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CBD Extract Guide: Full-Spectrum, Broad Spectrum, & Isolate

CBD Isolate, Broad Spectrum, and Full Spectrum Oils

Setting out to buy CBD products for the first time can be a confusing process. There are a wide number of terms out there used to sell CBD - full-spectrum, whole plant, extraction method, isolate, broad spectrum... the list goes on. Without the proper education it's easy to get lost, or worse, buy a product that isn't right for you.

In this article we are going to walk you through a few key terms you need to understand when purchasing CBD: full-spectrum, broad spectrum and isolate. Understanding these terms and will help you find a quality, effective product that offers the maximum therapeutic potential. Additionally, we are going to dive deeper than most other sites out there and discuss raw spectrum forms available. Let's get started!

Where Does CBD Come From?

Hemp Plant Top

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of many cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant which includes both marijuana and hemp. Other cannabinoids include THC, CBN, and CBC. CBD and THC are the two primary phytocannabinoids in the plant.

Different strains of marijuana & hemp have different cannabinoid profiles This means they contain different amounts of individual cannabinoids in them. These strains are purpose-bred by cannabis growers depending on their application.

Generally, marijuana is high in THC and low in CBD in order to produce the euphoric 'high' associated with smoking pot. Hemp is the other way around and is high in CBD and low in THC. This is important because everyday CBD users often don't want the psychoactive effects. Because of this, hemp is the source of extraction for CBD products because of its low THC profile.

It's also important to understand that CBD and other cannabis compounds are primarily found in the flowering portion of the female cannabis plant. There are some parts of the plant that contain minimal amounts. For example, the stalks and seeds of hemp contain almost no cannabidiol. Because of this, it's important to look for CBD extracted from the flowering portions of the plant - like ours here at Big Sky Botanicals.

How is CBD Extracted?

CBD and other cannabinoids are extracted from cannabis using one of several methods. Across the hemp industry, the most common methods of extraction are either alcohol extraction via ethanol or supercritical CO2 extraction.

Alcohol extraction generally produces a lower quality CBD product at a cheaper cost. This method is generally less desirable as if done poorly it may leave trace amounts of ethanol in the resulting extract. That being said there are reputable extractors utilizing ethanol extraction without residual solvent issues. The more costly CO2 extraction method is preferred because it generally produces a cleaner and ultimately healthier oil. There are also a couple of methods of CO2 extraction: supercritical extraction which uses a lower temperature and subcritical extraction which uses a higher temperature.

Extracting oil at a lower temperature is preferred because prevents the possible loss of cannabinoids in the extraction process. As we will soon discuss, maintaining these cannabinoids is important! For more information see our article: How are CBD Extracts & Isolates Made?

What is Full-Spectrum CBD Extract?

Full Spectrum Icon

Full Spectrum is the term is used to describe an extract which contains a full range cannabinoid and terpene profile. This profile will provide the highest level of entourage effectiveness. Assuming a high-quality extraction method was used properly, the chemical contents of a full-spectrum extract will closely mirror that of the plant.

When looking for a full-spectrum product, it's important to look for test results showing the percentages of each cannabinoid in the product. Reputable CBD companies will provide this information for all of their products.

Full Spectrum Lab Test Example:

You may scroll this table left and right to view the entire thing.

Cannabinoid ID Weight %/g
Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol Δ9-THC 0.20%
Tetrahydrocannabivarin THCV ND
Cannabidiol CBD 4.93%
Cannabidivarin CBDV 0.08%
Cannabigerol CBG 0.07%
Cannabichromene CBC 0.18%
Cannabinol CBN 0.02%
Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid THCa ND
Cannabidiolic Acid CBDa ND
Cannabigerolic Acid CBGa ND

ND = None Detected

Full Spectrum CBD Contains THC

A full spectrum oil will contain THC, though the levels are very low. This is because most CBD oil is extracted from low-THC industrial hemp (Less than 0.3% by dry weight) rather than from high-THC marijuana. Companies selling CBD online will adhere to these standards and you can verify the THC levels before purchasing.

