August 03, 2020 12 min read

“Broad spectrum CBD” refers to a product made from whole-plant hemp extract that has been carefully refined to remove all traces of THC. This makes it a competitor to CBD isolate for THC-restricted consumers.

However, unlike CBD isolate products (which are usually made from 99%+ pure CBD), broad spectrum extract material preserves the hemp’s natural state. Broad spectrum products are designed to offer an alternative for consumers who want to reap the benefits of full spectrum CBD without the risk of THC consumption.

Let’s break that down.

Broad Spectrum CBD oil looks similar to other CBD formulas.

Broad spectrum CBD products will contain high concentrations of CBD and trace amounts of other cannabinoids, like GBG, CBN, and CBDa, as well as a variety of other plant compounds from hemp, like terpenes.

So long as it is sourced from industrial hemp (which is legal to farm, sell, and manufacture in the U.S. in accordance with the 2018 Farm Bill), broad spectrum hemp products are incredibly accessible because they never contain THC.

Many people want to reap the benefits of the entourage effect associated with full spectrum CBD, but need to avoid THC consumption (due to sensitivities, legal restrictions, or employment-related drug tests).

If you haven’t heard of the entourage effect, just know that it’s the main selling point behind full spectrum CBD products. The theory suggests that all trace cannabinoids and terpenes have synergistic effects that perform more effectively than CBD on its own.

While the entourage effect theory is incredibly popular, many people aren’t comfortable consuming the trace amounts of THC (up to 0.3%) in full spectrum products. Broad Spectrum CBD products aim to bridge that gap.

Key Takeaways

  • Broad spectrum products contain a diverse cannabinoid profile but are THC-free, so they offer a middle ground between full spectrum and CBD isolate products.
  • Broad spectrum hemp extract can be used to make a wide variety of products, including tinctures, topicals, edibles, gummies, beverages, vape oils, and more.
  • There is no official research that defines the difference in effects or benefits between full spectrum, broad spectrum, and CBD isolate formulas. These formulas may be interchangeable, with the most significant differences being the THC content.
  • Broad Spectrum formulas are frequently chosen by people who avoid THC due to sensitivities, drug tests, or legal restrictions.

Table of Contents
Broad Spectrum CBD Benefits
Broad Spectrum CBD Uses
Broad Spectrum CBD Effects
Why Do Broad Spectrum CBD Effects Vary?
Types of Broad Spectrum CBD Products
How is Broad Spectrum CBD Made?
Lab Testing for Broad Spectrum CBD
Can Broad Spectrum CBD Go Bad?
What Does Broad Spectrum CBD Taste Like?
Will Broad Spectrum CBD Make Me Fail a Drug Test?
Key Takeaways
Resources

Broad Spectrum CBD Benefits

There are many conflicting and preliminary reports on the benefits of CBD, but very few directly compare the benefits of broad spectrum CBD to other hemp formulas.

One study suggests that CBD isolate doses may be less effective because they result in a bell-shaped response curve in which increasing dosage actually decreases efficacy.

This study suggests that full spectrum products help overcome this bell-shaped curve, likely due to the entourage effect.

It’s unclear whether these benefits are reliant on the trace amounts of THC, but multiple studies have found that synergistic effects can also be observed between CBD and lesser-known cannabinoids and terpenes.

There are a few general benefits to Broad Spectrum CBD products:

THC-free

As we mentioned, broad spectrum products are designed to be THC-free, which opens up possibilities to those who are THC restricted.

It's uncertain whether full spectrum products may cause a false-positive drug test result due to their trace amounts of THC. Still, many people are not comfortable risking their job or legal security, and others are too sensitive to THC to even try trace amounts.

Being free of psychoactive THC is definitely the main benefit of broad spectrum products for most consumers.

Variety

Unlike CBD isolate products (the other THC-free dosing option), broad spectrum formulas give way to a greater variety of product options.

This is because broad spectrum products are frequently infused with terpenes, which add natural flavor and aroma. Plus, they don’t need to maintain 99% purity like many isolate products, so many formulas include carrier oils, sweeteners, flavors, and even added botanicals to provide boosted or targeted benefits.

The product selection is so wide that you can easily find products that offer 1mg per dose or 100mg per dose, and well as a wide variety of different dosing styles and product types.

Legal and Accessible

Broad Spectrum CBD products are accessible across the country, so long as they are made from industrial hemp. Still, the lack of THC makes them even more accessible.

