Analysing the cannabinoid spectrum

by Apoorva Shivankar, M.D

Whether you are a CBD admirer like me or someone just bowled over by the tremendous growth CBD has achieved, we all want to know its secret.

A decade ago, CBD was a forbidden drug, nowhere seen, nobody knew it.

But today, it’s a different story altogether. The CBD market is exploding like anything driving the end-users and business interest crazily.

Credit goes to - its all-round potential and the latest research and discoveries.

CBD Identity

CBD (cannabidiol) is an incredibly versatile plant compound generally extracted from the hemp variety of Cannabis sativa. Hey, wait for a second.

  • Does the term ‘cannabis’ raise an alarm in your head?

It should, as cannabis is a banned drug in most parts of the world.

  • Does that mean we are advocating an illegal drug?

No, absolutely not.

Read the facts,

Cannabis plant is rich in naturally occurring medicinal compounds called cannabinoids (around 144 in number) of which Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetra hydro cannabinol (THC) are the dominant ones. Based on THC concentration, this cannabis plant comes in 2 varieties:

  1. Marijuana: THC content is >0.3%, a psychoactive cannabinoid.
  2. Hemp variety: THC content is <0.3 %, thus non-intoxicating, non-psychoactive.

This trace amount of THC content in hemp is responsible for the safe and legal profile of Hemp-derived CBD.

So, no worries. The CBD which you get in the market is hemp-derived, legal, safe, and holds the medicinal properties of cannabis without any psycho-activity.

The science behind the health benefits of CBD:

CBD, in order to promote health, targets the most widespread biological system:

THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM (ECS): consisting of endocannabinoids and receptors distributed throughout the mammalian body. The sole function of ECS is to maintain the homeostasis of the body and prevent imbalances.

Any deficiency or dysfunction in ECS leads
to derangements of the central and peripheral nervous system, digestion, mood, immunity, sleep, etc. manifesting as headaches, body aches, anxiety, depression, inflammation, gastric upset, visceral pains, sleep disorders, and many more.

Here’s where exogenous plant compounds like hemp-derived CBD oil jump in. They replace the deficiency or enhance ECS functioning (by preventing the breaking down of
endocannabinoids) and restore in and out homeostasis/ balance of your body.

Beyond the ECS, CBD can also act via serotonin hormone which is a ‘Happiness Hormone.’

Though research is successfully linking CBD with health, CBD products are not approved for any treatment purposes except epilepsy.


Cannabis is a blessed plant:

Along with THC and CBD, cannabis is blessed with a wide range of minor cannabinoids, a good number of aromatic agents called ‘terpenes’ and also a group of flavonoids. And believe me, though THC and CBD are the main determinants of cannabis action profile, these minor cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids too have their own therapeutic roles that can’t be neglected. 

What is CBD spectrum?

The term ‘CBD spectrum’ involves the different types of CBD’s available in the market.

Full Spectrum CBD

  1. Contains Cannabidiol (CBD)
  2. Trace amounts of THC
  3. All the minor cannabinoids including CBN, CBG, CBGV, CBC, etc.
  4. Terpenes
  5. Flavonoids

Pros: Full-blown entourage effect is seen. 
Positive effects of each and every component are assimilated.

Cons: Less potent than CBD isolate.
THC can interact with alcohol (if consumed together or within 8 hours) and precipitate sedation or intoxication

Can be detected in a drug test (due to the trace amounts of THC present.)

Can have a strong flavour and aroma to deter its use.

Broad-spectrum CBD: 

  1. Contains CBD
  2. All other minor cannabinoids like CBG, CBN, etc
  3. Terpenes
  4. Flavonoids
  5. 0% of THC

Pros: Can be used by individuals who are sensitive to THC or strict No No for THC.

Individual benefits of minor cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids are retained.

Cons: Lack the benefits of THC.

Shows limited entourage effect and thus, the end result is not at par with the full -spectrum CBD due to lack of THC. 

CBD isolate:

  1. 99% pure cannabidiol
  2. No THC
  3. No other cannabinoids
  4. No terpenes
  5. No flavonoids 

Pros: Lesser the components better for beginners,

Best for first-time users as there are lesser components and no discernible taste or odour

Do not show up in any drug tests.

Cons: In CBD isolate products the entourage effect is lost

Individual benefits of THC, minor cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids are also lacking.

Which one is better?

Unless contraindicated, a full-spectrum CBD should be preferred over broad-spectrum or CBD isolate as it is enriched with the benefits of all the components and has the benefit of the entourage effect.

