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Full Spectrum CBD, Broad Spectrum CBD, and CBD Isolate: What Makes The 3 Types Different?

If you’re new to cannabidiol (CBD) products, you’ve likely noticed that the various products on the market contain different forms of CBD. The three main types are full spectrum CBD, broad spectrum CBD, and CBD isolate. But what’s the difference and how can you decide which type is best for you?

All these types of CBD are derived from the hemp plant. Their differences lie in how the CBD is extracted, its composition, and what it is used for. So, follow along to learn more about the three types of CBD, their main differences and properties, and the answers to some frequently asked questions.

Full Spectrum CBD, Broad Spectrum CBD, and CBD Isolate: What’s the Difference? The Short Answer

In this section, we will take a brief look at the properties, pros and cons of these 3 types of CBD.

CBD Isolate

CBD isolate is a pure, crystalline form of CBD. During the extraction process of the CBD from hemp plants, all other cannabinoids, terpenes, plant materials, and other compounds are removed, leaving only the isolated CBD in its purest form.

CBD isolate typically comes in the form of a white, powdery substance and contains 99% pure CBD. This high level of purity makes CBD isolate a popular choice for those who want to experience the potential therapeutic benefits of CBD without the presence of other cannabinoids or compounds found in the cannabis plant.

Pros:

  • Doesn’t contain tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis (CBD isolate must legally contain less than 0.3% THC)
  • No risk of getting high or failing a drug test
  • No odor or flavor
  • Precise dosing
  • The purest and most concentrated form of CBD
  • Versatile and can be taken with other prescriptions or oils
  • Unlikely to have side effects

Cons:

  • Won’t cause the entourage effect
  • Limited therapeutic range due to lack of other compounds
  • More intensive processing to isolate the CBD

Best For:

  • Those sensitive to other compounds found in cannabis
  • Users who can’t afford to risk failing a drug test
  • Those who prefer a tasteless and odorless product
  • Animals
  • Those living in areas with harsh THC or cannabis laws

Broad Spectrum CBD

Broad-spectrum CBD is a type of CBD extract that contains a variety of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other beneficial compounds found in the cannabis plant, with one notable exception: it is free of THC. Unlike CBD isolate, broad-spectrum CBD retains a more diverse range of cannabinoids and other plant components.

The idea behind broad-spectrum CBD is to offer users the potential benefits of multiple cannabis compounds, including the entourage effect (synergistic interaction between the various cannabinoids that may increase their benefits) without the psychoactive effects associated with THC. This makes broad-spectrum CBD a popular choice for individuals who want to experience the effects of various cannabinoids without consuming THC.

It’s important to note that the exact composition of broad-spectrum CBD products can vary depending on the extraction process and the source of the hemp. Always check product labels for information on cannabinoid content and other compounds.

Pros:

  • Doesn’t contain THC
  • Can cause the entourage effect
  • Less processed than CBD isolate
  • Won’t cause you to get high

Cons:

  • The most neglected variety of CBD in the industry, and thus less researched and harder to find
  • Has a noticeable scent of hemp

Best For:

  • People whose conditions require more care than isolate can provide
  • Those who want to experience the entourage effect but not consume THC
  • New CBD users
  • Those living in areas with harsh THC or cannabis regulations

Full Spectrum CBD

Full spectrum CBD is a type of CBD extract that contains a wide array of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other beneficial compounds naturally present in the cannabis plant. This type of CBD retains the full spectrum of cannabinoids, including a small amount of THC up to the legal limit of 0.3%.

The combination of these various compounds is believed to produce an entourage effect, where the combined effects and interactions enhance the overall therapeutic effects of the CBD.

Full spectrum CBD is often preferred by those who believe in the holistic benefits of the entire cannabis plant and want to experience the potential therapeutic effects of a broader range of cannabinoids. However, individuals subject to drug testing or those sensitive to THC may prefer to avoid it. As with any CBD product, it’s essential to check product labels and certificates of analysis to understand the cannabinoid content and ensure compliance with legal THC limits.

Pros:

  • Causes the entourage effect
  • The least processed and most “raw” of all the types of CBD
  • Contains all the compounds in hemp plants, which all work together harmoniously

Cons:

  • May trigger a false positive in drug tests
  • Is often misunderstood because of its THC content
  • Has a noticeable scent of hemp

Best For:

  • Users who want the full benefits of CBD/hemp
  • Those who suffer from conditions that broad spectrum or isolate CBD have not helped with
  • Those living in areas where cannabis is legal
CBD Questions

The Entourage Effect Explained

We’ve talked a lot about the entourage effect that broad spectrum and full spectrum CBD can provide. But what is it? Despite its fancy name, the entourage effect is actually a simple concept. It refers to how all the compounds in cannabis interact with one another to enhance the potential benefit your body can receive from them. Many of the compounds in cannabis are thought to contributes to health and wellness, and together they can be even more powerful.

Because of the effect, you’ll often see a full spectrum CBD product priced higher than an isolate counterpart. It’s also more challenging for manufacturers to maintain a consistent ratio of all the compounds in their products, so the production costs are higher too.

We know that the entourage effect works and is beneficial, but this knowledge is relatively new. As recently as 2015, we thought isolate was the way to go, but this was debunked in a study by the Lautenberg Center for General Tumor Immunology in Jerusalem.

