The TNHA were the organisation which successfully motivated the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) to lower CBD from schedule 4 under to Schedule 0 complementary medicine within certain exemption criteria in 2019.

This lead to CBD containing products becoming a popular non-prescription choice for health-conscious consumers.

Demystifying CBD Extracts for Everyday Understanding

Cannabidiol, or CBD, has become a household name, promising relief from various ailments. CBD products come in different forms: ‘full spectrum’, ‘broad spectrum’, and ‘isolate.’

Full spectrum CBD is like a full choir, with a range of cannabinoids including THC, and terpenes, which are the plant’s aromatic elements. Broad spectrum CBD is the choir without the soloist and many other minor cannabinoids and terpenes – THC is always absent. CBD isolate is the pure solo voice, with only CBD and no other cannabinoids or terpenes.

Defining the Spectrums of CBD

In the realm of CBD containing health products, the terms ‘full spectrum’, ‘broad spectrum’, and ‘isolate’ refer to the types of extracts used. Each type has a unique chemical profile that can influence the user’s experience.

Full spectrum CBD includes a full range of cannabinoids and terpenes, along with trace amounts of THC, while broad spectrum CBD offers a very limited cannabinoid profile terpenes and CBD usually created form an isolate base profile but without THC. CBD isolate, as the name suggests, contains only purified CBD without additional cannabinoids or terpenes.

The Entourage Effect: More Than Just CBD

Full spectrum CBD is superior by some margin, up to 30 times more effective than isolate CBD due to the ‘entourage effect’, a synergistic interaction where the combined influence of cannabis compounds is greater than the sum of their individual effects. This phenomenon suggests that the presence of multiple cannabinoids and terpenes in broad spectrum CBD can enhance its therapeutic potential, as opposed to CBD isolate which contains only pure CBD.

Imagine a symphony where each instrument enhances the others; this is the ‘entourage effect’ in the world of CBD. It’s the idea that cannabis compounds work better together. Broad spectrum CBD is like an orchestra without the drums (THC), believed to provide a richer experience than CBD isolate, which is akin to a single instrument playing alone.

The chart compares the cannabinoid profiles of Full Spectrum, Broad Spectrum, and Isolate CBD. Full Spectrum CBD oil contains a complete range of cannabinoids, including THC, as it is derived from CO2 extraction of the plant into a syrup-like liquid. Broad Spectrum CBD oil cane either originate from a similar extraction process to Full Spectrum or is created by adding terpenes to a isolate and does not include the full cannabinoid profile, implying it has various cannabinoids but lacks certain components like THC. Isolate CBD products are further refined to contain only one cannabinoid, typically just CBD, or are made using isolated cannabinoids without additional compounds from the plant.

Cannabinoids’ Ballet with Receptors

Cannabinoids from Full Spectrum CBD, such as CBD and CBG, engage in a delicate interaction with the Endocannabinoid System, or ECS, particularly with the CB1 and CB2 receptors. Unlike THC, which directly binds to these receptors, CBD acts as a modulator, influencing the receptors indirectly and altering the way other cannabinoids are absorbed or their effects are felt.

The Modulatory Role of CBD

CBD’s unique interaction with the ECS involves modulation rather than direct stimulation of cannabinoid receptors. It affects various receptors outside the ECS, such as GPR55 and PPARs, and modifies the activity of the endocannabinoid receptors themselves. This modulatory action contributes to CBD’s therapeutic potential without the psychoactive effects associated with THC.

Full Spectrum CBD: A low THC Alternative

Full spectrum CBD is particularly beneficial for individuals who are sensitive to THC or who must avoid it due to legal restrictions or workplace drug testing. In South Africa the THC legal limit for THC present in CBD products is 0.001%, or one part per million. It provides the benefits of a full array of cannabinoids without the risk of high THC exposure.

Clinical Research and Dosage Considerations

Clinical studies, such as those on epilepsy, have indicated that CBD products containing a range of cannabinoids may be more effective and require smaller dosages than CBD isolate. This suggests that full spectrum CBD could be more efficient in its interaction with the body’s systems.

Efficacy and Dosage in Clinical Studies

Research, including studies on conditions like epilepsy, suggests that CBD products with a full range of cannabinoids may be up to 30 times more effective at lower doses compared to CBD isolate. This points to a potential increase in the efficiency of full spectrum CBD in engaging with the body’s systems.

Mental Health

Full Spectrum CBD may also have a positive impact on mental health conditions. Research is exploring its effects on symptoms associated with anxiety, stress, and possibly even neuropathic pain, which is often difficult to treat.

Neuroprotective Properties

Emerging studies suggest that Full Spectrum CBD could offer neuroprotective benefits, potentially safeguarding against neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis. This is a significant area of interest as current treatment options are limited.

Gut Health and Other Physiological Benefits

In addition to mental and neurological health, Full Spectrum CBD may contribute to gut health by supporting beneficial gut bacteria and optimizing digestive functions. It’s also being studied for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, and even potential cancer risk reduction properties.

Taste and Sensory Experience

A notable difference between Full Spectrum CBD and CBD isolate is the sensory experience. Full spectrum CBD may have a robust, earthy taste due to the presence of various plant compounds, which some users find unpalatable. In contrast, CBD isolate is tasteless and odorless, making it more appealing to those sensitive to the flavors of cannabis.

Purity and Predictability

CBD isolate is known for its purity, containing 99% CBD, which allows for standardized dosing and predictable effects. However, this purity comes at the cost of the entourage effect, limiting the overall therapeutic benefits compared to full spectrum CBD.

Personal Preference and Lifestyle

Choosing between Full Spectrum CBD and CBD isolate is ultimately a personal decision influenced by individual needs, preferences, and lifestyle. Full spectrum CBD is often chosen by those who wish to benefit from the full plant’s potential without excessive THC, while CBD isolate is selected by those with extreme sensitivities or who prefer a tasteless and odorless option.

The Future of Hemp and Full Spectrum CBD

The popularity of Full Spectrum CBD will shape the future of the hemp industry, with implications for job creation, exports, and capital. However, the full potential of this market in South Africa will be contingent on a regulatory framework that supports innovation and competition, ensuring that the socio-economic benefits can be fully realized.


Full spectrum CBD products are considered superior to Broad Spectrum and CBD isolates due to their ability to harness the full entourage effect. This makes them a suitable option for those seeking the full benefits of the cannabis plant’s compounds while avoiding any psychoactive effects or legal complications associated with THC. The choice between Full spectrum and isolate remains dependent on personal needs and the desired experience.

By Anthony Rees, TNHA