Nov 28, 2023

The ABC's of CBD

CBD Dispensary Open Sign

Try stepping out of your front door and avoid crossing paths with something that claims to contain CBD.

Hard to do, isn’t it? In the attempt to cash in on all the hype around CBD, enterprising opportunists have added it (or claim to have added it) to everything from toothpicks to bed pillows. Seriously, you can Google it. Since federal legalization in the United States, CBD seems to be literally everywhere. Still, at the time of this writing, CBD is currently unregulated. This can make it challenging for consumers to safely sort through the junk and find quality products that perform the way they claim.

With products like CBD pillows and toothpicks, it would be easy to write off CBD as a passing fad. However, it’s important to realize that underlying the flood of ridiculous products and even sillier promises, CBD initially grabbed the spotlight for its incredible healing potential. This has not changed. In fact, studies continue to mount, suggesting CBD and the entire cannabis plant have the potential to revolutionize the way we approach healthcare. There’s no question that CBD is transforming people’s lives every day. Evidence points to CBD effectively reducing inflammation, anxiety and helping to improve a whole laundry list of the other alignments.

As folks become more educated about CBD, shoddy products will migrate from the shelves to the bargain bins. Conversely, the use of CBD as a pivotal ingredient in high quality recovery products to help improve our daily lives will continue to expand.

Let’s start with cannabinoids, what are they?

Cannabinoids are a fascinating group of chemical compounds that have captured the attention of scientists, medical professionals, and the public alike. These compounds are found in both marijuana and hemp and play a unique role in maintaining balance. Cannabinoid compounds interact with the human body's endocannabinoid system or “ECS” — a complex network of receptors and neurotransmitters. The endo what? Don’t worry, we’ll learn more about the ESC system in another post. But for now, imagine your body as a well-tuned orchestra. Picture cannabinoids as musical notes and your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) as the conductor that makes everything work together in harmony within your body. Make sense?

Let’s get back to cannabinoids. While there are well over 100 individual cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, there are only two main categories. These categories are referred to as endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids. Sounds like a mouthful but the differentiation is quite simple. Endocannabinoids meaning “found within,” are cannabinoids naturally produced by your body. For example, anandamide, often called the "bliss molecule," is involved in regulating mood, appetite, and pain sensation. The other category of cannabinoids is called phytocannabinoids, meaning “from plants.” Yep, they’re found in plants, primarily in the cannabis plant. The most famous phytocannabinoids are THC and CBD.


CBD stands for "cannabidiol" and is known for its calming and therapeutic effects.

CBD is one of the most well-known and widely studied cannabinoids. Unlike its more famous cousin, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD is not psychoactive, meaning it doesn't produce the "high" typically associated with cannabis use. Largely because of this, CBD has gained the spotlight for its potential as a natural healer.

The rediscovery of CBD opened the door to extensive research on its potential medical benefits. Scientists started to explore its effectiveness in treating a wide range of conditions, from chronic pain and anxiety to epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. This research resulted in the development of Epidiolex, the first FDA-approved prescription medication containing CBD, which is used to treat rare forms of epilepsy.

CBD is a big deal because it acts to reduce or prevent inflammation in both the brain and body. This simple action can have a huge impact on your health. We are coming to appreciate that inflammation is the common culprit for many forms of disease and underlies seemingly unrelated conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. Not surprisingly, CBD has found its place in the wellness industry and used by countless individuals seeking natural alternatives to managing their well-being. Athletes have also embraced CBD for its potential to reduce inflammation and aid in post-workout recovery. Today, CBD is widely available in various forms, from oils and tinctures to gummies and creams. Despite all the promising news surrounding CBD, when looking for products, it can be overwhelming when one considers all the options. Upon exploring CBD products, one of the first things you’ll notice is that CBD products are generally labeled; “full-spectrum or whole-plant,’ “broad-spectrum,” and “isolate.” These three types of CBD products have different compositions and may affect you differently. Let’s sort out the differences between them.

First, what is a concentrate/extract?

