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What Is Full-Spectrum CBD?

Substance Made From All Extracts of the Cannabis Plant

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Cristina Mutchler is an award-winning journalist with more than a decade of experience in national media, specializing in health and wellness content. A multilingual Latina, Cristina’s work has appeared on CNN and its platforms, local news affiliates across the country, and in the promotion of medical journal articles and public health messaging.

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Meredith Bull, ND, is a licensed naturopathic doctor with a private practice in Los Angeles, California.

Full-spectrum CBD is a substance that contains all of the extracts naturally found in the cannabis plant, including very small amounts of THC, the psychoactive ingredient associated with the marijuana “high.”

It’s recently been popularized for its potential to help alleviate a variety of health conditions—like pain, anxiety, inflammation, and epilepsy—but more research is needed to fully back up all of the claims about its benefits.

Cannabis oil

David Trood / DigitalVision / Getty Images

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David Trood / DigitalVision / Getty Images

What It Is

Before exploring full-spectrum CBD, it’s helpful to understand what CBD is to begin with. CBD—short for cannabidiol—is what’s known as a cannabinoid, one of more than 100 chemical compounds found in the Cannabis sativa plant. Most CBD products are derived from the hemp species of that plant.

The two most well-known cannabinoids are CBD and THC:

  • Cannabidiol (CBD)is often derived from hemp and doesn’t usually cause a “high” on its own.
  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)is the psychoactive compound that causes the euphoric “high” feeling associated with marijuana.

The Cannabis Plant

Both hemp and marijuana are species of the cannabis plant, and both contain CBD — but hemp plants have 0.3% THC or less, while marijuana plants have higher levels of THC.

Types

Ever since a 2018 federal law has made it legal to grow and sell hemp in the U.S., CBD has been popping up everywhere in different forms — from tablets to oils to creams to gummies.

Full-spectrum CBD is one of three main types of CBD available. It’s important to understand the differences between the most common types, as the ingredients do vary.

  • Full-spectrum CBD contains CBD and all other cannabinoids, including trace amounts of THC (0.3% or less).
  • Isolate CBD contains just CBD.
  • Broad-spectrum CBD contains CBD and multiple other cannabinoids, but no THC.

Some CBD connoisseurs consider full-spectrum CBD products to be more effective than the other forms, because they include all of the cannabis plant’s compounds plus up to 0.3% THC. That combination produces what researchers have dubbed the “entourage effect,” meaning that all of the elements in full-spectrum CBD may work better together than a single cannabinoid used alone.  

How It Works

The major cannabinoids found in full-spectrum CBD—CBD and THC—work on different areas of the brain. Researchers are still studying their full effects on the body, but what they have found is that cannabinoids in general help regulate the body’s endocannabinoid system.

That system is responsible for nervous and immune system function, along with mood, sleep cycle, and inflammation response regulation, and more. Basically, the endocannabinoid system helps correct many different imbalances within the body via activated receptors found throughout our central and peripheral nervous systems.

It’s also connected to the way we experience pain, prompting researchers to think that CBD helps the body’s systems achieve better balance.  

Benefits

So far, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved one cannabis-derived medication, a prescription drug product used to treat certain severe forms of epilepsy, a seizure-causing disorder.

While there’s currently no solid scientific evidence pointing to other specific health conditions that full-spectrum CBD may help treat, research suggests that in addition to acting as an anti-inflammatory, it shows promise for treating anxiety, panic, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorders in some people.

Risks

Here’s the million-dollar question: Does full-spectrum CBD get you “high,” since it technically contains trace amounts of THC? Generally speaking, experts say no, it should not produce a “high.” But the answer isn’t crystal clear and may vary by product and person.

The amounts of THC found in full-spectrum CBD are at low quantities of less than 0.3%, which is considered to be pretty insignificant. Many experts agree that such a small amount likely isn’t strong enough to have significant psychoactive effects, and likely wouldn’t register on a drug test, but you shouldn’t rule out those possibilities.

