New to CBD and confused about full-spectrum, broad-spectrum and CBD isolate and their impact on the entourage effect? We break everything down is this guide and reveal our top 5 CBD oils which benefit from the entourage effect.
What is CBD?
Before talking about the entourage effect, it is important to understand what CBD is.
Cannabidiol — also known as CBD — is one of the multiple chemical compounds found in hemp (cannabis sativa) or marijuana plants. It is also known as medical cannabis, which is a broad term used to encompass any product, treatment, or medicine that includes cannabis-derived ingredients.
It is not however, the same as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) found in marijuana and contains none of the psychoactive properties associated with it, which means CBD won’t get you “high”.
Hemp vs Cannabis: What’s the Difference?
Different parts of the cannabis plant are either defined as hemp or as cannabis and marijuana.
- Hemp: hemp is the stalks, stems and sterilized seeds of cannabis sativa (“Cannabis Sativa” is the scientific Latin term that defines hemp, cannabis or marijuana plant species).
- Cannabis and Marijuana: the leaves, flowers and viable seeds of cannabis sativa.
The varieties of cannabis that are regulated, legal and available in the UK are those that produce less than 0.2 percent THC. And given the fact that most THC is in the flowers, CBD products are primarily made from hemp (stalks, stems and sterilized seeds of cannabis sativa) which contain very little THC and are safe to consume.
This is why CBD products are legal in the UK if they contain less than 0.2% THC.
Take our CBD Quiz
If after reading this guide you are still unsure about what products to choose, simply take our CBD Quiz which has been designed specifically to identify the product and strength that is best suited to your personal needs.
CBD has been proven to have analgesic (pain relief) and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as help people with insomnia.
The Different Types of CBD
It is important to understand the different types of CBD available as each will have different properties and they may not all benefit from the entourage effect. These formats are known as full-spectrum, broad-spectrum and CBD isolate. Let’s take a look at each of the formats:
- Full-Spectrum CBD: CBD products labelled as “full-spectrum” contain all the phytochemicals that occur naturally in the cannabis plant, including other cannabinoids, terpenes, and oils. It also contains some trace amounts of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive compound in marijuana that produces the “high” effect. However, the total amount of THC for the UK market is limited to 0.2% so full-spectrum CBD products will provide all the benefits of CBD without the “high”. Full-spectrum CBD products are considered the most effective.
- Broad-Spectrum CBD: CBD products labelled as “broad-spectrum” contain all the phytochemicals that are in a full-spectrum product, but it does not contain any THC. In terms of UK guidelines, it is not necessary to remove the THC by law, as traces of THC (0.2% or less) are allowed, but broad-spectrum CBD may work well for those interested in benefiting from the ‘entourage effect‘ whilst at the same time ingesting THC-free products.
- CBD Isolate: CBD products labelled as “isolate” is the pure form of CBD and contain no other cannabis plant compounds such as other cannabinoids, terpenes, and oils. CBD isolate is a good option for those who want to take CBD, but who do not want to benefit from the entourage effect of other plant compounds or ingest any tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which are present in full and broad spectrum products. If you take regular drug tests and worry about THC showing up on your results, then CBD isolate is a great option.
The Entourage Effect
The entourage effect is the theory that while each botanical compound has a unique role or benefit, its behaviour may change when the presence of another compound is present.
For example, it would be more effective and quicker to produce a play with a team of actors rather than one actor playing all the parts. When each actor has a specific role to focus on, they can learn their lines and direction and support their fellow actors. But one actor alone will take a lot longer to learn their role and may have bouts of low self-esteem.
This is similar to the entourage effect. Essentially, everyone knows their role, but their performance can be enhanced by comradery, which in the end makes for a great night out to the theatre.
But how is this applied to CBD?
We know that CBD products stimulate the endocannabinoid system and make it work more efficiently. But different CBD products affect the ECS differently, depending on its formulation. As previously, discussed there are 3 types of CBD formulation:
- Full-spectrum: No additional extraction, contains all the natural ingredients of the hemp plant, including CBD, THC, terpenes and flavonoids.
- Broad-spectrum: All traces of THC are removed from the oil. Every other ingredient remains.
- CBD Isolate: The oil only contains CBD, everything else is removed.
One of the above formulations has been proven to give better results in reducing pain, inflammation and many other symptoms. Which one of these formulations do you think stimulates the ECS best?
Would it be the most natural substance (full-spectrum), the one with any psychoactive ingredients (broad-spectrum) or the purest form of CBD (isolate)?