“Concentrate” is a blanket term used for any cannabis or hemp product where the cannabinoids have been extracted from plant material and concentrated into a potent finished product. These products are often referred to as “extracts.” These are general terms that can refer to a wide variety of products spanning several different delivery methods. For example, CBD oil or tincture is a popular concentrate product.

Full spectrum, broad spectrum, and isolates.

When you hear the term “full-spectrum” or “whole-plant,” it typically refers to a plant extract that contains all the cannabinoids and other active compounds naturally found in the plant it was extracted from. This term is used to differentiate from CBD or THC-only products, which are called “isolates.” Starting off, the cannabis plant or hemp flower is naturally full-spectrum. However, any product made with an extract can be “full-spectrum/whole-plant,” “broad-spectrum” or an “isolate,” depending on the extraction method and how much the extract has been refined. Broad-spectrum oil, full-spectrum oil, and isolates are the three main variations of CBD products. The differences between them lie in their cannabinoid content.

What is full spectrum CBD oil:

Think of full-spectrum CBD oil as the "whole-plant" extract. It contains not only CBD but also a range of other cannabinoids, such as THC (though in very low, trace amounts), CBG, CBN, and others, as well as terpenes and flavonoids. This diverse mix of compounds is believed to create an "entourage effect," where the different cannabinoids work together to enhance the potential therapeutic benefits of the CBD. However, because full-spectrum oil contains trace amounts of THC, it may still have some psychoactive effects, although typically very mild.

Broad spectrum CBD oil:

We can think of broad-spectrum CBD as a close relative of full-spectrum CBD, but with one key difference: broad-spectrum is subject to an additional process that removes any detectable traces of THC. In other words, broad-spectrum CBD contains a variety of cannabinoids and other beneficial compounds, just like full-spectrum, but without the potential for THC-related psychoactive effects. Broad-spectrum products offer some of the potential benefits of the entourage effect without the risk of getting high.

CBD isolate:

Isolate is a different form of CBD product compared to full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD oils. The main distinction here is that CBD isolate oil contains only one single compound: CBD. All other cannabinoids and plant compounds have been removed. As the name suggests, CBD isolate is the purest form of CBD you can get. Isolate is extracted from the cannabis plant and then subjected to a purification process that removes all other cannabinoids, terpenes, and any plant matter, leaving you with pure CBD. Since CBD isolate contains only one cannabinoid (CBD) and lacks the other compounds found in full-spectrum and broad-spectrum products, it doesn't offer the "entourage effect.” However, because CBD isolate is completely THC-free, there's no risk of any psychoactive effects or failing a drug test due to THC content.

So, in essence, CBD is used primarily in three forms:

First, full-spectrum CBD contains all the natural compounds found in the cannabis plant, including trace amounts of THC, and produces the entourage effect. Second, broad-spectrum CBD is similar but with the THC removed, offering the potential entourage effect without any THC-related high. Lastly, CBD isolate is essentially just CBD in its most concentrated form and will not produce the entourage effect.

Which one to choose depends on your personal preferences and any legal restrictions in your area. If you're okay with very minimal THC and want the entourage effect, full-spectrum may be appealing. However, if you want to avoid THC altogether while still benefiting from multiple cannabinoids, broad-spectrum may be your preferred choice. CBD isolate is an excellent choice for people who want CBD without any other compounds. Always check product labels and lab reports for accurate information on their cannabinoid content. You can learn more about reading a lab analysis report in our blog post titled, "Understanding the COA Certificate: A Vital Tool for selecting safe CBD Products."

CBD extraction methods

The two most common extraction methods are supercritical CO2 extraction and ethanol extraction. These methods remove the beneficial cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids from the plant so they can be added into medicine. CO2 extraction is one of the safest extraction methods, it also happens to be one of the best for producing high-quality full-spectrum hemp oil.

Here are a few reasons why:

  • Clean and efficient method that doesn't leave behind harmful residues or solvents.
  • Preserves the delicate terpenes, which are often desired in full spectrum products.
  • Allows for precise control over temperature and pressure to target specific
 cannabinoids and terpenes.
  • Very high levels of consistency and quality in the final product.

Ethanol extraction is another widely used method for producing full-spectrum hemp oil. It's generally cheaper than CO2 extraction but may result in the inclusion of some unwanted compounds.