At low levels, these THC containing products won't produce a 'high' when used at regular dosages. Be sure to look for test results before purchasing any CBD product to ensure that you know what you're taking.

What are Raw Cannabinoids?

When an extract is created from hemp using a low-temperature method like supercritical CO2 extraction or cold pressing, the resulting products contain non-activated acid forms of the cannabinoids. A product containing just these cannabinoids is known as a raw spectrum product.

These 'non-activated' acid forms have different effects on the body than their 'activated' non-acid counterparts. For example, THCA is non-psychoactive while THC is. In order to convert the raw form to an active form, an extract must be decarboxylated. Through a heating process, the acid molecule is removed and you are left with the 'activated' non-acid form.

The common acid forms of cannabinoids found in CBD products include:

  • CBDA (Cannabidiolic acid)
  • THCA (Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid)
  • CBGA (Cannabigerolic acid)

Though there is limited research available, there are some reports that point to these acid forms providing specific health benefits. Because of this, many users seek out blended products which include both the acid and non-acid forms of the cannabinoids.

A raw extract is sometimes combined with a decarboxylated extract to create either blended full spectrum products.

For more information, see our guide to full spectrum CBD.

What is Broad Spectrum CBD?

Broad Spectrum Icon

The newest spectrum on the block - broad-spectrum products a full spectrum cannabinoid profile with one exception - THC. These products offer maximum therapeutic potential without the need to consume THC. For people subject to drug testing or not wanting to consume THC for any other reason, broad-spectrum CBD oil offers the perfect solution.

Previously the only THC-free option on the market was CBD isolate, which we cover below. Broad-spectrum creation was enabled by advances in technology which allow extractors to filter out all THC using a special chromatography process. When shopping for 'true' broad-spectrum products, be sure that the product was created by removing THC from a full spectrum extract, not by adding additional cannabinoids and terpenes back to an isolate.

Here at Big Sky Botanicals, we specialize in broad-spectrum done right. Our products begin as full spectrum extracts before THC is removed. For more information, see our process which outlines how our products are made.

Broad Spectrum Lab Test Example:

You may scroll this table left and right to view the entire thing.

Cannabinoid ID Weight %/g
Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol Δ9-THC ND
Tetrahydrocannabivarin THCV ND
Cannabidiol CBD 4.93%
Cannabidivarin CBDV 0.08%
Cannabigerol CBG 0.07%
Cannabichromene CBC 0.18%
Cannabinol CBN 0.02%
Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid THCa ND
Cannabidiolic Acid CBDa ND
Cannabigerolic Acid CBGa ND

ND = None Detected

For more information, see our guide to broad-spectrum CBD.

What is CBD Isolate?

Isolate Spectrum Icon

Cannabidiol can be isolated down to the single-molecule. The resulting CBD isolate is a white powder, often found in very high (99%+) concentrations. This isolate may be added to a variety of carriers for human consumption. Often, this isolate is added to MCT oil and labeled for sale. Be careful not to confuse this with full or broad spectrum oils - isolates have been researched to require higher, more precise dosing for similar benefits.

CBD Isolate Powder

When looking at a cannabinoid profile test, an isolate will register only for CBD and nothing else. Looking at an ingredients list, isolate based products will contain 'crystalline CBD', not a hemp extract oil.

The naturally occurring terpenes are removed during the processing required to make an isolate. Because these terpenes are an important part of enabling the entourage effect, some companies will add terpenes back into an isolate to make a product commonly referred to as a terpsolate, once again this is not to be confused with broad-spectrum.

Isolate Lab Test Example:

You may scroll this table left and right to view the entire thing.

Cannabinoid ID Weight %/g
Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol Δ9-THC ND
Tetrahydrocannabivarin THCV ND
Cannabidiol CBD 99.11%
Cannabidivarin CBDV ND
Cannabigerol CBG ND
Cannabichromene CBC ND
Cannabinol CBN ND
Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid THCa ND
Cannabidiolic Acid CBDa ND
Cannabigerolic Acid CBGa ND

ND = None Detected

For more information, see our guide to CBD isolate.

Always Check the Lab Results!

