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Does “Full-Spectrum” Equal “Full Benefits?”

by | Feb 22, 2023 | Cannabis, extracts

The terminology used in the cannabis industry has grown increasingly complex over the past few years. As more manufacturers rush to produce products in cannabis-friendly states, the range of weed-related items is increasing. For example, it’s getting more common to find cannabis extracts with labels such as “full-spectrum,” “broad-spectrum,” or “isolate.” According to some cannasseurs, only “full-spectrum cannabis oils” offer the optimal experience for customers, but is that true? What distinguishes a “full-spectrum oil” from other cannabis extracts? 


What Does “Full-Spectrum” Mean For Cannabis Oils?


In its most basic sense, the phrase “full-spectrum” means a cannabis oil has the highest possible concentration of secondary weed compounds. Put another way, a full-spectrum cannabis oil will have noticeable amounts of natural cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids that aren’t the target chemical. Marijuana-derived extracts will have many other chemicals besides the “high-inducing” delta-9 THC. By contrast, full-spectrum hemp extracts will have the highest concentration of CBD plus various additional plant-derived compounds. 


Legally speaking, “full-spectrum CBD oils” must contain ≤ 0.3 percent delta-9 THC in the USA. By contrast, broad-spectrum CBD oils can have every secondary cannabinoid except THC. Beyond these restrictions, however, no rules define how many other cannabinoids or terpenes can be in a full-spectrum product. Manufacturers will often try to maximize the concentration of supporting cannabis chemicals when making these items.  


Who Should Try A Full-Spectrum Cannabis Oil? 


Now that you know what full-spectrum cannabis oils are, you may be wondering why they’ve become so popular. What makes a full-spectrum cannabis oil any “better” than other extracts? Although there are many theories surrounding full-spectrum cannabis oils, some studies suggest different cannabinoids and terpenes have unique effects on the endocannabinoid system (ECS). There’s also data that cannabis plants have the maximum therapeutic potential in their natural state. Supporters of the “entourage effect” theory suggest cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids work together to produce heightened effects, which may benefit recreational and medical marijuana users. 


Although many researchers believe in the “entourage effect,” it’s still speculative at this stage. Many reports of the “entourage effect” are anecdotal and highly subjective. While this doesn’t mean the entourage effect isn’t valid, customers should recognize there’s still little hard evidence that full-spectrum oils are “more potent” than other varieties. 


Full-spectrum cannabis products may have heightened effects compared with other extracts, and there’s evidence that different cannabinoids and terpenes have distinct properties. For example, some trials suggest that the terpene myrcene has sedative properties. There’s also preliminary data that the cannabinoid CBG may help patients struggling with nausea.  


People interested in experiencing cannabis in its “rawest” state will most appreciate full-spectrum cannabis oils. Some customers may also notice these oils are more potent at lower doses than other comparable “non-full-spectrum” extracts. However, this doesn’t mean customers can neglect third-party lab reports when making a purchase. Certificates of Analysis (COAs) remain the best way to get a glimpse into the potency and expected effects of any cannabis product.


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