As CBD has become increasingly popular, scientists and consumers alike are becoming more sophisticated about the substance and its effects. The terms “broad spectrum” and “full spectrum” have become part of the vernacular for discussing CBD. Unfortunately, the information about these terms can be confusing and lead to misconceptions about the value and realities of broad spectrum and full spectrum products.
To put these terms into context, it is important to know that they refer to what exactly you are getting in a CBD product. The purest form of CBD is referred to as CBD isolate. The way that CBD isolate is obtained is by taking CBD from the cannabis plant and separating it from all the other substances that naturally occur in the plant.
Full spectrum CBD, on the other hand, refers to an extract that includes all the substances that are naturally present in the plant without the bioactive profile of these compounds being compromised. The other substances that can be found with CBD are other cannabinoids as well as essential oils and terpenes.
Until less than 15 years ago, it was believed that CBD isolate was more effective than full spectrum CBD in achieving some of its outcomes. However, critical research in the early 2000s showed that full spectrum CBD led to higher levels of pain relief than did CBD isolate.
These observations led to the notion that the active compounds in cannabis work together to produce what has been referred to as an entourage effect, where the presence of certain substances increase the activity of others. This concept of cannabis synergy might also help to account for why botanical drugs are frequently observed to be more effective than their isolated substances.
Though full spectrum CBD may offer specific benefits over CBD isolate, full spectrum CBD products contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis that is associated with the “high” of marijuana use. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows CBD products to be used and distributed, but these products have to limit their concentration of THC.
Broad spectrum CBD may offer an opportunity to get some of the benefits of full spectrum CBD while avoiding the practical and legal challenges that THC presents. Like full spectrum CBD, broad spectrum CBD includes other substances naturally present with CBD. However, unlike full spectrum CBD, broad spectrum products do not contain THC.