Full-Spectrum CBD: 4 Uncomfortable Truths
Full-Spectrum CBD is a common phrase in the hemp industry and is considered superior to other CBD products. But what if “full-spectrum” was nothing more than a marketing scheme? This blog will dive into four uncomfortable truths about full-spectrum CBD products.
1. Full-spectrum isn’t defined or regulated.
There is no regulated definition for “full-spectrum” cannabis products, regardless of whether they come from federally legal hemp or regionally legal marijuana industries. Although the term describes many cannabis products, neither the industry nor any authoritative body has expressly stated what deems a product “full-spectrum.”
Although many CBD producers consider full-spectrum to be hemp product that contains up to .3% THC, based on the 2018 Farm Bill guidelines, some producers still consider their products full spectrum, even if there isn’t any THC present whatsoever. Most THC-free CBD brands with terpenes and other cannabinoids in their formulations label their products as broad-spectrum. However, the oversimplification of zero THC still leaves too much room for interpretation.
For such widespread use of a term like full-spectrum, you’d like there would be requirements for ingredients and labeling, much like declaring something USDA Organic or Paleo or having to identify nutritional information on a food product.
How many different cannabinoids and terpenes must be in a full-spectrum product?
What ratio of CBD to other cannabinoids and terpenes should there be?
What kind of cultivation environment is necessary for a full-spectrum plant?
What extraction methods create a full-spectrum concentrate?
If you went to a CBD convention and asked ten brands what makes their product full-spectrum, you would get 8-10 different answers.
2. Where is the science to back full-spectrum CBD claims?
Most scientific research on cannabis is done with cells or rodents. Although there are many human studies on CBD and THC, few of them are from human clinical trials that include a placebo. Placebo is one of the most potent drugs, and many pharmaceuticals never make it to market because placebos outperform drugs.
In the world of research, there is something called the Hierarchy of Evidence, which categorizes studies based on how they are performed. A case report of a doctor prescribing a patient 10 mg of full-spectrum CBD for arm pain, who experiences pain relief, may be interesting but is a weak study.
However, a double-blind (both doctors and patients don’t know if they are providing/receiving the drug or a placebo) randomized controlled trial, where patients with arm pain are given 600 mg of pure CBD isolate, that significantly outperforms placebo, even when repeated in other studies, provides more substantial evidence that the CBD is what provided relief, not placebo.
Most of the data on full-spectrum CBD contains significant amounts of THC or no placebo. To date, no full-spectrum clinical trials include a low-dose CBD product with less than several milligrams to no THC.
Anecdotal evidence is always something to consider, especially since many who take full-spectrum CBD products claim their _______ (insert symptom here) is better after a few doses. However, the power of a placebo cannot be ignored since even studies with placebo vs. placebo have shown positive and negative results, depending on how the “drug” is delivered.
3. Up to .3% THC is super vague.
The 2018 Farm Bill states that hemp products cannot contain more than .3% THC. However, no milligram maximum or minimum of THC exists on any CBD products. One full-spectrum CBD product could have .001 mg of THC per serving, while another could have 10 mg of THC.
How is this possible? Since the law is based on the percentage of THC and has nothing to do with the amount of CBD, a 5-gram by-weight gummy or cookie can have upwards of 15 mg of THC.
1 gram = 1,000 mg
.3% of 1,000 = 1,000 x .003 = 3
3 mg THC x 5 grams = 15 mg THC
Believe it or not, it’s perfectly legal to get “high” on legal hemp products… for now. It’s only a matter of time before the FDA cracks down and puts a milligram cap of THC per dose of a hemp-based CBD product. Much of the fuss about these high-THC hemp products comes from the state-specific marijuana market since producers of these products can legally sell intoxicating doses of THC without paying the extremely high taxes and regulatory fees associated with the marijuana industry. Can you blame them?
What’s unfortunate about the soon demise of high-THC hemp products is that they are incredibly effective! Plenty of human clinical data suggests that doses as low as 2.5mg of THC can be highly beneficial for various diseases and symptoms. Sativex, legal in several dozen countries, is approximately a 1:1 ratio of 2.7 mg of THC and 2.5 mg of CBD and has been shown to help with pain and other symptoms associated with MS. Meanwhile, Epidiolex, which only contains CBD as its active ingredient, has a dose range of 5-25 mg/kg of body weight, totaling hundreds into over two-thousand milligrams daily.
Regardless of the amount of CBD, any full-spectrum CBD product that contains several milligrams of THC per serving can be very beneficial. However, these products generally cost a significant amount of money and should not be consumed by anyone who is drug tested.
4. More doesn’t mean better.
We’ve all heard the expression, “more doesn’t mean better.” The same applies to full-spectrum CBD products as well. Just because a CBD product may have more of a variety of cannabinoids, terpenes, or other compounds, it doesn’t mean those ingredients are necessarily doing anything.
THC, CBN, D8, and some other intoxicating cannabinoids are very potent, meaning only a few milligrams can work some magic. For example, Sativex, previously mentioned, delivers an effective dose of THC at only 2.7 mg. Meanwhile, non-intoxicating cannabinoids like CBD, CBG, and others require hundreds of milligrams to be effective.
The best way to think of this is that CBD is ibuprofen, as THC is Oxycodone. Every compound has its unique potency, depending on the receptors they bind to. If you were to take 2.5 mg of ibuprofen instead of 400-600 mg, it wouldn’t do anything. Conversely, steering away from the 5-10 mg dose of Oxycodone and taking hundreds of milligrams could present significant problems.
So, just because a full-spectrum CBD product may have “more” cannabinoids, what ultimately matters is the potency of those present since most CBD products contain hardly any THC or potent cannabinoids, the amount of remaining cannabinoids matters.
Most full-spectrum CBD products contain very low CBD doses and lower amounts of minor cannabinoids like CBG or CBC. These companies claim that since other cannabinoids are present, they are stronger, more potent, or other nonsense that can’t be backed by science. The reality is that for these non-intoxicating cannabinoids to be beneficial, much higher doses are required.
It’s also important to consider the fact that many cannabinoids act differently when another is present. For example, the potent of THC is significantly reduced when CBD is also present. With this in mind, it’s quite possible that many full-spectrum CBD products contain cannabinoids that can weaken the effects of CBD or others.
The next time you shop for CBD products, keep these four truths about full-spectrum in mind. Follow the science and align your purchasing decisions with what is known to be factual: full-spectrum products must contain appropriate amounts of THC to be effective, or hundreds of milligrams of CBD are required to be beneficial.
Fortunately, Future Compounds provides 25,000 to 100,000 milligram CBD options for a fraction of the cost of full-spectrum products.