Consumer demand for CBD continues to soar as we gain a fuller understanding of its health benefits. In 2020 the global CBD market was valued at $2.8 billion; by 2028 it’s expected to reach $55.8 billion.
Within that market are numerous products from which to choose. For those who are new to CBD, the sheer volume of choices can be overwhelming—especially when terms like full-spectrum and broad-spectrum are thrown into the mix.
So what is full-spectrum CBD oil? How does full-spectrum CBD differ from CBD isolate? Is one inherently superior to the other?
These are good questions, and we’ve got the answers. When you’re finished reading this article you’ll have all that you need to make informed CBD purchases.
What Does Full-Spectrum CBD Mean?
Before we home in on full-spectrum CBD oil, let’s take a moment to recall what CBD is, where it comes from, and how it affects us.
CBD is short for cannabidiol which, along with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is one of the principal constituents of the cannabis plant. CBD and THC are both cannabinoids but their effects are very different. The main difference is simple: THC makes you “high” while CBD does not. That accounts for the legal discrepancy between the two.
What does CBD do? Quite a lot, as it happens. Studies indicate that it can help remedy a variety of health conditions including:
- chronic pain
Considering that it delivers these benefits with little or no side effects, it’s no wonder CBD has become such a sought-after product.
How are CBD products made?
The vast majority of CBD products on the market are extracted not from marijuana but from industrial hemp. There’s a good reason for that. Whereas marijuana contains high levels of THC (sometimes upwards of 20%), hemp contains almost none.
CBD isolate products, as the name suggests, contain CBD and nothing else. No THC, no terpenes, no flavonoids—just pure CBD.
The main drawback of CBD isolate is that, by excluding the cannabis plant’s other ingredients, it misses out on the entourage effect. In case you’re not already aware, the entourage effect refers to the harmonious interaction between the various components of cannabis. As they interact they complement one another, heightening the plant’s overall effects.
Left to its own devices, CBD still carries therapeutic properties. It’s just that those properties are stronger and more effective in the presence of its fellow cannabis chemicals.
Therein lies the point of full-spectrum hemp extracts. CBD is still the central component, but it’s accompanied by additional cannabinoids as well as terpenes. Compared to isolate, full-spectrum CBD more closely resembles a raw cannabis plant.
Does full spectrum CBD contain THC?
Given that THC remains illegal in the UK, a lot of people have questions about whether full-spectrum CBD contains THC.
By definition, full-spectrum CBD includes THC. If it contained no THC it wouldn’t be full-spectrum. But as we highlighted earlier, most CBD products are derived from hemp, and hemp contains only trace amounts of THC.
To be precise, the hemp plant features a maximum of 0.2% THC. While that’s enough to promote the entourage effect, it’s not nearly enough to make you high or impair your judgment. Nor will such a minute quantity of THC cause you to fail a drug test.
You can lawfully buy CBD hash and full spectrum products in the UK. Such products are perfectly legal as long as their THC content does not exceed 0.2%.
If you have concerns about the level of THC in a full-spectrum CBD product, ask the company for laboratory test results showing the exact quantity of each ingredient. Reputable brands make these details readily available to customers.
How long does it stay in your system?
The length of time CBD stays in your system depends on various factors. Generally speaking, your body will flush it out within 2-5 days.
A higher dose of CBD will naturally linger in your system longer than a lower dose. Also, CBD taken on an empty stomach leaves your system faster than CBD taken when your belly is full.
Fat stores cannabis. Thus, the higher your body fat percentage, the longer CBD will stick around.
The form of CBD is yet another factor to consider. Your body metabolises edible and topical CBD more slowly than CBD oil, for instance. If you vape CBD, it will enter and exit your system relatively quickly.
Keep in mind that drug tests screen not for CBD but for THC. Specifically, a drug test measures a THC metabolite called THC-COOH. How long does THC-COOH stay in your system? In addition to the variables already mentioned, it largely depends on the frequency of use.
In any case, the salient fact is that full-spectrum CBD contains no more than 0.2% THC. You are allowed by UK law to consume that much THC. Unless you take a gargantuan dose of full-spectrum CBD every day for a number of weeks, it’s not going to cause any issues.
Are there any side effects?
The side effects of marijuana are well-documented and understood to be caused by THC. Cannabis products with high levels of THC tend to produce more—and more severe—side effects. These include intoxication, memory problems, sensory impairment, mood swings, and (in extreme cases) hallucinations.
Full-spectrum CBD products are not associated with any such side effects.
Although research into CBD is ongoing, it is widely considered to be a safe, well-tolerated compound.
Side effects are minimal. According to the Mayo Clinic, they rarely include:
- dry mouth
- reduced appetite
For many people, CBD’s potential benefits far outweigh its side effects. To reiterate, said benefits are augmented when CBD is combined with terpenes and trace amounts of THC. Hence the popularity of full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD products.
