Choosing from a Spectrum of CBD Products
Buying the right CBD product is usually a two-step process. First, you’ll choose among the various product categories: CBD tinctures, CBD pills and capsules, CBD lotions and salves, CBD gummies and other edibles, CBD vape distillate and so on. Second, you’ll decide among full-spectrum, broad-spectrum or isolate types of CBD products.
We’ve described the different product categories in an earlier post. So, in this post, we’ll answer a few questions about the “CBD spectrum.”
1. What substances are extracted from hemp?
During processing, the hemp plant’s chemical compounds are extracted, usually through CO2, ethanol or other methods, then they’re distilled. The three main categories of compounds are cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids.
a. Cannabinoids are hemp’s active ingredients, which influence receptors in the body’s endocannabinoid system. Hemp may have more than 100 cannabinoids in various amounts, including cannabidiol (CBD), cannabigerol (CBG), cannabinol (CBN) and cannabichromene (CBC), plus <0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
b. Terpenes are found in the flowers, herbs, vegetables and fruits of many plants (including hemp). Each terpene naturally emits a distinctive aroma and flavor. Scientists have so far identified more than 200 terpenes in hemp; some of the most common are myrcene, pinene, limonene and caryophyllene.
c. Flavonoids are related to terpenes but less understood. These are partially responsible for the plant’s pigmentation and add to its aroma. Some flavonoids are known to influence the body in the same way terpenes do.
2. What goes into a CBD product?
Each product on the CBD spectrum has some, but not all, of the ingredients that we just mentioned:
- A full-spectrum product has all the cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids in the plant, including THC. This type of product undergoes the least amount of processing.
- A broad-spectrum product has all the cannabinoids except for THC, plus all the terpenes and flavonoids. As with the full-spectrum type, the broad-spectrum type might also have food-grade and other flavoring.
- An isolate contains only CBD and practically no other cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids or anything else. Isolates are generally tasteless, colorless and odorless, appearing as crystals or a fine powder. Being the most-processed type, the best isolates are at least 99% CBD, meaning that there’s 990mg of the cannabinoid in a 1000mg bottle. However, this level of quality can vary by brand.
Processors use CBD isolate as the basis for various products, including tinctures, topicals, pills or capsules, vape distillate and edibles. Although full- or broad-spectrum CBD also comes in these products, check the label for the ingredients. In addition, make sure that the product has been tested by a third-party lab and has a Certificate of Analysis—either online through a package’s QR code or at the shop itself—that lists the amount of CBD and other ingredients.
3. Why would I want a full-spectrum CBD product?
The major benefit of buying a full-spectrum product is receiving the complete “entourage effect,” in which the cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids in the whole plant work better together as a team rather than separately. Many experts think the small amount of THC is an important ensemble player.
This effect can help ensure the most optimal results for the body’s endocannabinoid receptors and might provide a more healthful experience in dealing with pain or anxiety. However, CBD has not been approved by the FDA as a dietary supplement, and manufacturers and sellers of CBD can’t make claims about its medical effectiveness.
4. Why would I want a broad-spectrum CBD product?
As you’ll recall, the only difference between a full-spectrum and a broad-spectrum product is the tiny amount (<0.3%) of THC that’s found in hemp. Full-spectrum CBD has it, broad-spectrum CBD doesn’t. Even if the amount of THC won’t get you “high,” there’s a slight possibility that you still might get flagged for it in a random drug screening. So, if you’re trying to stay away from THC entirely, go with the broad-spectrum experience. Even without THC, the broad-spectrum product can deliver the entourage effect.
5. Why might I want a CBD isolate product?
If you want only CBD, an isolate is a versatile solution. For example, you might place a little bit under the tongue (sublingually) and leave it there for about a minute or two before swallowing. Taking it this way soaks the CBD into the mucous membrane and bypass the digestive system. There’s no entourage effect, however, and an isolate might not be as effective for you as a full-spectrum or a broad-spectrum product.
Other customers often take CBD isolate when smoking or dabbing. And more experienced customers might try to create their own tinctures by mixing the powder with coconut, olive or another fat-based oil, since the isolate won’t dissolve in water. Using a “carrier oil” can aid in digestion and move the CBD into the bloodstream faster. However, the FDA has stated that CBD isn’t recognized as safe for use in food, and it outlaws any company’s suggestions that you can cook with CBD or add it to food.