If you’re just starting your CBD journey, it’s important to start with the basics. This includes understanding the difference between full spectrum, broad spectrum and isolate products. By doing so, it will be much easier for you to choose specific CBD products that best fit your needs.
Full spectrum or “whole plant” products are the most popular. They also generally have the best track record in terms of effectiveness based on user feedback. Unlike broad spectrum and isolate products, full spectrum products contain all of the naturally-occurring compounds in cannabis. This includes trace amounts of THC along with a wide array of other cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids.
The reason that full spectrum products may be the most effective is often attributed to something called the “entourage effect.”
What is the Entourage Effect?
The term “entourage effect” refers to the belief that the full range of therapeutic benefits from cannabis are unlocked only when all of its naturally-occurring compounds are present and working together in synergy with each other. The idea is that they boost each others effects and create an optimal product and experience.
Broad spectrum and isolate CBD products lack this synergistic effect. This is because they have undergone special processing to remove as much of the THC as possible. This processing alters the natural balance of the compounds from the source hemp plant. That doesn’t mean that broad spectrum and isolate products can’t be effective. It just means that they don’t have the full entourage effect at work.
Reputable manufacturers of full spectrum CBD oil products take great care in the growing, harvesting, and extraction processes to preserve the natural balance. The third party party lab reports of the final product will show a robust cannabinoid and terpene profile that demonstrates the entourage effect is in play.
Is There Any Proof That It Matters?
We aren’t aware of any research studies that definitively prove the superiority of products with the entourage effect. Decades of cannabis prohibition in the United States have severely limited cannabis research in general. The recent federal legalization of hemp extracts and the growing popularity of CBD oil products will hopefully change that. More research will help us more fully understand the science behind the entourage effect.
This 2015 study by Israeli researchers dives into the comparisons of isolate CBD and whole-plant extracts. Unsurprisingly, full spectrum came out as the winner. Another study by UK researchers indicated that extracts containing both THC and CBD were significantly better at controlling cancer-related pains compared to just THC.
And we cannot ignore the feedback from actual users. In polls conducted in our CBD Oil Users Group on Facebook, the vast majority of members have voted that they preferred full spectrum products.