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Full-Spectrum vs Broad-Spectrum CBD: The Differences

All the CBD options on the market can make you feel like a child in a sweetshop — so many goodies make it hard to decide what to pick! 

The answer to this luxury problem? Narrow your choices down to ensure the CBD products you choose are perfect for your needs. 

If you’re new to cannabidiol, don’t start by picking between CBD gummies, oil, capsules, and other exciting products. Begin by deciding what type of CBD is best for you. 

Feeling lost? You won’t be after reading this guide. 

First Things First: What Are CBD Products?

Cannabis sativa plants harbour more than 100 different phytocannabinoids — naturally-occurring compounds that act on the endocannabinoid system in the human body. 

The two most well-known and abundant cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). While THC is famous for its mind-altering effects, CBD is the primary non-psychoactive compound in Cannabis sativa

THC is most abundant in Cannabis sativa plants classified as marijuana, while industrial hemp plants have much higher concentrations of CBD. It’s no surprise that most CBD products are extracted from industrial hemp plants, which have been cultivated to contain very low amounts of THC. (More specifically, up to 0.02 per cent in Europe and the UK, and 0.03 per cent in the United States.)

CBD has grown in popularity since the UK designated it a “novel food product” in 2019. Consumers can incorporate CBD products into their personal wellness routines in various ways. CBD oil, capsules, and gummies are just the start. People who choose CBD products do so mainly for the cannabidiol — but unless you choose CBD isolate products, your CBD products contain other cannabinoids and compounds, too.

A Closer Look at the Compounds in Full-Spectrum CBD

Cannabidiol is the primary compound found in full-spectrum CBD products, mostly extracted from the upper third of industrial hemp plants. However, full-spectrum CBD also contains numerous other compounds, including many cannabinoids you also find in marijuana plants!

Let’s take a look:

  • Cannabinol (CBN) is another non-psychoactive cannabinoid found more abundantly in mature hemp plants.
  • Cannabigerol (CBG) is a minor cannabinoid found in full-spectrum CBD products in low concentrations.
  • Cannabichromene (CBC) has some anti-fungal effects and may be one of the hemp plant’s defence mechanisms against plant diseases. It does not bind to the CB1 or CB2 receptors in your endocannabinoid system.
  • Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) has similar effects to CBD.
  • Full-spectrum CBD oil has a rich nutritional profile, offering a host of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and proteins. 
  • Full-spectrum CBD products are rich in terpenes, best described as naturally-occurring plant chemicals that influence flavour, aroma, and colour. The unique terpenes found in industrial hemp enhance a consumer’s experience. 
  • Flavonoids are rich antioxidants present in plants.
  • Natural essential oils are extracted from industrial hemp to manufacture CBD products, and full-spectrum CBD products retain them.

Finally, full-spectrum CBD products contain some THC. The industrial hemp plants cultivated in the Eurozone can’t have a THC content higher than 0.02 per cent, while products made in the US can have a little more (0.03 per cent). In both cases, this very modest THC content is highly unlikely to produce any psychoactive effects.

How Is Broad-Spectrum CBD Oil Different?

Broad-spectrum CBD products start off as full-spectrum products. A process called chromatography is used to remove the modest THC content from full-spectrum CBD products during further processing. This process can also eliminate other cannabinoids while retaining terpenes, flavonoids, and essential oils.

Broad-spectrum CBD products often don’t contain any THC at all. Trace amounts may be present after processing, but they do not have any psychoactive potential.

What About CBD Isolate?

CBD isolate is a pure CBD product that doesn’t contain other cannabinoids. This process is called winterisation. 

CBD isolate products are best suited for people who want to experiment with cannabidiol but do not wish to consume any other cannabinoids. Interestingly, CBD isolates are often extracted from marijuana plants, unlike full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD products.

Full-Spectrum CBD vs Broad-Spectrum CBD: Which Is Better?

First-time cannabidiol consumers may have trouble deciding whether to choose full-spectrum CBD, broad-spectrum CBD, or indeed CBD isolate. 

The answer comes down to personal preference. Savvy consumers certainly benefit from informing themselves about the individual cannabinoids and terpenes full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD products come packed with. This process can help determine which CBD product best suits an individual’s needs. 

The Entourage Effect

Many people choose full-spectrum CBD products precisely because of their rich cannabinoid profile and because they retain so many terpenes and flavonoids. 

Some studies suggest that these diverse compounds work together, a process commonly called the encourage effect. However, research into the entourage effect remains ongoing, and no specific claims can be made about it at the moment.

Full-Spectrum CBD and Positive Drug Tests

Some people avoid full-spectrum CBD products because they worry that the modest amount of THC in these products may lead to a positive drug test. That is a valid concern.

While authorised CBD products with a THC content of 0.02 per cent are legally available in Britain without a prescription, some professionals have employers that require regular drug tests. 

Consuming full-spectrum CBD products a few times is unlikely to lead to a positive THC test. On the other hand, there have been reports suggesting that long-term use of full-spectrum CBD products may cause this effect as THC builds up in the consumer’s system.

Those who are worried about the possibility of a drug test that’s positive for THC may want to stay away from full-spectrum CBD products. Choosing CBD isolate products may be the best choice in this case.

Potential Health Benefits

As always, it’s important to remember that CBD products are classed as novel food products in the UK. People may choose to consume CBD to support their overall health and wellbeing, but no claims can be made about the potential medicinal benefits of any CBD product. Consumers shouldn’t use CBD to attempt to prevent, cure, or treat a specific medical condition. 

Consumers can certainly take a peek at the research emerging from many corners of the world, but they should always consult their GP before making significant dietary changes.

Shopping for CBD Products

Once you decide whether you prefer full-spectrum CBD or broad-spectrum CBD, it’s time to go shopping!

Some of the most popular CBD products include:

  • CBD oil. Available as a full-spectrum or broad-spectrum product, CBD oil is extremely versatile. It comes in small bottles with droppers, and consumers measure the desired dose themselves. CBD oil can be held under the tongue for 60 to 90 seconds, but it’s also possible to add CBD oil to cooking recipes or skincare products.
  • CBD capsules. These softgel capsules are easy to swallow with water and may contain full-spectrum or broad-spectrum CBD.
  • CBD gummies and other edibles can be made with full-spectrum or broad-spectrum CBD and add a little sweetness to your life.
  • CBD tinctures use alcohol, rather than oil, as their base. This liquid product is used sublingually, or you could add it to a hot bath.

Whichever CBD product calls out to you, the manufacturer should clearly state whether it is a full-spectrum or broad-spectrum CBD product. Reputable CBD manufacturers will also tell you about their extraction process and often carry third-party certifications that help consumers choose suitable products. 

Full-Spectrum vs Broad-Spectrum CBD: A Final Word

Full-spectrum CBD products are generally extracted from industrial hemp plants — Cannabis sativa plants that naturally have a very low THC content. Besides cannabidiol, they contain a whole host of minor cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and essential oils. Full-spectrum CBD products may also have a THC content of up to 0.02 per cent in the UK. 

Some consumers actively prefer full-spectrum CBD products, which have rich nutritional profiles. They may be after the so-called entourage effect. 

People who don’t want to consume anything but trace amounts of THC are better off choosing a broad-spectrum CBD product. Broad-spectrum CBD has even less THC but still retains many of the same components found in full-spectrum products. 



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