The real beauty of the cannabis/hemp plant is in its variety.
There are thousands of commonly used cultivar names, but a farmer can pop 100 seeds from one single strain and get 100 plants displaying their own unique traits, sometimes drastically so and sometimes more subtly.
A crucial part of that exclusive expression that each plant has is the natural ratio of cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids that will be found in the plant at harvest.
When all those essential compounds are extracted from a hemp plant in their naturally occurring proportions, we refer to that as a full spectrum extraction. Thus, the products made from this full spectrum extract can ethically and honestly advertise themselves as ‘full spectrum’.
Of course, with regulation generally comes new terminology and new technology.
When the federal government legalized the hemp plant, it defined the plant as any cannabis plant that contains <0.3% Delta-9 THC.
Since Delta-9 THC is often the predominant cannabinoid in most cannabis cultivars, finding compliant genetics, harvests, and finished products required the adoption of the term ‘broad spectrum’.
Broad spectrum has come to define any hemp extract or oil, or any hemp-derived product (like tinctures, topicals, etc.) that has little (0.3% or less) or no THC in it. These products may still have a plethora of CBD, CBG, CBN, CBC, and natural terpenes and still be considered ‘broad spectrum’.
Isolates, as the name implies, refer to individual cannabinoids (most often CBD or THC) that have been individually extracted and concentrated, often to extremely high potency levels.
So, to recap:
FULL SPECTRUM – Any cannabis or hemp product that contains all the original plant’s naturally occurring and naturally balanced cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids.
BROAD SPECTRUM – Any cannabis or hemp product that contains very little (<0.3%) or no Delta-9 THC. The THC is either isolated and excluded, or the plant genetics naturally express a compliant THC level.
- ISOLATES – Individual cannabinoids segregated from all other plant constituents and typically concentrated into extremely potency. It is not uncommon to see CBD or THC isolates reach into the mid to high 90% range.
Full Spectrum vs. Broad Spectrum vs. Isolate: Which Is Best?
All three of these product categories exist on the market for a reason. Because cannabis and hemp products affect us all slightly differently, and because we all have our own battles to face, having these various options available has helped catapult cannabis into the mainstream.
It would be easiest to argue that ‘full spectrum’ products are the “best” of the three. You would even have the universe on your side! The ‘Entourage Effect’ that most of us seek from this plant is best achieved when a universally balanced full spectrum of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids flood our body’s endocannabinoid system.
However, we must remember that as far as we have come with cannabis and hemp reform, particularly in the past decade, there are still many places where THC remains highly illegal. Even in legal markets, there are certain professions that strictly prohibit the consumption of Delta-9 THC.
This is where ‘broad spectrum’ hemp products shine.
Easing anxiety, reducing inflammation, stimulating appetites, regulating sleep schedules, and so much more can be achieved even without any THC in the equation when you find and consume a high-quality broad spectrum product.
Broad spectrum products are also useful for introducing cannabinoid therapy to those who may be hyper-sensitive to the psychoactive effects of THC – like the very young or the very old or the very skeptical.
When it comes to isolates, their uses are many.
The ability to ensure that they are completely devoid of all THC means that the same can be said for any product that is made from that isolate. Vaporizer cartridges, edibles, topicals, tinctures, and more can be crafted with the confidence in knowing that they will be compliant when complete.
Pure CBD or pure THC tinctures, for example, can be used to build a tincture toolbox of sorts, allowing the consumer to craft the ideal blend of cannabinoids for their specific needs and tolerance level.
Options are always good!
A Broad Spectrum of B.S. in Hemp Advertising
One final note on ‘full spectrum’ versus ‘broad spectrum’.
Since there is relatively little oversight or regulation in how the emerging national hemp industry markets itself, there is little risk for companies that choose to abuse the term ‘full spectrum’, and even the term ‘broad spectrum’ just to lure more sales.
One way to put an end to this rampant mislabeling would be to mandate third party lab testing on all hemp and hemp-derived products, including/especially extracts.
These tests are mandatory in legal cannabis markets and benefit everyone from producers to consumers, ensuring that potency and purity claims are backed up by science.
When you find a company like Humboldt’s Cabinet with deep roots in the hemp culture, who is clearly in it to provide high-quality cannabinoids for the people, you can rest assured that every step from the soil to the oil was performed with good intentions.