Legal guidelines for CBD and hemp products also vary by state and city, and some areas still have bans on even trace amounts of THC, rendering full spectrum CBD illegal. In most cases, broad spectrum CBD is still accessible because it meets these THC-free standards.

Broad Spectrum CBD Uses

There are no wide-scale studies investigating the difference in broad spectrum CBD and full spectrum CBD formulas. It's unclear how large of a role THC plays in the "entourage effect" behind these two formulas.

However, multiple sources aim to explain the interactions between other cannabinoids and terpenes, insinuating that THC is not always required to reap these synergistic benefits.

One study of significance, titled "Taming THC:potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects" evaluates a large collection of research regarding synergy between THC and CBD, but also between CBD and common terpenes, like limonene and myrcene.

Preliminary research suggests that other cannabinoids found in broad spectrum formulas (like CBG and CBN) may have their own benefits, like managing inflammation or improving sleep and mood. 

Broad Spectrum CBD is the most popular formula for pets.

Very few arguments exist against using broad spectrum formulas.

One theory even suggests that CBD without THC is better for anxiety. This is based on limited evidence suggesting that THC may cause paranoia or can incite anxiety in some people, but it’s unknown whether trace amounts of THC cause these effects.

Broad Spectrum CBD may also be the most popular formula chosen for pets, since animals are known to be more sensitive to THC than humans. 

In general, CBD may have a number of benefits. Future research efforts are expected to solidify many health claims related to CBD, but for now the evidence available is mostly preliminary.

A cross-sectional study of over 2,400 people shows that nearly 62% of people surveyed used CBD to treat a medical condition, with the top three medical conditions treated being anxiety, pain, and depression.

According to a review published in Surgical Neurology International, previous neurological uses and research span across a wide range of conditions, from brain tumors and neuropathic pain to mood disorders, post traumatic stress, and more.

Another study involving 272 epileptic patients looked at the benefits of artisanal cannabis strains, the majority of which were cannabidiol (CBD)-enriched artisanal formulas.

The results from these full-spectrum products were promising35% of people experienced a 26-75% reduction in seizures, 28% of people experienced a 76-99% reduction in seizures, and 10% experienced a “complete clinical response.”

Although this research involves full spectrum hemp products and not a broad spectrum formula, it shows that the interaction between cannabinoids may be significant.

It's likely that neither full spectrum nor broad spectrum is inherently "better," rather that they each meet different needs for different people. Additionally, each unique Broad Spectrum formula will offer unique benefits.

In other words, the "best uses" for Broad Spectrum CBD will depend heavily on the formula's unique composition and the consumer's individual needs.

Broad Spectrum CBD Effects

Even though CBD itself has a multitude of potential benefits, the actual effects you feel from CBD shouldn’t vary much from batch to batch or product to product.

In fact, at the core of every high-quality cannabidiol product is one unchanged molecule (the CBD molecule) which has very mild effects on it’s own.

Unlike THC (the main component in marijuana), CBD is not psychoactive and won’t make you feel high.

Aside from feeling relief from your targeted symptoms, CBD shouldn’t produce many noticeable effects at all. Some people report a mild euphoric feeling, enhanced mood, or energy boost.

These effects may be directly tied to the effects of CBD on the Endocannabinoid System, but it’s also likely some effects are a result of relief from symptoms that were otherwise holding you back.

Some people report that CBD makes them sleepy, while others have argued that this effect is dose-dependent. Others suggest that besides relief from targeted symptoms, they feel nothing at all when they take CBD.

Really, the effects may have a lot to do with the hemp formula and what cannabinoids and terpenes it contains.

If you do feel some intense reaction, like psychoactive effects, dizziness, nausea, paranoia, or other adverse side effects, it’s likely that you’ve gotten a poor-quality or contaminated product.

Many low-quality CBD manufacturers have been known to cut corners by using synthetic cannabinoids or other low-quality ingredients that may cause harm, which is why it’s important to always check the test results before you buy a CBD product.

Why Do Broad Spectrum CBD Effects Vary?

The effects of CBD vary greatly from person to person. This is true for broad spectrum CBD, but also for other CBD formulas.

Why?

Because each person’s Endocannabinoid balance is unique.

The Endocannabinoid System, or the bodily system of neurotransmitters and receptor sites that interact with hemp's cannabinoids, plays a large role in many bodily functions, like regulating temperature, mood, and appetite.

