You’ve likely heard that CBD products can be great for anxiety. But which type of CBD is the best? Should you use full-spectrum or broad-spectrum CBD?
Generally speaking, full-spectrum CBD is the best choice for anxiety and most health issues because it contains one more active ingredient than broad-spectrum products: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
However, it’s not uncommon for people with anxiety to be extremely sensitive to THC. This means even the small amounts of THC in full-spectrum CBD products can make them more anxious. If that’s the case, broad-spectrum CBD will suit you better.
Read on to learn more about the differences between full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD and which one is better for anxiety.
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Full-spectrum CBD is a whole-plant hemp extract.
It contains not only CBD but dozens of other cannabinoids, such as CBG, CBN, and CBC, as well as terpenes, flavonoids, and other beneficial compounds. This includes a small amount (0.3% or less) of THC, the main psychotropic component of cannabis.
All of these ingredients work in synergy, producing what researchers have dubbed the cannabis “entourage effect” (1).
Put simply, the entourage effect means that all of the phytochemicals in cannabis produce greater effects together than on their own. That’s why it’s better to use products made from the whole cannabis plant rather than a purified extract.
Multiple studies have shown evidence of the entourage effect. For example, a 2018 review of epilepsy patients found that CBD-rich full-spectrum cannabis extracts were four times more potent and produced fewer side effects than pure CBD (2).
The bottom line is that full-spectrum CBD products tend to be more effective than those containing pure CBD (isolate).
Broad-spectrum hemp extract is the same as full-spectrum CBD but with one key difference: the THC has been removed. That means broad-spectrum CBD provides all of the beneficial hemp cannabinoids, terpenes, and other phytochemicals but no THC.
As a result, broad-spectrum CBD products are slightly weaker than full-spectrum ones since you’re missing one active ingredient.
It’s also important to note that the THC is removed to the point of being undetectable on cannabis lab tests, so trace amounts might remain. As such, it’s theoretically possible to test positive for THC if you use broad-spectrum products repeatedly.
In most cases, full-spectrum CBD is slightly better than broad-spectrum CBD for anxiety. However, some people — and especially those prone to anxiety issues — are highly sensitive to THC.
This means even the small amount of THC (0.3% or less) present in a full-spectrum CBD product can actually make them more anxious.
Why does this only happen to some people? It’s the same reason some get anxious from smoking marijuana while others feel more relaxed.
Research suggests that certain factors can make people more likely to experience anxiety from THC, including: (3)
- individual genetic factors
- personality traits
- infrequent use
- history of previous anxiety reactions
- presence of anxiety disorders or symptoms
- basal anxiety levels
- being female
- the environment and the context in which the THC is consumed
As we can see, higher base anxiety levels and a history of anxiety issues or disorders are risk factors for being sensitive to THC.
That’s why some people using CBD for their anxiety might feel more anxious after taking a large dose of a full-spectrum product.
I experienced anxiety after taking an 80 mg dose of full-spectrum CBD from one specific brand. If I had to estimate, it had about 3-4 mg of THC.
For most people that wouldn’t be enough to cause anxiety. But as we discussed earlier, some are more sensitive.
I’ve previously felt bouts of anxiety from smoking even small amounts of marijuana while my friends had the opposite effect, so it made perfect sense.
That’s why I lowered my full-spectrum CBD dosage to no more than 60 mg and also tried a bunch of different brands. I haven’t had any issues since and regularly take full-spectrum CBD to help with anxiety, sleep, and overall health.
If you’re taking CBD for anxiety, full-spectrum products will usually be the best option. For most people, the small amount of THC present in a full-spectrum product isn’t enough to cause anxiety or other unwanted effects.
But if you find that your anxiety symptoms worsen from full-spectrum CBD, you should either lower the dosage or switch to a broad-spectrum CBD product.
You should also verify that your broad-spectrum product is free of THC by looking at the third-party tests provided by the brand. It’s best to avoid companies that fail to provide these test results.
Of course, you can also use products that contain pure CBD, called isolate.
But this isn’t recommended because you’ll be missing out on the entourage effect that makes whole-plant hemp and cannabis products so much more effective than their purified forms.
If you’re new to CBD, be sure to start with a small dose (5-15 mg). Pay close attention to how you feel and slowly work your way up to the dosage that provides the desired anxiety relief.
- Russo, Ethan B. “The case for the entourage effect and conventional breeding of clinical cannabis: no “strain,” no gain.” Frontiers in plant science 9 (2019): 1969.
- Pamplona, Fabricio A., Lorenzo Rolim da Silva, and Ana Carolina Coan. “Potential clinical benefits of CBD-rich cannabis extracts over purified CBD in treatment-resistant epilepsy: observational data meta-analysis.” Frontiers in neurology 9 (2018): 759.
- Stoner, S. Effects of Marijuana on Mental Health: Anxiety Disorders. Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute (2017).
Gleb is a freelance writer from Vancouver, Canada specializing in CBD and cannabis. He’s read thousands of studies on CBD and other supplements, helping him translate complex science into plain language. Gleb has tried and reviewed dozens of CBD brands and products, written third-party testing reports, and knows the CBD industry inside and out. When not writing, he likes to kickbox, travel, and tell everyone how awesome intermittent fasting is.