According to the entourage effect, it is the full-spectrum CBD because it keeps all the natural components of the hemp plant.
Cannabinoids and Terpenes
The theory of the entourage effect was first introduced by Dr Ethan B. Russo. He thinks that cannabinoids such as CBD and THC work with terpenes (aromatic component) to produce a “synergy.”
In his study “Taming THC: Potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects” (2010) Dr Ethan B Russo suggests:
- The terpene pinene, which gives the scent of pine, may help counteract compromised memory caused by THC.
- CBD and terpene limonene, which gives a citrus scent, might work together to alleviate anxiety.
- A combination of CBD and terpene caryophyllene, offering a pepper smell, may be beneficial in the treatment of addiction.
The possibility of “synergy” of endless but have not yet been categorically proven. For more information read his other study “The Case for the Entourage Effect and Conventional Breeding of Clinical Cannabis: No “Strain, No Gain” published in 2019.
Omega-3, Antioxidants and Nutrients
In addition to CBD, THC and terpenes, full-spectrum CBD oil also contains Omega-3, which is vital to the ECS. Omega-3 is used to maintain the receptor CB1, which regulate pain and memory.
It also aids the absorption of external cannabinoids, as well as making endocannabinoids internally.
Other nutrients and antioxidants have also been discovered in full-spectrum CBD oil, for example, Vitamin E. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble compound that can prevent cataract formation, postpone the appearance of wrinkles and grey hair, boosts the immune system and reduces inflammation.
As you can see CBD oil when first extracted from the hemp plant has a huge list of ingredients. All of them seem to play a part in helping our bodies. We may not know exactly what they all do. But as time passes and research continues, we can learn more.
CBD Full Entourage Products
Full and broad spectrum products will ensure that you benefit from the entourage effect. However, it is also important to understand the many different ways and concentrations in which CBD can be consumed as this may have an impact on its absorption.
CBD oil can be used for a number of different reasons, including but not limited to pain relief, to improve sleep and insomnia, or for anxiety and depression.
CBD oil is simply an oil that is derived from the hemp plant. CBD extract from the hemp plant is mixed with a carrier oil (MCT oil, hemp seed oil and olive oil are the most common carrier oils for CBD products), in various concentrations to create the finished product.
The oil carrier is intended to have no effect on the effectiveness of the product but can alter its taste. CBD oil is sold in bottled form and known as a “tincture”, literally meaning something that is imbued with an amount of something else – for example, hemp seed oil that contains CBD extract. Most CBD oils come in 10ml bottles, but be aware that some brands sell CBD oil in 20ml and 30ml bottles which will affect the concentration.
CBD oil can be flavoured (mint, orange or lemon) or natural (just CBD and the oil carrier). Whilst flavoured options can be beneficial if you don’t like the taste of the pure extract, we would always recommend going for the natural option if the grassy or earthy taste of CBD oil doesn’t bother, as the less ingredients, the better.
Advantages of CBD Oil
- Increased bioavailability – One of the main advantages of CBD oil over other products is the fact that CBD oil increases bioavailability – which means the amount of product that can be directly used by your body. The faster the CBD is absorbed, the sooner it can get to work. Gummies and edibles will take some time to be processed and broken down by your digestive system, making oil the fastest way to gain the benefits of CBD. When placed under the tongue, it comes into contact with the sublingual gland which speeds up the process of absorption and quickly enters the bloodstream.
- Easy to Consume – When taken orally, CBD oil is very easy to consume and it also gives you the ability to use doses of the exact strength required thanks to the individual droplets.
- Topical Use – CBD oil can in some instances be applied topically to treat joint pain or reduce problems associated with acne. While other forms of CBD can treat these issues, oil can be specifically applied to certain areas to target the treatment.
- No Sugar – When CBD is used in the form of gummies, chocolate or other edible products, it may not be in the best health interests of the person to eat such products. For example, people suffering from diabetes will need to carefully manage the food that they eat, and therefore CBD oil may be a better option.
- No addictive or withdrawal issues – Finally, CBD gummies are a natural remedy that can be taken by almost anyone and possesses none of the addictive or withdrawal issues that other pain management or anxiety medications may present.
Disadvantages of CBD Oil
Whilst there are mainly advantages in using CBD oil to get your daily dose of CBD using, there are unfortunately a few drawbacks which are worth considering.
- Earthy or Grassy Taste – CBD oil can have a very earthy or grassy taste which some will find unappealing. Although CBD oil is one of the fastest-acting forms of CBD, the flavour can deter many from using it to its full potential, and flavoured CBD oils or other forms of CBD such as edibles or capsules may be more palatable.
