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What is Full Spectrum CBD? Benefits & Uses

Levi Roberts

by Levi Roberts

June 22, 2024 08:00 am ET Estimated Read Time: 11 Minutes
Fact checked by Emily Mullins
What is Full Spectrum CBD? Benefits & Uses

CBD (cannabidiol) is a relaxing, pain-relieving cannabinoid well-studied for its therapeutic effects. It’s experienced a huge market boom and can be found everywhere from dispensaries to health food stories. CBD comes in many forms, including full spectrum, broad spectrum, and isolate. But what’s the difference between them?

Let’s explore the world of full-spectrum CBD, how it works through the entourage effect, some of the benefits it’s currently being studied for, and more!

What is Full-Spectrum CBD?

Full-spectrum CBD is chock full of various cannabinoids, flavonoids, terpenes, and up to 0.3% THC. Many believe that it’s more effective than other forms of CBD, such as CBD isolate or broad-spectrum CBD, because of the entourage effect. According to New York University, the entourage effect is a synergistic effect in which different compounds help bring out properties in each other that make them more powerful than if they were isolated on their own.

In the context of full-spectrum CBD, the entourage effect is the idea that other cannabinoids besides just CBD can help the CBD be more effective, as opposed to an isolate of CBD alone. 

Cannabinoids found in full-spectrum CBD include:

  • CBD
  • CBN
  • CBG
  • THC
  • THCV
  • And more!

In summary, it is a type of CBD product that includes a wide range of naturally occurring cannabis plant extracts, which together provide a more comprehensive therapeutic effect compared to products containing only CBD.

How is Full-Spectrum CBD Made?

Full-spectrum CBD is made from high-quality hemp plants chosen for their low THC and high CBD levels. The process begins with the cultivation of these plants, which are grown without pesticides. Once mature, the plants are harvested and subjected to extraction methods like CO2 or ethanol extraction to draw out cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids.

The crude extract then undergoes refinement, often through winterization and distillation, to remove impurities and ensure a pure final product. This refined oil is tested for potency and purity to ensure it meets quality standards. The resulting oil retains the beneficial compounds from the hemp plant and offers potential benefits through the entourage effect. This oil can be incorporated into various products, such as tinctures, capsules, edibles, and topicals.

How Does Full-Spectrum CBD Work?

Full-spectrum CBD works by interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), a complex network of receptors, enzymes, and endogenous cannabinoids that help regulate various physiological processes, including pain, mood, immune function, and sleep. The primary receptors in the ECS are CB1 and CB2, which are distributed throughout the brain and body.

When full-spectrum CBD is consumed, its various cannabinoids, including CBD, THC (in trace amounts), CBG, and CBN, bind to these receptors and modulate their activity to promote balance and homeostasis.

The presence of multiple cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids leads to the entourage effect. For instance, while CBD is known for its anti-inflammatory and anxiolytic properties, minor cannabinoids and terpenes can provide additional benefits such as pain relief, anti-anxiety effects, and improved sleep. This synergy not only makes full-spectrum CBD potentially more effective than CBD isolate (which contains only pure CBD) but also broadens its use in managing conditions like chronic pain, anxiety, epilepsy, and insomnia.

Health Benefits of Full-Spectrum CBD

Full-spectrum CBD has a wide variety of health benefits, ranging from pain management to addiction treatment.

For example, this study discovered the “localization of anesthetic response” to full-spectrum CBD in pain in mice. Chronic pain is hard to manage, so any discovery of pain management can have massive implications for the chronic pain community.

Meanwhile, another study from Communications Medicine touts “clinical and cognitive improvement following full-spectrum, high-cannabidiol treatment for anxiety.” The search for effective anxiety treatment is vital because so many anti-anxiety medications have unwanted side effects or can lead to addiction.

Yet another study found that CBD can help not just anxiety but also sleep. Just like anxiety, sleeping medication can leave you feeling drowsy the next day and people often have to choose between getting a night’s sleep with unwanted side effects or struggling with insomnia without medication. CBD has the potential to help this problem!

It also seems that CBD even has the potential to help manage addiction, an incredibly exciting development in the field of harm reduction. Using CBD to help withdrawals and cravings instead of pharmaceuticals gives patients the option to go a natural route with fewer side effects.

This is just scratching the surface of the myriad of scientifically proven benefits of cannabidiol.

Risks and Side Effects of Full-Spectrum CBD

While full-spectrum CBD is generally considered safe and well-tolerated, there are a few potential risks and side effects to be aware of. One of the primary concerns is the presence of THC, even in trace amounts. For some people, particularly those who may be highly sensitive to THC, this can lead to mild psychoactive effects like altered perception or mild euphoria.

Common side effects of full-spectrum CBD include fatigue, changes in appetite, and gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea. These side effects are typically mild and transient but can be more pronounced with higher doses. Furthermore, it can interact with certain medications, particularly those metabolized by the liver, which can alter their effectiveness or increase the risk of adverse effects.

Who Should Consider Full-Spectrum CBD?

People who may consider using full-spectrum CBD include those seeking a holistic approach to managing various health conditions and ailments. This may include those battling chronic pain, anxiety or depression, insomnia, epilepsy, autoimmune diseases, and more.

This substance may be particularly beneficial for people who have tried traditional medications and experienced uncomfortable side effects or other associated issues.

It’s important for people considering full-spectrum CBD to consult with a healthcare professional before starting a regimen, especially if they are taking other medications or have underlying health conditions.

Who Should Avoid Full-Spectrum CBD?

While full-spectrum CBD can offer numerous potential benefits, some people may be advised to steer clear.

