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Beginners Guide to Understanding CBD, CBN, THC, Full Spectrum, and Broad Spectrum

Curious about CBD, CBN, or THC? Wondering what the difference is between full spectrum and broad spectrum?

CBD and THC have been getting a lot of attention lately as natural treatments for several conditions and illnesses. But with all the new terminology, it can be hard to understand what these substances are and how they work.

Here is a quick guide to help you understand the basics of CBD, CBN, THC, full spectrum, and broad spectrum so you can find the right product for your needs.

What is CBD?

CBD stands for cannabidiol and it is a chemical derived from the cannabis plant. While CBD is a component of cannabis, by itself it does not cause the psychoactive effect many people associate with cannabis and marijuana.

CBD comes in many different forms including extracts, creams, and even food and drinks. Since being legalized at the federal level with the 2018 Farm Bill, CBD products have become more popular and widely available.

Health Benefits and Uses of CBD

CBD is currently approved by the FDA as a prescription oil to treat seizures caused by Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS). There hasn't been enough scientific evidence to definitely say that CBD can help treat any other conditions.

However, according to Jillian Kubala, MS, RD, CBD is being studied as a possible treatment for:

  • pain
  • anxiety
  • insomnia
  • PTSD
  • depression
  • nausea and vomiting
  • epilepsy
  • MS
  • Parkinson's disease

CBD is typically well-tolerated and considered a safe supplement. However, some people may experience side effects such as fatigue, diarrhea, and changes in appetite.

What is CBN?

CBN, which stands for cannabinol, is another chemical compound found in the cannabis plant. Like CBD, CBN does not cause psychoactive effects.

CBN is produced when THC breaks down and it has been shown to have sedative effects. Like CBD and THC, it interacts with the body's endocannabinoid system

CBN comes in many forms including oils, tinctures, gummies, and capsules. However, you're more likely to find CBD products than those that contain CBN.

Health Benefits and Uses of CBN

CBN is not as widely studied as CBD and there is less known about its potential health benefits. However, WebMD notes that CBN has shown the potential to help with insomnia, pain management, and delaying the onset of ALS.

What is THC?

THC is the main psychoactive component in cannabis and it is what gets people "high."  Just like CBD and CBN, it is a cannabinoid and interacts with the body's endocannabinoid system.

THC is available in many forms including oils, tinctures, edibles, and even topical creams. It's important to note that the THC content in cannabis products can vary greatly and it's important to check the labels before using them.

Although still illegal at the federal level, many states have legalized THC to be used for medical purposes and recreationally.

Health Benefits and Uses of THC

THC is currently approved by the FDA as a treatment for nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy. It is also used to help increase appetite in people with AIDs.

WebMD notes that THC is being studied as a possible treatment for:

  • pain
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Cancer
  • Crohn's disease
  • anorexia
  • epilepsy
  • glaucoma
  • schizophrenia
  • PTSD
  • muscle spasms
  • nausea
  • seizures
  • wasting syndrome

THC can also cause side effects such as dizziness, changes in appetite, and fatigue.

Full Spectrum, Broad Spectrum, and CBD Isolate

When purchasing CBD there are different terms used including full spectrum, broad spectrum, and CBD isolate.

Full Spectrum

Full spectrum refers to a product that contains all the beneficial compounds that are naturally found in the cannabis plant. The THC is reduced so that it contains less than the 0.3% required by the FDA, but it still retains all the other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids.

The extra compounds help create the entourage effect. Healthline describes the entourage effect as "the theory that all the compounds in cannabis work together, and when taken together, they produce a better effect than when taken alone."

Broad Spectrum

Broad spectrum refers to a product where all the cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids of the cannabis plant are retained except THC. So if full spectrum keeps all the compounds, broad spectrum keeps all the compounds except THC.

Because THC is completely removed, it's said to possibly be less effective because it misses out on the entourage effect that you get from full spectrum CBD.

CBD Isolate

The last form of CBD available is CBD isolate. CBD isolate is a product that contains only CBD and no other cannabinoids, terpenes, or flavonoids.

CBD isolate is considered a bit less effective than full spectrum or broad spectrum CBD because it lacks the additional cannabis plant compounds that provide medical benefits.

Pros & Cons

There are different pros and cons to using different types of CBD products.

Full spectrum: The upside is that you'll be taking the most effective form of CBD. Because of the extra plant compounds, you'll be able to take advantage of the entourage effect and get the best results.

The downside is that full spectrum contains THC. Although CBD products are only supposed to contain less than 0.3% of THC, they aren't currently regulated so it's possible that some products could have higher THC levels.

This means that full spectrum CBD could potentially make you fail a drug test.

Broad spectrum: Broad spectrum is a great compromise because it retains all the beneficial compounds of the cannabis plant except for THC. The only downside is that you do miss out on the full entourage effect since it doesn't contain THC.

CBD isolate: By taking CBD isolate, you'll be taking the least effective form of CBD. However, it is the best option for those who want to make sure that there is absolutely no THC in their product.

This is important for those who are subject to regular drug testing or those who live in states where marijuana isn't legal.

CBD isolate is also the best option for those who are sensitive to THC or other cannabinoids since there won't be any in the product.


Now that you know the difference between CBD, CBN, THC, full spectrum, and broad spectrum, you can make a more informed decision about which product is right for you. Be sure to do your own research and talk to a doctor before beginning any new supplement.

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