Some people may experience some of the milder psychoactive or sedative effects that are associated with THC, and there’s a chance it could show up on a drug test.

Side Effects

Because research on full-spectrum CBD is still fairly preliminary, experts don’t have all of the answers to many consumer questions about the pros and cons of using it for various health issues. That said, a 2018 World Health Organization (WHO) report indicates that CBD in general is typically well-tolerated, with reported adverse effects usually happening as a result of medication interactions.

Still, there’s a possibility for the following side effects to occur:

  • Mood changes
  • Appetite changes
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Keep in mind that full-spectrum CBD is not regulated by the FDA, though the agency is currently working on how it may approach regulating the CBD industry in the future. For now, there is no guarantee that a full-spectrum CBD product is safe, or that it’ll be effective for you.

Standard and daily-use guidelines don’t exist, and ingredients and dosages may vary widely. It’s also worth noting that mislabeling appears to be a fairly common issue with CBD products, according to some studies.

It’s a good idea to read the label and ingredient list closely. You’ll want to look for added preservatives, flavorings, or other ingredients you don’t recognize, and double-check them online or confirm with a trusted medical source.

While you don’t need a prescription for full-spectrum CBD, consider checking with your doctor or healthcare professional to make sure it won’t counteract with any other medications you’re taking, and to ensure the condition you’re using it for makes sense based on what we know about the substance.

Legality

You may be confused about the legality of full-spectrum CBD. As referenced, hemp-derived CBD products containing less than 0.3% THC are legal federally, but may not be legal under some states’ legislation. You may want to check out local legislation before purchasing any CBD products (full-spectrum or not) and before traveling with CBD products to other states.

The decision to try full-spectrum CBD may depend on whether you are OK with consuming THC in any amount, particularly if marijuana or CBD is not legal in your state, or if you anticipate being drug tested.

Full-spectrum CBD is a substance made up of all chemicals found in the cannabis plant, popularized for its potential to ease pain and other ailments.

Full-spectrum CBD oil

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Contents

  1. More about full-spectrum CBD oil
  2. Are all CBD oils the same?
  3. Can you buy full-spectrum CBD oil online?
  4. Full-spectrum CBD oil vs. CBD isolate
  5. Does CBD oil get you high?
  6. Do you need a prescription for CBD oil?
  7. What does CBD feel like?
  8. Does CBD make you paranoid?

Also known as whole-plant cannabidiol (CBD) oil, full-spectrum CBD oil is a cannabis oil with high concentrations of CBD, as well as all other cannabinoids, terpenes, and trace amounts of THC found in the cannabis plant.

“I’ve heard full-spectrum CBD oil is preferable to isolated CBD.”

“What’s the difference between broad-spectrum and full-spectrum CBD oil?”

More about full-spectrum CBD oil

When a CBD oil product claims to be the result of a full-spectrum extraction process, that means the plant’s original terpenes and other types of cannabinoids, including cannabinol (CBN), cannabigerol (CBG), and trace amounts of THC, have not been filtered out during the extraction process.

Before you can choose a CBD oil that may work for you, from full-spectrum to other product types, it’s important to know the difference between hemp-derived CBD oil and marijuana-derived CBD oil.

Following the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, the U.S. government effectively legalized industrial hemp-derived CBD products that contain no more than 0.3% THC, placing hemp-based CBD oil under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Because industrial hemp-derived products only have trace amounts of THC, this type of CBD oil will not produce any intoxicating effects in consumers. Many hemp-derived CBD products can be purchased online .

Marijuana-derived CBD oil typically contains both THC and CBD, the measurements of which vary depending on the CBD-to-THC ratio. Marijuana plants typically have copious amounts of resin, often containing significantly higher levels of both THC and CBD than industrial hemp plants. CBD oil that contains more than 0.3% THC can only be purchased in legal adult-use states and by patients in select legal medical marijuana states, making hemp-derived CBD oil the only legally viable option for some.

