What’s The Difference Between Full or Broad Spectrum and Isolate CBD Oil?

It can be difficult at times to navigate the world of CBD oil products due to the sheer number and variety of different products out there. There are many things to consider when buying hemp oil online – some of the major factors are price, flavour, ingestion method, type of CBD oil, organic and raw versus synthetic and what cannabinoid and phytocannabinoid profile you need in your oil. In the end your choice should always come down to your individual needs, preferences and health aims. Our guide here will brief you on key terminology to be aware of, what types of CBD oil from hemp there are, their key differences and what to know about each to ensure you can best inform your next purchase.

Overview of extracts from cannabis sativa

First a quick overview of industrial hemp. This is cannabis sativa that contains less than 0.2% THC. Hemp is different from marijuana in the fact it contains effectively zero tetrahydrocannabinol, responsible for the psychoactive ‘high’ experienced with using marijuana. After the plant is harvested and processed, it is dried and ready for extraction. A key item to note is that different sections or parts of the plant will have different nutrient, cannabinoid and phytocannabinoid profiles. For example the buds are typically the highest in cannabinoid content, with the stems containing the least. Seeds and stems have higher healthy fat and fibre content. Because of this, certain parts of the plant are used more for specific purposes, from dietary to therapeutic or medicinal. Similarly, cannabinoids like CBG or CBN, plus phytocannabinoids such as CBV or CBDA may occur in varying concentrations across different parts of the plant – more on this soon.

Concentrates from hemp

After drying, the plant is trimmed and ready to undergo extraction – this can be done via solvents like alcohol or through gasses such as CO2. CO2 extraction typically results in higher purity and less contamination risk from ethanol in the end product (which is not good for you). The resin from hemp is drawn from each part of the plant and concentrated. A ‘concentrate’ is simply the most raw form of hemp extract. It’s really the raw resin that is taken from the plant and will be unprocessed. As such it contains high levels of nutrients, cannabinoids and phytocannabinoids. All other products are produced from this form of extract. You may also see this called ‘raw’ extract as nothing has yet been done to further refine or distill the resin.

Natural or Raw Extracts

Use of the term ‘raw’ or ‘unadulterated’ when it comes to hemp oil is often ambiguous. It can mean many things such as minimal refinement being used on the resin concentrate or the type of extraction method employed. Often it simply refers to the extract being taken using a gas like CO2 to avoid using solvents in the process. Solvents may break down many of the minor phytocannabinoids, terpenes and phytonutrients like cannaflavins and flavonoids that have great benefits to the body. Resultingly the end product can have reduced effect and usefulness in targeting symptoms or improving overall wellbeing. A ‘raw’ extract is often simply one that has a higher concentration of these nutrients, its raw due to the gas not breaking down the plant matter significantly.

Types of CBD oil

Broadly there are three main categories of oil:

  1. Isolate CBD Oil
  2. Full CBD Spectrum Oil
  3. Broad Spectrum CBD Oil

Each of these may be derived purely from industrial hemp, meaning they contain less than 0.2% THC; or they may be cannabis oils and contain both CBD and THC. In either case they must be prescribed by a physician in Australia or local GP and can then be purchased over the counter. The TGA in Australia legalized CBD for over the counter purchasing in 2020 and its now seeing immense growth in popularity. 

They also come in ‘high strength’ or ‘low strength’ forms that refers primarily to the concentration of cannabinoids – particularly CBD or THC – contained within each mL of liquid oil. Let’s look at when and how each of these should be used and what the benefits are to you depending on your product choice and needs. Your end goal should be optimal stimulation of the endocannabinoid system to derive the most inflammation reduction and health benefits possible.

Isolate CBD Oil

The term ‘isolate’ refers to the CBD being isolated within the final extract. This occurs in the distillation process where plant matter, nutrients and other compounds or even cannabinoids are removed. It often results in a higher concentration or strength of cannabidiol or CBD in the final product. Hemp oil fat content is typically also reduced as well as healthy omega 3 & 6 acids. Isolate oils are some of the most popular for those with experience using hemp products and who need maximum CBD for their particular health issue. It can even be dried out from the resin once processed into a find powder which is the true chemical form of CBD. Isolate oils are simple to take, highly transportable and very convenient – you can simply place a few drops on your tongue to begin benefitting from its effects. Unfortunately filtering out all the plant matter from the end product means terpenes and phytocannabinoids are removed. These play a key role in assisting with activating the endocannabinoid and its CB1 and CB2 receptors that deliver the potent wellbeing enhancing benefits of the oil. Its something to take note of if you’re looking to get the best possible results for wellness.

Full Spectrum CBD Oil

Full spectrum CBD oil contains all the nutrients, terpenes, phytocannabinoids and cannabinoids from the entire hemp plant. Its typically called a ‘whole plant extract’ due to using both the leaves, buds, seeds, stems and flowers of the hemp plant to derive the best blend of each part’s nutrients. Unlike isolate oils its not highly refined, with distillation steps being skipped to leave healthy and enriching green plant matter from hemp in the final tincture. The green colour comes from the chlorophyll, flavonoids and other healthy antioxidant compounds that occur in hemp and boost the health profile of this oil type. You may see these floating in your tincture – rest assured this is normal. Simply shake up or mix your oil prior to using it to ensure its evenly dispersed. Unlike isolates, you’ll get the full spectrum of cannabinoids and phytocannabinoids like CBG (recently found to prevent COVID), CBDA, CBN, CBC and terpenes like myrcene that all improve the effects of hemp extract on the mind and body. In combination these compounds are able to better target and remove inflammation via endocannabinoids than CBD alone can.