Each person's Endocannabinoid system functions in a unique balance. Therefore, CBD impacts each person's Endocannabinoid balance differently, offering different effects. This is also why people may each benefit from a different CBD formula or dosage.

Factors that may affect the way CBD affects each individual include:

  • Body fat composition
  • Weight
  • Biological sex
  • Health condition
  • Other medications taken
  • Lifestyle
  • Dietary habits
  • Exercise and physical condition
  • Cannabinoid tolerance
  • Irregularities in CBD doses

There are multiple different reasons that you may have a different experience with CBD than your family member, friend, or neighbor. Each person’s CBD journey is unique and it may benefit you to start with low doses and record the effects. This can help you alter your CBD regimen to better meet your unique needs.

Types of Broad Spectrum CBD Products

CBD edible gummies

Broad Spectrum is slightly more refined than full spectrum products because THC usually needs to be removed in a separate step that takes place after the initial extraction process.

Still, broad spectrum extract is way less refined than CBD isolate and offers a much wider possibility for product types.

Industry-leading brands are refining their formulas and dropping new products daily, which means there are a lot of option.

That also means that it’s crucial to carefully vet brands and products before you buy.

In addition to weighing the quality of the hemp material used, you'll need to look into any added ingredients, like flavoring, carrier oils, or preservatives. The same is true for isolates and other formulas, of course, but with broad spectrum products there are usually more variables.

The most common types of broad spectrum CBD products include:

    • Concentrates are designed to offer highly potent doses of CBD and are usually smoked or vaporized, but can also be taken by mouth.
    • Tinctures are a liquid form of CBD mixed with a carrier oil that is meant to be taken sublingually, or under the tongue. These come in a wide variety of flavors, potencies, and formulas.
    • Capsules are usually similar to tinctures by design, offering mild to moderate doses of CBD mixed with a carrier oil. However, being encapsulated means that CBD capsules have no flavor or smell.
    • Gummies are infused CBD edibles similar to any other gummy candy. This alternative oral dose is a fun way to take CBD, but may also appease a picky palate.
    • Other edibles include a variety of snacks, cakes, cookies, beverages, and more. These are all taken by mouth and vary in style and potency.
    • Vape oil is generally made with CBD and a carrier oil that’s safe for inhalation. CBD vape oils are available in pre-filled cartridges, disposable vape pens, and standard oil form used for refilling your vaporizer tank.
    • Topicals are mixed with a skin-safe carrier oil and meant for applying CBD to the skin. CBD topicals are available in many different formulas ranging from creamy lotions to thick, waxy balms.

How is Broad Spectrum CBD Made?

Because of the laws regarding the legality of cannabis and hemp, most broad spectrum CBD products are made from industrial hemp.

Sometimes CBD products are sourced from other cannabis strains that contain higher levels of CBD. Because the objective of broad spectrum CBD products is high-CBD and zero-THC, it’s unlikely that manufacturers will choose this route.

After the hemp material is selected, the manufacturer may use a number of extraction methods (Supercritical CO2 and Ethanol extractions are most popular) to collect a material called “crude oil.”

This oil generally carries the full-spectrum cannabinoid and terpene profile in similar proportions to the original plant material.

Crude oil also contains a number of other natural plant materials, like lipids, waxes, and chlorophyll. For full spectrum extract products, it’s possible to stop here, and the resulting product will often be green or brown in color with a natural, hempy flavor.

When creating broad spectrum products, this crude oil material must be refined again to remove all trace amounts of THC. Sometimes, this is done in one step via distillation, flash chromatography, but many manufacturers will run the extract solution through various rounds of refinement to ensure that no THC is left behind.

There is no standard procedure for hemp extraction or manufacturing CBD products, and each brand uses a process that may slightly differ from the next.

Still, the process usually involves some combination of these methods:

  • Winterization is a process where the hemp material is subjected to sub-zero temperatures. This process forces the cannabinoids away from other plant materials, like lipids and chlorophyll.
  • Decarboxylation involves gently heating the hemp material. During the decarb process, all CBDa is converted to CBD, making the material more potent.
  • Distillation is a crucial process that involves forcing hemp material through a vacuum chamber and subjecting it to different temperatures. Since each cannabinoid has a different boiling point, this can separate cannabinoids from each other to create a fine-tuned hemp formula.
  • Extraction involves one or more solvents (like CO2 or ethanol) to extract the cannabinoid material. In most cases, the solvent needs to be carefully removed from the final product.

