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What is Full Spectrum CBD? Ask a Pharmacist

What is Full Spectrum CBD? Ask a Pharmacist

Posted by Dr. Leslie Mudd, PharmD on Sep 15th 2020

Full spectrum CBD extract

Everything you need to know

CBD products have exploded in popularity since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized all hemp-derived CBD products that contain less than 0.3 percent delta-9 THC by dry weight.1 This new popularity has introduced new terms like "full spectrum" and "broad spectrum."

So, what is full spectrum CBD, and how is it different than other types of CBD?

Let's dive in, and learn together what makes a CBD product "full spectrum" and what that means.

What is Full Spectrum CBD?

Full spectrum CBD refers to a hemp-derived extract that contains cannabidiol (CBD) as well as other cannabinoids and other compounds.2 These other components of full spectrum CBD extract include:

  • Cannabinoids3
    • CBD
    • delta-9 THC
    • CBC
    • CBN
    • CBG
    • CBDa
    • CBDV
  • Terpenes4
    • Myrcene
    • Limonene
    • Caryophyllene
  • Flavonoids5
    • Cannaflavin A
    • Cannaflavin B
    • Cannaflavin C

CBD and THC are the cannabinoids mostly responsible for the popular effects of cannabis products, which is why you've likely heard of them. However, the highest quality full spectrum CBD products include much more than just CBD and THC.

CBD is a cannabinoid that is naturally produced in the female flower of the hemp plant, just like marijuana produces THC. These female flowers also produce more than 100 other cannabinoids like CBG, CBN, CBC, and less than 0.3 percent Delta-9 THC, all of which should be present in an authentic full spectrum CBD product.6

These female hemp flowers also produce terpenes and flavonoids, which are aroma molecules also found in fruits and vegetables. Along with the full spectrum of cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids are what make cannabis smell the way it does.7

Other Types of CBD

After hemp was legalized again in 2018, CBD companies began producing products that were free of THC. Made with CBD isolate or broad spectrum CBD extract, these products do not contain THC, or other key components of full spectrum extracts like terpenes and flavonoids.

These products continue to be sold today, but with decreasing popularity as consumers learn more about the benefits of full spectrum CBD products. Full spectrum CBD products make up nearly 75 percent of the total market.8 

CBD Isolate

CBD isolate is 99% pure CBD that is crystalline in form and looks similar to table salt. This type of CBD is the result of multiple processing steps that remove the THC, terpenes, flavonoids, and minor cannabinoids from the natural hemp extract. Pure CBD isolate does not contain any other hemp plant compounds besides CBD.9

Broad Spectrum CBD

Broad spectrum CBD is a hemp extract that has been processed to remove as much of the THC as possible. This process is nearly impossible to perform without also removing most of the terpenes, flavonoids, and minor cannabinoids in the extract. That's why most broad spectrum CBD products are simply CBD plus a few minor cannabinoids in very low levels.

infographic displaying the differences between full spectrum CBD, broad spectrum CBD and CBD isolate.

Benefits of Full Spectrum CBD

CBD works by affecting a recently discovered system in the body called the endocannabinoid system. This network of cannabinoid receptors overlays the central nervous system, and the receptors can be found all over the human body.10 

There are at least 100 cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, and studies show that these compounds work synergistically with the endocannabinoid system. This process is called the “entourage effect.”11

The Entourage Effect

Arguably the biggest difference between full spectrum CBD and THC-free products made with CBD isolate or broad spectrum CBD is the entourage effect. Similar to a sports team, the full spectrum of cannabinoids, along with terpenes and flavonoids, all work together to promote balance and homeostasis in our bodies.

When removing THC and other compounds from the hemp extract, the entourage effect won't be nearly as significant. Just like a sports team with missing players wouldn't perform as well, either.

The phrases “pure CBD” or “99 percent pure CBD” might sound like a good thing. But in reality, removing THC from the hemp extract actually produces a less effective product.

Types of Full Spectrum CBD

Now that you know what full spectrum CBD is, it is also important to know that there are different types of full spectrum CBD — some made with whole plant, and others made with Flower-Only™. Not all full spectrum CBD is created equal.

