One of the most common questions our nurses are asked during CBD consultations is: What’s the difference between full-spectrum, broad spectrum, and isolate extracts? All the ins and outs and definitions and formats can get confusing, we know.
And that’s why we have nurse Jodi Chapin, a #420RN and cannabis nursing specialist. She’s also the resident RN here at Irie Bliss Wellness, and a cannabis and CBD patient herself, so she understands we all have different levels of CBD experience and knowledge.
“Everybody has a health issue they’re trying to improve, and many of us are turning to alternative plant medicines like cannabis and CBD to help,” says nurse Jodi. “It’s important to understand the different types of extracts and how they may help you or interact with other medicines and conditions. Pregnancy, certain diagnoses, your age, previous cannabis experience, and drug test issues will all play a role into whether a full spectrum, broad spectrum, or isolate is best for you.”
We’ll dig in to fuller definitions and benefits of full spectrum vs. broad vs. isolate in a minute, but let’s start at the top:
What is a cannabinoid?
The cannabis plant is made up of several organic compounds, including cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and essential oils. Among the 100+ different cannabinoids (pronounced kuh-nab-eh-noid) found in hemp and marijuana strains, the two most common are the two (surprise!) you’ve likely heard of:
- Cannabidiol — aka CBD, which provides myriad health benefits and is non-intoxicating though still mood enhancing (pronounced kanna-beh-dial)
- Tetrahydrocannabinol — that long mouthful you probably know better as THC, which is a VERY psychoactive cannabinoid in the cannabis plant (pronounced tet-ruh-hi-dro-ka-nab-eh-dol)
The effects of CBD and THC on our endocannabinoid system are well studied. Scientists are also studying four other cannabinoids for medicinal benefits. These round out the “Big Six”:
- CBG / Cannabigerol
- CBN / Cannabinol
- CBC / Cannabichromene
- THCv / Tetrahydrocannabivarin
Which type of CBD extract is right for you?
Essentially, all CBD products can be categorized into one of 3 extract types: full spectrum, broad spectrum, and isolate. Simply put, think of them as containing “all,” “most,” or “one select” of the cannabinoids.
A quick visual exercise/shortcut: picture the 100+ cannabinoids in hemp as being a rainbow – or spectrum, as it were. Full spectrum has all the colors of the hemp rainbow, broad spectrum has most of the colors, and isolates have one single “isolated” color (hint: it’s green!).
Now let’s dig in.
Full spectrum definition
Full-spectrum extracts contain all phytochemicals naturally found in the plant — that means CBD, THC, other trace minor cannabinoids, terpenes, and essential oils. Full-spectrum extracts from hemp contain a negligible amount of THC content — below 0.3%.
Benefits of full-spectrum CBD: In two words: the entourage effect. This is the natural phenomenon where the full spectrum of active compounds extracted from hemp work together to amplify the health benefits of each individual cannabinoid.
“My first suggestion in working with new clients is to start them on a full-spectrum product, because it has that wonderful entourage effect,” says nurse Jodi. “This includes trace amounts of THC, which boost the effects of all the other cannabinoids and terpene compounds. Oftentimes some people — especially elderly people — hear the word ‘THC,’ and avoid it. But full-spectrum products have near-zero psychoactive effects. Old or young, our bodies respond positively to the entourage effect because of its lock-and-key mechanism on the endocannabinoid system.”
Although non-psychoactive, full-spectrum CBD is not recommended for pregnant women, children, or people who are drug tested.
Products: Many Irie Bliss Wellness products contain full-spectrum extracts, including:
Irie Bliss Liquid Sunshine CBD Tincture: The limited-edition 2000mg Liquid Sunshine is handcrafted small batch CBD by Irie Bliss, in partnership with Black Horse Hemp Farm in Vermont and our extractor in Maine. This CBD tincture drop formula contains a proprietary terpene blend and comes in 3 other sizes: 300mg, 600mg, or 1200mg.
Apothecary Care Water Soluble CBD Tincture: This nano-emulsified liquid concentrate is perfect for your morning smoothie or evening chamomile tea. If you want to drink your CBD, always look for “water-soluble CBD” on the label, because CBD has to be specially formulated to dissolve in liquids. Our favorite choice for “mocktails” to unwind at the end of the day when foregoing the after-work wine.
Broad spectrum definition
Broad-spectrum extracts contain cannabidiol (CBD) and all the other compounds in the plant, except THC. THC is completely removed after the initial extraction.
Benefits of broad spectrum CBD: Broad spectrum extracts contain multiple minor cannabinoids and other beneficial plant compounds so they also produce the “entourage effect,” but without the THC.
“If you’re worried about drug testing, or if you’ve previously experienced sensitivity to the cannabinoid THC, I would suggest starting on a broad-spectrum formula,” says nurse Jodi. “Broad-spectrum extracts are also often the first choice for parents starting their children on a cannabis regimen when seeking natural alternatives to conventional medications. It is also the safest way to introduce CBD to pets, since animals can be sensitive to THC.”
Products: Looking for a broad spectrum CBD product? We got you! Here are a few options:
Immune Boom 500mg CBD Tincture: Infused with our signature terpene profile, as well as echinacea, elderberry & vitamin C, this fruity-tart formula sets you up to fight the winter cold season.
Spirit Animal Irie Bliss CBD Pet Tinctures: Containing wild Alaskan salmon oil and CBD, this has been one of our most successful lines. Humans see the difference in the quality of life of their fur friends almost immediately!
CBD isolates contain only the cannabidiol (CBD) cannabinoid. CBD isolate is THC-free and usually 99% pure, meaning that one gram of isolate powder carries about 990 mg of CBD. You can now procure many of the minor cannabinoids in an isolated form.
Benefits of CBD isolate: “CBD isolates are great for amplifying the effects of another cannabis medicine, be it a THC, full, or broad spectrum product. If something is higher in THC, but you want to minimize the psychoactive effects, an isolate is the perfect way to counterbalance things,” says nurse Jodi. “CBD isolates do not offer an entourage effect though, so if you don’t notice relief on an isolate, try switching to a broad or full spectrum formula.”
Isolates are commonly used for pain, anxiety, insomnia, inflammation, and epilepsy, and can also be a good choice for children, pregnant women, or for those concerned with failing a drug test. The benefits of isolates can be felt at up to 25mg per serving, but are shown to level off at higher doses.
Products: Examples of our isolate products are:
Goddess CBD Massage Oil: This is our essential massage oil, virtually odorless, and safe to use externally during massages or (oooh la la) internally. It can also be used on any swollen or painful area. Great for everything, from under-eye puffiness to diaper rash to soothe irritated skin from burns, scrapes, or bites.
Goddess Vegan CBD Gummies: Our very own signature vegan gummy, containing 10mg of CBD from isolate. It is a great starting product to see how you react to CBD.
“Understanding formulas, extracts, and carrier modes can be overwhelming. Always ask questions and make sure you’re making an educated and informed decision. You are your best advocate, and it is up to you to inform — and maybe even educate — your primary care providers,” says nurse Jodi. “If you’re looking for an alternative way to live your best life and become more educated on plant medicine, we’re here to help.”