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Full Spectrum Vs. Broad Spectrum CBD

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Full Spectrum Vs. Broad Spectrum CBD

When buying hemp CBD, whether for yourself or your furry best friend, you typically come across three different versions of it: CBD Full Spectrum, CBD Broad Spectrum, and CBD Isolate. All three of these versions can pop up as the CBD that's in your CBD oil, gummy, or pet treat. In this article, we will be focusing on the first two CBDs mentioned. Both full spectrum CBD and broad spectrum CBD have much more in common with each other than either does with CBD isolate.

Where CBD isolate contains a singular compound in very high concentrations, giving us our purest form of cannabidiol (CBD), full spectrum and broad spectrum CBD feature an array of unique compounds found in hemp and cannabis. This gives us a final product that's very different from our isolate, with full spectrum and broad spectrum being greatly preferred for their benefits to health. As well, unlike CBD isolate, many find dosing with both full spectrum CBD and broad spectrum CBD to be much easier as a precise dose is not needed in most cases. 

However, there is a key difference between full spectrum and broad spectrum CBD, and that can lead one to prefer the health benefits of one over the other, especially when it comes to giving CBD to our pets.

The Types Of CBD: Simplified

Full Spectrum CBD = All the cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids that naturally occur in cannabis hemp plants, including cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabigerol (CBG), along with minimal traces of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Broad Spectrum CBD = Same as Full Spectrum, however, the cannabinoid, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has been fully removed.

CBD Isolate = Features extremely high concentrations of one single type of cannabinoid called cannabidiol (CBD).

Thanks to all the cannabinoids and other goodies from cannabis plants, all seemingly having therapeutic abilities that work along different pathways in the body, most find the more complete the cannabinoid and terpene profile, the greater the therapeutic benefits.

Types of CBD Oil - CBD Broad Spectrum vs CBD Full Spectrum

The Spectrum of Hemp And Cannabis

If you know a little about cannabis, hemp, or marijuana, you might have heard of the cannabinoids, THC, and CBD before this article. But those are just two cannabinoids found in cannabis, and cannabis has a lot of them. There is CBG, CBC, THCV, and about 100 more and counting. You can find all of these guys and gals together in the trichomes located on the flowers and leaves of the cannabis plants, which give them their infamous glisten in the sunlight. 

Along with the cannabinoids in the trichomes, there are the compounds that give cannabis plants their classic and diverse aromas, the terpenes. During the extraction process when we first separate the trichomes from the flowers, all of these compounds are together in our early hemp extract.

So why mention these different compounds when our subject is about CBD products. Well, that’s because the vast majority of CBD products don't just contain the cannabinoid, CBD. Even though they are named after it. Instead, the majority of CBD items contain all or nearly all the cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids found in cannabis plants. With full spectrum CBD products containing all of them, while broad spectrum most of them.

How Do CBD Products Work?

CBD items work by interacting with several receptors in the body that, when activated, deactivated, or modified, trigger regulatory actions across many systems, from balancing inflammation as a part of the immune system to encouraging the nervous system to correctly interpret pain and anxiety.

The Cannabinoids

The cannabinoids are the big guys in CBD products thanks to their ability to directly interact with those receptors in a similar fashion to a select group of neurotransmitters called endocannabinoids all mammals naturally create. 

The endocannabinoids help make up the endocannabinoid system (ECS) which is also composed of two main receptors. CB1 receptors are largely found in the brain, while CB2 receptors are found throughout much of the rest of the body. Like the cannabinoids in cannabis, our endocannabinoids interact with non-ECS receptors, such as vanilloid and serotonin receptors. 

Some varieties of cannabis plants are intoxicating because they feature enough of just one single compound, that when consumed in large amounts, will overstimulate CB1 receptors, creating the high we associate with marijuana. That cannabinoid is THC, and you now might start to see how full spectrum and broad spectrum differ. 

But there is more to the picture, as full spectrum CBD doesn’t contain anywhere near enough THC to cause a high. In fact, some of the other cannabinoids like CBD will modify CB1 receptors in a way that makes it hard for THC to bind as aggressively and overstimulate them. We’ll explore that in a bit, but first, we have to talk about the terpenes.

The Terpenes

We can’t forget to mention the terpenes that ride along with the cannabinoids when we derive them from the trichomes. If you’ve used essential oils before, love chamomile tea for its relaxing effects, or love walking through a field of flowers for all the delightful aromas, you are already familiar with the benefits terpenes can have. However, when consumed with cannabinoids, their interactions can increase their therapeutic potential. 

