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Full spectrum CBD oil: what is it, and is it worth trying?

Whether you have already tried CBD or are thinking of giving it a try you may have come across products labelled as “Full Spectrum” “Broad Spectrum” and “CBD Isolate”. 

There is a big difference in how these products work so this Curakind blog post will explore what they are and help you decide which one is for you.

What is full spectrum CBD oil?

CBD, or cannabidiol, can be confusing at first glance, so let’s break it down a little.

There are several different types of beneficial compounds in the hemp plant.

  1. Cannabinoids are the chemical compounds found in cannabis that bring about the therapeutic and psychoactive effects of this plant, including CBD and THC. These two compounds are the most well-known and studied. Cannabidiol (or CBD) is a non-psychoactive compound that provides therapeutic benefits without eliciting any mind altering effects. THC  is the psychoactive compound that gives users an increased sense of  euphoria and relaxation.
  1. Terpenes are the molecules that give plants their aromas and tastes. They can have therapeutic benefits in the same way that lavender has a calming effect and basil has an uplifting effect.
  1. Flavonoids- More than 20 different flavonoids are found in cannabis. Like terpenes, they have therapeutic effects and have anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and neuroprotective properties. Studies show that the flavonoids in cannabis can reduce inflammation and calm cancer cells or repair damaged neurons.

Full-spectrum CBD includes all the flavonoids, terpenes and cannabinoids, including tiny amounts of the psychoactive THC.

How does CBD oil work?

CBD works by interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system. The human body naturally produces endocannabinoids, which are neurotransmitters that bind to receptors in our brain and immune cells called “cannabinoid receptors.” These receptors help the body to regulate both pain response and moods such as anxiety or depression. 

What is the endocannabinoid system?

The ECS is your body’s monitoring system. Its role is to keep your body’s internal processes in balance regardless of outside influences. This ideal balanced state is called “homeostasis”. 

Like the instrument panel in a plane, the ECS continually monitors and adjusts the levels of your hormones, heart rate, body temperature etc. When one of these is out – if you are too tired or really hot etc – your body signals the ECS to bring it back into normal range.

As such, it plays a significant role in how we experience pain, whether acute or chronic, as well as regulating immune response, sleep, hormones, fertility, body temperature and stress management amongst many other things. 

The ECS has three main components:

  • Cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 on the surface of cells
  • Endocannabinoids, minute molecules that activate cannabinoid receptors
  • Metabolic enzymes that break down the endocannabinoids after use.

The endocannabinoid receptors located on the cells wait to receive messages from our body’s chemical compounds – our endocannabinoids – about an imbalance in our body. 

When these are received they trigger the release of chemicals to redress that imbalance, adjusting our mood, appetite and memory; and reducing pain response. 

When the endocannabinoids have performed their function they are broken down by our metabolic enzymes.

Different cannabinoids interact with the ECS indifferent ways. THC overrides the system, binding with the receptors of the ECS and mimicking the actions of the ECS, hence producing psychoactive effects.

CBD, on the other hand, does not bind with the receptors of the ECS, but blocks the breaking down of our body’s own endocannabinoids, meaning the body can use them for longer, effectively helping our body to help itself.

What does full spectrum CBD mean?

To put it simply, full spectrum CBD oil is much more than just CBD, it contains all the many cannabinoids of cannabis: CBD, CBG, CBN and CBC to name just a few, as well as a small amount of THC, the psychoactive element found in marijuana. 

There is strong evidence emerging that all of these cannabinoids have their own individual therapeutic benefits, but when combined together, they compliment each other and work in harmony, in what is called the Entourage Effect.

What is the entourage effect? 

The entourage effect means that whilst CBD is effective, it works better when it’s combined with the other cannabinoids and terpenes. Just like an orchestra, where each instrument contributes to the whole of the symphony, the whole of the cannabis plant is greater and more powerful than the sum of its parts.

cannabis sativa flower and bottle
CBD oil comes from the many varieties of the plant Cannabis Sativa

Where does full spectrum CBD oil come from?

