Broad spectrum vs. full spectrum CBD: What's the difference?

Learn about broad versus full spectrum CBD, including the benefits and effects of each.

Broad spectrum vs. full spectrum CBD: what's the difference?
minute read

Before embracing the CBD lifestyle, there are some key facts and terms to learn. Once you’ve grasped the basics of the endocannabinoid system and the value of CBD for the body, it’s time to make sense of the main types of CBD.

The first distinction to make is between broad spectrum CBD and full spectrum CBD. Both products are popular in many formats and use cases, and appeal to different people based on preferences and experiences.

It’s not a matter of which one is better or more effective, but instead—which one is best for your personal lifestyle. You may find that certain forms of CBD are ideal in specific situations or periods of your life, so be open to learning the ins and out of each variety.

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a compound found in the cannabis plant. Along with THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, CBD is one of the two main cannabinoids that occur naturally in the plant, although cannabis contains more than 100 other cannabinoids.

While you might be familiar with THC and its psychoactive effects, CBD is non-intoxicating and impacts the body in many different ways. It’s known for health benefits such as reducing feelings of discomfort, soothing feelings of tension in muscles, and even supporting regular sleep cycles.* 

This is due to how CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system, which is characterized by interactions between neurons, chemicals, and other aspects of our physiology.* The complexity of the ECS explains why CBD and other cannabinoids have such a wide range of effects and why each person experiences slightly different results.

CBD also works differently depending on factors like brain chemistry, metabolism, and even the time of day you take your CBD. You’ll also experience different benefits from CBD based on the amount you take and the method of intake, including topical lotions, oil tinctures, or chewable gummies. 

And another factor, possibly the most crucial factor—is whether or not you incorporate your CBD into your daily routine. CBD provides the most consistent results when it is consistently utilized—whether that’s every morning after your breakfast or every night an hour before bedtime. 

Does CBD have intoxicating properties?

No, CBD does not have intoxicating properties. It does, however, have the ability to interact with the endocannabinoid system, which means that your mood and perception can come into play. This can be observed as feelings of calm, clarity, presence, and relaxation. Whether or not these effects are technically considered psychoactive remains a topic of debate amongst top cannabis researchers. 

But for simplicity’s sake, no—CBD does not have the psychoactive and intoxicating properties that are commonly associated with THC. 

Many people seek out CBD because they enjoy the therapeutic benefits of cannabis but aren’t interested in the intoxicating or psychoactive effects of THC. 

This might be the case for a busy parent who also works a job, or the grad student with an overloaded schedule and workload. Introducing a psychoactive substance during the day is not always feasible, but you may still want something to support your wellness.

This is a major benefit of CBD, since it allows you to experience the many benefits of cannabinoids without any intoxicating, psychoactive properties.* As we’ll soon find out, certain CBD products can contain trace amounts of THC, but these are miniscule amounts compared to some of the THC-focused products available.

In general, you can expect most CBD products to contain little to no THC. We’ll offer more details that will inform your decisions for your CBD routine throughout the day. 

What is broad spectrum CBD?

The best of the best broad spectrum CBD products contain almost all components of the hemp plant. This includes dozens of terpenes, flavonoids, and other minor cannabinoids. However, broad spectrum CBD has non-detectable levels of THC. 

If you’re starting to explore CBD for the first time or aren’t quite comfortable yet with cannabis products, broad spectrum is a great place to start. You can learn how the compounds interact in your body, test out different strengths of servings and product types, and not have to worry about THC being involved in your work or play. 

Does broad spectrum CBD contain THC?

Although broad spectrum CBD is usually characterized by a lack of THC, it’s important that it’s possible that these products may contain very small amounts of this compound

As you learn to navigate certificates of analysis (COAs) and other reports, you’ll find that broad spectrum CBD products contain THC amounts so low that they will not affect the system in any way, even in larger servings. For instance, a typical THC concentration in broad spectrum CBD is usually 0.00%, but you may find one registered as 0.01% or less—a negligible amount by most, if not all standards.

Regardless, it’s always best practice to double-check lab reports when looking into CBD. With trusted brands, you can rest assured that broad spectrum products will have non-detectable THC levels across all product types.

At Sunmed, we use an ethanol extraction method to remove trace amounts of THC from our broad spectrum products. We simply choose this method because it’s the most effective method for extracting THC.

In short, the plant material is soaked in ethanol to dissolve the THC compounds, then the solvent is filtered and evaporated to produce a concentrated CBD extract. No trace amounts of ethanol remain in the final broad spectrum product—confirmed by our third-party batch-specific lab results.

Does broad spectrum CBD contain other cannabinoids?