When we started Cornbread Hemp in early 2019, we saw the low quality standards set by Corporate CBD, especially when it comes to full spectrum. Instead of using only the hemp flowers, big CBD companies decided to coin the term "whole plant," which means including the stalk, stem, and leaves that do not contain cannabinoids, in addition to the flowers. And then they marketed "whole plant" to consumers as if that was a good thing!

Whole Plant

But as you have learned, CBD and the full spectrum of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids come from the flower of the hemp plant — not the stalk, stem, or leaves.

So why do big CBD companies use the entire hemp plant to make their CBD products? First, because Corporate CBD is focused on mass production and profits. And second, because Corporate CBD is still gripped by the stigma associated with THC.

Simply put, using the "whole plant" doesn't matter if the company's end goal is to process the extract into CBD isolate or broad spectrum CBD. And when these same companies make full spectrum products from this same process, the end result is a full spectrum product that tastes so grassy and bitter that it requires flavors like peppermint to cover up the filler.

Flower-Only™

Anyone who has experience with cannabis knows that the seeds, stems, and leaves do not contain any cannabinoids. That's why you removed them from your stash in college.

It's also why we were shocked to learn that most full spectrum CBD products are made with the whole plant. It seemed obvious to us that this method was cutting corners, and it should be a red flag to any full spectrum CBD consumer.

That's why we coined the term Flower-Only™. It's as simple as it sounds — we remove the flowers from the hemp plant before we extract our full spectrum CBD oil. That means we don't have leftover chlorophyll and plant matter in our hemp extract, which allows us to formulate our products without the need for cover flavors.

Risks of Full Spectrum CBD

Even though full spectrum CBD products are the best option if you're shopping for the most effective CBD, there are still a few reasons why someone might choose CBD that does not contain the full spectrum of cannabinoids.

Failing a Drug Test

One of the reasons you might not want to choose a full spectrum CBD oil product is if you have a drug test in the near future. If a positive drug test for THC is going to have a serious impact on your life, don't make the mistake of taking a full spectrum CBD product — or any CBD product, for that matter. That's because some drug tests detect CBD as the same as THC, so CBD isolate could flag as a false positive for THC.

That’s why we recommend informing your workplace HR department (or the appropriate oversight person) of your intention to take full spectrum CBD products. If you get approval to take any form of CBD, be sure to get that approval in writing!

Another option is to use CBD topicals, like our CBD creams, or our organic CBD balm. Cannabinoids do not appear to penetrate the skin deep enough to absorb into the bloodstream.12

Potential Side Effects

While full spectrum CBD products contain a level of THC that is not nearly enough to get you high, they could potentially cause side effects that you should be aware of before trying them for the first time. The most common potential side effects of taking full spectrum CBD include:

  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth

Tolerance for these side effects tend to develop over time.13

Does Full Spectrum CBD Get You High?

No, full spectrum CBD products will not get you high. CBD itself does not have the same psychoactive effects as THC. That's because CBD does not bind with the receptors in your brain the way that THC does.

In fact, CBD has potentially been shown to counteract the psychoactive effects caused by THC by blocking the receptors in your brain that normally bind to THC.

However, even though CBD is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid, it still may affect your mood, which some may consider to be psychoactive.

Is Full Spectrum CBD Legal?

Prior to 2018, Cannabis sativa cultivation was only permitted by specific state laws for medical use. But the Farm Bill of 2018 made it possible for cannabis plants containing trace amounts of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to be cultivated nationwide.

This new law clarified the definition of "hemp" to be cannabis plants that contain no more 0.3 percent THC. Anything above that threshold is considered to be federally illegal marijuana.

That's why any hemp-derived CBD product that contains less than 0.3 percent THC is federally legal and can be shipped to all 50 states and US territories.

Conclusion: What is Full Spectrum CBD

We believe that full spectrum CBD is the only type of CBD you should consider spending your hard earned money on, unless a positive test for THC will negatively affect your life. When it comes to purchasing CBD products, you can buy those that contain only the pure CBD molecule, or those that contain all of the beneficial properties of the cannabis plant, depending on your specific needs. That's why we recommend buying Flower-Only™ full spectrum CBD products, like the ones we make here at Cornbread Hemp.

