CBD Oil: Full Spectrum, Broad Spectrum and Isolate Explained

Alternaleaf Team
Written by
Alternaleaf Team
Aug 7, 2022
Last updated:
Dec 15, 2023

In the 1940s, cannabidiol (CBD) was successfully isolated from the hemp plant. Although it was not legally prescribed for medicinal use in Australia until 2016, it has been around for centuries. Now it’s not just CBD oil. There are a handful of therapeutic options under this cannabis oil category including full spectrum, broad spectrum, and isolate.

If this is your first introduction to CBD, it can be a bit confusing to know the differences between each of these products. Here, we’ll break it down.

What Is CBD Oil?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the hundreds of compounds found in the hemp plant. It’s extracted from the plant itself and is one of the most common compounds prescribed to medical cannabis patients in Australia.

The term CBD oil and cannabis oil are often used interchangeably, perhaps leading to some confusion. Both oils contain cannabinoids, the active compounds needed to produce a medicinal effect. However, cannabis oil often contains more of the intoxicating compound called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

CBD is usually taken orally by adding it to food or drink. A doctor may also recommend holding the oil underneath the tongue for 30 seconds or more, which can speed up the onset of effects. Softgels and dissolvable pills are other approved products containing CBD.

It’s important to note that CBD oil does not produce the psychoactive “high” that comes with THC. CBD oil is deemed “safe” by the World Health Organization, but it’s only legal for patients through a prescription.

Full-Spectrum vs. Broad-Spectrum vs. Isolate CBD Oils

There are three types of CBD oils available in Australia: full spectrum, broad spectrum, and isolate.

Full-Spectrum CBD Oil

With full-spectrum CBD oil, the entire plant is used in the extraction process, and the oil will contain other naturally occurring compounds like minor cannabinoids, fatty acids, terpenes, plant matter, and trace amounts of THC.

Although THC is psychoactive, it’s only present in minimal amounts here (1-3%) and it is considered rare to experience the side effects associated with THC when taking full-spectrum CBD.

A million and one CBD websites speak to the benefits of full-spectrum CBD oils, thanks to a theory called the entourage effect. This theory says that the potential for therapeutic use is higher due to all the compounds working together within the body.

Is there any scientific truth to this theory? So far, research is still in the preliminary stages. Recent published studies have explored its potential for mood and anxiety disorders and pain.

Broad-Spectrum CBD Oil

Broad-spectrum CBD is full-spectrum oil that has been through an additional process to remove the majority of THC. Broad spectrum still contains other compounds like minor (non-intoxicating) cannabinoids, fatty acids, and terpenes.

Some THC may exist following removal but at extremely low, often imperceptible levels. Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) only requires products to list THC on the label if they are above a certain percentage, so some broad spectrum products may actually contain trace amounts of THC even if it's not on the label.

Over time, this trace amount of THC could build up in the body and lead to a positive drug test. The risk is incredibly low, but it is worth noting.

The look and taste of broad-spectrum oil are similar to that of full spectrum. It has a robust, earthy taste and a dark emerald or amber colour.  

Isolate CBD Oil

Isolate CBD oil undergoes a few additional processing steps that leave only one compound in the cannabis oil: CBD. All other terpenes, cannabinoids, fatty acids, and plant matter are removed. Isolate CBD oil can reach purities upwards of 99 percent.

Isolate is the purest form of CBD and leaves the cannabis oil tasteless and colourless after its processed.

How To Choose the Right Product

There are around 150 CBD products that have been approved by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). How do you choose the right one for you?

While all CBD-rich products have similar effects, there are still reasons why doctors would choose one over another. So firstly, it's important to speak with a doctor. They'll work closely with you to personalise your treatment plan, much like you’d expect for any medication.

During a patient consultation, doctors take the time to understand your specific medical conditions and individualised needs. Then, with all this information at hand, they will determine if CBD is a good fit as well as what CBD product would deliver the best results.

CBD Oil as an Alternative Therapeutic Option

Tens of thousands of Australians are currently enrolled as medical cannabis patients, and many of these patients have been prescribed CBD as a part of their treatment plan. As the WHO confirmed, CBD is safe, well tolerated and non-intoxicating.

If you have questions about cannabis oils containing CBD (including full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate options), book a consultation with a doctor at a medical cannabis clinic or your local GP.

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