Potential Health Benefits of Full-Spectrum compared to Broad-Spectrum CBD or CBD Isolate
We’ve covered the difference between full-spectrum CBD and CBD isolate. At this point, you may be wondering how full-spectrum differs from broad-spectrum CBD. These terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are not exactly the same.
Whereas full-spectrum CBD oils contain terpenes and a little THC, broad-spectrum CBD products tend to omit the THC completely. We’ll proceed on this basis, bearing in mind that trace amounts of THC are sometimes present in broad-spectrum CBD products as well.
As a general rule, full-spectrum products are going to be more effective than broad-spectrum products. This, again, is owing to the entourage effect. CBD and THC function as a team: when separated they’re both slightly diminished.
Scientific research bears this out. A 2018 study in Frontiers in Neurology tested the effects of pure CBD versus a CBD-rich extract (i.e. full-spectrum CBD) on epilepsy patients.
Both products improved symptoms with little or no side effects. However, the CBD-rich extract had a “therapeutic advantage” over pure CBD. The study’s authors attributed the said advantage to “other plant compounds acting synergistically to CBD.” In other words, the entourage effect.
A Word About Terpenes
Along with CBD and THC, terpenes play a starring role in the entourage effect. Terpenes are aromatic hydrocarbons found in the essential oils of plants, flowers, and fruits. They are the reason marijuana smells the way it does. Research suggests that terpenes have significant medicinal properties as well.
To take a couple of examples, myrcene and beta-caryophyllene are known to have anti-inflammatory properties. Meanwhile, the linalool terpene may help relieve stress and improve sleep. All three are abundant in cannabis.
Terpenes have moreover been found to bolster the desirable effects of CBD and THC. A 2020 article in Current Neuropharmacology concluded that terpenes and cannabinoids may be combined to effectively treat mood and anxiety disorders. This, the authors noted, would enable patients to avoid the unpleasant effects associated with conventional antidepressants and mood stabilisers.
Before purchasing a full-spectrum CBD product, ensure that terpenes are among the listed ingredients. Products that don’t include terpenes are not full-spectrum.
What Kinds of Full-Spectrum CBD Products Are There?
CBD, full-spectrum or otherwise, can be taken in many different ways. Below are the most popular types of products.
CBD oil (aka CBD tincture) comes in a small glass bottle with a dropper. Add it to a drink or place a few drops directly under your tongue. It’s fast-acting and available in a variety of flavors.
CBD gummies are sweet and chewy edibles. They come in different flavors and strengths. Some companies make sugar-free versions for health-conscious customers.
CBD topicals include balms and salves—typically used to relieve muscle soreness and joint pain—as well as moisturisers, lotions, eye serums, and other beauty products.
CBD capsules are a good solution for those who don’t fancy the taste of CBD oil. Simply take the capsule with a glass of water as you would a multivitamin.
The list goes on. You can take your CBD in the form of tea, cookies, nuts, e-liquids, bath bombs, and more. There is something for everyone. CBD pet food is also widely available now.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you get a buzz from full-spectrum CBD?
No, as CBD typically doesn't contain THC. Some people experience what they believe is a "high" feeling from full-spectrum CBD, but that's most likely the result of the placebo effect.
Will full-spectrum CBD make you fail a drug test?
Most drug tests look for THC, not CBD. So it's unlikely you'd fail a drug test as CBD oil in the UK legally must contain less than 0.2% THC.
However, it's always best to play it safe. If you're subject to random testing, just avoid full-spectrum CBD products that contain THC in any form. You may want to consider a CBD Isolate with no traceable levels of THC. Most importantly, always check the label!
Does full spectrum CBD make you tired?
Some people anecdotally report feeling more tired after taking CBD. This is due to the sedative, calming effects of CBD and terpenes, and the very small amount of THC present.
Most people, however, will not feel tired or drowsy during the daytime from taking full-spectrum CBD.
Is it legal to buy full-spectrum CBD in the UK?
Yes, it's 100% legal to buy in the UK. You can legally purchase CBD products that contain up to 0.2% THC.
What is the best way to take full-spectrum CBD oil?
The best way to take full-spectrum CBD oil depends on the person. There's no one-size-fits-all answer. If you're new to CBD, try several different methods and see what works for you.
Full-spectrum CBD can be taken in many ways, including:
- sublingual tinctures under the tongue
- capsules and CBD edibles taken orally
The Bottom Line
CBD is proven to be a safe and effective natural supplement. Its potential health benefits are impressive, with peer-reviewed studies suggesting it can help treat a broad range of chronic ailments.
Research further illustrates that CBD’s beneficial properties are fortified by the presence of other cannabis ingredients, most notably THC and terpenes. Full-spectrum products are designed to facilitate this synergy, delivering enhanced therapeutic effects.