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How to choose between full-spectrum, broad-spectrum and isolate CBD

Full-Spectrum | Broad-Spectrum | Isolate | What's Right For You? 


Looking through CBD product listings, you’ll probably have noticed several broad terms: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum and isolate, to describe the type of CBD inside it. Here, we’ll talk you through the key aspects of each variety to help you decide what kind of CBD might work best for you.

Whatever kind of CBD it is, each type is extracted through pressure applied to the cannabis or hemp plant, which squeezes the cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids out. Food-grade ethanol or pressurised carbon dioxide processing produces the highest quality extract, and that’s what you’ll find being used by the best brands.

What happens next determines what kind of CBD product is produced. If the CBD is fully stripped away, it becomes an isolate. If everything is kept, that’s full-spectrum, while broad-spectrum is everything except THC - the key psychoactive compound in cannabis.

Below, we’ll look at these distinctions more closely.

Full-spectrum CBD

When a product is labelled full-spectrum, it means that all the compounds extracted from the plant are retained. That includes the CBD, all other cannabinoids, essential oils and a small amount of THC, which is below the legal limit (0.2% in the UK) and in such small quantities it won’t product any psychoactive effect.

Because THC is not specifically removed, full-spectrum CBD products are normally derived from industrial hemp (often grown for fibre) thanks to the naturally low levels of THC in those strains. As a result, full-spectrum products are the least processed variety of CBD.

Full-spectrum products retain their terpenes, which are typically responsible for the scent or aroma of a plant, and have long been used by aromatherapists for their often soothing properties. There are at least two hundred types of terpene in cannabis, all of which offer a range of potential benefits.

In its full-spectrum form, CBD has what’s called the ‘entourage effect’. That’s the idea that when a CBD product contains all its natural ingredients, in their original proportions, that the effect will be more than the sum of its parts. In other words, the compounds are able to amplify each other’s benefits.

Broad-spectrum CBD

Broad-spectrum products are similar to full-spectrum ones, with one exception: there’s no THC present. During processing, all of the THC is removed, but the rest of the compounds are still present. That makes broad-spectrum products good for people who, for whatever reason, prefer to have no THC whatsoever present. The entourage effect we mentioned above is still largely present in a broad-spectrum product, since only one of the many hundreds of compounds is still included. 

Since the THC content in a legal consumer CBD product is so low there are no psychoactive effects, removing the THC won’t have a noticeable impact on the product’s effects, but there are situations when that’s desirable. Some people are sensitive to THC, or are trying CBD for the first time and are reassured that the THC is gone. In some places, even <0.2% THC is illegal, which means broad-spectrum is the way to go.

Having a process for removing THC also means cultivators are able to source CBD from a much wider variety of plant strains, including cannabis where the THC is much more prevalent than in hemp.

Here at CBD Porter, we stock a wide range of zero THC products.

CBD isolate

As its name suggests, a CBD isolate product contains just CBD. During extraction and processing, all the other cannabinoids and other compounds are stripped away.

Isolates, therefore, have the highest concentration of CBD, often being 99% pure. That means they offer the highest dosage per serving - good if it’s only the CBD effect you are after. 

In the UK, isolates are currently classed as a novel food (one without significant historical use as a food). That means it can’t yet be sold as an ingestible product, whether that’s a snack, meal, drink or capsules.

Users who want an odourless or flavourless product might choose an isolate, especially if they want to combine CBD with an existing flavour they prefer. Some people also find they are sensitive to one of the other compounds in a full-spectrum CBD products, and get better results from an isolate.

Isolates are also a good choice for people who have been recommended to try a very high dose of CBD, since it is normally simpler and cheaper to reach those levels with an isolate.

Choosing the right product for you

Each of the three main types of CBD product can make sense for you, depending on your circumstances, body, lifestyle, and what you want to get out of it. Not everyone reacts in the same way to CBD, so it’s not a bad idea to try a few different varieties to see what has the most beneficial effect.

A key decision to make is whether the wider benefits of a full- or broad-spectrum product are most important, or whether you are just aiming to get a high dose of CBD.

We have a large stock of cannabidiol supplements in may forms; from oil drops and capsules to blended coffee and inhalers. To help you choose the most suitable form, please read our guide on Choosing The Right CBD Products For You.

Hopefully that’s helped clarify the terms you’ll find on our site. If you have any more questions, we’d love to hear from you!