Full Spectrum CBD generally comes from hemp, a type of Cannabis Sativa that has been specially bred to have a very low THC content. These plants were traditionally used to make rope, cloth and other textiles so height and high fibre content were important traits. 

In contrast, modern CBD hemp plants are smaller, but have been bred to be high in CBD and other beneficial cannabinoids, and low in THC, giving an oil with a high therapeutic value.

What are the benefits of CBD?

The therapeutic value and health benefits of CBD are far-reaching. Here are just some of its uses:

Anti-seizure – It is great for those who suffer from seizures. Epidyolex, a pharmaceutical drug containing CBD, is currently licensed worldwide for children suffering from Lennox Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, both of which can cause multiple seizures a day.

Clinical trials have shown this oral solution can reduce the frequency of seizures by up to 40% in some children. It is not easy to get on prescription, but can be life changing for those that receive it.

Muscle spasm relief

A 2019 survey on Multiple Sclerosis sufferers concluded that cannabis could be useful for treating muscle problems typical of MS and also provided effective pain relief. 

Across Europe the drug Sativex, a mouth spray containing both THC and CBD, has been approved for the muscle stiffness and spasms, known as spasticity, in multiple sclerosis.

There is also evidence that cannabis can be helpful for the fluctuating body numbness and aches associated with fibromyalgia, as well as the spasms caused by Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)

It’s important to note that for muscle spasms a range of cannabinoids are needed, including both CBD and the restricted THC. Unfortunately Sativex is currently available for a very limited group of MS sufferers, leaving those seeking this option for other conditions no option but to look on the black market, a situation we hope will change soon.

Anti-anxiety: Study shows that taking CBD may help people struggling with anxiety. CBD interacts with receptors in your body that affect mood, stress levels and pain binding to the same receptors as anandamide, a cannabinoid which reduces feelings of fear and contributes to relaxation.

In other words: when you use CBD it helps your brain and body to naturally reduce anxiety symptoms.

It can also ease generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) symptoms by reducing chronic inflammation of the body’s immune system, a common cause of these types of disorders.

Many people claim that cannabis improves sleep quality. CBD calms the mind, makes you more relaxed and breaks the cycle of anxiety caused by sleepless nights causing more anxiety.

Pain relief: Research suggests that CBD oil can provide relief for people suffering from chronic pain. Whether they are struggling with arthritis or injury-related pain, CBD offers a natural way to manage the inflammation and discomfort without side effects.

CBD oil can be useful in managing chronic pain. Typically, when cells are damaged due to injury or illness, the body senses this damage and cranks up inflammation- an inflammatory agent is pumped into your cell through the bloodstream. CBD offers a natural way to help lower these painful reactions by decreasing inflammation .

Mental Health: Cannabidiol (CBD) oil has been shown to treat patients with schizophrenia effectively. A study showed that CBD oil could help to improve the symptoms of people with schizophrenia, including problems with delusions.

The Permanente Journal published an article about the study which found that CBD oil can help to treat anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders.

Anti-inflammatory:  The anti-inflammatory properties of CBD are well documented. 

Studies have shown how CBD may help with inflammation in conditions like arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and lupus by impacting this endocannabinoid neuron activity, reducing inflammation, and interacting with neurotransmitters.

CBD for Covid 19 

Earlier this year, a study was conducted by scientists from the Dental College of Georgia and the Medical College of Georgia. They found that CBD can improve oxygen levels, reduce inflammation, and prevent lung damage related to adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

ARDS is a life-threatening condition where the lungs fill with fluid, making it difficult to breathe and stopping oxygen from entering the body. It is one of the main causes of death of Covid 19. 

The scientists found that CBD increased the levels of a peptide called apelin, a vital part of our anti-inflammatory defense system. 

When a healthy person’s blood pressure, or levels of inflammation rise in a certain area, apelin levels rise in the same place, signaling the white blood cells to fight the virus and reduce the inflammation. 