Portrait of Dr Leslie Mudd, board certified oncology pharmacist and Cornbread Hemp resident pharmacist

About the Author

Dr. Leslie Mudd, PharmD

A board certified oncology pharmacist with 25 years experience at the James Graham Brown Cancer Center in Louisville, Kentucky, Dr. Leslie Mudd now serves as the Cornbread Hemp resident pharmacist and medical expert. Read Dr. Mudd's full author bio here.

FAQ's

Is full spectrum CBD legal?

Yes, full spectrum CBD oil is made with hemp flowers that contain, at maximum, 0.3 percent of THC, which is compliant with federal and state laws. Hemp is a legal variety of the cannabis plant with this low level of THC.

What is the difference: full spectrum vs CBD isolate?

Full spectrum CBD contains CBD and all the associated cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds, including THC. On the other hand, CBD isolate is 99 percent pure CBD, with no THC or other compounds.

Will full spectrum CBD get you high?

No, there is not enough THC in full spectrum CBD to get you high. By law it must have under 0.3 percent THC, the psychoactive compound found in marijuana. Therefore full spectrum CBD will not get you high.  

References

1. Hudak, J. "The Farm Bill, hemp legalization and the status of CBD: An explainer." Brookings Institute. Published: December 2018; accessed July 26, 2021. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2018/12/14/the-farm-bill-hemp-and-cbd-explainer/ 

2. Cather, J. and Cather, J. "Cannabidiol primer for healthcare professionals." Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings. Published July 2020; accessed July 26, 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7340472/ 

3. ElSohly, M. et al. "Phytochemistry of Cannabis sativa L." Part of the Progress of the Chemistry of Organic Natural Products book series. Published January 2017; accessed July 26, 2021. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-3-319-45541-9_1 

4. Robertson, K. "Cannabis 101: What’s the Deal with Terpenes?" Healthline. Published (last reviewed) May 2021; accessed July 26, 2021. https://www.healthline.com/health/cannabis-terpenes 

5. Bennett, P. "What are cannabis flavinoids and what do they do?" Leafly. Published February 2018; accessed July 26, 2021. https://www.leafly.com/news/cannabis-101/what-are-marijuana-flavonoids 

6. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. "Cannabis (Marijuana) and Cannabinoids: What You Need To Know." U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Published November 2019; accessed July 26, 2021. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/cannabis-marijuana-and-cannabinoids-what-you-need-to-know 

7. Roell, M. "Terpenes in Cannabis: Solving the Puzzle of How to Predict Taste and Smell." Plant Physiology. Published September 2020; accessed July 26, 2021. https://academic.oup.com/plphys/article/184/1/8/6117827 

8. Grand View Research. "CBD Oil & CBD Consumer Health Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report" Market Analysis Report. Published August 2020; accessed July 26, 2021. https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/cannabidiol-oil-cbd-consumer-health-market 

9. Grof, C. "Cannabis, from plant to pill" British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. Published April 2018; accessed July 26, 2021. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29701252/ 

10. Petrocellis, L et al. "The endocannabinoid system: a general view and latest additions." British Journal of Pharmacology. Published January 2004; accessed July 26, 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1574255/ 

11. Russo, E. "The Case for the Entourage Effect and Conventional Breeding of Clinical Cannabis: No 'Strain,' No Gain." Frontiers in Plant Science. Published January 2019; accessed July 26, 2021. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpls.2018.01969/full 

12. Millar, S. et al "A Systematic Review on the Pharmacokinetics of Cannabidiol in Humans." Frontiers in Pharmacology. Published November 2018; accessed July 26, 2021. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30534073/ 

13. Grotenhermen, F. and Muller-Vahl, K. "The therapeutic potential of cannabis and cannabinoids." Deutsches Arzteblatt. Published July 2012; accessed July 26, 2021. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23008748/ 

All rights reserved. The statements made regarding these products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The efficacy of CBD products has not been confirmed by FDA-approved research. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. All information presented here is not meant as a substitute for or alternative to information from health care practitioners. Please consult your health care professional about potential interactions or other possible complications before using any product.

Cornbread Hemp works with suppliers who guarantee a less than or equal to 0.3% THC content. With these trace amounts of THC, it is possible that users may fail a drug test. Cornbread Hemp does not take any responsibility in the instance a customer fails a drug test while using these products.

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