Lab Testing for Broad Spectrum CBD

Although not required to produce broad spectrum CBD products, third-party lab testing is often a final (and crucial) part of the manufacturing process.

Consumers who seek out broad spectrum CBD also can look for these test results in order to ensure a complete, diverse cannabinoid and terpene profile. Third-party tests also serve to prove the absence of THC.

For responsible manufacturers, these tests also help brands hold themselves accountable.

In fact, many brands choose to test their hemp material at several different points in the manufacturing process. This helps them maintain expert oversight in order to tweak and perfect their CBD formula.

Lower quality manufacturers will forgo these tests because they are costly, but they are important for ensuring accuracy and safety.

Skipping these tests may result in a lower-cost end product, but usually results in lower-quality products as well. In other words, the costs of these lab tests may trickle down to the final product, but these tests provide complete transparency that’s crucial to consumer safety.

This is especially true for broad spectrum products, since consumers who generally seek out broad spectrum formulas are trying to completely avoid THC.

Because of sparse industry regulations these tests are not mandatory, but they are becoming even more important as leading brands popularize the practice.

Can Broad Spectrum CBD Go Bad?

If you’re like many consumers, you like to save money. Many people save money on CBD by buying concentrated, bulk versions of their favorite broad spectrum CBD formula. Buying in bulk sounds like great ideabut how long will it last on the shelf?

Unfortunately, there is no straightforward answer. The shelf life of each product will vary based on multiple factors, like the ingredients, water content, or manufacturing quality.

However, you can still probably prolong the life of your CBD products by storing them properly. CBD is light-sensitive, meaning that sunlight can break down the beneficial effects molecules. To preserve the integrity of your broad spectrum cbd products, store them out of direct sunlight.

Choosing a high-quality manufacturer is the most important part of ensuring the integrity of your products. If you choose a high-quality, consumer-forward CBD brand, they will be able to offer you accurate information regarding storage and expiration for your particular products.

Many CBD products are particularly shelf stable and can last for months or years if stored correctly. Other products, like infused foods and drinks, may have a shorter lifespan.

What Does Broad Spectrum CBD Taste Like?

Because formulations are so diverse, the flavor of broad spectrum CBD products varies greatly by formula. Depending on the refinement process used, some products may maintain the “plant-flavor” associated with raw hemp products.

Others may be carefully refined to remove lipids and waxes that cause this hempy aftertaste. Some include added flavors and sweeteners designed to help make CBD products more palatable, while others are completely infused in foods and drinks that expertly hide the hemp flavor.

Will Broad Spectrum CBD Make Me Fail a Drug Test?

Broad Spectrum CBD is designed to have no THC, so it’s unlikely that you will fail a drug test for THC. Generally, drug testing panels in the U.S. look specifically for THC and not for general cannabinoids. Tests that search for general cannabinoids will likely detect the CBD and minor cannabinoids.

The US Drug Test Centers suggest that CBD products with only trace amounts of THC (full spectrum) are unlikely to cause a failed drug test, but they don’t dismiss the possibility. Many people use CBD products with no issues, and opting for Broad Spectrum, THC-free products greatly minimizes the risk of failing a drug test.

If you’re worried about taking CBD and are subject to drug tests at your job, talk to your employer about their policy regarding CBD.

Resources

  1. Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3165946/
  2. “Beneficial Effect of the Non-Psychotropic Plant Cannabinoid Cannabigerol on Experimental Inflammatory Bowel Disease” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23415610/
  3. “How CBN Can Improve Your Sleep, Mood, and Health” https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sleep-newzzz/201903/how-cbn-can-improve-your-sleep-mood-and-health
  4. “Study sheds light on link between cannabis, anxiety and stress” https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/01/200113111141.htm
  5. "A Cross-Sectional Study of Cannabidiol Users” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6043845/
  6. “Review of the neurological benefits of phytocannabinoids” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5938896/
  7. “The Current Status of Artisanal Cannabis for the Treatment of Epilepsy in the United States” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28254350/
  8. “A Simple Guide to the Endocannabinoid System” https://www.healthline.com/health/endocannabinoid-system
  9. “Can You Fail a Drug Test Due to CBD?” https://www.usdrugtestcenters.com/drug-test-blog/181/can-you-fail-a-drug-test-due-to-cbd.html

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