Anyone who’s read about CBD or tried out a product knows that it can be intimidating to sort through all the information—not to mention all the acronyms. This corner of the wellness world is emerging, which means studies are still in progress and information is constantly evolving. Below, we break down what you need to know about broad spectrum hemp extract: what it is, how it compares to other forms of CBD, what its benefits are, and more.

First things first...remind me again what CBD is?

In order to talk about CBD, we first have to zoom out to cannabinoids, which is a fancy word to describe the naturally-occurring chemical compounds found in cannabis, including:

  • Cannabidiol (CBD): non-psychoactive compound derived from the hemp plant (cousin of the marijuana plant)
  • Cannabinol (CBN): derived from the oxidation and decomposition of THC from the hemp plant
  • Cannabigerol (CBG): the first phytocannabinoid synthesized in the hemp plant that then converts into other plant-based cannabinoids
  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): the active compound in the cannabis plant responsible for its psychoactive effects (this is what gets you “high”)

Over 140 cannabinoids have been identified in the cannabis plant, as well as in cloves, black pepper, echinacea, broccoli, etc.

And no, cannabis is not the same thing as marijuana since it refers to ALL products derived from the Cannabis sativa plant, while “marijuana” just refers to products containing significant amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Emerging science on the benefits of CBD include studies showing it may reduce stress, a leading contributor to poor sleep. (1-3)

What is broad spectrum hemp extract?

Broad spectrum hemp extract is a type of CBD that contains almost every compound in the cannabis plant, including cannabinoids, flavonoids, and trace amounts of terpenes.

  • Flavonoids is an umbrella term for the antioxidant-rich natural compounds found in many fruits and vegetables, as well as wine, tea, and chocolate.  
  • Terpenes are a diverse class of organic compounds that make up essential oils. They’re produced primarily by plants and select insects.
  • Cannabinoids, as mentioned above, are the naturally-occurring compounds found in cannabis.

This is what differentiates it from CBD isolate, which is composed of 99% pure CBD but stripped of all other ingredients.

The one compound that broad spectrum doesn’t have is THC, meaning it won’t get you “high.” This is what differentiates it from full-spectrum hemp extract, which does contain the psychoactive compound (less than 3%, per the legal limit).

What does emerging science say about the benefits of broad spectrum hemp extract? 

  • It is believed to contribute to the entourage effect
    Because broad spectrum CBD captures the array of other phytocannabinoids naturally present in the hemp plant, including CBN and CBG, it’s believed to contribute to the entourage effect, which is the theory that various beneficial compounds in cannabis work synergistically to create unique effects and benefits. The terpenes also help out here.  

  • It’s less processed than CBD isolate
    CBD isolate, while composed of 99% pure CBD, is stripped of all other ingredients, including flavonoids, terpenes, and THC. For this to happen, the CBD undergoes refinement processes.

  • It provides all the health benefits of full-spectrum CBD, but without the undesirable side effects
    THC works by binding to two receptors in the body’s endocannabinoid system (aka ECS): CB1 and CB2. THC-free broad spectrum CBD, on the other hand, still interacts with the ECS but doesn’t bind to the receptors, which means no undesirable “high” effects.

  • It touts impressive health benefits
    Broad spectrum hemp extract has been and is currently being studied for sleep, mood, immune health, epilepsy, anxiety, cognition, pain management, and movement disorders.

Different forms of broad spectrum hemp products

  • Capsules
    Benefit: Easy to incorporate as part of your wellness supplement routine—and ideal if you’re looking for CBD sleep support.

    What to look for:
    High-quality supplements formulated without added fillers or binders, as well as supplements triple-tested for potency and purity. You should also be able to access the certificate of analysis.

  • Edibles
    Benefit: Allows you to taste (and enjoy!) the flavor of the gummies, mints, etc.

    Caveat: Research shows that, when it comes to edible CBD products, there’s a “first pass effect,” meaning the CBD is partially broken down by the digestive tract and liver. This means that, in addition to taking upwards of two hours to kick in, only 20-30% of the CBD is absorbed. (4) 

  • Tinctures
    Benefit: This type of sublingual (aka under the tongue) product takes effect faster than edible products, which means it’s the ideal option for quicker results.

    What to look for: CBD tinctures that are third-party tested for safety and contain no fillers or isolated plant compounds.

  • Topicals
    Benefit: Topicals such as CBD oil-based creams are applied directly to the skin, which is ideal for addressing localized pain.

    Caveat: Your skin isn’t as porous as the under-tongue area, so in order to reap the positive effects, you’ll want to opt for a higher concentration of CBD and apply generously.