- Less Convenient – If you need to take CBD while in a public place, using CBD oil can be much less discreet than using edibles. While using CBD is not something that you need to hide, using a dropper to place the oil under your tongue may not be the most practical option when out an about, in which case capsules, gummies or other edibles may be preferred.
- Interaction with other medications – It’s also worth noting that CBD may make it harder for your body to process certain medications, so if you are taking any other medications, be sure to check with your GP before taking CBD products.
- Minor side effects – Finally, CBD can cause side effects in some people including drowsiness, changes in mood, nausea, and changes in appetite. Every individual will be affected differently, and in most cases, there are no side effects to worry about.
Whilst one of the most common ways of taking CBD is by using CBD oil, a growing number of people have turned to CBD capsules as they are often more convenient than CBD oil and won’t leave a strong aftertaste in your mouth and throat.
Unlike CBD edibles and gummies, CBD capsules are usually made from two ingredients including CBD extracts and oil carrier such as MCT oil (coconut oil) or olive oil. The capsule itself is made of either vegetable cellulose (suitable for vegans) or bovine gelatine (not suitable for vegans).
A few products will include additional ingredients such as caffeine, vitamins, polysorbate emulsifiers, beta-caryophyllene, sorbitol, L-theanine, Rhodiola or water.
CBD capsules are one of the most convenient and discreet ways of taking CBD as they are portable, tasteless and contain a fixed amount of CBD per capsule, meaning you won’t need to worry about counting drops, as you would need to do with CBD oil.
Capsules can be bought in bottles containing of 7, 28, 30, 60 and array of concentrations, 5mg – 50mg per capsule.
Advantages of CBD Capsules
- Easy to use and discreet – CBD capsules are incredibly easy to use as it is essentially the same as taking vitamin pills. It is one of the most inconspicuous way to get your daily dose of CBD as all you have to do is swallow a capsule with a glass of water.
- Precise dosage – Dosage couldn’t be easier and more precise than with CBD capsules, as each pill contain an exact amount of CBD (e.g. 10mg per capsule). Unlike CBD oil, you do not need to count how many drops you need to take.
- No nasty aftertaste – Whilst CBD oils tend to have a very earthy or grassy taste, CBD capsules are simply swallowed and do not have any taste at all. For that reason, they are an excellent alternative to CBD oils who often have a strong aftertaste.
- A great alternative – For people who do not like to put CBD oil under their tongue or for those who do not want to consume additives such as sugar present in CBD gummies, CBD capsules are a great alternative as you simply need to swallow them and do not have to chew or leave the oil under your tongue as you would with gummies or CBD oil.
Disadvantages of CBD Capsules
Whilst there are quite a few advantages to getting your daily dose of CBD using CBD capsules, there are unfortunately several drawbacks which are worth considering.
- Less bioavailable – the term bioavailability stands for the proportion of a drug or substance which reaches the systemic circulation. By definition, when a substance is administered intravenously, its bioavailability is 100%. However, when the same substance is administered via other routes (e.g. mouth), its bioavailability is generally lower than that of intravenous due to the fact that it needs to go through the intestines and digestion process. For that reason, CBD oil is more bioavailable than CBD capsules as it comes into contact with the sublingual gland (under the tongue) which speeds up the process of absorption and quickly enters the bloodstream.
- Not fast acting – another problem with CBD capsules is that they are not as fast acting as CBD oil seeing as it will take some time to be processed and broken down by your digestive system. So seeing as the faster the CBD is absorbed, the sooner it can get to work, CBD capsules will usually take between 30-60 minutes to act when CBD oil takes less than 20 minutes.
CBD gummies are exactly what they sound like – edible gummy bear sweets that contain Cannabidiol (CBD) and that can be used for a number of different reasons, including but not limited to pain relief, to improve sleep and insomnia, or for anxiety and depression.
They are one of the most convenient and discreet way of taking CBD as they are portable, tasty and contain a fixed amount of CBD per gummy bear, meaning you won’t need to worry about counting drops, as you would need to do with CBD oil.
CBD gummies are made in the same way as regular gummies, only with CBD extracts infused into the gelatine as part of the manufacturing process, the quantity of CBD varying depending on the strength of the bottle (from 10mg to 50mg+ per gummy).
A packet or jar of gummies usually has 30 or 60 gummies in it and the CBD strength ranges from 5mg-30mg per gummy. Gummies are not usually safe for vegans as they can contain bovine gelatine, so be sure to check what gelatine they are using.