While, for the most part, the terpenes don’t directly interact with receptors, the terpenes can affect neurotransmitter levels and activity in the brain, which can indirectly impact mood, perception, and other physiological processes in positive ways. Then terpenes like Beta-Caryophyllene can bind to CB2 receptors in a similar way cannabinoids like CB2 can.

Additionally, the terpenes can help promote the entourage effect. This effect is the reason most prefer full spectrum, followed by broad spectrum, followed by CBD isolate. While the cannabinoids that appear in cannabis plants are unique to them, the terpenes we find in cannabis can also be found in fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers.

What Is The Entourage Effect?

The only time you can find cannabidiol by itself is in CBD isolate products. However, while a very potent cannabinoid and potentially the one with the strongest therapeutic effects that can't cause a high, CBD by itself is kind of meh.

Think of the CBD, itself, (the cannabinoid version) as the team leader in full spectrum and broad spectrum products. It’s great at winning games and getting the fans excited, often making themselves the MVP, but that’s only because they have a talented team behind them that specializes in things our team leader can’t. Or simply, there is no ‘I’ or ‘isolate’ in team.

CBD isolates are particularly more difficult to dose and don’t provide the range of effects full spectrum CBD and broad spectrum CBD do. This happens because the cannabinoids and terpenes influence how each other interacts with the body and how the body reacts to them. For example, the cannabinoid CBD has a molecular structure that makes it hard for it to efficiently pass through the blood-brain barrier (BBB). However, other cannabinoids, like THC, can modulate the permeability of the BBB, potentially allowing other cannabinoids, such as CBD, to enter the brain more easily. We call this beneficial relationship between the cannabinoids and terpenes the entourage effect. 

We can expand the definition a bit by including the concept that the cannabinoids and terpenes in cannabis interact with the body in various ways — some that overlap, some that don't. For example, while CBD products are associated with supporting the ECS (and they do), the cannabinoid CBD, itself, largely activates non-ECS receptors. This concept is also known as the "polypharmacy effect" or "polypharmacology” and refers to the use of multiple medications or substances to treat a condition or produce a desired effect.

Thanks to the synthetic nature and the polypharmacy effect of multiple cannabinoids and terpenes working together, this gives us the wide range of health benefits attributed to CBD medications.

The entourage effect is present in most cannabis items. In fact, the same cannabinoids and terpenes that make up most legal CBD products that can’t cause a high are the same ones that make up a marijuana product that can cause a high and is illegal in many places.

However, for the most part, most cannabinoids are unable to cause a high. In fact, there is only one cannabinoid that naturally appears in large enough amounts in cannabis that can, and that is THC. While both broad and full spectrum CBD contain too little THC to cause a high, THC does create a major distinction between them, both regarding their legal and therapeutic advantages.

THC And The Law

In the United States, thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, CBD and other cannabis items are federally legal when it's derived from cannabis plants containing no more than 0.3% delta-9 THC (termed industrial hemp). The product must stay within the 0.3% limit as well.

Where full spectrum CBD products are limited to containing no more than 0.3% delta-9 THC under federal law, broad spectrum CBD contains 0% THC by definition. Both full spectrum and broad spectrum are traditionally derived from hemp plants, but technically broad spectrum can come from a marijuana plant as long as all the THC is removed during the extraction process. 

While your broad spectrum product contains no THC, if it came from a marijuana plant with illegal amounts of THC upon harvest, your area may have laws that ban it if they ban recreational marijuana. This is because there are two main federal restrictions. One is placed on the product, as we saw above with the 0.3% THC rule, and another is placed on living cannabis plants. It’s the latter that can place broad spectrum CBD products derived from marijuana into a legal grey area. As The U.S. Department of Agriculture requires cannabis plants to be tested no further than 30 days before harvest. Cultivators can use tricks to avoid their plants testing for high THC content by testing earlier rather than later, as 30 days is a lot of time for a cannabis plant to go from producing little THC to a lot! 

So while full spectrum CBD from hemp contains trace amounts of THC, they are generally considered safe for all ages and are legal in more places than a broad spectrum derived from marijuana.

What Does Full Spectrum CBD Do?

Full spectrum means all the parts are intake and left undisturbed. Essentially, full spectrum CBD is the cannabis plant itself, or more exactly, the trichomes that appear on the flowers and leaves. Whether it’s marijuana or hemp CBD, we only care about the trichomes as they contain all the different therapeutic terpenes and cannabinoids. 