Cannabinoid Screening Full Spectrum Lab Report Example

Today's labeling can be confusing and many less-desirable brands are labeling their products deceptively. The only surefire way to know what is in your CBD product is to check for lab results. The best CBD brands online are providing not only product level but also batch level reports from 3rd party labs. You should look for these reports to ensure you know exactly what is in the CBD products that you're taking.

To help you through this process, we've written an article which guides you through reading and understanding cannabis lab reports you'll also find all of the lab reports for our products published here.

Full-Spectrum, Broad Spectrum or Isolate - Which is More Effective?

Groundbreaking research from Israel published in 2015 concluded that the synergistic effects of whole-plant cannabis are superior. The study concluded that full-spectrum CBD was more effective in the treatment of conditions in mice than single-molecule CBD isolate. (1) This whole-plant approach is commonly referred to as the 'entourage effect'.

Unfortunately, there are many users who cannot have any THC due to being subject to drug testing. Until recently an isolated form of CBD was the only option for these users. Today, however, broad-spectrum products have entered the market enabling the entourage effect for this group. These products offer maximum therapeutic potential without the risk of THC exposure.

Here at Big Sky Botanicals, we produce a line of effective, quality broad spectrum CBD products that offers the THC-free accessibility of isolate with the effective cannabinoid and terpene rich profile of full-spectrum!



19 comments on “CBD Extract Guide: Full-Spectrum, Broad Spectrum, & Isolate

  • Harry Clarke says:

    Hey Vince Arnone, thanks a lot for sharing this excellent article, I was looking for a detailed guide on CBD. And your article contains all the major and minor facts regarding CBD.

  • Ann Mcfadden says:

    Please confirm if I'm understanding my research correctly. The water soluble spray will be absorbed better than the oil tincture.

    Thanks....Ann

    • Big Sky Botanicals says:

      Hey Ann, you are correct. A nanoemulsified water-soluble spray would be more bioavailable than a standard oil-carried tincture. Oil-based products used sublingually are more readily absorbed through the mucous membranes as opposed to swallowed oil-based products. Water-soluble products can help when used sublingually but really shine for products which are swallowed. They offer a much higher absorption rate when compared to an oil-based solution.

  • Ellebee says:

    Hello thanks for the useful article, I’m developing some topical products and am only allowed to use isolate, I’ve been told that the benefits of full spectrum are wasted in topical products and that actually isolate is just as effective, is this correct please? (I do understand about terpenes, profiles, taking it sublingually etc) thank you

    • Big Sky Botanicals says:

      Hello Ellebee - thank you for this great question. This concept is something we discuss in our most recent article on topicals. The short answer is that full/broad-spectrum products should perform better. Cannabinoids beyond CBD and terpenes are frequently utilized in topical applications for added benefit. Limiting the cannabinoid/terpene profile down to only CBD would result in a less effective product.

  • Ed says:

    Hello,
    Thanks for the detailed article. Question, I understand that CBD isolate is in powder form in its final stage. For full spectrum cbd extract is it in oil form or is it also in powder form?

    • Big Sky Botanicals says:

      Hey Ed - great question. While most commonly you'll find full-spectrum extracts as an oil-based material, there are a select number of manufacturers out there providing full or broad-spectrum extracts in a powdered form.

      • Ed says:

        Just to clarify, does that mean the full spectrum extracts are usually extracted in powder form that is then converted to oil form? The reason I ask is because I would like to make my own oil. Thank you so much for your response

        • Big Sky Botanicals says:

          It would be the other way around. First, the hemp plant is extracted into an oil, then into a powder. This is the same way an isolate is made. More info in this article that might be helpful for you: https://bigskybotanicals.com/blog/how-is-cbd-oil-made/

          • Ed says:

            I thought a CBD extract becomes isolate through winterization resulting in powder? The article you provided says " In their purest form, these isolates are a crystalline white powder comprised of 99%+ cannabidiol." Sorry to ask so many questions, I am just trying to understand the science of all of this.

          • Big Sky Botanicals says:

            Hey Ed - winterization is used to remove unwanted material from an extract (fatty acids, plant materials, chlorophyll etc). An isolate is made through either chromatography or short path distillation. The article I linked above has the full breakdown near the bottom.