CBD is the most common ingredient in broad spectrum products. However, along with CBD comes other beneficial cannabinoids that will add to your experience and enhance your results. The more plant-rich your supplement, the more likely you will have results—a theory known as the entourage effect

Minor cannabinoids like cannabinol (CBN) and cannabigerol (CBG) are key ingredients in many of our broad spectrum products, like the customer-favorite Broad Spectrum Rest Tincture and Broad Spectrum Rise Tincture

You might also find small amounts of other minor cannabinoids in your broad spectrum product that will add to the overall wellness value, such as CBDA, CBDV, and CBGA. 

What is full spectrum CBD?

With full spectrum CBD, you get all the upsides of broad spectrum products with the addition of a little THC. This is thought to add to the overall efficacy of the wellness supplement, since THC is the primary cannabinoid next to CBD in the entire plant.

Because the THC is left in full spectrum CBD, users may get a more acute sense of relaxation or soothing from their CBD products. This won’t be on par with the experience of high-THC marijuana products, but the difference could be noticeable compared to a broad spectrum product. 

Many CBD users find that full spectrum CBD is a step up from broad spectrum, due to the presence of THC and the potential for this compound to add to the entourage effect

Does full spectrum CBD contain THC?

The short answer is yes—full spectrum CBD does contain THC in small amounts. However, manufacturers are legally restricted to include no more than 0.3% THC by dry weight in a full spectrum CBD product.

This might seem like a somewhat sizable amount, but when stacked up against popular flower and edible products (averaging around 10-20% THC), the full spectrum THC levels are not too significant. On the flip side, remember that broad spectrum CBD products may contain a tiny fraction of that, at most. 

Still, even that small amount of THC present in full spectrum products can heighten the benefits for users looking to get more from their CBD products. Besides, you may have your own reasons to seek out full spectrum CBD or avoid it altogether. It’s all about staying informed and knowing exactly what’s in each product, and what you’re looking for.

Does full spectrum CBD have psychoactive properties?

Knowing that THC is found in trace amounts in full spectrum CBD, it’s fair to ask whether these products have psychoactive properties. This is important in a practical sense, as it will determine when and where you want to take full spectrum CBD or not. 

Because of the 0.3% maximum THC level in full spectrum products, you should not expect any intoxicating, psychoactive effects. Even in larger doses, there is not enough THC to interact with the receptors in the brain that trigger a “high” feeling. 

Still, based on your level of sensitivity to THC and other factors, you may experience heightened effects from full spectrum CBD, and it’s important to take note of these sensations when trying out a product for the first time. 

However, you won’t access the traditional marijuana experience when taking full spectrum CBD, which may be a pro or con, depending on what you’re looking for. 

What is the entourage effect?

To better understand how broad spectrum and full spectrum CBD differ, it’s worth touching on the entourage effect that we’ve been alluding to. This theory refers to the synergistic nature of the many cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids found in CBD products and cannabis products in general.

The concept is based on the idea that the ECS responds more significantly to cannabis compounds that work together

For example, some CBD products will contain higher amounts of CBG, which is thought to have a stimulating effectbest used for high-energy daytime activities. CBN, on the other hand, is thought to be better for nighttime relaxation and quality rest.

In the broad spectrum vs full spectrum comparison, the entourage effect of both types is brought into question more closely. Some suggest that the presence of THC in slightly higher concentrations creates a more impactful entourage effect.

Regardless, you can remain confident that both broad and full spectrum CBD can offer the results you want with proper serving size and administration methods. 

How does CBD isolate differ from broad spectrum and full spectrum?

While much of the CBD conversation focuses on the difference between broad spectrum and full spectrum products, there’s a third variant in the mix: CBD isolate. 

Through a specialized extraction process, CBD isolate removes all other cannabinoids from the equation, giving users the benefits of CBD strictly on its own. The simplicity of this product may be appealing to those who are interested in trying CBD in its purest form, without introducing cannabinoids like THC and others.

Does CBD isolate produce the entourage effect?

This is the big drawback of CBD isolate: because it’s CBD only, it doesn’t achieve the entourage effect you might come to expect from full spectrum or broad spectrum products. 

While this doesn’t render CBD isolate ineffective, you may be missing out on many of the therapeutic benefits that you hope to achieve from these types of products. If you have already introduced broad or full spectrum CBD into your daily routine, switching over to CBD isolate might not do the trick regarding relaxation or soothing effects.*

Of course, there’s a time and place for CBD isolate, so don’t write it off if you’re learning the basics. However, you might have better luck with more advanced, premium CBD options with a broader range of compounds the hemp plant offers.