Other parts of the flower are made up of chemicals like chlorophyll, which serves no purpose, so we always leave it behind and don't consider it a part of the spectrum. Hemp seeds have their own benefits and often appear in CBD products as they increase absorption of the fat-soluble cannabinoids. However, hemp seed oil is also not a part of the spectrum definition. 

When the cannabinoids and terpenes are left together, and in the same ratio they appeared on plants, they earn/retain the label, full spectrum.

What Does Broad Spectrum CBD Do?

When removing the cannabinoids and terpenes from plant material and other chemicals found in hemp to create a full spectrum extract, we don’t have to stop there. Like with a CBD isolate, we can attempt to remove some of the cannabinoids. There are several reasons for this.

One thought is you can create a more potent CBD product by removing lesser cannabinoids that take up more space than help. This was the goal with CBD isolates, but it was taken too far. However, we still don’t have the best knowledge of the intricacies of many of the cannabinoids. So for the most part, broad spectrum CBD products that attempt to remove them are rare and very trial-and-error. 

Another reason to create broad spectrum CBD is to remove THC. At the moment, when you come across a broad spectrum CBD item, it’s likely only THC that was removed, leaving the rest of the cannabinoids untouched.

By removing THC during the broad spectrum extraction process, people who require high doses don’t have to worry about the THC content potentially building up in their system. When that happens, no ill effects are felt — the ratio between CBD to THC will almost undoubtedly prevent a high — but it can theoretically make you test positive for THC on a drug test.

Another thing broad spectrum offers is a CBD product for those sensitive to THC. A sensitivity to THC is very rare. And in the majority of cases, a full spectrum CBD oil that features a little more THC than what's currently legally allowed may be the better option. But while there isn’t enough THC to cause a high in full spectrum, there may be just enough for it to promote the entourage effect thanks to its own therapeutic benefits.

Which Is Better Full Spectrum Or Broad-Spectrum CBD?

Unlike with a CBD isolate, broad spectrum CBD retains the entourage effect, giving it nearly identical effects to that of a full spectrum CBD oil or another item. With no THC, gone is the cannabinoid that causes a high in large amounts and makes cannabis products illegal in many places.

At first, the clear winner appears to be the broad spectrum. And for those that are sensitive to THC or worry about a drug test, it is. But in the large majority of cases, the amount of THC found in full spectrum CBD is tolerated extremely well by most. So much so, that it can help create a stronger entourage effect without worries of it causing a high. In truth, while THC causes a high in large amounts, it appears to be one, if not the most, therapeutic cannabinoid found in cannabis. Its rare ability to activate CB1 receptors isn’t inherently concerning because when they aren’t overstimulated, they can stimulate a healthy appetite, bring anxiety to a halt, and are given the ability to mitigate pain better than cannabinoids that can’t activate CB1 receptors. 

As such, most people report preferring the greater range and potency of effects that full spectrum CBD can offer thanks to it including a cannabinoid that has major therapeutic potential. Where CBD interacts with non-ECS receptors, THC sticks to ECS receptors, meaning the two of them alone can hit a much greater range of receptors, that when properly activated/deactivated, can have huge benefits. 

In non-medical benefits between full spectrum or broad spectrum. Broad spectrum can also give us federally legal CBD products derived from potentially illegal cannabis crops with too high amounts of THC. Cannabis creates THC for protection against UV light and doesn't like to naturally have the trace amounts required by federal law.

This translates into a lot of cannabis crops being destroyed every year because they couldn’t retain the industrial hemp label. That’s a terrible loss for farmers and bad for the environment. However, above we saw that under federal law, CBD has to come from hemp crops with no more than 0.3% THC, currently preventing this non-medical advantage broad spectrum has. So again, this makes full spectrum CBD derived from legal industry hemp plants our favorite.

How To Pick The Best CBD Product?

While many full spectrum and broad spectrum CBD products advertise they contain less than 0.3% THC, this is often not the case. Often the THC content of the CBD extract they use contains 15-20 times more THC. This happens because CBD is not regulated by the FDA, falling under the definition of a dietary supplement. So, whether you’re looking for a whole plant full spectrum CBD or a broad spectrum one, there are a few rules you should always follow.

