If you know Green Goods at all, you know we’re all about increasing access to gentle, safe, sustainable plant medicines like CBD, the cannabinoid associated with a wide range of health benefits. Potent, versatile, and effective, CBD comes in a variety of formats, from gummies to tinctures to tablets and more.
But that’s not to say all CBD is created equal! If you’ve ever wondered about the difference between broad-spectrum vs full-spectrum CBD, you’re in the right place. In today’s post, we’ll take a deep dive into the topic, explaining what’s unique about the two and why you might want to choose full-spectrum vs broad-spectrum CBD for anxiety, pain, or other common concerns. Along the way, we’ll answer such questions as:
- What is full-spectrum CBD?
- What is broad-spectrum CBD?
- What’s the difference between full-spectrum vs broad-spectrum?
- What are their potential benefits?
- How does full-spectrum CBD partner with THC?
- Broad-spectrum or THC-free: Which is right for me?
Are you ready? Let’s get to it!
Cannabinoids and the Endocannabinoid System
If you know anything at all about cannabis, it’s that it has the potential to impart a euphoric and enjoyable “high.” But believe it or not, not all cannabis has that effect. That special psychoactivity is due to the presence of THC, the most abundant cannabinoid in cannabis (and one that’s associated with a number of medical benefits as well).
Cannabinoids can be thought of as the major “active ingredients” in cannabis, and THC and CBD are only the beginning of the story; you can boost your cannabis knowledge with our articles on CBG and CBN.
In one sense, all cannabinoids are similar in that inside our bodies, they interface with a crucial regulatory network called the endocannabinoid system, or “ECS.”
Unlike THC, CBD doesn’t impart an intoxicating psychoactivity. Instead, it’s sometimes described as imparting a mildly stimulating cerebral “buzz.” That’s one reason hemp-derived CBD—which contains very trace amounts of THC of .3% or lower by dry weight—is legal at the federal level, though several states—Idaho, Nebraska, and South Dakota—have stricter prohibitions on CBD products, especially those derived from cannabis as opposed to hemp.
Still, in most of the country, hemp-derived CBD products are widely available: In many grocery stores, cafés, even as supplements for pets. But as it turns out, how it’s extracted makes a big difference in terms of how it works with our bodies. Let’s start with the topic of full-spectrum CBD.
What’s Full-Spectrum CBD?
When we’re talking about CBD, “full spectrum” means that a given hemp-derived CBD product has the entire range of cannabinoids and other compounds present in the plant.
Many clinicians and researchers believe that, when taken together, this full spectrum of compounds provides the fullest and most complete benefits possible. That said, it’s important to note that these products contain traces of THC (again, no more than 0.3%).
What’s Broad-Spectrum CBD?
When it comes to cannabinoids, this group of products is more narrow than full spectrum. They contain CBD alongside any minor cannabinoids present, such as CBG or CBN, in addition to the terpenes originally present in the hemp plant. Terpenes are the aromatic oils that lend different cannabis and hemp strains their characteristic flavors and scents. On top of that, studies suggest they impart a surprising number of potential medical benefits.
However, broad-spectrum CBD products have been further refined to remove THC. So, even with other minor cannabinoids and terpenes present, broad-spectrum CBD isn’t quite the same as full spectrum because, as we’ll uncover, even that small amount of THC may be playing a role in health benefits.
What Do We Know About CBD?
As we shared a moment ago, the current clinical research suggests a wide range of medical applications for CBD. And one of the most promising is as an anxiolytic, or remedy for anxiety.
In one study, CBD successfully treated some of the symptoms of PTSD, which typically include anxiety. Another test designed to simulate the surprisingly common fear of public speaking found that moderate doses of the cannabinoid helped test subjects prepare and cope. And still another study found that CBD may offer benefits comparable to prescription antidepressants.
But that’s not all. At our Maryland and Minnesota dispensaries, our experience is that pain relief is typically the #1 reason customers seek out CBD. As a large-scale review of medical literature suggests, CBD is a powerful anti-inflammatory, reducing pain not only at the site of injury but also partnering with signaling mechanisms in the brain to enhance pain-fighting actions there as well. Then there’s the finding that CBD not only has the potential to treat chronic pain but can contribute to better sleep and overall quality of life.
Full-Spectrum vs Broad-Spectrum CBD: How to Choose
As you can see, CBD has a strong potential to help address some of our most persistent health complaints, but why choose full-spectrum versus broad-spectrum?
The small amount of THC present in full-spectrum CBD products may be adding some potentially significant health benefits. How? It all comes down to something called “the entourage effect” (or “ensemble effect”). According to this theory, cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD, and other active ingredients in cannabis, such as terpenes, produce more potent effects when consumed together than when consumed on their own.
One study from 2011 suggests that the alpha-pinene terpene may help counteract THC’s negative impact on short-term memory, for example. Another study suggests that several terpenes, such as linalool and humulene, potentiate (or strengthen) the activity of certain cannabinoids. And finally, a rodent-model study from 2020 found that several common terpenes acted directly on receptor cells in the ECS.
This may be the best proof yet that the entourage effect is indeed an important factor in the overall medical efficacy of cannabis products. This evidence supports the growing scientific belief that full-spectrum CBD may have more therapeutic value than broad-spectrum formulations.
THC, even in small quantities, offers a variety of potential health and wellness benefits. Like CBD, it can help with anxiety, sleep, and pain, but it does so through different pathways in the body as compared to CBD. The benefits THC can bring even in small quantities is one reason that some choose to microdose, that is, taking very low doses in order to reap the benefits of THC without the associated high.
Still, that doesn’t mean everyone should choose full-spectrum CBD formulations. Why not? For one thing, some of us—such as athletes, drivers, government employees, or anyone else who needs to avoid THC for any reason—depend on a THC-free experience.
Another THC-Free Option: CBD Isolate
There is a third option we haven’t discussed yet: CBD isolate. This class of products is formulated to provide pure CBD (and only that compound). It’s the perfect choice when you want to focus on the demonstrated benefits of CBD without the potential for interactions with other cannabinoids or terpenes.
However, it’s important to read product labels carefully, as some CBD isolate products are supplemented with terpenes in order to reintroduce some potential beneficial entourage effect synergies.
Full Spectrum vs Broad Spectrum: The Importance of Sourcing
If CBD has the potential to support our health, that’s not to say all CBD is created equal. As study after study points out, it’s important that whatever formulation of CBD you use be sourced from trustworthy and reputable suppliers such as licensed dispensaries.
That’s because at Green Goods, we test each and every cannabis product or purity, potency, and potential contaminants. We don’t expose ourselves to potential health threats, and we don’t think you should, either! At our family of dispensaries, you can be sure you’re buying safe, effective, and potent plant-based remedies. Period.
Explore the Synergies of CBD and THC: Get Started with Green Goods
At Green Goods, we believe knowledge is power, and we’re committed to helping you take control of your health and wellness with all-natural plant-derived solutions.
That’s why we offer products that include both THC and CBD alongside THC-free options. From finely crafted broad-spectrum sparkling CBD beverages to balanced CBD plus THC gummies and even soothing topicals, we believe that these compounds can support health and wellness in many ways.
Are you ready to start your own journey with the best CBD products available? Whether you reside in Maryland or Minnesota, the nearest Green Goods location is only a click away! If you have any other questions about full spectrum vs broad spectrum CBD—or other cannabis-related topics—just ask. We’re always here to help.