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As more and more people turn to CBD products to support their health and wellness, it becomes important to find the product that is best suited to your specific needs. Three popular types of products are full spectrum CBD, broad spectrum CBD and CBD isolates and the question we get asked most often is, “What is the difference between full spectrum CBD, broad spectrum CBD and CBD isolate?”

We’re here to answer that question comprehensively, looking at why they’re different, what extraction process is used in the production of each, how they work and their uses.

An Overview of CBD

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a phytocannabinoid that was discovered in 1940, found in both full spectrum and isolate CBD products. It is one of 113 cannabinoids that have been identified in hemp plants, accounting for up to 40% of the plant’s extract. The compound is used in a number of different types of products including tinctures, edibles, lotions, vapes and more.

As an extract from the cannabis plant, it is sometimes confused with marijuana products. The ‘high’ associated with marijuana is due to the high levels of THC which is a psychoactive cannabinoid. However, CBD is extracted from the stalks and leaves of industrial hemp and only contains trace amounts of THC (less than 0.2%) and therefore has no psychoactive effects.

Full spectrum CBD, sometimes referred to as whole plant CBD, contains other compounds that are found in the hemp plant including a range of other Cannabinoids such as Cannabinol (CBN), Cannabigerol (CBG), Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) and Cannabichromevarinic Acid (CBCVA), as well as flavonoids, terpenes and lipids.

Broad spectrum CBD, in contrast, is a relative newcomer bridging the gat between full-spectrum CBD and CBD isolate. It contains a range of phytocompounds including different cannabinoids that is similar to full-spectrum CBD but goes through a further refinement process to remove any presence of THC. Essentially, it is the same as full-spectrum CBD with the THC removed.

Isolate CBD is the purest form of CBD making it a more consistent option than full-spectrum CBD and, because CBD is the only ingredient, for those who are concerned about THC there is not even the smallest amount of the compound in CBD isolate.

The Extraction Process

Full-spectrum CBD is extracted from hemp using one of two main methods, either CO2 or ultrasound extraction. Supercritical CO2 extraction used CO2 as a solvent to extract the oil. The other method that is highly effective is ultrasound extraction. In this process, high-power ultrasound improves the transfer between the sample and the solvent thereby reducing, or removing the need for solvents. It also reduces the extract’s exposure to high temperatures as the process is much quicker which means that damage to the extract is avoided. These methods are preferable to other extraction methods that use ethanol or other chemical compounds in the extraction process and leaving behind a harmful residue.

Broad-spectrum CBD follows the same initial extraction process as full-spectrum CBD but requires further refinement to remove all traces of THC. It’s only been available relatively recently thanks to advances in technology that allow for all THC to be filtered out of the product. In most cases, this is done via a special preparatory chromatography process. It is important to look for a ‘true’ broad-spectrum’ CBD product that has been created by removing THC from full-spectrum CBD and not from CBD isolate that has had cannabinoids and terpenes added back in.

CBD isolate follows this same process, but requires further extraction. Once the CBD has been extracted from the plant, there are also a number of other cannabinoids, turpenes, flavonoids and other compounds present in the extract. To further isolate each individual compound, of which CBD is one, the oil will need to be further distilled using pressure and heat so that the only compound that is left is pure CBD.

The Benefits of Full Spectrum CBD vs Broad Spectrum CBD vs CBD Isolate

Full spectrum is a popular choice for people who want to enjoy the ‘entourage effect’ where the natural compounds in the plant interact together. In this wat they are able to more effectively support health and wellness goals than the compounds would be able to when taken in isolation. Additionally, the other cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids have important health maintenance properties individually.

Full spectrum CBD contains a total of 104 identified cannabinoids, as well as B complex vitamins, antioxidants include vitamins A, C and E, 20 amino acids essential fatty acids (such as omega 3 and omega 6) and minerals such as iron, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, calcium and magnesium.

Broad spectrum removes the risk of any psychoactive effects, especially if you have a sensitivity to THC, or are concerned about consuming even small amounts of the compound due to regular career-related drug screening. It still features the entourage effect as the variety of cannabinoids within the hemp extract work together in synergy to maximise the therapeutic benefits of the CBD. While it is more processed than full-spectrum CBD (due to the removal of THC), it is a less refined product than CBD isolate. It also offers natural support for your physical and mental wellbeing.

CBD isolate also offers a number of unique benefits that mean that it appeals to different people. Because it is in a pure form, the concentration of CBD per dose is higher, and the cost per milligram of the compound CBD comes down. In the extraction process, in addition to the removal of all other compounds, THC is also completely removed which is useful for people who cannot have even the smallest trace of THC in their systems. It is also more consistent than full spectrum CBD as the isolate is 99.9% pure CBD, where the levels of CBD in full spectrum CBD may fluctuate slightly depending on the industrial hemp crop.

Choosing Between Full Spectrum, Broad Spectrum and CBD Isolate

No one option is better than the others as they both have different uses and the choice comes down to individual preference and the use case.

Using full spectrum CBD is considered a more holistic approach where the extraction process is gentler and fewer chemicals are involved. Users also benefits from the ‘entourage effect’ that may improve the product’s efficacy.

Broad spectrum CBD is a good choice if you’re sensitive to THC, or regularly undergo drug testing for your work. It may also be a better option if you are new to CBD and apprehensive about the potential effects of consuming THC. You will still have the full benefits of hemp and the entourage effect but will be able to avoid any THC consumption.

CBD isolate is stripped of most of its nutritional value and biochemical effects as a result of the removal of the other cannabinoids and terpenes. But, isolate is a more controlled, pure method that contains absolutely no THC so there is no chance of it showing up on a drug test.

Keep in mind that whether you choose to use full-spectrum or isolate, they quality of the product is important. The hemp should be organically grown and manufactured, and the company that you buy from should adhere to stringent quality controls and have the results of third-party lab tests available for customers to check. Whether you’re ingesting edibles, using lotions or balms, vaping or consuming a tincture, it is important to only use the best products on the market.

In Summary…

The main difference between full spectrum CBD, broad spectrum CBD and CBD isolate is that isolate is completely pure whereas the other two contain other cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids that aren’t removed in the extraction process. In the UK, full spectrum CBD and broad spectrum CBD are available in a range of products that include tinctures, various types of edibles, topicals and more. CBD isolate is restricted under Novel Food Regulations and cannot be sold or marketed for oral use.

In summary, full spectrum CBD contains a number of other compounds in addition to CBD and is extracted using ultrasound or CO2. Broad spectrum CBD is similar, although it undergoes a further refinement process to remove all traces of THC. Like full spectrum CBD, CBD isolate is also derived from industrial hemp. However, it is further refined to a white powder that contains only CBD.