Choosing Between Full Spectrum, Broad Spectrum, and Isolate CBD Oil (Cannabis Hemp Products)

full broad isolate spectrum cbd oils
Hemp-derived products with legal levels of THC have taken cannabis to new sectors of the mainstream economy. In countries like the UK, where recreational cannabis is still illegal, CBD and other cannabinoid products are the only options without a doctor's recommendation. Choosing between full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate cannabinoid products requires knowledge of the current state of the cannabis industry, as well as an understanding of how cannabinoids react with our bodies.

CBD oil makes up the majority of hemp-derived cannabinoid products. In legal markets like the US and Canada, tinctures, vapes, edibles, and topicals are available with high concentrations of THC. These products are available in dispensaries, and users have the choice between a full-plant or isolate product. In the legal hemp-derived market, users choose between these types of extracts:

• Full-spectrum – Full plant extract with THC
• Broad Spectrum – Full plant profile minus THC
• Isolate – Pure or isolated cannabinoid

The three categories were created to meet the demand of CBD oil users. Now that more cannabinoids are available and gaining popularity, consumers have the three options in other types of extracts such as CBN, CBG, and CBC oil.

The Legality of Hemp-Derived Products in the UK

THC is the biggest differentiating factor in the three types of cannabinoid extracts. In the UK, the laws regarding THC content are anything but clear. Many people believe a product is derived from hemp if the THC potency is 0.2% or less; this is actually a common misconception. The UK law states the amount of THC cannot exceed 10mg per container (1).

A study by the Centre for Medical Cannabis (CMC) tested 30 CBD products, finding over 50% tested at higher levels of THC than allowed by law (2). While a product may contain 0.2% THC, if it is in a 30ml tincture, the product will include over 1mg (1).

The amount of THC in the product is essential for multiple reasons. First, there is a belief that the presence of various cannabinoids together creates a synergetic phenomenon known as the 'entourage effect.' Proponents of the occurrence believe that benefits are increase if a cannabinoid is accompanied by other cannabinoids. The other reason is that THC can trigger a positive drug test, even in small amounts.

Full Spectrum Hemp Extract

Full-spectrum products contain other cannabinoids, terpenes, and essential plant oils than the featured cannabinoid (3). A CBD product that is considered full spectrum contains THC and other minor cannabinoids like CBG, CBN, and CBC.

THC and CBD are the most abundant cannabinoids in most raw flower. Other cannabinoids are less abundant in the flowering stage of most species of cannabis plants. However, the demand for other cannabinoids like CBG influences botanists to develop hemp with high levels of chemical compounds. Most CBGa converts to THCa or CBDa during the plant's lifecycle. To create high potency CBG oils, growers can harvest their crops earlier to produce these specific cannabis products. (4)

Full Spectrum Extract Benefits

Companies selling full-spectrum products claim all benefits are increased if the user combines CBD (or another cannabinoid) with other plant compounds. The general consensus in the industry follows this line of thinking, but the extent and mechanism of the increase in benefits are still unknown.

As the cannabis industry matures, understanding the entourage effect is one of the biggest challenges. The traditional procedure government agencies use to approve drugs consists of isolating a compound and testing it against a placebo in human test subjects.

Proving what specific conditions or conditions a full spectrum extract is more equipped to treat is yet to be done; however, THC seems to play a significant role in maximizing benefits.

THC Content

The 1mg per container limit presents a challenge for CBD users looking for the best product possible. While companies that sell full-spectrum products advertise their products as more beneficial than isolates, the extent is yet to be determined.

Broad Spectrum Hemp Extract

Broad-spectrum is a term exclusive to the hemp-derived cannabinoid market. These products contain minor cannabinoids, terpenes, and other essential plant oils but leave behind THC in the extraction process.

Cannabinoid Content

Total cannabinoids are a major determining factor for CBD users who are educated about their products. Finding the number or percentage should be readily available for the consumer through 3rd party lab tests. In theory, a full spectrum or broad-spectrum product will be more beneficial if their total cannabinoid potency and terpene potency numbers are higher.

Isolate Cannabinoid Extract

Isolate products separate the desired compound from the original plant. CBD isolates are most common, but there are also CBG, CBN, and CBC isolates available in the UK.

Isolate Extract Benefits

The industry consensus is that isolate CBD is less beneficial than full or broad-spectrum CBD, however, we don't have data to prove this claim. A small study is underway testing the hypothesis on patients suffering from the anxiety created by COVID-19 by the University of Texas in Austin. The study will complete its data collection in December of 2021. (5)

Research Supporting Full Spectrum Extracts

Full and broad-spectrum retailers support their claim that CBD is more beneficial when combined with other cannabinoids by referencing a 2015 study done in Jerusalem. The study affirmed the belief that isolate CBD creates a bell-shaped response when treating inflammation, meaning there is an optimal dosage window that will deliver the best results.

While the study did support the claim, the full-plant extract performed better when the dosage was increased. Retailers usually fail to mention the extract contains a significant amount of THC (2.2%) far greater than the 1mg allowed in the UK or 0.3% in the US. (6)

How Valuable Are 'Minor' Cannabinoids?

There isn't a clear 'best' option when choosing between the three types of cannabinoid extracts. The consensus in the industry overwhelmingly favours a full-plant extract even in the scientific community. Two of the most well-known cannabis researchers Dr. Raphael Mechoulam and Dr. Ethan Russo, are both proponents of cannabis synergy. The question remains if 1mg of THC and even fewer amounts of minor cannabinoids is making a significant difference. The extracts the esteemed cannabis researchers refer to are more like the extracts found in medical cannabis dispensaries or the extract used in the Jerusalem study. (6)

Our understanding of cannabis is evolving, but we still have a long way to go. Full-spectrum extracts seem to be the most beneficial, even with government regulations hindering the potency levels. More studies like the one conducted in Austin, Texas, are greatly needed to push the industry forward.


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Please note that this article was written by a 3rd-party author who is a specialist on the topic of CBD, hemp and cannabis.  Any information or recommendations contained within this article, are independent to the opinion of RUDERALEX CBD and our employees.  We make no claims for any of our products, please read our disclaimer for additional information.