and making the high last longer, while THC helps to augment the therapeutic benefits of CBD. So, if you do not have any reason to avoid THC, it makes sense to choose full spectrum CBD oil. This is especially true given that the amount of THC that is found in CBD oil is very low. Typically, full spectrum CBD oil is made from low-THC hemp, so the total amount of CBD in the oil will not be enough to have a psychoactive effect, so a healthy adult who is not in a drug tested profession and who has no other reason to worry about testing will not need to worry about any negative impact from CBD oils.
Full spectrum CBD contains not just standard THC, but also THCA, which is tetrahydrocannabinolic acid. This is a non-psychoactive type of THC, which needs to be decarboxylated to make it psychoactive. The acid forms of the major cannabinoids (THC is not the only one that has ben researched, CBD and CBG also have acid forms that are of interest) are thought to have health benefits of their own.
Broad spectrum CBD oil, on the other hand, does not contain THC, or THCA. This makes it a safer choice for people who are required to avoid THC for drug-testing policies, or simply because they have made a personal or religious choice to avoid anything that may be psychoactive.
Why Avoid CBD Isolate?
The conversation here has focused on full spectrum and broad spectrum oil, and that is because they are the two best choices for almost everyone. CBD isolate is a powdered extract that has very high CBD concentrations, and that is often added to MCT oil and then sold as ‘CBD oil’. If you are coming to CBD from a bodybuilding or sports background then you might intuitively assume that CBD isolate is a good thing, but it is actually the least potent of all of the CBD oils.
CBD isolate contains only cannabidiol. There is no CBD, CBDV, CBN, or any of the other compounds that you might have heard about. Considering that studies show that these compounds work together to augment the beneficial effects of each other, it makes sense to take them at the same time. Studies show that full spectrum CBD works better than CBD isolate for treating inflammatory conditions, for example, and that CBD oil can help with other conditions such as insomnia.
If you are able to get lab test results for the CBD that you are planning on buying then that could be a good idea because it will reassure you that the CBD you are buying is exactly what it says on the label. This is particularly important if you are buying online from an unknown seller, but it is less important if you are buying from a known brand or from a store that you trust. The CBD market is still in its infancy, so it pays to do your homework before you buy.