Broad Spectrum vs. Full Spectrum vs. CBD Isolate

30 September 2019

By: Nicola Webster

Broad Spectrum vs. Full Spectrum vs. CBD Isolate

As we introduce our new Broad Spectrum e-liquids range, we examine the difference between the three key types of CBD products available on the market today.

From e-liquids to oral drops, tea bags to topicals, the choice of how to administer your daily dose of CBD has never been greater. Then add in to the mix the choice of whether the product should be broad spectrum, full spectrum, or CBD isolate… well, firstly you need to be sure you know what those terms refer to. They may sound similar, but in reality they are quite different. Let’s explore.

What is the cannabinoid spectrum?


CBD has been making its way into our mainstream consciousness for a few years now. CBD and THC (the psychoactive cannabinoid), attract the majority of the press coverage as they are the two most abundant and well-known cannabinoids found in plants from the cannabis family.

However, there are over a hundred additional ‘minor’ cannabinoids that we’re only just beginning to understand. These lesser known cannabinoids such as cannabigerol (CBG), cannabinol (CBN), tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), and cannabichromene (CBC) are present in far lesser amounts than their more famous counterparts; yet their potential should not be understated.

The range of cannabinoids within the products you can buy determine whether that product is full spectrum, broad spectrum, or CBD isolate.

Extract spectrums explained


The first step towards creating a (legal) CBD based product is to extract the cannabinoid content from certified strains of hemp using a CO2 extraction method (note that to be an EU certified strain, the THC content of the hemp must be lower than 0.2%).

Within this extract you will find an abundance of CBD, as CBD is the main cannabinoid in hemp. You will also find a wide range of fragrant terpenes and tasty flavonoids, as well as all of the other cannabinoids contained in the hemp strain - including the trace amounts of THC.

This whole plant extract is known as full spectrum.

While full spectrum offers all of the potential benefits that the plant has to offer, the presence of even a trace amount of THC is an absolute deal-breaker for some people; especially those who undertake drug testing at work.

Until recently, the only choice to eliminate the THC was to remove *every* component other than the CBD using a process called ‘winterisation’.

The remaining extract following this process is called CBD isolate.

However, as recent research is showing us that each cannabinoid has its own benefits, it means that people could be missing out on the therapeutic advantages that full spectrum provides. The good news is that advances in specialist manufacturing now mean that the full spectrum extract can be refined by removing specific cannabinoids only - namely the THC element.

This refined extract is known as broad spectrum.

Why would I need additional cannabinoids in my CBD product?


Studies suggest that the extended cannabinoid profile of full-spectrum offers additional benefits to those that CBD alone can provide. For example, the cannabinoid CBN affects our appetite in exactly the opposite way to CBD. While CBD has appetite suppressing effects, CBN seems to stimulate appetite. People who struggle to maintain an appetite due to other health conditions, such as cancer, could benefit from the inclusion of CBN in their product to balance out the effects of the CBD.

However, some of the main benefits, such as anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, anti-convulsant, and antiemetic properties, are common across the majority of cannabinoids. So, that being said, what would you gain by obtaining the same benefits from multiple different cannabinoids?

The answer lies in the synergistic cooperation that cannabinoids produce when consumed together. This is known as the ‘Entourage Effect’.

What is the Entourage Effect?


The phenomenon known as the entourage effect occurs when the many natural compounds of a plant interact together within the human body to produce a stronger impact than any single compound used in isolation.

Even though the individual compounds may in fact share some of the same beneficial uses, the entourage effect means that the results are multiplied. In this sense, full spectrum epitomises Aristotle’s famous phrase ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’.

The entourage effect was first theorised in 1998 by two Israeli scientists when studying the effects of cannabinoids on the body’s own endocannabinoid system.

The theory was further developed by Wagner and Ulrich-Merzenich in 2009 who defined the four processes involved in whole plant extract synergy:

  • The ability to improve the absorption of active ingredients
  • The ability to affect multiple targets within the body
  • The ability to overcome bacterial defence mechanisms
  • The ability to minimise adverse side effects

In 2015, a study from the Lautenberg Center for General Tumor Immunology in Jerusalem was able to further debunk the argument that CBD isolate was more concentrated, and therefore more effective, than full spectrum.

The study involved treating two groups of mice - one group with CBD isolate and one group with full spectrum. The results proved that the full spectrum group received faster and better relief; also that full spectrum continued to provide relief for longer. The study concluded that full spectrum is more effective at fighting pain and inflammation.

Why choose Broad Spectrum?


Broad Spectrum provides the synergistic benefits of full spectrum but with the THC completely removed. It is the ideal solution for people who, for whatever reason, cannot consume THC in even the tiny amounts that full spectrum delivers.

Even if you have no qualms about the THC content of your product, trace amounts of THC can have a slight sedative effect on some people. This makes broad spectrum perfect for use during the day, with full spectrum as an evening option to promote a good night’s sleep.

Does this make CBD isolate redundant?


Far from it!

Although broad spectrum is widely regarded as a major advancement to CBD products, we would never disparage the efficacy of CBD isolate. For some people CBD isolate is just the ticket and the benefits it provides are completely sufficient.

Furthermore. as all of the terpenes and flavonoids are removed during the winterisation process, CBD isolate is taste and odour free. Full spectrum and broad spectrum products can have quite a pungent aroma and flavour, which is off putting to some.

Broad spectrum vs. full spectrum vs. CBD isolate - which should you choose?


Until recently, if you didn’t want even trace amounts of THC in your CBD based product, your only option would be to go for an isolate. There are many people for whom CBD isolate is all they need. However, for those who felt as though they were missing out on the entourage effect from multiple cannabinoids, the availability of broad spectrum will come as welcome news.

Another key point to note when choosing which type of product to go for is the dosage. Because isolates don’t provide the same synergistic benefits as whole plant extracts, you may find that a higher strength, or more frequent dosage, is required. If you are considering moving from CBD isolate to broad spectrum or full spectrum, be aware that you might not need as high a dose to achieve the same results.

Using CBD safely


There is no current evidence to suggest that CBD based products are harmful to humans. They contain plant based cannabinoids, and cannabinoids are found naturally in our own bodies. Hence, if you decide to try CBD oil to find relief from your particular health condition, even if you don’t find the positive results you were hoping for, you’re unlikely to find any negative ones.

This being said, it’s still recommended that you consult with a doctor before taking CBD oil if you are taking prescribed medication. Also, make sure you check the ingredients carefully, and ask vendors for lab reports, to ensure that your product of choice contains the advertised dose of CBD. The lab results will also tell you if THC is present which is key if you’re choosing a CBD isolate or broad spectrum product.

Furthermore, it’s really important that you purchase your CBD products from reputable sources. The popularity of CBD is such that some shady manufacturers are jumping on the bandwagon. To be sure of the purity of the CBD, as well as any other ingredients used, do your research and only buy certified products.

The research into CBD continues


As more studies are undertaken, and more research published, we will continue to update you with all the latest findings regarding CBD.

If you still have more questions, we are always happy to help. Just get in touch with any queries you have about CBD or vaping in general.


The content in this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your GP, or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a particular medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

30 September 2019 Nicola Webster

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