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We’ll be honest: both broad spectrum CBD and full spectrum CBD are pretty awesome. 

Each of them has distinctive strengths, however, which is why this article will be exploring the subtle (and not so subtle) differences you should know about. We’ll start with the basics — here’s an outline.  

  1. What Is Broad Spectrum CBD? 
  2. What Is Full Spectrum CBD?  
  3. To THC...Or Not to THC? 
  4. Finding What Works 
  5. Dosing Differences 
  6. Potential Allergies 
  7. Drug Testing

What Is Broad Spectrum CBD? 

Hemp contains a lot of good stuff. That’s kind of what makes CBD oil products, in general, so wonderfully unique. What you see below is just the start:

  • Cannabinoids:
    • CBD
    • CBDa
    • CBDv
    • CBG
    • CBGa
    • CBN
    • THC
    • THCa
    • THCv
  • Terpenes:
    • Pinene
    • Limonene
    • Myrcene
    • Guaiol
    • Camphene
    • Linalool
  • Flavones:
    • Cannflavin A
    • Cannflavin B

All in all, the hemp plant produces at least 400 natural compounds. No wonder researchers call it a “pharmacological treasure trove.”

And here’s the thing to know: broad spectrum CBD contains all the compounds a CBD product possibly can — except THC, THCa, THCv, and other THC analogs. It’s 99+% similar to full spectrum CBD otherwise, and THC content is pretty much the one exception.  

For more info on the in’s and out’s of broad spectrum CBD, click here. 

What Is Full Spectrum CBD?  

Full spectrum CBD, as you might expect, contains a full spectrum of hemp’s most active ingredients. Premium full spectrum products will contain most of the compounds in the list above, including hemp’s cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavones. And THC, of course! 

Science has yet to fully quantify just how beneficial full spectrum products could be, interestingly enough, since most studies look at the effects of totally isolated THC and CBD. “Studies using purified THC or CBD may not accurately reflect the potential health benefits of full-spectrum cannabis extracts,” one research paper explained. 

Chances are good that studies looking only at CBD isolate are missing out. After all, the “cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other bioactive molecules” present in full-spectrum products “are likely to contribute [...] different biological effects.” 

And even though much more research needs to be done, we can rely on a groundbreaking 2015 study for now. It’s findings? That CBD-rich, full spectrum cannabis oil was up to four times more effective, per unit, than CBD isolate. The full spectrum option was also easier for patients to dose. Its effects didn’t level off when they took more, nor did its side effects become much of a problem. 

To THC...Or Not to THC? 

To summarize, the only real difference between broad spectrum CBD and full spectrum CBD is THC content. 

Therefore, the only question to ask yourself is this: would you benefit from a little bit of THC in your life? Full spectrum CBD products only contain .3% THC, max, but some people feel that’s enough to get a little extra boost. 

The research, however, is less than clear about THC’s role. One study argued that THC was more important than terpenes when it came to activating compound-to-compound synergy — but this study only analyzed CB1 and CB2 receptors, not any of the other types of receptors terpenes would be apt to bind to. 

As another study so aptly explained, “more likely candidates” for full spectrum CBD’s inner workings include “inhibition of endocannabinoid uptake, allosteric modulation of CB1 receptors, activation of 5-HT1A serotoninergic receptors anti-oxidant effects.”

Or, to put it in non-sciency terms: 

The way full spectrum CBD’s various elements (including THC) work together is complex enough to remain elusive to researchers. And that means figuring out your THC intake may be more an art than a science. It’s totally up to you!

Finding What Works 

This is where the “art” part of the broad spectrum vs. full spectrum debate comes in. In the absence of more insightful data, we’d encourage you to embrace your inner scientist and take some time to find out how both types of CBD oil affect you. 

How? There are several possible ways. Consider taking broad spectrum CBD oil consistently for a week, noting your effects as you do. Take a few days off, and then resume taking the same amount of a full spectrum CBD oil for another week. 

Keep a dosing journal if you so desire, and remain conscious of any changes in your mood, sleep pattern, pain levels, et cetera. You might find that full spectrum CBD kicks in faster or lasts for slightly longer before wearing off — but then again, you may not. 

Dosing Differences 

The optimal dosing techniques for broad spectrum and full spectrum CBD may also be slightly different. Some customers find they can thrive on the very same dose of both; others may find they require a little more broad spectrum CBD to get the same effects as they would from other options. Still other people may find one product better than another for microdosing. 

“Dosing cannabis is unlike any therapeutic agent to which I was exposed in my medical training,” says Dr. Dustin Sulak, a nationally-recognized cannabis and hemp expert. That’s just one more reason why it’s important to make changes slowly and listen to your body. 

Potential Allergies 

Those with severe allergies sometimes find an ally in broad spectrum products. Why? Because the extra purification these products undergo may eliminate allergenic terpenes and alkaloids. People who are super sensitive may even opt to go the CBD isolate route. While this type of allergy is very rare, it’s something to keep in mind if you don’t get normal (beneficial) results from CBD. 

Drug Testing

Some sources say broad spectrum CBD is better than full spectrum CBD when it comes to drug testing. They’re mostly right...mostly for the wrong reasons. 

Contrary to popular belief, full spectrum CBD’s THC content isn’t always the issue that comes up with drug testing. Point of care tests can misidentify virtually any cannabinoid as THC, leading to what’s called a “false positive” test result. 

So while THC-free, broad spectrum CBD may be slightly better when it comes to testing clear, even this option isn’t perfect. Just something to keep in mind!  




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