Using modeling, the scientists discovered that in patients with Covid 19, apelin levels dropped to nearly zero in both the lungs and all over the body. The use of CBD, however, caused apelin levels to rise, along with lung function.

More trials are needed, but the results so far look very promising. 

woman with skin blemishes
CBD can be used to treat a variety of skin complaints

Skin complaints

Full spectrum CBD oils may help treat inflammatory skin conditions, such as psoriasis and eczema.

Dryness: In addition to being rich in unsaturated fats, Full spectrum CBD oil is also high-in a polyunsaturated fat called α-linolenic acid.

These fatty acids can help improve your skin. They help keep it from drying out, make it smoother, and can also help the cells work properly.

A study in 2014 found that CBD has a positive effect on regulating oil production in our skin. The study looked at the results of the non-psychoactive cannabinoid on the sebaceous glands, which control the skin’s oil production. 

This study found that CBD is an excellent way to stop the sebum (oil) from coming out of our skin. Too many sebaceous glands can lead to skin conditions like acne.

If, however, sebaceous glands don’t make enough oil, the skin will become dry and lead to eczema conditions.

Acne and acne scars– CBD oil may help reduce acne. It can help the body make less oil. CBD oil also has anti-inflammatory properties, which helps people with skin problems too.

Inflammatory skin conditions

CBD is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent and can help reduce the effects of chronic inflammation which cause conditions like Eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, and psoriasis.

It can also be used to manage the pain associated with these conditions, both systemically when taken internally, and also locally when applied topically in cream or balm form. 

There is also some evidence that it can stop the build up of skin cells which is the root cause of psoriasis.

UV damage and hyperpigmentation: Full Spectrum CBD oil contains α-linolenic acid and linoleic acid. These two substances help repair UV skin damage by increasing the removal of melanine.

What is broad spectrum CBD?

Like full spectrum CBD, broad spectrum CBD products contain various compounds and cannabinoids from the cannabis plant, such as CBC and CBG; and terpenes, such as myrcene, limonene, or pinene. Crucially, a broad spectrum oil will typically contain little or no THC or CBN (the cannabinoid that THC degrades into). 

What is CBD isolate?

CBD Isolate is basically totally pure CBD which contains no other cannabinoids, terpenes or other plant matter and has no odour or taste. The advantage of this is its purity, however because it does not contain any of the other beneficial compounds, it may not offer all the health benefits of broad-spectrum or full spectrum CBD.

A 2015 study suggests that to get pain relief from cannabidiol isolate, people may have to take much higher doses than other forms of CBD.

The advantage is that as it contains no other cannabinoids, there is no chance of an accidental positive drug test.

What potential issues could I have by taking a full spectrum CBD oil?

  • Risk of Failed Drug Test

CBD products that contain trace amounts of THC can be the cause for failed CBD drug tests. Full-Spectrum CBD has tiny levels of THC (less than 0.3%), but whilst it is not enough to be noticeable, it may be enough to give a positive result on a drug test.

  • Potential issues with sensitivity to THC

Depending on your experience with cannabis, the entourage effects of a full spectrum CBD oil can be more intense. For many this is an advantage, but if you have a sensitivity to THC, you may prefer an isolate or broad spectrum product. 

full spectrum CBD oil bottle, seeds and capsules
Oil is one of the most popular forms of CBD

What are the different ways you can take full spectrum CBD?

Full spectrum CBD comes in many forms, including edibles, topicals, oils and tinctures. The main difference between these is how they are used; but what all of them have in common is that they contain all the cannabinoids present within the cannabis plant.

CBD oils

CBD oil is made via an extraction process that separates CBD and other cannabinoids from the plant matter. This is then added to a carrier oil such as hemp seed, coconut (MCT oil) or olive oil in different proportions to make oils of different strengths. 

