In recent years, few health sectors have blown up and expanded at the same impressive rate as CBD. The cannabis compound’s promising portfolio of potential health and wellness benefits has made it one of the most popular wellness ingredients all around the world. Consumers can now find a huge number of products infused with or containing CBD in many countries, from Europe and the Americas to Asia and Africa. From CBD oils and tinctures to topicals, edibles, and vape liquids, this cannabinoid truly has taken the health and wellness world by storm. But just as not all these products are the same, neither is the type of CBD used to make them.
As you may have assumed from its huge variety of uses, CBD is one hell of a versatile ingredient. Not only can it be infused into foods, such as CBD gummies, and face creams alike, but it can also be extracted in various ways to make for a more diverse range of products. For example, a customer can buy a CBD oil product in various strengths – that is, the percentage of CBD contained within the product; but they can also choose between full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate CBD. This might sound a little confusing, but don’t worry. We’re going to walk you through what each of these terms means and explain how they are different to one another.
What is CBD and how is it extracted?
CBD is one of over a hundred compounds – called cannabinoids – found in the cannabis plant. Its ever-growing popularity is due to its impressive potential benefits and its natural abundance within the plant. In fact, CBD and THC (the cannabinoid largely responsible for the euphoric ‘high’ often associated with cannabis use) are the two most common cannabinoids. Just like its psychoactive cousin, CBD has demonstrated a number of properties and effects on the human body. These effects are made possible by the cannabinoids’ interaction with the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) – a receptor system expressed throughout our bodies that is involved in various important physiological and cognitive functions, including mood regulation and pain signalling.
Cannabinoids, including CBD, can be extracted from the cannabis plant in various ways. The most used methods are carbon dioxide extraction and solvent extraction.
Carbon dioxide extraction is considered an environmentally friendly way to extract substances. It works by pumping pressurised carbon dioxide into a chamber containing the plant material. This high pressure causes the desired component (in this case, CBD) to become separated from the rest of the plant. Then, once the pressure is reduced, the compounds are released from the carbon dioxide leaving a CBD-rich extract.
Solvent extraction works in a similar way, but a solvent – such as ethanol, butane, or isopropyl alcohol – is used instead of carbon dioxide. When added to the plant material, the solvent penetrates the tissues of the plant and CBD dissolves into it. The solvent is then diffused out of the plant material, bringing the CBD with it.
The initial round of each of these extraction methods yields a full-spectrum CBD extract – which brings us to the three different types of CBD extract: Full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate.
The raw extract that has been taken from the cannabis plant using one of the methods outlined above is rich in not only CBD, but a number of other ingredients, including other cannabinoids and compounds called terpenes. This is known as a full-spectrum extract as it contains much of the full content of the cannabis plant from which it was taken. While some further extraction may be conducted to further refine the product and increase the potency of CBD, the end product will still contain many of these additional components.
This means that products made using full-spectrum CBD will contain traces of THC. The amount of THC present in the final product is usually reduced as in order to comply with current regulations. For example, in the UK, CBD extracts should contain no more than 0.2% THC.
The second type of CBD extract, broad-spectrum CBD, is similar to full-spectrum CBD in that it also contains more than simply pure CBD. In fact, broad-spectrum extracts may contain almost all of the same compounds as a full-spectrum extract – with one or more exceptions. Some manufacturers prefer to remove as much THC as possible from the end product. They may also remove some of the other naturally occurring chemicals in the process, but THC tends to be the target.
This further refinement results in the creation of a broad-spectrum CBD extract – as it contains broadly the same compounds as the plant from which it was taken, but not the full catalogue.
The next stop on the refinement train is complete isolation. As its name suggests, CBD isolate contains only one ingredient – CBD. To achieve this level of purity, the original extract must go through a number of further extraction processes which strip out any unwanted compounds, including all of the other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids that were taken from the original plant.
What are terpenes and flavonoids?
As we have touched upon above, many CBD extracts and the products made with them contain much more than just CBD. In many cases, you may also be consuming a vast range of other cannabinoids as well as other compounds, including terpenes and flavonoids. These compounds are completely natural and completely safe to consume. In fact, some research suggests some of them may have impressive health benefits all of their own (more on this later). So, what exactly are they?
Terpenes are aromatic compounds that are found in almost all plants. They play a huge role in the scent, appearance and flavour of all kinds of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and more! For example, limonene (one of the more common terpenes) is present in citrus fruits – hence why its name was taken from the word lemon! Another similar example is α-pinene, which is found in pine needles.
Flavonoids are another group of natural compounds that are found in most plants. Like cannabinoids and terpenes, they have also been credited with a number of health and wellness benefits, including having anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, anti-mutagenic and anti-carcinogenic properties.
All of these compounds are also found in the cannabis and hemp plant. The combination of terpenes and flavonoids contained within any given plant will contribute to its smell and taste. Along with cannabinoid content, the presence of these different terpenes and flavonoids also helps to characterise different strains of cannabis. Terpenes and flavonoids are routinely infused into a huge variety of products, including skincare, make-up, perfumes, and foods!
So, which type of CBD is the best?
While each of the different types of CBD extract contains varying levels of cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other compounds, determining which product is the best isn’t particularly easy. In many cases, the effects of CBD products can vary significantly from person to person, and, for this reason, some people may notice more benefits from one kind of extract while another person may opt for something completely different.
However, there are some factors that may play a role in your choice when choosing between these three types of extract. First of all, THC content can be a major consideration for many CBD consumers. Even though any legal CBD product should never contain more than 1mg THC in the UK, some people may prefer products that contain only trace amounts of the psychoactive compound. In this case, it is likely that they will choose a broad-spectrum CBD or CBD isolate product. But is there any benefit to choosing broad spectrum over isolate? There is some evidence to suggest that there could be.
The entourage effect
Anecdotal reports and some scientific research suggest that, when taken in combination, secondary cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids may all work together to boost the potential wellness benefits of CBD – and vice versa. This is known as the Entourage Effect. This theory has become generally accepted among many cannabis and CBD consumers; however, clinical evidence is still lacking. This is largely due to persistent restrictions on the study of cannabis in many countries around the world.
Nonetheless, many consumers use this theory to inform their CBD purchases, with many selectively opting for products that contain a balanced selection of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids in combination with the star ingredient – CBD. After all, if one product could potentially be more effective than another, why wouldn’t you go for it?
So, there you have it – the difference between full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD extracts – and with CBD isolate thrown in for good measure! While we can’t directly advise you on which of these product categories will be the best and most effective option for you, experimenting on your own couldn’t be easier. At CBD Guru, we offer a wide range of CBD products, made using all-natural, hemp-derived broad-spectrum extracts as well as CBD isolate products for those that prefer to keep things simple. We’re confident that you will find the perfect product for you – no matter which kind of extract you prefer.