Broad Spectrum CBD oil

This type of hemp extract sits between isolates and full spectrum CBD oil in terms of phytocannabinoid, nutrient and healthy fat content. It’s more ‘raw’ than isolates but will often not contain plant matter you may see in full spectrum hemp oil. Generally it is favoured when a certain cannabinoid like CBG, CBN or CBD is needed in higher quantities with reduced CBD. Each cannabinoid has differing health benefits and may offer better relief for certain conditions. For example CBDA is known to have stronger effects in supporting and protecting the immune system from microbials and intruders. CBN is thought to better activate the CB2 receptors which can assist in resolving issues in the body such as arthritis or gut issues like colitis. While it can be more difficult to find, locating a broad spectrum product with stronger individual cannabinoid profiles is the best path for many towards symptom reduction.  

CBD oils vs tinctures – what’s the difference?

Often these two terms are either misused or misconstrued. A tincture is a product that contains CBD extract, distilled from hemp resin which is then mixed with a carrier oil like MCT, hemp seed, coconut or other plant based oil. The carrier helps to ‘carry’ the extract and disperse the cannabinoid molecules more evenly for more accurate and effective dosing. Healthy fats also improve the bioavailability and uptake of CBD and other cannabinoids. Oils on the other hand are usually from hemp extracts alone and don’t have carrier oils or other items added to them for ingestion. Because of this they tend to have higher strength but lower shelf life, bioavailability and presence of helpful long chain fatty acids.

Do they contain THC?

No – each form of CBD tincture or oil should never contain THC except in trace amounts (less than 0.2%). This is the benchmark used to produce industrial hemp which is used for producing hemp oil. Because of this none of these oil types will get you high or cause psychoactive effects. They’re generally extremely well tolerated by most, won’t affect drug tests and can be used with high frequency and dosages daily if needed. Hemp oil is non toxic and can even be provided to pets like dogs, cats and horses who also benefit from the activation of the endocannabinoid system and release of anti-inflammatory compounds.

Which type of oil is the best?

There’s no clear cut answer. Each type of product has advantages and drawbacks. Our general view is if you need very high concentrations and strength of hemp extract, look for an isolate oil. This will offer you the largest quantity of CBD molecules in your product possible without diluting it with other nutrients, antioxidants and minerals. It can assist if you’re seeking to reduce stress or anxiety and just want high doses of cannabidiol. For beginners or those looking to improve overall wellbeing and general health we recommend full spectrum oils. You’ll get a great profile of cannabinoid and phytocannabinoids plus all the amazing healthy antioxidants hemp contains like carotene and beta caryophyllene. Its the best for those who aren’t quite sure what their health aim is yet or who just want to activate their endocannabinoid system as much as possible. Broad spectrum CBD oil should only be used by advanced users when targeting specific conditions.

What is a CB2 Oil?

Often you’ll see oils described as ‘CB2’ oil which indicates they are designed to target and activate the CB2 receptors in the body which are part of the endocannabinoid system. This is a fallacy and marketing gimmick – the only way to activate these receptors is through the ingestion of cannabinoids like CBG and CBN contained in hemp oil. A CB2 oil is no different to other cannabis extracts and doesn’t provide any extra health effects or benefits. Its simply a new way for suppliers to describe their product and create hype around a new term. Don’t be fooled here – you’re better off sticking to a standard CBD oil or tincture and saving your money.

Where can I buy it in Australia?

You can buy CBD oil online in Australia or through a doctor. A prescription is needed in either case under regulation from the TGA. If you buy online quality can be a major issue. Many suppliers spruik fake or low strength products, don’t provide accurate dosing guidelines, mislead their customers on the type of oil or how it was made and whether its organic. Always look for lab reports and third party assurances like reviews if buying online to avoid dud products. You should also avoid any oil that was produced using alcohol extraction due to potential for contamination with by-products or solvents in the extraction process. Another method to purchase full spectrum CBD oil in Australia is via your GP or doctor who can get you a script. Simply provide this to a pharmacist near you who offers hemp extract products and you can get access to CBD oil legally. The largest downside of this method is the cost involved – prescription drugs including CBD are very expensive which is why many are still turning to overseas sellers online. Our biggest ‘watch out’ is to make sure you read the label and research thoroughly when purchasing – avoid the pitfalls and get the right product for you. 

Conclusion

The divergence between isolate, broad spectrum and full spectrum CBD lies in their overall health effects. With full spectrum you’re getting CBG and CBN acting on your endocannabinoid system to provide mood and anxiety improvement, inflammation reduction for some symptoms like arthritis and powerful antioxidants for metabolic and homeostatic balance. Tap into the benefits of your endocannabinoid system, which can help you regulate a number of brain functions like appetite, memory, sleep, mood, anxiety, stress and more to enhance your mental wellbeing and daily mood. Pathways from the CB1 and CB2 receptors are linked to organs and systems across the body from the immune system to gut as well as brain and CNS. This means full spectrum oils are better equipped to provide holistic benefits across both the body, brain and nervous system compared to isolates. They’re also rich in antioxidants as a plant product, which assists in reducing oxidative stress and free radical damage.