Advantages of CBD Gummies
- Easy to use and discreet – CBD gummies are incredibly easy to use as it is essentially the same as chewing a regular sweet or gum. It is one of the most inconspicuous way to get your daily dose of CBD.
- Precise dosage – Dosage couldn’t be easier and more precise than with CBD gummies, as each gummy contain an exact amount of CBD (e.g. 10mg per gummy). Unlike CBD oil, you do not need to count how many drops you need to take.
- Great tasting – Whilst most CBD products will have an earthy or grassy taste, CBD gummy bears are essentially normal sweets that have been infused with CBD extracts. For that reason, they taste just like a normal sweet and are an excellent alternative to CBD oils who often have a strong aftertaste.
- A great alternative – For people who do not like to put CBD oil under their tongue or for those who struggle to swallow CBD capsules, gummies are a great alternative as you do not need to swallow them with water like capsules and can simply chew it like a sweet.
Disadvantages of CBD Gummies
Whilst there are quite a few advantages to getting your daily dose of CBD using CBD gummies, there are unfortunately several drawbacks which are worth considering.
- Less bioavailable – the term bioavailability stands for the proportion of a drug or substance which reaches the systemic circulation. By definition, when a substance is administered intravenously, its bioavailability is 100%. However, when the same substance is administered via other routes (e.g. mouth), its bioavailability is generally lower than that of intravenous due to the fact that it needs to go through the intestines and digestion process. For that reason, CBD oil is more bioavailable than CBD gummies as it comes into contact with the sublingual gland (under the tongue) which speeds up the process of absorption and quickly enters the bloodstream.
- Not fast acting – another problem with CBD gummies is that they are not as fast acting as CBD oil seeing as it will take some time to be processed and broken down by your digestive system. So seeing as the faster the CBD is absorbed, the sooner it can get to work, CBD gummies will usually take between 30-60 minutes to act when CBD oil takes less than 20 minutes.
- More sugar – whilst CBD oil or vapes usually contain a limited number of ingredients (CBD extracts from hemp, MCT or olive oil and sometimes flavouring), CBD gummies will use animal gelatin or a gelatinous polysaccharide called “pectin”, flavouring as well as sugar or sweetener. For those reasons, a single gummy bear can contain 2g of sugar which could lead to the average person’s daily sugar intake increasing by 10mg to 20mg depending on the amount of CBD gummies consumed. This can be a problem for people suffering from diabetes and who need to carefully manage the food that they eat.
CBD Topicals & Creams
If your aim is to improve muscle recovery post workout, treat an inflamed muscle or tendon or simply to look after your skin, then CBD topicals may be a great option for you. Whilst these tend to vary, the most common topicals include:
- CBD body ad massage oils
- CBD infused creams
- CBD balms
- CBD salves
CBD topicals are quickly absorbed to help calm and soothe stressed out skin and tend to be rich in additional compounds such as antioxidants; cannabidiol, fatty acids, vitamin A or vitamin E, which protect the skin from mild irritation, redness and the signs of aging
However, whilst CBD balms are great, they are only for topical use and are often used in conjunction with other CBD products such as CBD oils or capsules.
As the UK population has become more and more health conscious, they have ditched sugary drinks such as sodas in favour of healthier options. And whilst CBD tinctures remain the most common way to consume CBD, CBD drinks have become the perfect alternative to sodas, especially since CBD is known to have several health and anti-inflammatory properties.
It’s important however, to make the difference between homemade CBD drinks and beverages that have been specifically developed by CBD manufacturers.
If you are adding your own CBD to a drink like water or even to your food, the vast majority of the CBD is going to get metabolised in your gut resulting in your intestines and your liver enzymes breaking down most of the CBD you ingested. In other words, your body is only going to absorb a tiny fraction of the CBD you originally added to your drink or food. This makes homemade CBD drinks a poor way of getting your CBD intake as there is a lot of wastage through the digestive system resulting in less than 5% of the CBD being absorbed by the body.
To bypass this problem, companies making CBD infused drinks have had to put another agent with CBD to help it dissolve with the main drink, be it water, wine or coffee.
CBD-infused drinks developed by manufacturers on the other hands, have benefited from years of research to figure out the best way to infuse the drinks with CBD to maximise its absorption. To do so, they have copied emulsion techniques that have been used in the culinary and pharmaceutical industries and use drug-delivery systems such as nano-lipid spheres or emulsifiers to increase the bioavailability of CBD drinks.
These binding agents hold onto tiny droplets of water and CBD oil molecules, which then disperse throughout the liquid in a way that appears completely dissolved. Without this process of ‘nanoemulsion’ the water and CBD oil molecules would separate.