People who are sensitive to THC, even in trace amounts, may want to avoid full-spectrum CBD. Additionally, people who undergo regular drug testing, like athletes, should use caution with it due to the potential for THC to show up on these tests.

Pregnant or breastfeeding women should also avoid full-spectrum CBD as the effects on fetal development and infants are not well understood, and safety data is currently lacking.

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Finally, people with liver conditions or those taking medications that are metabolized by the liver’s enzyme system should be careful, as CBD has the potential to interact with these drugs and may lower their effectiveness.

Full Spectrum vs. Broad Spectrum vs. CBD Isolate

Full-spectrum CBD, broad-spectrum CBD, and CBD isolate are three different types of CBD products, each with unique characteristics and benefits.

Full-spectrum CBD contains various cannabinoids, including CBD, low amounts of THC (equaling less than 0.3%), and other compounds such as terpenes. Full-spectrum CBD is often preferred by people wanting to utilize all of the benefits of the cannabis plant, as it leverages the full range of natural compounds.

Broad-spectrum CBD, on the other hand, also includes a variety of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. However, it possesses one key difference: it’s processed to remove all traces of THC. This makes broad-spectrum CBD a good option for people who want to steer clear of THC due to personal preference, sensitivity, or concerns about drug testing, while still benefiting from its effects.

CBD isolate is the purest form of CBD, containing 99% pure cannabidiol without any other cannabinoids, terpenes, or flavonoids. This type of CBD is ideal for those who want to experience the benefits of CBD alone without any risk of THC exposure or other interactions. It is also recommended for people who may have adverse reactions to other cannabinoids or who prefer to start with a controlled and consistent product.

Each form of CBD offers distinct advantages, which allows people to choose the product that best fits their needs.

How to Choose the Right Full-Spectrum CBD for You

Choosing the right full-spectrum CBD product involves considering several factors to ensure you get the benefits you want.

First, look at the source of the hemp used in the product. High-quality, full-spectrum CBD is derived from organically grown hemp that is free from pesticides and harmful chemicals. Checking for third-party lab testing is crucial since it can help confirm the product’s purity, potency, and safety. These lab reports should be readily accessible and confirm that the product contains the advertised levels of CBD and other cannabinoids, as well as being free from contaminants like heavy metals and solvents.

Next, consider the form and concentration of the product that best suits your needs. We discuss the various options available to you in the next section.

Finally, choose a concentration that aligns with your experience and needs. Beginners may want lower concentrations to gauge their response whereas people with more severe symptoms might choose higher potency products. Always start with a lower dose and slowly increase.

How to Use Full-Spectrum CBD

Using full-spectrum CBD involves understanding the different methods of consumption and selecting the one that best fits your needs.

One of the most common ways to use this is through tinctures or oils. These are taken sublingually, meaning you place a few drops under your tongue and hold it there for about 30-60 seconds before swallowing. This method allows for quick absorption into the bloodstream and provides relatively fast relief. It’s important to start with a low dose and gradually increase it until you find the amount that works best for you.

Another popular method is through edibles and capsules, which offer a convenient and discreet way to consume CBD. These forms are ideal for those who prefer not to taste CBD oil or who want a pre-measured dose. However, they take longer to produce effects as they need to pass through the digestive system.

Topical CBD products, such as creams and balms, are applied directly to the skin and are good for helping with localized pain. When using any form, consistency is key. Taking it at the same time each day can help maintain a stable level of CBD in your system and optimize its benefits.

Is Full-Spectrum CBD Legal?

Full-spectrum CBD is legal under the 2018 Farm Bill. This bill defines hemp as containing less than 0.3% THC, and all hemp-derived products are federally legal.

There was a huge boom in the cannabis industry following this bill, as scientists searched for new cannabinoids to study and manufacturers rushed to produce and market them.

Public opinion on CBD varies. Some people are scared of it because of its association with cannabis, whereas others — specifically the health and wellness crowd — quickly got behind the product and its well-documented benefits.

Final Thoughts

Full-spectrum CBD harnesses the power of all the cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and essential oils from the hemp plant. The entourage effect creates synergy between all of these compounds, becoming stronger together than they would be on their own.

CBD research is just beginning, and full-spectrum CBD seems to have a never-ending amount of benefits, ranging from anxiety management to helping with withdrawals. Many turn to CBD when the traditional medical system has failed them, and research is increasingly on their side!

However, it’s important to note that this field is still developing, so be sure to discuss it with your healthcare provider if you want to include CBD or other cannabinoids in your daily routine.

FAQs on Full-Spectrum CBD

What is the difference between full-spectrum CBD and regular CBD?

Full-spectrum CBD contains a wide range of cannabinoids, including THC, along with terpenes and flavonoids, whereas regular CBD, often referred to as CBD isolate, contains only pure CBD without any other cannabinoids or compounds.

What is full-spectrum CBD best for?

Full-spectrum CBD is best for people wanting a holistic approach to wellness that uses the entourage effect of multiple cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids to enhance benefits for conditions like pain, anxiety, or inflammation.

Which is stronger, full or broad-spectrum CBD?

Generally, full-spectrum CBD is considered stronger than broad-spectrum CBD due to the presence of THC.

Which form of CBD is most effective?

While the form of CBD you choose depends on the benefits you’re seeking and your specific health needs, full-spectrum CBD is typically considered the most effective. However, broad-spectrum and CBD isolate are also useful options that provide many of the same benefits.

Does full-spectrum CBD show up on a drug test?

Although the THC content in full-spectrum CBD is low, it can potentially still be picked up by a drug test. Some drug tests have larger windows of detection than others, and some are able to pick up on very small amounts of THC.

Urine testing is largely the test of choice because of its accuracy. Other common options include saliva and hair testing.

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