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All About Full Spectrum CBD

A golden dropper of full spectrum CBD rests on a green, leafy background

When you’re first venturing into the world of cannabidiol (CBD), one of the most important lessons is how the hemp plant’s various extracts differ from one another. CBD tinctures and other products can boast a variety of different effects — and the type of CBD extract with which they’re made is the key factor. Today, we’ll be covering one of the most popular types of extract, going in-depth on the question, “what is full spectrum CBD?” What are its benefits, how does it compare to other extract types, and is full spectrum CBD right for you? Read on to learn more!

What is Full Spectrum CBD, and Why is it Preferred?

Full spectrum CBD is a full-plant extract made from hemp plants. Products made with full spectrum extracts contain not only CBD, but all of hemp’s other cannabinoids (including trace amounts of THC) and natural hemp compounds such as terpenes, flavonoids, amino acids, and essential fatty acids.

Many long-time users swear by full spectrum products as the most desirable and effective of CBD treatments. That’s because CBD isn’t hemp’s only therapeutic compound; when taken together, the many cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds found in full spectrum CBD synergize and enhance each other’s effects. This phenomenon is known as the “entourage effect”.

But what is full spectrum CBD’s benefit over other types of hemp extraction? In-depth clinical research is ongoing, but available information suggests several benefits, including:

How does Full Spectrum CBD Differ from Broad Spectrum CBD?

Full spectrum CBD isn’t the only full-plant hemp extraction in town. “Broad spectrum” CBD products are another crowd-favorite, and they share many similarities with their full spectrum cousin.

So what is full spectrum CBD’s distinguishing feature? Simply put, trace amounts of THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid responsible for the infamous “weed high”.

Full spectrum CBD extracts contain all of hemp’s natural compounds, including trace amounts of psychoactive THC. Broad spectrum CBD is virtually identical to full spectrum, except that all traces of THC have been carefully removed.

However, all of hemp’s other cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and more are still present in broad spectrum CBD, meaning that broad spectrum CBD does contribute to the entourage effect. However, many users find that broad spectrum’s entourage effect is somewhat reduced, negatively impacting the overall effectiveness of their CBD tincture treatment.

So What is Full Spectrum CBD’s THC Content, and Will it Get You High?

Full spectrum CBD does contain trace amounts of THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid responsible for the “weed high”. However, the amount is extraordinarily small, and full spectrum CBD will not get users high.

That’s because of the source of full spectrum CBD tinctures: industrial hemp plants.

Hemp is one of the two forms of the cannabis plant. The other, more (in)famous variant, is marijuana. While the two are very similar, they differ when it comes to their cannabinoid concentrations: hemp is very high in CBD and very low in THC, while marijuana is very high in THC and very low in CBD.

Under the 2018 Farm Bill, which effectively legalized CBD tincture and other hemp-derived products, CBD products may legally contain up to 0.3% THC. When produced and sold by reputable vendors, full spectrum CBD tinctures are carefully tested to ensure that they do not exceed this THC concentration.

While these trace amounts of THC can have a significant impact on the entourage effect, they are far too low to have a noticeable intoxicating effect. Ample research has been done on the amount of THC required to cause a high, and Farm Bill-compliant full spectrum CBD comes nowhere close.

So if you’re worried that full spectrum CBD tinctures might cause intoxication, worry not! They offer the strongest entourage effect of any CBD product, but their trace amounts of THC will not create any psychoactive impairment. But for those sensitive to THC, THC-free CBD products are a viable and attractive alternative.

Further Reading: What Does the Research Say About Full Spectrum CBD?

Now that you can answer the question, “what is full spectrum CBD”, we hope you have a better handle on how they may benefit you. But of course, there’s always more to know.

Like all things related to the cannabis plant, more research is necessary before any definitive claims can be made about full spectrum CBD’s effects. However, a growing wealth of research and users’ anecdotal reports support the idea that full spectrum CBD products may be more effective than those made with broad spectrum CBD or CBD isolate.

Here are a few stand-out studies, with summaries of their findings:

  • Journal of Pain & Symptom Management, 2010: Patients experiencing intractable pain were given either a placebo, a THC-dominant cannabis extract, or a cannabis extract containing equal parts THC and CBD. The two cannabinoid extracts (containing both THC and CBD) far outperformed the THC-dominant extract, while the THC-dominant extract failed to outperform the placebo in any way.
  • Pharmacology & Pharmacy, 2015: In animal studies of analgesia, pure CBD extracts were compared to Full Spectrum hemp extracts containing an equal amount of CBD, to determine which provided better pain-relieving properties in mice. The pure CBD extract caused a dose-response curve, meaning that, after a certain dosage was administered, the animals would stop experiencing pain relief. The Full Spectrum hemp extract, on the other hand, possessed no dose-response curve, meaning that higher and higher amounts of CBD could be administered to the animals, and they would continue to experience more and more pain relief.
  • Biochemical Pharmacology, 2018: In a study of several human breast cancer cell lines in cultures and implanted tumors, it was demonstrated that cannabis extracts’ treatment potential was superior to that of pure THC extracts. In this example, it is believed that the cannabis extract outperformed the pure THC isolate due to the presence of small concentrations of cannabigerol (CBG), known as the parent cannabinoid, and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), leading to the belief that the Entourage Effect induced by botanical extracts outperforms pure cannabinoid extracts.
  • Scientific Reports, 2018: In another 2018 study, mice experiencing induced seizures were given five different cannabis extracts with equal concentrations of CBD but different concentrations of other natural cannabis constituents. Differences were observed in the biochemical profiles of non-CBD cannabinoids found in each of these five extracts. In turn, this led to significant differences in the number of mice developing tonic-clonic seizures (between 21.5% and 66.7%) and the survival rate of these mice (between 85% and 100%), depending on the specific extract they were administered. This highlighted the importance of different cannabinoids working in conjunction with CBD. Specifically, cannabinoids once considered to be “minor cannabinoids” found in hemp actually played a vital role in the overall effects of therapeutic cannabis treatment.

The verdict is clear from the available research: the many natural hemp compounds found in full spectrum CBD extract can have a significant effect. While some users may prefer THC free CBD products, the majority find that full spectrum CBD has a noticeably improved therapeutic effect.

Of course, only first-hand experience can say for sure which CBD products will work best for you. We encourage new users to try a variety of products, extract types, and potencies. After all, CBD reacts to each individual’s endocannabinoid system differently, and your unique biochemistry and personal preferences may lead you to prefer one type of product over another.

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