CBD drinks contain on average 15-30mg of CBD per serving size, but new products have recently come onto the market offering 10mg of CBD per serving size whilst other have targeted the upper end of that scale with 40+ mg of CBD per drink.
CBD E-Liquids & Vapes
Whist CBD vape or vape pens are commonly referred as using CBD oil, it is important to note that the CBD oil used for vaping is different from traditional CBD oil (called CBD tinctures).
This can be quite confusing for people who have never used CBD products before as CBD tinctures and CBD used for vaping or inhaling are both referred to as ‘CBD oil’. The best way to not get mixed-up is to differentiate them by calling CBD tinctures (which are ingested) “CBD oil” and by calling vaping products either “CBD vape oil”, “CBD vape juice” or “CBD distillate”.
CBD tinctures are strictly for ingestion purpose and should not be used for inhalation or vaping as these products were not designed to be exposed to high heats for vaporisation, unlike CBD vape juices and e-liquids.
CBD vape oil is made using a similar process to standard CBD oil in that it is derived from the hemp plant and use CBD extract. However, unlike CBD oil which use MCT or Olive oil as a carrier, CBD vape juices use thinning agents such as Vegetable Glycerin (known as VG), a thick, sweet liquid or Propylene Glycol (known as PG), a much thinner and tasteless liquid. It is the presence of these thinning agents that make the CBD juice ok to vape or inhale.
Products using Propylene Glycol tend to produce more of a “throat hit” than Vegetable Glycerin does, and as a result may simulate the feel of smoking better.
So what are the suitable types of CBD oil that can be used for vaping and inhaling. They broadly fall under five categories, with some products being disposable and others which can be refilled, a more cost-effective option in the long run:
Disposable CBD vape pens
As the name indicates, these CBD vape pens are small cigarette style pens which have been pre-filled with CBD vape oil and are disposable, meaning you will not be able to refill them. They work thanks to a built-in coil and battery. When the person smoking sucks on the mouthpiece of the vape pen, the battery sends a charge to the coil which causes the temperature to rise in the atomizer. This process heats-up the CBD vape oil in the cartridge and transforms it into vapor which can then be inhaled.
CBD vape pens are a great way to start as you do not need to worry about how they work or refilling them. Simply turn them on and start vaping. However, their longevity is usually limited to 100-150 large inhalations which is not idea if you are a heavier CBD smoker.
Refillable CBD vape pens
These work exactly in the same way as disposable CBD vape pens but are rechargeable so you can fill it up with your own CBD vape oil. It is worth noting that refillable CBD vape pens often produce more smoke, vapor and flavour than disposable ones as the built quality is better. Whilst they may require some basic maintenance such as changing the coil or cleaning the tank, they tend to be more cost-effective in the long run. However, they may not be as versatile as CBD pods since the oil inside the cartridge cannot be swapped for nicotine one without having to dispose of the CBD vape oil first.
CBD oil cartridges
CBD oil cartridges are great for people who already possess a refillable vape pen. The cartridges come pre-filled with CBD vape oil or CBD distillate (more on this below) and hold between 0.5ml and 1ml of CBD vape juice.
You will need to be sure that the CBD oil cartridges you bought are compatible with the CBD vape pen you already possess since vape pens come in different shapes and sizes.
JUUL e-cigarettes have become incredibly popular and use their own proprietary technology and vape pods. Their e-cigarettes look like small USB keys which can be recharged in an hour via USB port. They are a modern take on e-cigarettes and as such do not use traditional vape oil but small vape pods which are simply inserted into the e-cigarette.
Users can switch between standard nicotine pods (different strengths available) and compatible JULL CBD pods in an instant, making it the ideal solution for those who want to consume both nicotine and CBD without the hassle of having to carry two vape pens or having to refill them.
As with CBD oil cartridges, be sure to choose a product that is compatible with your e-cigarette. Whilst a lot of pods look the same as JUUL pods, be aware that they may not be compatible.
Our Top 5 CBD Oils
With over 150 CBD brands on the market, it can be difficult to choose the right CBD product. This is why the CBD Unboxed team has tried and tested all most CBD products and brands available in the UK market and assessed them across 6 key areas:
- Value for Money
- Third Party Certification
- Shipping & Delivery
Based on our findings and whilst every person will be different, we would recommend the below five CBD oils to start with.
Take the CBD Quiz
Still unsure about what products to choose? Simply take our CBD Quiz which has been designed specifically to identify the product and strength that is best suited to your personal needs.