Full-Spectrum, Broad-Spectrum, Isolate, and PCR Oil: What’s the Difference?

This article first appeared in the INX Labs blog. 

As great as cannabidiol is, not all cannabidiol is created equal. 

There are three major types of cannabidiol oil out there: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate. And then there’s the term PCR, or phytocannabinoid-rich, which is used to describe some types of oils but not others. 

In your quest to find the right product, you may have come across any or all of these terms. Maybe you’re wondering which one is best. In this article, we’ll be diving deep into precisely that. Here’s what you need to know. 

What is Full Spectrum Cannabidiol Oil?

To put it simply, full-spectrum hemp oil is a type of cannabidiol oil that contains the fullness of hemp’s most active ingredients. 

These ingredients include cannabinoids (like cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabinol), flavonoids, terpenoids, chalcones, chlorophyll, and more. Yes, full-spectrum cannabidiol oil does contain some tetrahydrocannabinol, though by law, its concentration must stay under .3%. All told there are over 300 active compounds in the hemp plant, and a genuine full-spectrum extract will capture many of them. 

How it’s made

Making full-spectrum cannabidiol oil is pretty simple. It involves taking dried hemp flower, placing it into a specialized, airtight machine, and running what’s called a solvent through it. This solvent strips hemp’s fat-soluble compounds (i.e., all the good stuff we mentioned earlier) away from its plant material. 

Typical solvents include CO2 and ethanol. The final product is a concentrated extract that, once diluted and bottled, it’s good to go.

Bear in mind that verifying that your cannabidiol oil of choice is solvent-free is very important. That’s why INX Labs rounded up the six essential analytical tests you should know in this nifty article.

Full-Spectrum Pros

The best thing about full-spectrum cannabidiol oil is an obvious one: it remains as close to nature’s design as possible. 

Scientists have shown that full-spectrum oils are more effective, per unit, than any other type of hemp oil. They’ve also discovered that full-spectrum cannabidiol was four times more effective than cannabidiol isolate on an mg-for-mg basis. It turns out that the full spectrum’s trace ingredients help cannabidiol work better, thanks to the entourage effect.

Full-Spectrum Cons

There’s only one downside to full-spectrum, however, and it’s a rare one. In some cases, people can be allergic to it. 

While not to the cannabidiol itself, of course, some of the terpenes featured may potentially cause allergic reactions. For example, people with an allergy to pine may have a hard time with full-spectrum cannabidiol oil because of its sometimes-high pinene content.

What is Broad Spectrum Cannabidiol Oil?

Broad-spectrum cannabidiol is cannabidiol that contains, well, a broad-spectrum (not a full-spectrum) of hemp’s most active ingredients. Most often, it contains everything full-spectrum cannabidiol does…just without any trace of the psychoactive compound. 

This type has risen into popularity in the last couple of years because they offer the best of both worlds — trace compounds and the freedom from stigma.  

How it’s made

Broad-spectrum starts just like full-spectrum does. First, hemp is extracted to form a full-spectrum extract, at which point advanced techniques like fractional distillation or mass spectrometry are employed to remove the extract’s psychoactive compound component precisely. Further procedures, like winterization, may be used to remove fatty acids or chlorophyll and improve the consistency of the oil. 

In simple terms, broad-spectrum cannabidiol oils are processed twice before being diluted, bottled, and sold. 

Broad Spectrum Pros

Broad-spectrum cannabidiol oils engage the entourage effect nearly as well as their full spectrum counterparts do — they’re super-effective! They may also have a refined — yet still earthy — taste.  

Finally, broad-spectrum cannabidiol is a favorite of those who need to pass drug tests thanks to its nonexistent psychoactive compound values. 

Broad Spectrum Cons

As good as broad-spectrum cannabidiol is, there’s some evidence that its lack of psychoactive compounds leads to diminishing returns. The psychoactive compound serves to ‘open up’ specific endocannabinoid receptors en route to helping cannabidiols work better; once this psychoactive compound is removed, cannabidiol has to fly solo and bind to receptors on its own. 

What is Cannabidiol Isolate?

Cannabidiol isolate is the third and final type of cannabidiol oil product. As its name implies, it is pure, isolated cannabidiol. There’s no psychoactive compounds, no terpenes, no flavones — nothing at all!

Isolate takes the form of pure, whitish powder. The purer the isolate, the more crystalline this powder can get. Furthermore, cannabidiol isolate is also tasteless and scentless.  

How it’s made

Cannabidiol isolate starts as other cannabidiol oils do, but it’s refined even further. Sometimes harsh solvents are used to separate cannabidiol molecules away from everything else, so opt for a cannabidiol isolate manufacturer that provides comprehensive lab tests, such as INX Labs.

Cannabidiol Isolate Pros

When done right, cannabidiol isolate can be really good!  It mixes into virtually anything, and it’s both fat and water-soluble. It also seems to provide plenty of help to those with anxiety. Finally, cannabidiol isolate has been very well-studied; scientists often prefer analyzing isolates over natural, whole plant forms. 

Cannabidiol Isolate Cons

Even then, cannabidiol isolate isn’t as powerful as other types of cannabidiol oil. It misses out on the entourage effect — and because it doesn’t contain any trace compounds to modulate things, it can also be hard to dose. Those who are desperate for relief may unwittingly take too much cannabidiol isolate and experience mild side effects like dry mouth.   

What is PCR Oil?

PCR oil, or PCR hemp oil, isn’t so much a type of product as it is a broad umbrella term. 

PCR is often used so consumers know they’re getting the type of hemp oil that contains cannabidiol, not the kind that comes from hempseeds. Full-spectrum cannabidiol, broad-spectrum cannabidiol, and cannabidiol isolate are all examples of PCR oils. 

Why? Because they’re all rich in phytocannabinoids! If you’re looking to activate your body’s endocannabinoid system and improve your health, PCR hemp oils are the way to go. 

Want to make sure the quality of your hemp-derived products is the best one for your business? INX Labs’s goal is to deliver our clients quality analytical data with reasonable pricing and rapid turn-around time of test results. Set up an appointment or give them a call today: https://inxlabs.com/contact/.