Materials & Use

What Is Full Spectrum Hemp CBD? What Makes It Different From Hemp CBD Isolate?

Gabi Antunes

Aug 13, 2019

Oils, gummies, hand cream, disposable vape pens — consumers may have an idea of the type of hemp CBD product they want to buy, but first they must be located in a state that allows the addition of hemp CBD to these products. If the products are permitted, customers may want a little more information about the type of hemp CBD included in the product. Purchasing a hemp CBD product involves understanding the differences between the types of extract available, so consumers can best select the one that fits their needs and lifestyle.

One of those main extract types — and a popular buzzword — is full spectrum hemp CBD. What is full spectrum hemp CBD, how is it made, and what’s the difference between full spectrum hemp CBD and other extract types?

What is Full Spectrum Hemp CBD?

Full spectrum hemp CBD is a cannabinoid-rich extract added to oils, topicals, foods, sauces, vaping products, and many other edible and non-edible CBD products, but only in states that allow these products. This extract is drawn from the cannabis sativa L. plant, bred to have 0.3 percent THC or less. This breed of the cannabis plant is called industrial hemp, extracts from which were descheduled and removed from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)’s Controlled Substances List (CSA) in 2018. Plants with higher concentrations of THC are considered marijuana plants.

How is Full Spectrum Hemp CBD Made?

Full spectrum hemp CBD is made through a process called extraction. This process involves harvesting industrial hemp and placing it in a solvent which draws out the compounds contained within. Solvent types include butane, propane, alcohol, or carbon dioxide (CO2).

Two of the most common extraction methods are ethanol and CO2. Ethanol extraction, often cited as a safer alternative to butane extraction, involves covering the harvested industrial hemp in ethanol, filtering out the alcohol that drew out chlorophyll and other undesirable plant material, and then evaporating the ethanol, leaving behind a hemp CBD-rich concentrate. CO2 extraction works by pushing carbon dioxide heated to a certain temperature into a chamber filled with industrial hemp, dissolving the cannabinoids and sending undesired substances to the bottom of the tank as refuse.

No matter which solvent type is chosen, the result is still the same: all cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, fatty acids, and other compounds are drawn from the industrial hemp.

What’s the Difference Between Hemp CBD Isolate vs Full Spectrum Hemp CBD?

Where full-spectrum hemp CBD has some of everything, hemp CBD isolate is on the total opposite end of the spectrum. This industrial hemp extract is a crystalline powder which contains 99 percent pure hemp CBD.

The initial extract is sent through an additional purification process to draw out the hemp CBD and leave all the other cannabinoids and terpenes behind. One process called winterization mixes the extract with 200-proof alcohol, sends it through a deep freeze, filters out the undesirable material, and then heated so no trace of alcohol is left. Another process, called short path distillation, heats the extract to a certain temperature, vaporizing the desired cannabinoid and recapturing it.

Consumers turn to products infused with hemp CBD isolate, as opposed to full spectrum hemp CBD, to avoid any contact with THC. Even though consumers may not“feel” or experience the minuscule amounts of THC, it is still detectable and therefore undesirable by people for a whole host of reasons.

Differences Between full Spectrum Hemp CBD and Broad Spectrum Hemp CBD

Consumers have a third option that lays “in between” full spectrum hemp CBD and hemp CBD isolate: broad spectrum hemp CBD. Three little letters — THC — are the sole difference between full spectrum and broad spectrum hemp CBD extract.

Full spectrum hemp CBD is the plant extract “as-is” from industrial hemp, meaning that all compounds found in the plant end up in the final product. This includes the trace amounts of THC found in industrial hemp. While this amount isn’t significant enough to have an impact on the consumer, those trace amounts do appear on lab reports, so there are some who prefer to consume no THC whatsoever.

This is where broad spectrum hemp CBD comes into the picture. This extract goes through a second refinement process to remove THC from full spectrum hemp CBD. All the flavonoids, cannabinoids and terpenes from the original extraction process are retained, but now, consumers can enjoy hemp CBD and all the cannabinoids and terpenes that come along with it, without trace amounts of THC.

How to Choose Which Type of Hemp CBD Extract is Right For You

Full spectrum hemp CBD products, as well as broad spectrum and isolate products, can be available in many product types, depending on what state you’re in. Most common is hemp CBD oil, which is hemp CBD extract infused in a carrier oil such as hemp seed, MCT, or olive. Consumers can also find vaping products, whether in a pre-filled cartridge or disposable vape pen, vape additive, or as (by default full spectrum) hemp CBD flower; topicals such as moisturizers, serums, and face masks; infused foods, beverages, and condiments, but only in states that allow hemp CBD to be added to these particular products..

The type of hemp CBD product you buy comes down to what the consumer wants out of the hemp CBD experience. Some choose full spectrum hemp CBD because they want to consume the plant extracts in their entirety. Others have practical reasons for avoiding — or incorporating — the dozens of cannabinoids and many other compounds that come along with hemp CBD. No matter which product is selected, consumers can easily identify and locate the product type and brand that’s right for their needs.