By the way, what is this ‘ENTOURAGE EFFECT’?

It depicts the strength of WORKING TOGETHER.

Though each component in CBD has its own benefit when combined together, they potentiate the final therapeutic effects by complementing, stimulating, and enhancing each other’s action and can subdue the negative effects of the product by masking them.

This effect is seen in broad-spectrum and full-spectrum CBD products. 

What is the difference between full spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD? 


Full-spectrum CBD



THC present

THC absent


Less processing-

more natural

More processing-

less natural

Effect wise

More potent

Comparatively less potent


Strong analgesic

Weaker analgesic

Psycho-activity Risk

Present (higher doses)


Drug test

Can be detected (THC)

Not detected


What is broad spectrum CBD good for?

  • Broad spectrum CBD is good for those who are sensitive to THC or strictly against THC.
  • It is a good antianxiety, anti-inflammatory, anti-convulsant, analgesic agent which can improve memory, cognition, sleep with no risk of psycho-activity or intoxication.

What cannabinoids are in full-spectrum?

Full-spectrum CBD is a treasure of cannabinoids such as:

  • Delta 9 THC
    • Manages pain and reduces inflammation
    • Also known to reducing nausea, stimulate appetite, and aid in sleep
    • As only tracing amounts are present in hemp varieties, psycho-activity is not seen
  • Delta 8 THC
  • Antiemetic, anxiolytic, appetite-stimulating, analgesic, and neuroprotective properties
  • Tetrahydrocannabivarin, THCV
  • Curbs anxiety attacks and causes an overall relaxation in PTSD patients
  • Reduces seizures and convulsions
  • Regulate blood sugar levels and reduce insulin resistance
  • Cannabidiol, CBD
    • The main component of hemp - CBD
    • Possess antipsychotic, anxiolytic, antiepileptic, anti-inflammatory, sleep-promoting and many more therapeutic properties.
    • Purely medicinal with no psychoactivity or intoxication
    • Inhibits growth of cancer cells
    • Promotes bone growth
    • Slows bacterial growth
    • Counteract many of the psychoactive effects of THC
  • Cannabigerol, CBG
  • Mother cannabinoid-precursor for CBD and THC
  • Anti-inflammatory, analgesic, bacteriostatic, inhibits the growth of cancer cells.
  • Cannabigerivarin, CBGV
  • Boost the ability of the cellular receptors in the ECS to more readily bind with THC molecules
  • Boosts CBD metabolism within the body, making CBD more potent
  • Anti-inflammatory properties
  • Cannabichromene, CBC
  • Anti-inflammatory, analgesic
  • Promotes bone growth
  • Fight off superbugs such as MRSA
  • Anti-cancer, anti-tumor 
  • CBCA
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Treats fungal infection
  • Cannabinol, CBN
  • A metabolite of THC
  • Potential immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory activity
  • CBN is also said to trigger apoptosis in individual cells, as well as, inhibit the production of cytokines
  • Can increase sleep duration
  • Decrease seizure activity
  • There are many more cannabinoids in full-spectrum CBD to add to the list

How are Terpenes and Flavonoids important?

  • Terpenes can produce aromatic essential oils which may affect a person’s mood and stress levels.
  • Research also suggests that terpenes and flavonoids may help with pain, inflammation, and anxiety by enhancing CBD effect.

Highlights to conclude:

Full-spectrum CBD

Broad-spectrum CBD

CBD isolate

CBD+ THC+ minor cannabinoids+ Terpenes +Flavonoids

CBD + minor cannabinoids+ Terpenes +Flavonoids

Pure CBD

Entourage effect seen

Entourage effect seen

No entourage effect

Most potent

Comparatively less

Least potent but effective.

Risk of photoactivity present at a higher dose.





Q. How is CBD extracted from the cannabis plant?

With the help of one of the following extraction process:

  • steam distillation
  • solvent extraction
  • carbon dioxide extraction
  • lipid extraction

Q. How does the dosage of CBD differ in full spectrum, broad spectrum and CBD isolate forms?

Dose actually depends on personal response to a particular form and the condition treated. Mostly for a same person and condition, full spectrum being most potent needs the least dose and CBD isolate being least potent needs the highest dose with the broad spectrum somewhere in between.

Q. Is CBD Oil Addictive?

No, Hemp-derived CBD oil is non-addictive.

Q. Is CBD from Hemp as good as CBD from marijuana?

Almost the same, except for the THC content which is greater in marijuana CBD.

Q. Is CBD safe for pets?

Yes, CBD is proven safe in various animal studies and many veterinarians have started recommending it now.



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