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The Difference Between Broad-Spectrum, Full-Spectrum, And Isolated CBD

CBD is, without a doubt, the hottest trend in the wellness industry to come around in years—maybe even since green juice became a thing. Yet with so many different types of CBD supplements out there, it can be tough to identify which is best for your health goals. 

Inspect the labels of a few CBD products and you’ll see terms like “broad-spectrum CBD,” “full-spectrum CBD,” and “CBD isolate.” Thing is, these different types of CBD are actually quite different—and there’s a thing or two you should know about each before putting one in your shopping cart. 

Here, experts break down the unique features of these types of CBD supplements—and how to decide which to try. 

Full-Spectrum CBD

Products that are full-spectrum CBD contain not just the compound CBD (a.k.a. cannabidiol) itself, but other naturally-occurring compounds found alongside it in the cannabis plant, too.

The goal of full-spectrum CBD is to provide the properties of the whole plant in the purest possible form, explains cannabis expert Stuart Titus, Ph.D.

Yep, that means that products labeled “full-spectrum CBD” may also contain some THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis associated with the high sensation marijuana causes. Don’t worry, though, FDA regulations require that CBD and other hemp products contain less than 0.3 percent THC, which will not get you high. 

Read More: What’s The Difference Between Hemp Oil, Hemp Extract, CBD, And Marijuana?

In addition to some THC, full-spectrum CBD products typically also contain plant compounds such as flavonoids and terpenes.

Why take your CBD with a side of these other compounds? Combining CBD, THC, and these other natural compounds creates what’s known as the “entourage effect,” says Titus. “The synergistic application of all the plant materials works better than just an isolated compound.”

In other words, these various compounds work together to achieve a greater effect in the body than one single compound alone. This makes full-spectrum CBD the most powerful (and desirable) option.

Quality CBD brands provide testing results to confirm that their products are, in fact, full-spectrum, so don’t hesitate to check out their websites for more info.

Broad-Spectrum CBD

The one difference between broad-spectrum and full-spectrum CBD? In broad-spectrum CBD, the THC is removed during the extraction process, says Titus. However, all the terpenes, flavonoids, and other cannabinoids found alongside CBD remain. It’s basically the middle-ground option between full-spectrum CBD and CBD isolate (more on that soon).

While the complete lack of THC in broad-spectrum CBD products might appeal to some, it may come with some drawbacks.

Read More: You Must Chill With These 3 CBD Recipes

Since THC is one of the many naturally-occurring phytocannabinoids in hemp, even minute quantities of it contribute to the entourage effect, explains Jen Palmer, N.D., naturopath and Director of Education for Charlotte’s Web CBD. In fact, according to Titus, “studies show that a very small amount of THC (again, not enough to produce a high feeling) contributes to greater effects.”

Without any THC at all, CBD’s effectiveness takes a bit of a hit.

CBD Isolate

The third and final form of CBD you’ll find out there: CBD isolate. The absolute purest variety, CBD isolate contains the highest concentration of CBD possible; usually 99 percent.

CBD isolates are typically created by extracting the CBD from the hemp stalk, explains Palmer. Though hemp stalks aren’t a great source of CBD, companies use strong solvents to extract as much CBD as possible from them, allowing them to create CBD isolate products for relatively cheap. Thing is, unlike other types of CBD supplements, isolate products have zero entourage effect.

“Since you don’t have to take any other cannabinoids into account when measuring them, though, CBD isolate products are also easy to dose,” Titus says.

The bottom line: Though you know exactly how much CBD you get in more budget-friendly isolate products, you miss out on the benefits of the entourage effect.

Which Of These Types Of CBD Supplements Is Right For You?

Regardless of what type of CBD supplement you choose, always buy products from reputable retailers. (Check out The Vitamin Shoppe’s CBD Central in-store and online for a large assortment of quality CBD from brands you can trust.) Look for brands that share certificates of analysis, which break down everything about the ingredients in their products. 

If you want CBD’s maximum possible benefits, Palmer recommends opting for a full-spectrum product. This way, you’ll reap the unique benefits of phytocannabinoids like CBC, CBG, and THC (remember, tiny amounts), too.

You can find full-spectrum CBD in many different forms—including tinctures, capsules, gummies, and topicals—so you have plenty of options.

However, if you want a completely THC-free product, opt for a broad-spectrum CBD product instead.

If you’re a tight budget but still want to give CBD a try, check out a CBD isolate product.

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