You may have recently heard of CBD oil and its health benefits. Yet despite growing popularity, CBD remains a confusing substance shrouded in scientific jargon.
For example, CBD products can be labeled as full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or isolate. These different types of CBD have their own advantages and disadvantages, and their effectiveness is linked to what is called the “entourage effect.”
But do these terms mean? What is the difference between full-spectrum and CBD isolate? And which one is the best for you?
The Cannabis Plant: Not Just CBD and THC
To start off, it is important to highlight that CBD (Cannabidiol) and THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) are not the only beneficial compounds in cannabis. Indeed, the cannabis plant contains hundreds of therapeutic components, such as other cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, fatty acids, and vitamins.
These compounds have therapeutic effects of their own and interact with each other and CBD. Terpenes in particular are the next great frontier in cannabis research as they have hundreds of unique effects and interact with cannabinoids in unique ways.
The Entourage Effect
The entourage effect is used to describe the magnified health effects of whole-plant cannabis products in comparison to isolated cannabinoids. Simply put, this means the combination of CBD and all other compounds in cannabis is more potent than pure CBD.
This effect was discovered by researchers in 1998 and demonstrated in multiple studies. For example, in one 2015 study, mice were given one of two treatments: whole-plant CBD extract, or isolated CBD.
The whole-plant CBD was significantly more effective at supporting the ECS, leading the researchers to conclude that “CBD in a standardized Cannabis sativa extract is more potent or efficacious than pure CBD.”
The entourage effect makes sense because herbal compounds are not found in their isolated form in nature. Instead, they are always mixed with other natural components of plants. These components can have benefits of their own or modulate the effects of the main active ingredient.
This helps explain why most herbal products—and not just CBD—are typically more effective when they contain the whole plant extract.
So, what does the entourage effect have to do with the three different types of CBD: CBD isolate, broad-spectrum and full-spectrum?
Also known as whole-plant CBD, full spectrum is a formulation that contains not just cannabidiol, but all other compounds naturally found in the cannabis plant.
Although CBD is still the main ingredient, full-spectrum products also contain THC (0.2% or less), other minor cannabinoids such as cannabichromene (CBC), cannabigerol (CBG), and cannabigerivarin (CBGV), terpenes, and flavonoids.
All of these compounds work in synergy with CBD and each other, making full use of the entourage effect. This way, the therapeutic benefit of whole-plant CBD is greater than the sum of its parts. This explains why full spectrum is the most popular type of CBD.
Another type of CBD formulation is called broad-spectrum. Broad-spectrum CBD is almost identical to full-spectrum CBD with one key difference: it contains zero THC. In this way, broad-spectrum products also make use of the entourage effect.
This begs the question: what is the point of broad-spectrum CBD? As it turns out, the complete removal of THC has two key advantages.
First, you can pass a cannabis drug test when taking it, because these tests typically look for THC. Second, some people are highly sensitive to THC, so that even the small amounts present in full-spectrum products can have psychoactive effects.
An isolate is a formulation that contains only a single compound. It is made by isolating that desired compound from other components. In our case, a CBD isolate is a type of CBD formulation that contains only pure CBD. This means that CBD isolate does not benefit from the entourage effect. As such, it is less effective than full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD.
However, CBD isolate does have its advantages: it is the easiest way to administer high doses of CBD, has no flavor, and can be used to create your own CBD formulations.
Which Type of CBD Should You Choose?
As we’ve discussed above, there are three main kinds of CBD: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate. Each of these have their own advantages and disadvantages.
Generally speaking, full-spectrum CBD oil is the ideal choice for the vast majority of people. It makes full use of the entourage effect because it contains the complete spectrum of cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other natural components of cannabis. You can check out our list of the best full-spectrum CBD oils in the UK.
On the other hand, broad-spectrum CBD is ideal for individuals who want to completely avoid THC, such as people who are routinely tested for cannabis use, or those who are highly sensitive to its effects.
Finally, CBD isolate is the form of choice for people who require high doses or those who want to create their own CBD formulations.
We hope this article helped explain what the entourage effect is, why it matters, and how it relates to full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and CBD isolate products.