What is Full Spectrum CBD? The Robust Whole Plant Superhero

Date 10th Feb 2021

What is Full Spectrum CBD? The Robust Whole Plant Superhero

It seems as though many parts of the world have come to accept that the humble cannabis plant, with a complicated history, does yield potential health benefits worth looking into.

While this may all seem like good news for those looking for more natural ways to improve their health, there are companies out there who are solely cashing in on the green rush by pushing exaggerated marketing claims and questionable business practices.

In this easy article, we're going to breakdown if the label "full spectrum" on CBD oil packages actually means anything or if it's another marketing device to jack up the product's price. 

neurogan cbd oil spray full spectrum sitting on a counter

What is CBD?

Cannabis plants produce over a hundred similar compounds called cannabinoids that interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the main chemical compounds produced in the cannabis plant.

The ECS is a pathway in our bodies that acts as a modulator for maintaining homeostasis for many of our vital systems. Because the ECS interacts with so many different systems that regulate our energy levels, metabolism, hormones, and even cognitive function, it's no wonder cannabinoids have such broad acting health benefits.

Thanks to the world's growing interest in the potential benefits of the cannabis plant, more research is finding that aside from the two main cannabinoids, Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and CBD, the minor cannabinoids in hemp may help to improve the actions of THC and CBD.

Other cannabinoids gaining noticeably more attention include CBG, CBN, and CBC.

How Are CBD Extracts Made?

Most CBD oils you're finding virtually everywhere β€” online, your local health food store, and even some gas stations β€” are made from low THC, high CBD cannabis plants, otherwise known as hemp.

The most popular form of extraction involves supercritical CO2 where high temperature and pressure of CO2 break down the organic plant material, leaving behind the resin containing terpenes and cannabinoids.

Neurogan cbd neurogettes in a womans hand in a field

What Does Full Spectrum CBD Mean?

When you read "full spectrum" on your CBD oil label, it's referring to the extraction type. In a full spectrum product, the full range of phytochemicals (cannabinoids, terpenes, plant esters, fatty acids, and minerals) were preserved during the extraction process.

CBD is the most abundant cannabinoid in mature hemp crops, but experts agree that CBD, together with its full scope of naturally occurring chemicals, can yield a more holistic and versatile set of benefits for your overall health. 

The 3 Main CBD Extracts You'll Find

1. Full Spectrum:

Full spectrum is sometimes called a "whole-plant extract." It's the most natural form of CBD oil as it undergoes the least amount of processing from the cannabis plant to bottling.

Full spectrum CBD contains cannabinoids like CBG, CBN, CBC, and even THC (up to 0.3%), and terpenes such as lavandin and myrcene.

The benefits behind full spectrum extracts lie in traditional plant medicine. All the natural compounds found in a plant work better together rather than isolated on their own. The compounding of the chemicals to produce a more potent result is called the entourage effect.

2. Broad Spectrum:

Broad Spectrum CBD oils include a range of cannabinoids and terpenes but completely remove all THC traces by undergoing a distillation process.

If you want the benefits of whole plant extracts minus THC due to sensitivities or its legal status in your geographical location, broad spectrum CBD oils are your next best bet as the other plan compounds can contribute to the entourage effect.

3. CBD Isolate:

CBD isolate extracts only contain one active compound β€” with up to 99.9% CBD.

This extract type undergoes a highly refined extraction process to eliminate all other plant esters, terpenes, and cannabinoids to isolate CBD. One of the benefits of CBD isolate extract is that they're generally the most cost-effective option for high potency options. Keep in mind, CBD isolates tend to yield more side effects as it lacks other plant compounds to round out the effects of CBD and often runs the risk of being synthetic.

cbd extracts pros and cons infographic

If Full Spectrum CBD Oil Contains THC, Will It Get Me High?

As long as the full spectrum CBD oil comes from legal hemp crops containing less than 0.3% THC, it's highly unlikely you'll experience a high unless you consume a very large amount.

In the United States, cannabis crops are classified as hemp only if they contain less than 0.3% THC in dried weight. Anything over this amount and the crop is considered marijuana. Marijuana remains federally illegal, so as long as you're purchasing hemp-derived CBD oil, you don't need to be concerned about any psychoactive effects.

Worrying about intoxication from the trace THC in full spectrum CBD oil is similar to worrying about the trace amounts of alcohol in kombucha. Yes, it's present, but it's doubtful you'll feel the effects of intoxication in such small quantities.

Can A Full Spectrum CBD Cause A Failed Drug Test?

Since there are trace amounts of THC in full spectrum CBD products, you run the risk of failing sensitive drug tests, especially if you're someone who uses high doses of CBD oil over a long period of time.

THC tends to accumulate into fat tissue cells, which means it has the potential to build up in your system over time [1]. This shouldn't be an issue if you take a break from CBD use (1–3 months) before going for a drug test.

If you're worried about failing a drug test, the next best option is broad spectrum CBD products.

neurogan hemp flowers on a log

Is Full Spectrum CBD Oil Safe For Pets?

