While shopping around for CBD products, you may have noticed that some products are labeled full spectrum, while others are labeled broad spectrum or isolate. What does any of this mean, though? Does it make a difference? Will you be able to tell? In this article, we will get into the details of what is full spectrum, as well as the other types of extracts and how they might benefit you.
Full spectrum, broad spectrum, distillates, and isolates are names referring to different types of cannabis extracts. These names denote the amounts of plant-produced chemicals in addition to the main cannabinoids (CBD/THC) in the extract.
Before we can break down the separation of phytocannabinoid levels in the varying extract types, you need to understand a little bit about how the body works with these compounds.
Phytocannabinoids & The Endocannabinoid System (ECS)
The ECS regulates and controls some of our most important functions like sleep, inflammatory and immune responses, learning and memory, pain reception, and appetite. In addition to these natural functions of the ECS in your body, this is the system that also allows you to reap the benefits of cannabis products.
Today’s cannabis users want to know what works for them and why. And the why is entirely tied to the ECS — if you’ve got the time and willpower, you can peruse a lifetime’s worth of science on the subject (it’s stacking up faster than you could get through it). But most of us just want the quick answer.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t exist on this subject. You see, the ECS is almost like a fingerprint — it’s entirely unique to you and your body chemistry. Figuring out how different cannabis profiles affect you ultimately must be a trial and error process. Fortunately, more is known about the positive effects of multiple cannabinoids paired together than isolated cannabinoids alone.
The Entourage Effect
Full spectrum cannabis products are all about the entourage effect. The naturally-occurring cannabis plant has over 100 known cannabinoids, as well as other terpenes, flavonoids, and phytochemicals. The entourage effect, a term coined in 1988 by Raphael Mechoulam, describes that cannabis products perform more favorably when they have the entire profile of naturally occurring cannabinoids and phytochemicals.
Simply put, the entourage effect states that the sum of cannabis is worth more than its parts alone. Think about music — while a guitar might be nice on its own, the real feeling comes from the whole band together — that’s the magic. And that’s the magic of cannabis products — the plant, as it occurs naturally, with all of its parts, tends to work in wonderful harmony with the ECS and produce therapeutic benefits.
But, as we know, that lovely plant is still illegal in many places. Further, there are many people who simply cannot, or do not like to, smoke cannabis in the traditional way. These are some of the reasons these cannabis extract products are in use.
All full spectrum, broad spectrum, and isolate extracts must be created from the cannabis plant. Some sort of process must be used to separate the cannabinoids from other plant matter.
Typically, this happens by two types of processes, though many products use elements of both.
- Solvent — This process works by dissolving the cannabis material in the liquid solvent, which is then evaporated, leaving only a pure resin extract — ideally, with as little leftover solvent present as possible.
- Mechanical — Cannabinoid oils can be mechanically separated without the use of a solvent by temperature or pressure changes. These methods are popular because of the elimination of the possibility of having leftover solvent in the final product, and the possibility of creating extracts at home — without dangerous and highly flammable solvents.
Full Spectrum CBD
Full Spectrum CBD means that the product has retained the chemical makeup of the plant’s original cannabinoid, terpene, and phytochemical profile, including THC. A perfect full spectrum CBD product has removed all of the extraneous plant material and lipids while retaining its exact ratios of phytochemicals from the original plant material. Full spectrum products give the greatest benefit of the entourage effect.
True full spectrum products are less available than you’d think — most extracts see significant destruction of many of the plant’s original terpenes and flavonoids. However, real full spectrum products absolutely do exist, often having a very dark color and an earthy or vegetal taste. Even in cannabis-illegal states, full spectrum extracts exist, they just must have a THC content of under 0.3%.
Broad Spectrum CBD
Broad spectrum extracts are those that maintain a high level of native phytocannabinoids from the original plant material, with the exception of THC. These products still allow for some access to the benefits of the entourage effect.
Often, broad spectrum CBD products are extracted from hemp (cannabis plants containing less than 0.3% THC.). Alternatively, cannabinoids, flavonoids, and other terpenes can be added to CBD isolate to produce broad-spectrum CBD. Or, THC can be isolated and removed from full spectrum extracts to create a broad spectrum product.
Broad spectrum products are generally lighter in color than their full spectrum counterparts, though they generally retain a similar flavor profile, although possibly less “hempy.”
Opposite full spectrum products, distillate is aimed at creating a product that contains only one selected cannabinoid. These extracts start out with cannabis plant material, often undergo the solvent extraction process, and then a process of distillation, sometimes multiple times, to further purify the product.
The purest form of cannabis extract, isolate, aims to have a 99.9% purity of one specific cannabinoid. These extracts are created similarly to the distillate process, except there are further solvent steps after the distillation process to ensure supreme purity.
What Is Full Spectrum? CBD Extract Breakdown — A Final Word
So which extract is right for you? Both full spectrum and broad spectrum extracts are going to offer you access to the entourage effect, while distillates and isolates are going to deliver an exact product. It may take a little trial and error to find the product that is right for you.
If you’ve got questions we didn’t answer about extracts, or when you’re ready to explore our wide array of products — come on into any one of our 7 Mr. Nice Guys locations throughout Corpus Christi and talk to our knowledgeable staff. And as always, have a nice daze!