What is full-spectrum CBD oil?

What is full-spectrum CBD oil?
April 13, 2024
3 min read
What is full-spectrum CBD oil?

As the name suggests, full-spectrum CBD oil is a cannabis oil containing high amounts of CBD alongside small quantities of minor cannabinoids found naturally in the cannabis plant. It is the most common of the three main types of CBD oil. As a new medical cannabis patient, it is important to understand the terminology and types of CBD oil you may have been prescribed. This article aims to shed light on what full-spectrum CBD oil is and why it is used.

What makes CBD oil “full-spectrum”?

The cannabis plant naturally produces around 100 different cannabinoids and over 300 different terpenes. CBD oil is called “full-spectrum” when it contains the full range of naturally occurring cannabinoids and terpenes in the cannabis plant. This could include THC, CBG, CBN, CBC, CBL, and much more.

Full-spectrum vs Isolate vs Broad Spectrum

There are two main types of CBD oil – full-spectrum and isolate. These differ in the cannabinoids they contain. CBD isolate contains only CBD. As stated above, full-spectrum CBD oil contains the “full spectrum” of active ingredients in cannabis, such as minor amounts of THC, CBG, CBN, CBC, terpenes, and more. These minor cannabinoids synergise in a phenomenon known as the “Entourage Effect”. The entourage effect can be considered to make full-spectrum CBD greater than the sum of its parts. Trace amounts of minor cannabinoids may not seem significant, but their individual effects are compounded in the presence of each other.

CBD isolate is sometimes preferred to full-spectrum, as trace amounts of THC can cause a patient to fail a drug test. However, if drug tests are not a concern, a full-spectrum oil will always be more effective than an isolate as it contains more than just CBD. 

Broad spectrum is a third type of CBD oil. It is the same as full-spectrum with the THC removed. This allows patients on CBD isolate to experience the benefit of the entourage effect without failing a drug test.

Comparison of CBD oil types:

How do I take full-spectrum CBD oil?

Full-spectrum CBD oil is commonly prescribed to be taken under the tongue instead of being swallowed or consumed orally. Before being swallowed, it must be held under the tongue for at least a minute so that it is properly absorbed. Some of the oil will make its way into the stomach, but initial sublingual absorption gives CBD the best chance at reaching the bloodstream due to its increased bioavailability.

It is important to remember to only take your oils as prescribed–i.e., sublingually or orally. Oils are not designed to be smoked or inhaled. Oils such as full-spectrum CBD oil are completely different from hash oils such as those found in vape cartridges, which do not contain carrier oils like MCT that are unsafe to inhale.

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What is bioavailability?

To better understand the differences in CBD products, it is important to understand the concept of bioavailability. Bioavailability refers to a drug’s ability to make its way into the bloodstream. It is calculated as a percentage—for example, if a patient takes 100mg of CBD under the tongue (sublingually) and 20mg of that eventually reaches the bloodstream, it is said to have 20% sublingual bioavailability.

A 2018 review indicates that the bioavailability of smoked CBD is 31%. Exact figures for other routes, such as sublingual, oral, and transdermal (via the skin, such as with patches or balms), are currently unknown but are likely lower than the smoked or vaporised route.

Oral bioavailability of CBD appears to vary greatly depending on factors such as stomach fullness, amount of fat in recently consumed food, or other medications taken. CBD oils seem to work better when taken with a high-fat, high-calorie meal, which is vital to keep in mind if you’re having issues with the efficacy of your medication.

What is carrier oil?

As cannabinoids are hydrophobic and do not dissolve in water, so an oil must be used instead. The type of oil used to dissolve cannabinoids is called carrier oil. 

The carrier oils used for CBD and other medical cannabis products vary greatly. These include MCT (Medium-Chain Triglycerides), coconut, olive, sunflower, hemp, and sesame oil. Each carrier oil offers its advantages and disadvantages. They each melt at different temperatures and have different solubilities for cannabinoids. 

The most common carrier oil is MCT oil, as it spoils slowly, has a neutral taste, remains liquid at room temperature, and offers greater absorption of CBD into the bloodstream than most other oils. Some patients might be sensitive to certain carrier oils, such as MCT. They may experience temporary stomach discomfort and GI distress, in which case a different carrier oil must be used.

Can I drive on full-spectrum CBD oil?

Currently, it is illegal to drive in Australia with a detectable amount of THC in your system (except in Tasmania, which allows patients to present a medical defence if they are unimpaired). This means that it’s best not to get behind the wheel after consuming a medication including THC. Unfortunately, this includes the trace amounts of THC present in full-spectrum CBD oil. For this reason, some patients take a CBD isolate or broad-spectrum oil if they need to drive regularly.

We hope this article has been valuable and informative. If you have any more questions about full-spectrum CBD oil, be sure to ask your prescriber during your next consultation.

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Please note that this blog was not written by a licensed medical practitioner and therefore is not providing medical advice. We do not endorse the use of cannabis or any other illicit drugs. Like any medication, cannabis has potential negative side effects and should only be used under the guidance of a qualified medical professional. For the latest information on cannabis prescription and use, please visit the TGA website. If you are considering cannabis as a treatment option, we encourage you to consult with a licensed healthcare professional.

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