Short answer: These categories refer to how many cannabinoids and helpful molecules are included in the product. CBD isolates contain only CBD. Broad-spectrum products include a wider range of chemical compounds, and full-spectrum products contain the complete cannabinoid and terpene profiles of the hemp plant.
Long explanation: You type CBD oil in Google and 139 million results pop up. How are you supposed to sort through all of that information? Fear not! After reading this blog, you will know the basics and be able to make the best choice for you and your family.
When you search for CBD oil, you will all kinds of products. Some will contain the words “hemp extract” and a number (such as 1000). Some will have the word “tincture” attached. Others might say “broad spectrum” or “isolate.” It’s very confusing.
Luckily, this is a quick guide to help you make sense of it:
- Hemp Extract. All CBD oils come from the hemp plant (in this post, I talk about the difference between hemp and marijuana. The key difference is the amount of THC.) Most hemp extract is made from hemp seeds, which do not contain CBD. Hemp is beneficial on its own, but if you’re in the market for CBD oil, pass on products called “hemp extract” or “hemp oil.”
- XXX mg. When a number is listed on a CBD oil bottle, it refers to the total amount of active ingredients in the bottle. CBD oil usually ranges from 500mg to 3000mg per bottle.
- CBD Tincture. CBD oil and tinctures are synonymous these days, but they are not the same. Tincture is, by definition, alcohol based. It is made by steeping hemp flowers in alcohol, then applying low heat to extract the cannabinoids. Very few companies are using these kinds of extraction methods anymore as it is challenging to control. Most CBD tinctures that you can purchase in liquid form are actually CBD oil. The base (or carrier oil) is a soft oil such as olive or soy.
After deciding that you would like a specific mg CBD oil, you might encounter labels that say, “Broad-Spectrum extract” or “Full-spectrum CBD oil.” What now? The crucial difference is THC content. Because THC is a controlled substance, the federal and state government regulates how much THC can be present in hemp products. By law, over-the-counter CBD products must contain less than 0.3% THC by weight.
- Full-spectrum CBD products contain CBD, trace amounts of THC and other 80-something cannabinoids. The initial extraction from hemp plant is often full spectrum. THC has psychoactive effects, but hemp contains only small amounts of THC, and will not get you high.
- Broad-spectrum CBD products contain CBD and the other 80 or so cannabinoids, but NO THC. After the initial extraction, a remediation process is put in place to extract THC and leave CBD and other beneficial cannabinoids.
- CBD isolates (or isolate CBD) contain only one cannabinoid: CBD. These are more processed than other oils and have far fewer benefits.
There are advantages and disadvantages of full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD oils. Choosing the right one is personal preference. It depends on your needs and lifestyle. CBD isolates are recommended for people who require high doses (200mg or more) regularly and also might be required to take random drug tests. Full-spectrum and broad-spectrum produces have greater benefits than isolates, and that has to do with entourage effect.
Benefits of the Entourage Effect
Full- and broad-spectrum CBD products are better for the body due to the “entourage effect.” This is a theory that claims the cannabis phytocomplex (cannabinoids being one set of phytocomplex) is more effective in unison than it is when one cannabinoid is used in isolation.
If full-spectrum products are believed to be better for the human body, why are isolates created at all?
One reason is that isolates are water-soluble and therefore easier to control in the manufacturing process. Many topical and ingestible products require that CBD be easily dissolved in water. CBD water and lotions are two examples. CBD isolates also work for people who are frequently subjected to random drug tests. It should be said that the level of THC in hemp CBD is so minuscule that it would likely not trigger a positive drug test, but the most assured way is to not have any THC present in the products you’re considering if that is a concern.
Broad-spectrum CBD products are gaining popularity as they are similar to full-spectrum extracts because they contain many different molecules and offer users the benefits of the entourage effect without any THC.
Now, after deciding that you’d like to purchase a Broad-spectrum CBD product at 1000mg, what else should you consider? The method of administration of course!
A good rule of thumb is CBD oil (or so-called tincture) is more bioavailable than capsules or other forms of CBD. Therefore, you don’t have to use as much per dose.
Because CBD products come in many forms, including tinctures, oils, water, capsules, lotions, salves, and more; many of those usage methods could contain either full spectrum or isolate. Therefore, each product will vary in bioavailability. A substance that is directly injected into the bloodstream is considered 100% bioavailable. A substance is least bioavailable when it passes through the digestive tract. By this definition, does that mean a CBD gummy has less efficacy than CBD oil drops? The answer isn’t so simple. Are the gummies made with an isolate of full-spectrum oil? How many milligrams of CBD do they contain per serving? Are the oil drops are taken sublingually? All those factors need to be taken into consideration when deciding the right method of usage.
Finding the right product mix is a personal journey. Next week I will talk more in detail about bioavailability—how CBD enters the body and our Endocannabinoid System. Both topics should help you decide the best route of administration. See our dosing guide for more information.
Full-spectrum products, which contain all the compounds that contribute to the way a plant smells and tastes, naturally carry on those characteristics. It smells herbaceous and smokey with a slightly bitter taste. Broad-spectrum CBD also has those characteristics, but with less intensity. Isolate CBD has no taste or smell. If taste is a concern, consider broad-spectrum or isolate.
You should expect to pay between $0.05-0.18 per mg for full- and broad-spectrum CBD products from reputable sellers. Isolate products will cost less per milligram, but considering the “entourage effect,” it is likely not an apples-to-apples comparison. Our broad-spectrum CBD oil ranges from $0.05 for lower concentrations to $0.08 for higher.