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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- Dry mouth
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 health care 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.
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.