Are all CBD oils the same?

No, and not only because of the distinction mentioned above. There are many different products. The easiest way to understand how CBD oils are different is to put them into one of three categories: full spectrum, broad spectrum, and isolate. Full-spectrum CBD oil contains the full spectrum of compounds from a high-CBD cannabis or hemp plant. Broad-spectrum CBD oil contains a nearly full spectrum of compounds, but with the trace amounts of THC removed. CBD isolate, also known as raw CBD oil, strips away all other cannabinoids, leaving pure CBD. Full and broad-spectrum CBD oils may also contain varying doses of actual CBD.

There are three categories of CBD oil: full spectrum, broad spectrum, and isolate. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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When shopping for CBD oil, keep these oil types in mind as a basic CBD buying guide. When purchasing full-spectrum CBD oil, it’s also helpful to know signs of safe, authentic CBD oil labeling , and avoid any product that makes big claims about curing diseases or conditions.

Can you buy full-spectrum CBD oil online?

As long as it’s hemp-derived, you may be able to find full-spectrum CBD oil in online stores . Most online CBD oil purchases can be made at a brand’s own website through an internal checkout.

Full-spectrum CBD oil vs. CBD isolate

Is it more preferable to have a full spectrum of compounds in CBD oil or a pure CBD isolate? There is no definitive answer, given the myriad reasons a person may be choosing CBD oil. What works medicinally for one individual may not work for another. With that in mind, a full spectrum of cannabis compounds can be more effective than a single compound, including CBD, on its own. Cannabinoids and terpenes from the cannabis plant work together synergistically, potentially becoming more therapeutic as an ensemble, in what’s referred to as the ensemble or entourage effect.

Does CBD oil get you high?

No. CBD will not create the same high that THC does. While the effects are completely different than THC, it’s technically true that CBD is a psychoactive substance , which is defined as a chemical substance that interacts with the central nervous system and alters brain function, resulting in temporary changes in perception, mood, consciousness, and behavior. However, unlike THC , CBD is non-intoxicating and will not make you feel stoned or buzzed.

Do you need a prescription for CBD oil?

No. You don’t need a doctor’s recommendation or prescription to use hemp-derived CBD oil. In fact, following the legalization of industrial hemp-based products, CBD oil can be purchased online or, in many states, even in local pharmacies. However, access to marijuana-derived CBD oil containing higher levels of THC is limited to states with medical or adult-use legalization in place.

What does CBD feel like?

CBD is said by many to have a relaxing and soothing effect, but you won’t necessarily feel this non-intoxicating cannabinoid the same way you would THC. To explain how CBD truly feels, we need to understand how both THC and CBD interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is made up of endocannabinoids, receptors that cannabinoids bond to, and enzymes that break them down.

While THC activates the CB1 receptors, CBD induces the opposite outcome, instead inhibiting activity in the CB1 receptors. In fact, existing research suggests that this inhibition is enhanced when combined with THC, leading to a more mellow high and reducing the adverse effects of THC, such as anxiety and paranoia.

The interaction between CBD and the body may create a feeling of relaxation and improved mood. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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The interaction between CBD and the body may create a feeling of relaxation and improved mood, and offers therapeutic value in the treatment of pain, inflammation, anxiety, and other ailments.

Does CBD make you paranoid?

No. Using even high doses of CBD will not cause you to have a paranoia or an uneasy high feeling. Although both paranoia and anxiety have been reported as adverse side effects of THC, CBD consumers are not at risk of encountering the same mental distress. According to the Mayo Clinic, the Minnesota-based nonprofit academic medical center, side effects of CBD use are typically limited to dry mouth, diarrhea, reduced appetite, drowsiness, and fatigue.

Full-spectrum CBD oil Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents More about full-spectrum CBD oil Are all CBD oils the same? Can you buy