Quality products will be labelled with the percentage: 2%, 10% 20% etc – and also the total amount in milligrams mg of CBD contained in the bottle: 200mg, 1000mg, 5000mg per bottle etc. As a general rule, the higher the percentage, the more expensive the oil. 

Oils are a great option for those who are new to using CBD products because you just take drops under your tongue- no fussing with pills or edibles that could have an unpleasant taste!

CBD tinctures 

For a CBD tincture, high strength alcohol is used to extract the elements from the plant. Alcohol is also used as a base for the final product. CBD tinctures may contain 60 or 70% alcohol. 

This gives the product a longer shelf life, but also a more bitter taste. For people that are sensitive to alcohol, of course, an oil will be a better choice.

CBD flowers

For those that enjoy smoking or vaping, CBD flowers (or buds) are available. These are normally well-formed seedless buds from indoor cultivation. These can be quite expensive and quality varies widely. As these are whole flowers from the plants, they are full spectrum and will contain all the cannabinoids, flavonoids of  the plant they have come from. The potency will depend on the potency of the plant they have come from.

The advantage of smoking or vaping CBD is the speed in which it reaches your bloodstream via your lungs. This and smoking are the quickest ways to take CBD. They are also very effective as there is very little waste, so you get the full potency of the CBD flowers. The downside is the effects of the CBD wear off more quickly.

Keep in mind that smoking cannabis can cause symptoms of bronchitis and inflammation, as burning embers irritate the airways in the lungs, whereas the process of vaping is smoke-free, meaning fewer side effects.

full spectrum CBD chocolate and leaf
Edibles are an easy, delicious and discreet way to take CBD

CBD edibles

CBD edibles are basically cannabis-infused foods or sweets. They can be gummy bears, brownies, chocolates or space cakes.  The advantage of these is that they are easy to carry around and can be eaten like candy or sweets.

CBD oil capsules

The gel capsules are an excellent option for those who don’t want to taste the oil or have any residue left over from taking a capsule, but they’re more expensive than oils and tinctures and obviously more processed.

It also takes longer for the capsules to become active in your system because they have to go through your stomach first before getting into your bloodstream.

CBD balms and lotions

CBD topicals offer a unique way for people to use cannabinoids. Rather than ingesting the CBD, a person can apply it directly to specific areas of their body and benefit from localized relief.

The skin acts as an efficient semi-permeable membrane that “lets the good stuff in” while keeping out potentially harmful chemicals. This is why topicals are so effective when applied to joints or muscles with aches and pains – they’re able to act fast on spot pain rather than going through the digestive system first (which would result in lost efficacy).

CBD topicals include creams, lotions, salves, balms, serums, massage oils, and more. They are often designed for a specific use, such as facial products, lip balms, massage oils or pain-relieving items.

When mixed with essential oils, CBD topicals can be a great way to unwind after a long day.

How does full spectrum CBD make you feel?

CBD oil can make you feel calm and relaxed or energized and focused, depending on what you need. Some people find that CBD products help them sleep better at night, which is an especially useful benefit for those with chronic pain conditions. 

Many CBD oil users say they feel something like an increase in their overall sense of well-being. Extensive research into the effects of CBD oil has shown its potential as a mood stabilizer, anxiety reliever and for the treatment of certain psychological disorders.

If you’re looking for the potential benefits of the entourage effect, then full-spectrum CBD may be the best choice for you.

How to choose the best full spectrum CBD product

In order to choose a quality full spectrum CBD product, buyers should look for products that meet specific criteria: safety, quality and transparency.

  • This product is made by a company that offers third-party testing from an ISO 17025-compliant lab.
  • Full spectrum CBD is non gmo and contains no more than 0.3% THC.
  • The COA tests to ensure full-spectrum CBD passes leading safety standards for pesticides, heavy metals and molds.

It’s a good idea to read the label and ingredient list closely.  CBD doesn’t require a prescription, but when considering taking it you should talk to your doctor or healthcare professional first so that they can advise you what to expect and ensure it will help you.

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