Can broad spectrum CBD cause a false positive drug test?

You may wonder if CBD can register a positive drug test for THC, since there are trace amounts of this compound in full spectrum products. It’s a valid concern, as many organizations require drug tests before entering a new role as an employee, competitor, or participant. 

The good news is that broad spectrum CBD products will likely not put you at risk of failing a drug test for THC, provided this is the only type of cannabis product you’ve been using. But even still, it is possible that some broad spectrum CBD products have trace amounts of THC, which is technically possible to cause a positive test. It’s best practice to be transparent with your employer or concerning party about the products you are using prior. 

As far as full spectrum, prolonged consumption may result in THC building up in your body over time, meaning you could potentially fail a drug test down the line. This is something to keep in mind if you have your sights set on a specific career or position that requires a 100% clean drug test in the future.

Full spectrum CBD products are not guaranteed to result in a failed drug test, but if you’re looking to minimize your risk, it might be wiser to opt for broad spectrum. Your efforts should focus on avoiding cross-contamination with other products and avoiding second-hand smoke from cannabis when possible.

Which type of CBD is safest if you have an upcoming drug test?

If you have a drug test on the horizon, we suggest you switch to broad spectrum CBD sooner than later, as it’s best not to run the risk by taking products with slightly higher THC concentrations. Play it safe and stick with broad spectrum CBD to get the desired effects without taking extra chances.

How can you choose the best CBD?

The best CBD will differ for each person, and might even vary from day to day, depending on your goals and circumstances. 

The intelligent approach means learning key details about each product type, knowing your proper milligram amounts, using the right intake methods, and accounting for any changes you experience, positive or otherwise.

With that in mind, here are some tips for choosing the best CBD for your needs every time.

Check the THC content

THC content is the big variable when choosing a CBD product, since these concentrations can vary between products and change the impact of the entourage effect. 

If your goal is to minimize THC while still benefiting from the synergy of key cannabinoids, broad spectrum CBD will be your best option. You can choose from oils, tinctures, capsules, and edibles in broad spectrum formats, so there’s no shortage of choice.

Alternatively, full spectrum CBD products do contain trace amounts of THC. Even the small amount of THC in full spectrum products can enable the entourage effect and result in greater soothing and calming effects.* 

Of course, you’ll want to weigh the pros and cons of each type and consider the implications of drug tests you might have in the future. Regardless, knowing more about THC concentrations will help you understand your products better and get more from them each time.

Third-party batch-specific lab results

Whether you’re a CBD first-timer or a veteran of the CBD lifestyle, always check the batch-specific lab results for each product you buy. Trusted brands will always feature links to the batch-specific certificate of analysis (COA).

A complete COA will contain information such as total CBD, total THC, cannabinoids per unit, and a detailed breakdown of all relevant compounds. You’ll also get a pesticide and solvent analysis to confirm that your products are clean, natural, and safe for consumption. 

As you start incorporating CBD into your daily routine and trying different products, you’ll learn which cannabinoid combos are best for your body and most effective in certain situations. This will guide you in the right direction for future purchases and ensure you always make the right call.

Check the ingredient list

Checking ingredient lists is always a good idea, whether you’re researching CBD products or picking up snacks from the store. In the world of CBD, manufacturers often pair hemp extracts with secondary ingredients to help our bodies absorb key compounds and heighten effects while minimizing downsides.

Sunmed’s Broad Spectrum Capsules, for example, include a gram of MCT oil from coconut to help potentiate the active ingredients and support digestion. Alternatively, these Full Spectrum Trim Soft Gel Capsules contain metabolic-supporting turmeric extract in each serving to help you feel fired up for physical activity.* 

CBD works great with many natural ingredients, and there are numerous ways to enhance your experience. Get accustomed to checking ingredient lists and always be ready to learn more. 

Reputable brand

The brand makes all the difference with CBD products, so don’t settle for less. Trust and transparency are the key criteria, and brands build their reputation by providing clear and honest information about all their products. This is where Sunmed shines, with a focus on clean ingredients, helpful resources, and comprehensive lab reports. 

From CBD isolate to broad and full spectrum CBD, your body and mind deserve the best there is. 

The right tools for your CBD lifestyle

There’s a lot to learn about CBD when starting from square one, but don’t get overwhelmed. You're already ahead of the curve by understanding the differences between full and broad spectrum CBD. 

This information will serve you well as you enter the CBD lifestyle. Always strive to discover more about your favorite CBD products and how they work, so you can get more from every serving and embrace the full range of wellness benefits. 

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Cannabis’s chemical synergies | Nature.com

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