Our furry friends can indeed stand to benefit from CBD to help regulate their endocannabinoid system.

Full spectrum CBD has such low THC concentrations, it's generally not an issue for pets. However, some vets may be hesitant about full spectrum CBD products as pets are more sensitive to THC's effects. If you're worried about giving your pet THC, broad spectrum CBD could be a good option for your furry friend.

Before you give any CBD product full spectrum or not, you should consult with your vet.

fluffy white dog with neurogan cbd dog treats

How Do I Tell If My CBD Oil Is Full Spectrum?

You may encounter the term "whole-plant extract" used synonymously with full spectrum.

Many manufacturers will make the extract type clear on the packaging because it's a marketing mechanism. If it's not on the label, you can check out the product description on the company's website. However, due to the lack of regulation in this industry, some products may be inaccurately labeled. It's not uncommon for some brands to purposely mislabel their product to make an extra buck off their product.

This is one reason why it's important to do your research before purchasing CBD oil online or in stores. The most definitive way to know whether a product is made from full spectrum CBD is to reference 3rd Party Lab Tests. While it's not a mandatory practice, reputable CBD brands will take the extra precautions to send a sample of their extract to a non-biased lab to test for the cannabinoid and terpene profile and test for any potential contaminants.

How To Read A Cannabinoid Analysis Report

After a product has been 3rd Party Lab Tested, the lab will typically send a report that looks something like the image below. The report will list the most common cannabinoids and their weight present in a given extract. If it's listed as "ND," this means the compound is "Not Detected." 

In this Neurogan Certificate of Analysis (COA), you can see that there are traces of THC, CBDa, CBD, and CBG in this extract, along with a low THC amount (under 0.3% of the products total cannabinoids). 

neurogan cbd oil lab results image

Are All Full Spectrum CBD Oils The Same?

Full spectrum CBD is typically priced at a higher price point. Still, you may come across a brand selling exceptionally inexpensive whole plant CBD oil. This begs the question, "are all full spectrum CBD products worth the premium price tag?"

The truth is, not all CBD extracts are made the same. Many factors go into creating a high-quality CBD oil. If you encounter an exceptionally inexpensive full spectrum CBD product, you may want to think about where this company is cutting costs to bring you this product. 

Here's what you should look for in a premium full spectrum CBD product:

   Certified Organic Hemp Crops

The quality of a bottled CBD product starts at the hemp plant.

Hemp is a natural bio-accumulator of heavy metal pollutants in the soil. Which is great if you're cleaning up contaminated fields [2]. However, you don't want to use these same hemp crops for CBD oil hemp extractions. These contaminants may end up in the final product, negating any benefits.

Additionally, you want to steer clear of hemp farmed with chemical pesticides as trace amounts of harmful pesticides have shown up on independent tests.

The United States is known for its high agricultural standards and is a leading producer of hemp.

When choosing a brand to shop with, make sure they source their hemp from reputable farms with excellent agricultural practices.

Look For Third-Party Lab Tests

We've touched on this briefly, but we can't stress enough how important this step is when shopping for CBD products.

One of the biggest problems in the CBD industry is its poor regulation. The market is inundated with low-grade hemp in pretty packaging, sold as premium products. It's not uncommon for brands to label CBD isolate products as full spectrum or even broad spectrum oils if that means they can stick a higher price tag on the bottle.

The only way to hold a company accountable for what's in the bottle is to look at the 3rd party lab testing. If you can't find these tests that show a product has a range of cannabinoids and was tested for contaminants, steer clear of the brand.

What Are People Saying About The Brand?

Run a quick Google search on the CBD brand you're thinking of purchasing from before you buy and read some user-generated reviews from trusted sites. There are a lot of scam companies in the online space.

If there simply isn't enough information about a company or you're coming across bad customer experiences, it's safe to say you're money is better spent elsewhere.

People are passionate about products that change their lives. They won't be shy about sharing this information with other people. It'll become abundantly clear who to shop from and who to steer away from when you look at third-party product review sites.

The Takeaway: What Is Full Spectrum CBD?

Full spectrum CBD extracts maintain as many naturally occurring phytonutrients (esters, cannabinoids, terpenes, and minerals) from the hemp crops.

It's a more natural form of supplementing CBD. Many experts agree that full spectrum CBD may provide a holistic, well-rounded benefit as even trace amounts of THC has therapeutic effects. This is thanks to a phenomenon called the entourage effect, where all the compounds work together to produce a more substantial effect. Like instruments in an orchestra, the instruments' collective sound produces a more substantial performance than one instrument can do on its own. 

Remember that not all full spectrum CBD extracts are made the same. Always conduct your research into a brand before making a purchase to protect your health and your hard-earned dollars.


Katrina Lubiano
Katrina Lubiano

Katrina Lubiano is a content writer in the health and wellness space based in Vancouver, Canada β€” Canada's epicenter for cannabis culture. When she's not working, she enjoys sailing, watercolor painting, and cooking.