Certificate of Analysis -

This is the first and biggest thing you should look for before choosing a CBD product. A COA is the official lab analysis of the CBD product that checks how much CBD is in it along with other key compounds like THC, mold, pesticides, etc. This is done by an unaffiliated 3rd party lab, ensuring transparency of the results. 

After you’ve confirmed the COA, the other big things you want to look for is that it’s organic and has great reviews

Tips For Using Full Spectrum Vs. Broad Spectrum CBD


There are a lot of health benefits to using CBD, and you have a lot of options to choose from, whether you're using CBD for yourself or giving it to your dog, cat, or another pet. If you've never tried CBD before, we recommend trying out a full spectrum CBD oil as your first CBD item. They provide fast effects and allow you to try different dosages out to see what you prefer.

Like with most CBD products, besides the hemp extract that contains all the cannabinoids and other goodies, you'll notice an additional additive like a carrier oil. If you've used essential oils before, you might be familiar with the term. A carrier oil is simply a fat that greatly improves absorption of the cannabinoids like CBD. There are several options, but many find hempseed oil, sometimes just called hemp oil, the best thanks to its preferable nutrient profile vs. medium-chain triglycerides like coconut oil. At Innovet Pet, hemp seed oil is our go-to for that reason, and it’s more environmentally friendly since we only need hemp to create CBD oil.  

To use CBD oil, simply hold the oil under your tongue for 30-60 seconds for the fastest effects. Don’t worry if you accidentally swallow before the allotted time is up as it’s not like your dog or cat is going to hold the oil under their tongue, and they still see the same benefits. All that happens if immediately swallowed is the effects will take a few minutes longer to set in. The full range of health benefits will still be there. This is why we still recommend the oil form when giving CBD to a pet for the first time. CBD oil can be incorporated into treats and foods, but the effect will take longer due to digestion.

How Much CBD?

Unlike with a CBD isolate, neither full spectrum nor broad spectrum requires a precise dosage to work. As such, we recommend you start dosages out small and slowly work your way up until you find your preferred dosage. 

Most people take about 15 mg once or twice a day. If giving CBD to your dog or cat, check the back of the label for the recommended amount as their weight will greatly determine an appropriate dosage. Don’t have access to the product’s label or don’t want to do the math, check out our CBD Dosage Calculator which makes administrating CBD very simple.

Side Effects of CBD

Next to CBD's health benefits, which help with everything from anxiety to general wellness, the other most popular thing about CBD is its relatively low ability to cause side effects. All types of CBD including full spectrum, broad spectrum and isolate are well tolerated, with most people and pets experiencing no side effects from it.

Side effects common to most medications, such as nausea and tiredness, have been noted when first starting CBD or when too large of a dosage was taken.

The one side effect that should be acknowledged for any type of CBD product to their ability to interact with medications that are metabolized in the liver. This is because when a cannabinoid is metabolized, it can temporarily affect the activity of the enzyme. When a cannabinoid does this, the speed at which the enzyme breaks down other compounds can change, altering the compound's potency.

Like full spectrum, this interaction can happen with broad spectrum CBD. However, there may be a difference since THC is absent from broad spectrum CBD, and THC is known to affect the same enzymes. At first, this might point to broad spectrum CBD being the smarter choice. However, some researchers think keeping THC in during the extraction process is the best bet, with some suggesting that the trace amounts of THC in full spectrum aren't enough even.

What Form Of CBD Is Most Effective?

Full spectrum vs broad spectrum CBD? At first, it can seem complicated choosing between full spectrum or broad spectrum, especially if you’ve never used CBD before. That’s why at Innovet, we’re here to help make the selection process fairly simple.

In most cases, going with a full spectrum CBD is best. If you are worried about THC appearing on a drug test because you're taking large doses of CBD daily, then you may wish to switch to a broad spectrum. If you’ve tried CBD full spectrum, but it leaves you feeling tired even at low doses or leaves you feeling off, you may have a sensitivity to THC. In that case, give CBD broad spectrum a try. 

If you’re looking to give CBD to your pet, full spectrum CBD is recommended. Because again, full spectrum is guaranteed to provide the strongest entourage effect. While THC can have concerning side effects at large dosages, it is quite safe in low amounts where it still has significant advantages to achieving better health. And this is typical for many medications and dietary supplements like vitamins as well. Last, research and clinical trials often prefer the effects of CBD and THC together. 

Full spectrum CBD has remained the most popular type of CBD since it first appeared. And sometimes there is no point in changing what's already great.

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