Full Spectrum CBD: What's the Big Idea?

'CBD Isolate vs. Full Spectrum CBD' with illustration of molecules

Cannabidiol, or CBD as it's more commonly referred to, is just one of about 80 naturally occurring compounds exclusive to hemp and cannabis plants. In just the last few years a growing industry has emerged around this compound - and for a number of good reasons. The over-the-counter plant-based remedy has shown enormously effective for a wide range of previously hard to treats diseases. From fibromyalgia and PTSD to rare forms of epilepsy, the naturally occurring compounds is alleged to assist with over 50 common ailments. CBD alone is estimated to be valued at a billion dollars annually with growth suspected to increase 20-fold in the next decade. With all of the recent and justified fever around CBD, lawmakers and sick folks alike have been trying to understand the finer points of the chemistry behind this new wonder-drug. Today we'll take a closer look into the debate between two different CBD products that are sometimes marketed identically but can have radically different qualities from each other.

CBD Soda!?

CBD is one of the largest constituents of cannabis and hemp plants by percentage, making up a surprising 40% of its natural resin. CBD-infused products have become quite the rage in recent years, and with any industry at its infancy we are still discovering more and more about it every year. There is now a concerted effort to make strides in establishing how the compound functions in the body and how best to administer it, both queries having more facets than anyone had expected. CBD extracts are now found in a staggering variety of forms - from edibles and tinctures made to be used sublingually (or under the tongue) to “dabbable” concentrates designed for smoking. The two most popular types of the compound are called “CBD isolates” and “full spectrum CBD”.

CBD Isolate or “Pure CBD”

Pure CBD, or isolate, has a crystalline structure and is quite an odd thing for the casual cannabis user to observe. The product is made with a more natural process than you might imagine, however, and doesn't require the chemistry set you would picture after seeing the end product. Chromatography is the term used for this process, and it basically consists of little more than pushing plant matter through sand or silica. This forces the smaller CBD crystals to the bottom of the pressurized container at a greater speed than other, larger plants molecules like terpenes and THC. CBD isolate has become popular across the United States and the world, alike, because CBD itself is still an unregulated compound. That means that even though it is a cannabis extract, the user risks no form of illegality - even in states that still prohibit all forms of cannabis and hemp. Unlike its counterpart, CBD isolate can be used even by those on legal probation and being administered drug tests. Interestingly, full spectrum CBD does have the potential to contain minute amounts of THC (up to 0.03% is allowed by law), although I haven't heard of the non-psychoactive compound causing anyone to fail tests. It was thoughts until recently that the purity of CBD isolate would allow it to have greater efficacy in treating the astonishing number of ailments the compound has shown to help with - but a study published by the Lautenberg Center for Immunology and Cancer Research seems to indicates the opposite.

Rats! Well, Mice

It had been previously believed that in it's isolated form, CBD could be more potent than full spectrum CBD. This belief was debunked in 2015 by a study performed by the Lautenberg Center for General Tumor Immunology in Jerusalem. The study was performed, as usual, on mice. I feel compelled to make a brief disclaimer, although I do generally endorse the statements made by the study: mice and humans are not identical, and the scientific community has been abuzz in modern times questioning the usefulness of animal studies as predictors of human drug interaction. I digress. The study had researchers administer CBD isolate and full spectrum CBD to two different groups of mice, with a few surprising results. Comparing data sets proved that the mice who were given full spectrum CBD were provided with higher levels of relief. The study also found that full spectrum CBD continue to provide relief as the dose was increased, whereas CBD isolate did not provide the same effect with an increased dosage.

Full Spectrum Ahead!

Full spectrum CBD is the obvious choice for anyone who has the opportunity to use it, but that isn't to diminish the tremendous capabilities of CBD isolate, either. CBD isolate is a boon for anybody in a prohibition state or anyone with legal trouble, in particular, and has a number of other applications, as well. As the name implies, full spectrum just has more to it. Full spectrum CBD is a bit of a misnomer, “full spectrum hemp extract” would be a more appropriate moniker but probably wouldn't be as noticeable in sales. Full spectrum CBD contains the entire range of organic compounds found in the hemp plant, boasting a swath of other endogenous compounds still being studied. This includes CBDA, known to inhibit cancer cell growth, CBG, which aids in sleep and promotes bone growth, and CBGA, an anti-inflammatory and antibiotic, just to name a few.