Setting out to buy CBD products for the first time can be a confusing process. There are a wide number of terms out there used to sell CBD – full-spectrum, whole plant, extraction method, isolate, broad spectrum… the list goes on. Without the proper education it’s easy to get lost, or worse, buy a product that isn’t right for you.In this article we are going to walk you through a couple of key terms you need to understand when purchasing CBD: full-spectrum and isolate. Understanding these terms and will help you find a quality, effective CBD product that provides a high level of benefits. Additionally we are going to dive deeper than most other sites out there and discuss broad spectrum products and the raw non-activated acid spectrum forms available. Let’s get started!
Where Does CBD Come From?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of many cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant which includes both marijuana and hemp. Other cannabinoids include THC, CBN, and CBC. CBD and THC are the two primary phytocannabinoids in the plant.Different strains of marijuana & hemp have different cannabinoid profiles This means they contain different amounts of individual cannabinoids in them. These strains are purpose-bred by cannabis growers depending on their application.Generally, marijuana is high in THC and low in CBD in order to produce the euphoric ‘high’ associated with smoking pot. Hemp is the other way around and is high in CBD and low in THC. This is important because everyday CBD users often don’t want the psychoactive effects. Because of this, hemp is the most popular source of extraction for CBD products because of its low THC profile.It’s also important to understand that CBD is found throughout the entire cannabis plant. Though there are some parts of the plant that contain minimal amounts. For example, the stalks and seeds of hemp contain almost no cannabidiol. Because of this, it’s important to look for CBD extracted from the whole plant.
How is CBD Extracted?
CBD and other cannabinoids are extracted from cannabis using one of several methods. These methods include alcohol extraction using butane, hexane, or ethanol or CO2 extraction.The cheaper alcohol extraction methods using butane or hexane produce a less desirable CBD product. This is because these methods leave trace amounts of carcinogenic compounds like formaldehyde in the extracted oil. The more costly CO2 extraction method is preferred because it produces a cleaner and ultimately healthier oil. There are also a couple of methods of CO2 extraction: supercritical extraction which uses a lower temperature and subcritical extraction which uses a higher temperature.Extracting oil at a lower temperature is preferred because prevents the possible loss of cannabinoids in the extraction process. As we will soon discuss, maintaining these cannabinoids is important!
What is Full-Spectrum CBD Extract?
Full Spectrum is the term is used to describe an which contains a full range cannabinoid and terpene profile. This profile will provide the highest level of entourage effectiveness. Assuming a high-quality extraction method was used properly, the chemical contents of a full-spectrum extract will closely mirror that of the plant.
When looking for a full-spectrum product, it’s important to look for test results showing the percentages of each cannabinoid in the product. Reputable CBD companies will provide this information for all of their products.
Full Spectrum Lab Test Example:
ND = None Detected
Full Spectrum CBD Contains THC
A full spectrum oil will contain THC, though in most cases the levels are very low. This is because most CBD oil is extracted from low-THC industrial hemp (Less than 0.3% by dry weight) rather than from high-THC marijuana. Most companies selling CBD online will adhere to these standards.
At low levels, these THC containing products won’t produce a ‘high’ when used at regular dosages. Be sure to look for test results before purchasing any CBD product to ensure that you know what you’re taking.
What are Raw Cannabinoids?
When an extract is created from hemp using a low-temperature method like supercritical CO2 extraction, the resulting products contain non-activated acid forms of the cannabinoids. A product containing just these cannabinoids is known as a raw spectrum product.
These ‘non-activated’ acid forms have different effects on the body than their ‘activated’ non-acid counterparts. For example, THCA is non-psychoactive while THC is. In order to convert the raw form to an active form, an extract must be decarboxylated. Through a heating process, the acid molecule is removed and you are left with the ‘activated’ non-acid form.
The acid forms of cannabinoids found in CBD products include:
- CBDA (Cannabidiolic acid)
- THCA (Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid)
- CBGA (Cannabigerolic acid)
Though there is limited research available, there are some reports that point to these acid forms providing specific health benefits. Because of this, many users seek out blended products which include both the acid and non-acid forms of the cannabinoids.
A raw extract is sometimes combined with a decarboxylated extract to create either blended full spectrum products.
What is Broad Spectrum CBD?
You may find some products out there advertised as broad-spectrum. Broad spectrum products contain a limited cannabinoid profile. Most often this term is used to describe products which have the THC removed. These products provide most of the entourage benefits of a full spectrum product without the need for a user to ingest THC.
Broad Spectrum Lab Test Example:
ND = None Detected
What is CBD Isolate?
Cannabidiol can be isolated down to the single molecule. The resulting CBD isolate is a white powder, often found in very high (99%+) concentrations. This isolate may be added to a variety of carriers for human consumption. Often, this isolate is added to MCT oil and labeled for sale. Be careful not to confuse this with a full-spectrum oil.
When looking at a cannabinoid profile test, an isolate will register only for CBD and nothing else. This isolate will also dissolve in liquid and can be added to a wide range of products where oil would not be appropriate.
The naturally occurring terpenes are removed during the processing required to make an isolate. Because these terpenes are used to provide the entourage effect, some companies will add terpenes back into an isolate to make a product commonly referred to as a terpsolate.
Isolate Lab Test Example:
ND = None Detected
Full-Spectrum, Broad Spectrum or Isolate – Which is More Effective?
Groundbreaking research from Israel published in 2015 concluded that the synergistic effects of a full spectrum cannabinoid profile are superior. The study concluded that full-spectrum CBD was more effective in the treatment of inflammatory conditions in mice than single-molecule CBD isolate. (1) This full spectrum benefit is commonly referred to as the ‘entourage effect’.Unfortunately, there are many users who cannot have any THC due to being subject to drug testing. Until recently an isolated form of CBD was the only option for these users. Today, however, broad-spectrum products have entered the market enabling the entourage effect for this group. These products offer maximum therapeutic potential without the risk of THC exposure.For more information on this topic, see our article which compares broad-spectrum CBD against isolates.
Always Check the Lab Results!
Today’s labeling can be confusing and many less-desirable brands are labeling their products deceptively. The only surefire way to know what is in your CBD product is to check for lab results. The best CBD brands online are providing not only product level but also batch level reports from 3rd party labs. You should look for these reports to ensure you know exactly what is in the CBD products that you’re taking.