While comparing CBD vs. THC is beneficial for beginner cannabis users, those who have committed to using CBD have a more interesting question: Do you need any amount of THC in your CBD for it to be effective?
Most CBD products in the United States are manufactured from industrial hemp, which by law must contain less than .3 percent THC.
Yet, there are plenty of CBD products available made from marijuana or non-hemp cannabis — what are the differences between these types of products and what are the risks of including THC in your CBD?
Full Spectrum CBD vs. Broad Spectrum CBD vs. CBD Isolate vs. Hemp CBD
Most CBD products use terminology like “full spectrum” or “isolate” to explain to users quickly which cannabis compounds that product contains. Thus, you need to understand the meaning behind these terms before you can make informed CBD purchases. Here’s a quick guide to the most popular CBD varieties:
Full Spectrum CBD
To transform cannabis into CBD products, manufacturers must separate the compound from plant material. This process also strips other cannabinoids as well as terpenes from the plant fiber and fat.
Full spectrum CBD keeps all the naturally occurring extracts together in one product. It is important to note that while full spectrum products do contain THC, other cannabinoids and terpenes, these are usually present only in trace amounts.
Oils created from marijuana or cannabis with high THC content are more often labeled “THC oils,” “marijuana oils” or something similar.
Broad Spectrum CBD
Broad spectrum CBD is similar to full spectrum CBD, except that manufacturers continue the refinement process until all THC is removed.
As a result, the CBD is a bit purer, with no THC leftover but with terpenes and some other natural compounds.
Cannabis can be refined such that CBD remains as the only natural compound present. This requires abundant resources — think, a huge amount of cannabis, a lot of time and energy, etc. — and as a result, isolate tends to be exceedingly expensive.
It is not uncommon for isolate to be sold in its crystalline form, in which it looks like a white rock. The rock can be pulverized into powder to be mixed into food or drink, or the rock can be heated to a vapor and inhaled.
Increasing numbers of CBD products are sourced from hemp, which is a variety of cannabis that naturally contains less than .3 percent THC.
Hemp is legal to grow in most places in the United States thanks to a federal bill passed in 2018, and as a result, hemp is more readily available for refinement into CBD products around the country.
The naturally low levels of THC present in hemp ensures that there is plenty of the good stuff (CBD) in hemp-derived products and much less of the stuff you might be less interested in.
Most CBD products clearly state their refinement — full spectrum, broad spectrum or isolate — or else their source — marijuana or hemp. If the product itself is vague, you can research the manufacturer online to gain more information about their values and processes.
Now that you know what different types of CBD include, which one should you buy? Here are some concerns you might consider when making your CBD purchasing decisions:
The Entourage Effect
Some cannabis aficionados believe that all the compounds naturally occurring within cannabis work together, balancing one another to ensure a more enjoyable experience for the user.
This phenomenon has been called the “entourage effect” because it supposes that compounds like THC and CBD as well as various terpenes are all important elements in boosting beneficial effects and limiting negative ones.
In particular, proponents of this effect suggest that CBD helps to mitigate the harsher effects of THC, and in turn, THC helps with absorption of CBD.
Thus, they argue, it is much more valuable to use THC, CBD, other cannabinoids and terpenes together as an entourage than it is to separate each compound and use them alone.
Currently, there is little scientific research to support the existence of the entourage effect — but that isn’t to say that the effect definitely does not exist.
In fact, many assertions made by stoners about marijuana’s benefits have been shown to be true after targeted research; it is possible that the entourage effect simply hasn’t received funding or sparked researcher interest as yet.
You might want to continue using CBD products that contain some amount of THC if you are interested in taking advantage of the potential of the entourage effect.
CBD and Drug Testing
Unfortunately, just because cannabis has been legalized for medical or recreational use in your state doesn’t mean employers won’t continue drug testing for marijuana.
Fortunately, drug tests don’t check for CBD; instead, they look for THC, which is technically the illegal compound in most states and at the federal level.
Though most CBD products contain only trace amounts of THC, if any at all, it is possible to “fail” a drug test — or obtain a positive for THC — if you are using significant amounts of a CBD product that contains THC, like a full-spectrum oil. If you are concerned about this outcome, you might prioritize CBD products that contain no THC whatsoever.
Then again, you might talk to your employer about your CBD use, especially if it is to manage a serious health condition and recommended by your doctor, so you can be excused reasonably from THC testing.
The decision to include THC in your CBD is a personal one, which should be made only after reviewing all the facts. Even then, you can switch back and forth between products that have THC and products that don’t to better understand what works best for your body and mind.
One of the strengths of CBD is that there are so many options, and you should take full advantage of them if you can. The sooner you start experimenting with CBD, the sooner you can strike upon a solution to your health issue.