The center treated their subjects with both isolate and true full spectrum CBD and found that the latter provided more improvements than the former, leading to the conclusion that the range of cannabinoids in full spectrum CBD is more effective. Their effectiveness increases with increased dosage, whereas the effects of isolate tend to stagnate even as the dosage is increased.

CBD Extraction Explained

All CBD products are made from hemp, but to make different types of CBD, manufacturers have to choose what to filter out from hemp and what to leave in.

How Is CBD Extracted?

Manufacturers extract CBD by dissolving the hemp plant in a solvent, most commonly in supercritical carbon dioxide (CO2), ethanol, or a hydrocarbon solvent such as butane or propane.

Supercritical CO2 is the most popular method for CBD extraction in general, but we’ll look at the three methods for comparison as different methods can yield different results.

Supercritical Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

Supercritical CO2 extraction is one of the more “scientific” methods of extracting CBD from hemp. This method gives us a lot of control over which compounds to isolate and keep in the final CBD product.

The science behind this lies in the word “supercritical.” This is a state that happens to the CO2 under precise pressures and temperatures. This state gives CO2 properties of both liquids and gases and, importantly for this process, the ability to dissolve and act as a solvent.

Advanced machines give manufacturers a lot of control over the physical properties of supercritical CO2 to target the exact compounds that we want the CO2 molecules to bond with.

The main drawback of supercritical CO2 is that it requires surgical precision to get the desired results, and it can take a very long time due to fluctuations in pressure and temperature.

Ethanol

There are many ways to extract CBD using ethanol, and it would take an entire article to go over them all in detail. Generally, though, the process involves heating a large quantity of hemp until a specific process called decarboxylation starts. This process is used to extract the desired compounds from the plants.

One of the more popular ethanol extraction methods is the Soxhlet technique, which involves boiling the ethanol in a jar or flask and then condensing it on a cold surface to drip through the hemp. This process extracts the cannabinoids and terpenes, and it is swift and efficient.

Hydrocarbon Solvent

The most common hydrocarbon solvent for extracting CBD from cannabis is butane hash oil, but other hydrocarbons such as propane or even a blend of two or more can also work just as well.

Butane is ideal for CBD extraction because it boils at the low point of 30.2°F (-1°C), so it can be used as a liquified gas to extract volatile terpenes from the hemp without wasting them.

The first part of the process is washing the hemp with liquified butane or another hydrocarbon, which will dissolve the cannabis to produce a waxy solution. These waxes will need to be removed using another method such as winterization, which we’ll discuss below in our section on CBD refinement.

Once the wax is removed, the manufacturer runs the liquid through additional refinement processes to eliminate excess waste. This method is the most tedious and time-consuming, but it does have its benefits, including giving manufacturers a lot of control over what compounds they want to extract by tweaking the hydrocarbon solvent accordingly.

CBD Refinement

After extraction, the crude CBD extract will often contain some undesired residuals such as plant wax, fats, and lipids. This is why refinement methods such as winterization, distillation, and decarboxylation are used to purify the CBD before it reaches consumers.

Refinement processes are relatively easy and straightforward. For example, in winterization, the CBD is frozen with 200 proof alcohol for a night. The CBD-alcohol solution is run through a filter paper, then re-heated to remove unwanted alcohol.

Who Should Use Each Type of CBD?

Now that you understand the different types, you might be wondering what type of CBD you should choose for yourself. Is fullspectrum CBD best for you, or should you choose broad spectrum or isolate? Well, it depends on your needs and situation. Let’s look at which types are best for which users.

CBD Isolate

Because it’s not as potent as the other types, I wouldn’t recommend CBD isolate for most people since there’s a high likelihood that it won’t have much of an effect on them.

However, there’s still an audience for isolate. It mainly consists of two groups: new users who are still getting into CBD products, and those who need to use large amounts of CBD without overdosing on the other compounds.

Perhaps surprisingly, CBD isolate may also have some benefits for cats and dogs. Of course, always consult your vet before using any CBD products on your pet.

Broad Spectrum CBD

For users for whom isolate is not potent enough, but who want to avoid the THC content of full spectrum CBD, broad spectrum CBD may be the way to go.

Broad spectrum is similar to full spectrum CBD and offers many of the same benefits. The only difference is the lack of THC, so it’s an ideal choice if you live in an area with harsh THC regulations, are sensitive to THC, or just a first time user and nervous of ingesting THC.

Full Spectrum CBD

The maximum potential of CBD and the various other beneficial compounds found in hemp lies in full spectrum CBD. Full spectrum CBD is what I recommend for those with more severe symptoms and for those who can enjoy it because they live somewhere where THC is legal (or conditionally legal, such as in the US where THC is legal in trace amounts up to 0.3%.)

The best fullspectrum CBD products will allow you to enjoy the full benefits of the entourage effect.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you now have a solid idea about the three main types of CBD, what makes them different, and which one is likely to be best for your needs. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us. Otherwise, please check out our store of premium CBD products which include full spectrum CBD and broad spectrum CBD products.

About the Writer

Shelley W.

Shelly is Saha's Head of the Editorial Team. In addition to personally contributing blog articles, Shelly is responsible for sourcing new writers and editing their work. Shelly is driven by her passion to educate about cannabinoid relief while finding ways to support those most impacted by the industry. Shelly has a degree in Media Communications and is currently working on a Masters in Digital Media and Integrity.

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