There’s a whole new kind of jargon seeping into your social media feed. It’s CBD speak, and it almost warrants its own dictionary. Words like “cannabinoid”, “homeostasis”, “terpene”, and “full spectrum” are flying at us so that one practically needs some CBD oil to ease the FONK anxiety. And, in case it’s driving you nuts, FONK stands for fear of not knowing. Now breathe.

So, you may have heard people say that if you’re going to take CBD, you should take full spectrum CBD. Okay, full spectrum sounds good … sounds like we’re getting some bonus stuff, like we have options. But if we’re talking about taking something for our health or to help treat something like inflammation or anxiety, we’re going to need to know a little more than what the adjective in front of CBD implies.

Full Spectrum CBD vs. CBD Isolate

CBD Isolate
99% Pure CBD (Cannabidiol) Isolate from Appalachian Extracts

Here’s the deal … You see those three letters everywhere C-B-D. But there’s more to CBD than its ubiquity. Beyond the acronym, there are the hemp actives. These are plant nutrients in the hemp plant that contribute to the beneficial effects that a lot of people are experiencing when they take CBD.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is simply the dominant cannabinoid in hemp, similar to how tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the dominant cannabinoid in marijuana. But different strains have different amounts of various other cannabinoids and other plant nutrients like terpenes and flavonoids (don’t worry, we’ll get to those).

So what are you buying when you go into a CBD store? And should you get full spectrum CBD or isolate? Well, let’s start with what these two terms mean.

What is Full Spectrum CBD?

When we talk about full spectrum, we like to say you get the whole plant. This refers to the pure extracted oil of the hemp plant that contains unmodified cannabinoids and compounds. This means it contains an array of cannabinoids, vitamins and minerals, fatty acids, flavonoids, and terpenes.

Flavonoids are a diverse family of phytonutrients that, along with carotenoids, give fruits, flowers, and vegetables their rich and vibrant colors. These phytonutrients are known antioxidants with anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and immune system benefits. While flavonoids exist widely throughout nature, there are some that can only be found in cannabis, and these are called cannaflavins. Studies suggests that cannaflavins are more powerful anti-inflammatories than those found in aspirin.

Terpenes are a large and diverse class of organic compounds, produced by a variety of plants. They have a strong odor and may protect the plants that produce them by deterring herbivores and by attracting predators and parasites of herbivores. In the hemp plant, the same glands that produce cannabinoids, like CBD and THC, produce terpenes. These aromatic oils are what give cannabis strains their characteristic orders and flavors. Different terpenes are thought to have various effects. Some may promote relaxation, while others may give you focus.

The assortment of plant nutrients existing in the hemp plant are thought to contribute to the overall therapeutic effects of hemp-derived CBD—if they are allowed to stay in there. If you are looking for stress relief from CBD, wouldn’t you want the added benefit of relaxation-promoting terpenes? And if it’s anti-inflammatory effects you’re after, wouldn’t you want some cannaflavin-love left in there?

But what’s even more stupendous is that all these phytonutrients found in hemp are thought to work synergistically in something called the “entourage effect.” Which brings us to a quick discussion of …

How Full Spectrum CBD Works

Non-Psychoactive Cannabidiol
CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, there is no “high”.

Scientists aren’t quite sure how the entourage effect works yet, but through some initial research, they speculate that cannabinoids and various other plant compounds may interact synergistically with the receptors in the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Unfortunately, not enough research has been done because of the prohibition of cannabis for so long.

Still, there is clinical evidence that strongly points toward the entourage effect. A 2017 study demonstrated that low doses of THC:CBD have the potential to treat neuropathic pain in mice. Dr. Ethan Russo has conducted studies that suggests both cannabinoid-cannabinoid synergistic interactions and cannabinoid-terpenoid interactions exists. And some of this research has come from human trials, which is uncommon.

Over the years, scientists have discovered, and continue to discover, that different cannabinoids react with different receptors in the body—not just the cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2). CBD, for example, is believed to have more interaction with opioid, dopamine, and serotonin receptors than with cannabinoid receptors.

If you consider that there are over 100 known cannabinoids, and up to 300 more chemical compounds in the cannabis plants, and couple that with the untold amount of receptors in the human body—it might take a while for scientists to sort out all the possible combinations and effects.

We still haven’t entirely figured out how acetaminophen works, but it was approved by the FDA in 1951 without knowing that information, and while it is now believed to possibly cause liver toxicity, it is still considered relatively safe. People take it for the effects they know it to have on their bodies.

Full spectrum CBD is considered to be safe. In early 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that “CBD is generally well tolerated with a good safety profile.”

What is CBD Isolate?

CBD isolate is CBD processed to remove all other cannabinoids, oils, plant materials, waxes, and chlorophyll. With pure CBD, one can potentially experience the benefits of CBD, which people are taking for a range of reasons, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Epilepsy
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases (Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), and neurodegeneration due to alcoholism)
  • Pain and Inflammation (chronic pain, arthritis, etc.)
  • Acne
  • Cancer
  • Nausea

These are the reasons people are taking full spectrum CBD as well. Anecdotally, people report better results with full spectrum CBD.

People who may be put off by the taste or smell of full spectrum CBD oil might prefer CBD isolate. This is also a reason that it is used in health and beauty products. However, there are some high quality products produced by some solid brands that overcome these issues.

Can Full Spectrum CBD Be THC Free?

Also, some people simply want nothing to do with THC. If it’s their first venture into the cannabis world, they may feel better starting out with CBD isolate. But again, the industry has answered by creating what are often called “broad spectrum” products, which are full spectrum CBD oil products with the THC removed. These can also be CBD isolate with other plant nutrients added back in.