  • joe says:

    Quick question about the full spectrum and broad spectrum and the lab result examples...?

    Where's the other 94.xx% in the weight?

    in the isolate it almost adds up to 100%

    • Big Sky Botanicals says:

      Hey Joe -

      The weight % was abbreviated. It actually should have, and now does, read weight % per gram. This may also be accompanied by milligram per gram on lab reports. The reason that an isolate is nearly 100% CBD and full or broad-spectrum extracts are lower are due to the extraction and refining processes.

      Full or broad-spectrum extracts are less processed than isolates. The cruder an extract the more other compounds from the source hemp material it contains. These plant materials include fatty acids, chlorophyll, terpenes and more. These materials make up the remaining weight percent that is 'missing' in this cannabinoid report. Depending on the manufacturing process, some of these excess materials may be removed through processes like winterization, so weight % may vary, though it will not add up to 100% as this potency report only displays cannabinoids.

      An isolate is made by stripping all of the excess material from an extract down to only a single molecule - in our case CBD. This is why you see nearly 100% potency on the example. There simply isn't any excess plant material present.

      If you'd like to learn more about the extraction and purification processes, check out our article:
      https://bigskybotanicals.com/blog/how-is-cbd-oil-made/

  • Ana says:

    Hello,
    I would like kindly to ask is cbd oil made from ethanol method is also full spectrum, isolate?
    The definition "full spectrum" is the raw green-black paste after 1 step of extraction CO2 Or the full spectrum means alredy decarboxylated oil ? Is the raw oil, not dedecarboxylated has CBD or its unactive and it has just CBDA. How it looks?
    Thanks in advance for your reply.
    I`m looking forward to hearing from you soon.

    • Big Sky Botanicals says:

      The extraction method (ethanol as you mention) would be used to create a full spectrum extract. This extract is defined as full spectrum because it contains the full range of compounds found in the original hemp plant. Further processing is required to isolate only the CBD.

  • Patricia says:

    Is it possible to strip the thc off for broad spectrum without using ethanol?

    • Big Sky Botanicals says:

      Hello Patricia,
      Please correct me if I am wrong, but the wording of your question seems to imply that ethanol is used in the process of removing THC from a hemp extract. This is actually not the case - let me explain: Ethanol is used in one of several types of extraction which pulls the oil extract from hemp - we cover extraction types here. The THC is removed independently of the extraction process via chromatography. Chromatography can be applied to an extract regardless of how it was made - IE our products are extracted using either CO2 or ethanol methods which both then undergo THC removal via chromatography. It may be helpful to visit the "our process" page which explains how our products are made step by step.

  • Terri Swarner says:

    hi,
    I have crohns disease and am new to the cbd oils. about a month ago I had ordered, Health Naturals CBD tincture 250 mg. I've never felt so good in the 40 yrs i've had crohns!! had entergy and all:) Well, I ran out so I went to a store in my city to buy some more. They sold me "cypress Hemp, CBD + omegas? They told me that was the most comparible to the one I had at first. With this one, I don't seem to have the entergy that the other one gave me? I'm not sure if its the Tincture(?) that was in the first one that was giving me the entergy?
    Can you tell me what I would need to get that helps with my crohns disease but also gives me some entergy. Don't particularly want one with THC for drug test purposes??

    Any help you could give me would be very appreciated.

    Thanks
    Terri Swarner

    • Big Sky Botanicals says:

      Hey Terri - purchasing products locally is often a tricky thing because most retailers don't provide lab reports for the products they sell. We provide a guide for reading lab reports here. Instead, I'd suggest purchasing online because you can carefully select a reputable brand and review their lab tests before purchasing. As an example, we provide our lab reports on each and every product page, as well as all together here.

      Our products sounds like might be perfect for you since you're looking for a THC-free option, which all of our products are! As for any specifics to crohns, we can't speak to that, unfortunately.

      If you do buy locally, I'd ask to see lab reports for the product you're looking to purchase, and if the retailer can't provide them, then be wary.

      Let us know if you need any other help and best of luck!

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