Hemp to CBD

How Hemp is transformed to CBD
Sheriffs Badge

Will CBD show on a drug test?

It's important to be aware that the legal landscape surrounding CBD can change rapidly, and local regulations can vary. As of January 2022, the legal status of CBD varies by country and, in some cases, even by state or region within a country. When considering using or purchasing CBD products, it's advisable to consult local laws, regulations, and guidelines. Additionally, it's important to choose reputable CBD products from trusted sources to ensure quality and compliance with the law.

United States:
The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp-derived CBD at the federal level if it contains less than 0.3% THC. This made CBD products more accessible, but individual states have their own regulations, and some may have stricter rules.

CBD is legal in Canada, and it can be sold and purchased if it meets the regulations under the Cannabis Act.

European Union:
In the EU, the legality of CBD varies by country. Some countries allow the sale and use of CBD products, while others have stricter regulations. The EU Novel Food Regulation also affects the marketing of CBD products.

United Kingdom:
CBD is legal in the UK, provided it meets certain criteria. It should not contain more than 0.2% THC, and it should not be marketed as a medicine.

Other Countries:
In many countries, the legality of CBD is a complex and evolving issue. Some nations have embraced it for medical and recreational use, while others maintain strict prohibitions.

Lab Centrifuge Tubes

What you need to know about CBD and drug testing.

For folks who may be subject to a THC drug test, an important question looms large: Does CBD show up on a drug test result? Good question; the concern usually arises from the fact that CBD is derived from the cannabis plant. Even though CBD is not intoxicating, it does share its botanical origins with cannabis, which in turn can raise questions about drug test outcomes. As you may recall, CBD is one of many compounds found in cannabis. But remember, it's crucial to differentiate it from THC, the psychoactive compound responsible for the "high" associated with marijuana. CBD does not produce this high and is not typically the target of drug tests. Understanding the intricacies of CBD and drug testing will help you navigate the issue with confidence. After all, enjoying the potential benefits of CBD without jeopardizing your professional or personal obligations is important.

The risk of testing positive for THC.

The primary concern regarding CBD and drug tests is the possibility of testing positive for THC. As we’ve learned, different forms of CBD products may contain small, trace amounts of THC. There are some key factors to consider. Full-spectrum CBD products contain a range of cannabinoids, including trace amounts of THC (up to 0.3%). Remember, these products are federally legal because the THC content is below the .3% threshold. However, because full-spectrum products do contain small amounts of THC, it could potentially be a factor in drug test results.

Comparatively, CBD isolate products contain only CBD, so the there is no risk of failing a drug test. Lastly, broad-spectrum products can fall somewhere in between, but generally, broad-spectrum products, like isolates, are not a factor in drug test results.

Minimizing the Risk

To minimize the risk of testing positive for THC in a drug test while using CBD, consider the following tips:

Product quality matters:
To navigate this issue effectively, choose high-quality, THC-free CBD products. In some cases, cross-contamination can occur during the manufacturing process, leading to unintended THC presence in CBD products. That’s why it’s important to research and select brands with stringent quality control measures. Reputable companies provide lab-tested, THC-free, or low-THC products, reducing the risk of THC showing up in your system. Be sure to read labels carefully to ensure they specify low or zero THC content.

Dosage and duration:
The more full-spectrum CBD you consume and the longer you use it, the greater the risk of trace THC accumulating in your system. If you are a heavy and consistent CBD user, the risk increases. Obviously, this is not a concern if you are using a broad-spectrum or CBD isolate product.

Discuss with your employer or testing facility:
If you are subject to drug testing, it's wise to discuss your CBD use with your employer or the testing facility. Transparency can help avoid misunderstandings. While it’s uncommon for pure CBD to lead to a positive drug test result, the presence of trace amounts of THC in some CBD products can be a concern. Be mindful of your usage, and communicate with your employer or testing facility if you have any doubts.

Now that we understand CBD, what it is, and what it does, let’s find out how it works to help us to live healthier lives. With that in mind, we’re ready to learn about the endocannabinoid system in the next post.