Is Full Spectrum CBD Psychoactive?

We should talk about the word “psychoactive.” Some of us have been cautioned about using the word non-psychoactive to describe CBD. Is it because hemp-derived CBD gets you high? No. Let’s be clear: hemp-derived CBD is non-intoxicating and will not get you high.

Some doctors and scientists take issue with the use of the word psychoactive, because in a general sense, psychoactive means to affect the mind, which cannabinoids do. Even though they’re not getting you high, cannabinoids like CBD and CBG do have effects on receptors in the brain.

However, you will find that a lot of scientific studies claim that CBD and other non-THC cannabinoids are not psychoactive. They are obviously referring to intoxication. To avoid any confusion, we will use the word, “non-intoxicating” to describe CBD and other cannabinoids that will not get you high.

Only Hemp-Derived CBD is Non-intoxicating

To be clear, when we say CBD is non-intoxicating, we’re talking about CBD oil that is derived from hemp. Hemp contains .3% or less THC, which is an amount that cannot get you high. CBD oil derived from marijuana could have a lot more THC in it, and could possibly get you high, although CBD is thought to moderate THC’s psychoactive effects.

CBD oil that is extracted from marijuana is not legal in the U.S. (although it could be in some states), which brings us to the next question …

Is Full Spectrum CBD Legal?

Cannabis Legalization
The cannabis legalization movement has never been stronger

CBD that comes from hemp, whether it’s full spectrum or not, is legal.

For nearly a century, during prohibition, the terms cannabis, marijuana, and hemp were used interchangeably. It began with the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 and continued through the overkill of the Controlled Substances Act of the 1970s that made marijuana (and subsequently, hemp) a Schedule I drug because it has “a high potential for abuse” and “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.” This placed marijuana (and it’s can’t-get-you-high cousin, hemp) on the same level as heroin and LSD. However, …

The 2014 Farm Bill defined hemp as containing .3 % or less THC and made it legal to cultivate, produce, and sell within state-defined programs that were considerably restrictive. The 2018 Farm Bill loosened those restrictions, and as long as hemp and hemp-derived CBD products follow the guidelines of the bill, they are legal. The defining factor is the THC amount of .3% or less. To reiterate, hemp is no longer a controlled substance as long as it meets the government’s definition.

How is Full Spectrum CBD Made?

Once the hemp has been harvested and properly cured, it’s time to extract the oil.

Full spectrum CBD oil should be extracted using a safe and nontoxic method that also effectively captures all the synergistic compounds found in the hemp plant, which is what makes it “full spectrum.”

There are two safe and organic solvents used in extraction: ethanol and supercritical CO2.

Ethanol Extraction

  • Ethanol is simply alcohol made from plants.
  • In an ethanol extraction, organic food-grade ethanol is passed through hemp flower and brought to a very low boil.
  • The FDA classifies ethanol as safe for human consumption.
  • It yields the highest volume of cannabinoids and phytonutrients—best for full spectrum CBD oil.
  • A sophisticated ethanol extraction process can effectively remove unwanted materials such as plant waxes and chlorophyll efficiently without the heat exposure that is used in other extraction methods.

Supercritical CO2 Extraction

  • At normal temperatures and pressure, CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) behaves like a gas. When it is cooled and pressurized, it reaches a state that is somewhere between a gas and a liquid. This intermediate phase is called a supercritical state.
  • Supercritical CO2 can pass through the hemp plant matter as a gas, while mixing with it as a liquid as well. This allows it to pull out essential trichomes, terpenes and/or waxes. The remaining solution (of supercritical CO2 and plant compounds) is then passed through a separator, where it is broken down into its constituent parts.
  • This is the same extraction process used to decaffeinate coffee and tea.

Can I Give Full Spectrum CBD to My Pets?

Full spectrum CBD that you buy for yourself could upset your pet’s stomach. A made-for-pets CBD product like Ananda Pets Full Spectrum CBD Extract removes the chlorophyll that causes stomach upset in dogs and cats. Otherwise, it is the same full spectrum CBD product that you would purchase for yourself.

Can You Smoke Full Spectrum CBD?

CBD Flower
CBD hemp flower buds look and smell like normal THC buds

Yes! CBD hemp flower has become very popular. One reason people are smoking it is because it yields a full spectrum of cannabinoids and plant nutrients all at once.

You can smoke hemp flower in all the traditional ways that marijuana is combusted and inhaled—through joints, pipes, etc. And you can even purchase it in pre-rolls, so the work is done for you. Smoking allows the full spectrum of hemp cannabinoids to get into you fairly quickly through the lungs. The disadvantage of smoking hemp flower is the same as it is for weed and tobacco—smoke inhalation is damaging. But you already knew that.

Vaping is also highly effective, and has an even higher absorption rate than smoking. And it’s not damaging to your respiratory system like smoking is. With vaping, though, you’ll just need to buy and maintain a dry herb vaporizer.

Is Full Spectrum CBD Better?

The consensus seems to be that full spectrum CBD is better. The only real way for you to find out is to try it for yourself. But please remember, whether you believe in the entourage effect or not, always choose a high-quality CBD product.

While industrial hemp-derived cannabinoids are legal, they are not currently regulated by the FDA. This means that the quality assurance of the product is left up to the manufacturers. Transparency of a cannabinoid product is very important for several reasons. Here’s just one very important reason: Industrial hemp is a bioaccumulator, which means that it will absorb heavy metals and chemicals from the soil. In some countries, like China, farmers will plant a crop of hemp to clean out their soil, and then sell the tainted hemp to be used for CBD.