Full Spectrum CBD versus CBD Isolate for Anxiety
We've written extensively on why CBD Isolate is so important for a large percentage of the population but nothing drives home the point more than anxiety.
Anxiety is probably the leading reason people try (and stay with) CBD.
It's also one of the most extensively researched topics on CBD's effect.
You can read a comprehensive (clocking in at 4383 words) look at research on CBD's benefits for anxiety here.
Once we establish that there's actually something there, it then becomes a question of what's the best CBD for anxiety.
Eventually, you're going to face the whole full spectrum versus CBD Isolate issue.
For many people new to CBD, this just sounds confusing.
Let's clear the air (and hopefully your airways as well!)
This question is especially important for people with anxiety.
There can be very different responses depending on which way you go.
We spend way too much time in Reddit boards for CBD and without fail, there are people who start a post with…
"CBD actually made my anxiety worse...what gives??"
We have a simple way to fix this and/or avoid it.
It's the full spectrum/Isolate question.
We'll cover these topics:
- What is full-spectrum
- What is CBD isolate
- Is full spectrum or CBD Isolate better for anxiety
- Anxiety and histamine response difference between full-spectrum and CBD Isolate
- THC issues for anxiety
Again, if you want to check out the benefits of CBD (itself), check out our mechanisms of anxiety and CBD.
Let's get started.
What is full-spectrum CBD
We have a full explanation of full-spectrum versus CBD Isolate here.
Full-spectrum is usually the raw hemp plant oil with a specified amount of CBD added back in.
This assumes you're dealing with a good brand.
There are lots of bogus CBD products out there with minimal CBD levels and/or bad contaminants in there.
Research is showing the neurogenesis (brain repair) effect of CBD peaks at 300 mg doses daily.
A CBD option with 250 mg in the bottle isn't going to get there!
Check out how many MG's of CBD for anxiety here.
We can't speak to those products.
Full-spectrum will generally be greener and thicker inconsistency.
The selling point is that all that other material will have added benefits or make the CBD more effective.
We would love to see the research to back that claim.
We've read 100's of NIH articles on CBD's effect and there's just one thing.
It's all on CBD by itself!
Look, we could easily add full-spectrum to our lineup and it would actually be much cheaper to produce.
We just can't do that because it doesn't mirror what research is saying and we personally found out the hard way that there are drawbacks for roughly half the population.
We'll get into that later.
To recap, full-spectrum is hemp oil with CBD added to it.
Hemp oil is even lesser than in that more CBD isn't added back in.
Learn all about the difference between full-spectrum CBD and Isolate including the "entourage effect" slogan here.
What is CBD Isolate?
What is CBD isolate
CBD Isolate is just CBD itself.
It's usually added to one of the following base oils:
- MCT oil (extract from coconut oil)
- Hemp oil
- Olive oil
The most popular is MCT oil.
It's much more involved to get just CBD from the hemp plant.
So...what's the difference for people using CBD for anxiety.
Oh..don't get us started!
Is full spectrum or CBD Isolate better for anxiety
Over 90% of the CBD market is full spectrum.
It's pitched as superior and a whole "religion" exists behind it.
Let's start with the so-called "entourage effect".
This is beautiful marketing to infer that the different substances in full-spectrum will have added benefits or even boost each other for anxiety.
Just one problem.
All the research that we've read (and it's over 100 studies at NIH) is for CBD isolate.
Occasionally, they'll test a synthetic endocannabinoid by itself but any research on CBD is for Isolate.
That research is pretty impressive for CBD by the way.
Check out the CBD benefits for anxiety to get a look at what researchers are finding.
How much research for CBD full spectrum or even hemp oil?
Ummm...maybe 1-2 and there are issues with how they're constructed.
Check out the full spectrum versus CBD isolate article for a full comparison.
The bigger issue for us is this…
If the research for CBD Isolate and anxiety is so great, why are people coming to us on Reddit boards claiming that CBD caused anxiety or made it worse?
That's doesn't match with any of the research we've seen.
There are only a few reasons that would be the case:
- Bad CBD product with contaminants or no/low CBD
- Histamine response to all that plant material
The first is obvious and gets to the heart of all the bad CBD out there on the market.
The second is not as well known but very powerful!
Especially for anxiety.
Let's look at that now.
Anxiety and histamine response difference between full-spectrum and CBD Isolate
It makes us a bit angry.
We went through 3-4 brands of the biggest CBD makers in the US to originally address anxiety.
That story is here.
We had all these side effects and our anxiety didn't really get better.
This same response is echoed from so many people...especially women when trying CBD for anxiety.
Once they change to Isolate (assuming someone helps them understand the difference), these side effects go away.
Otherwise, they end up with a few half-full bottles of different CBD brands and the same issues with anxiety.
Why? What's going on here?
A good 40% of the population has allergy or histamine issues.
The number can go up to 60% for women and as we get older.
Progesterone is a major calming player for immune response including histamines and it drops by 50% at age 40!
Just a side note...it also supports GABA so many women in their 40's/50's get prescribed benzos and SSRIs to mask the loss of steroidal hormones (see estrogen and mental health).
Histamine is excitatory in the brain. It eats up GABA, our calming chemical and the root of anxiety.
The biggest class of antianxiety medication operates in this pathway.
Benzos primarily boost GABA but with nasty side effects (see CBD versus benzos for anxiety).
Just a head's up...antihistamines like hydroxyzine were the first class of anti-anxiety meds!
We can't take antihistamine long term (like benadryl, etc) because it eats up acetylcholine, our primary "calm and focused" neurotransmitter.
The primary side effect of antihistamines?
Drowsiness (also GABA just more of it past the "calm" level).
The relationship was originally discovered in research regarding sleep since histamine is in charge of wakefulness.
The new research suggests that the chemical GABA acts against histamine, like a chemical “brake” preventing wakefulness from being too intense.
Histamine is notorious for reacting to plant material.
All the plant material in full-spectrum is going the wrong direction in terms of GABA levels and anxiety in general.
On top of this, all the research is on CBD by itself (which is called Isolate).
It's one of the reasons we focus on CBD Isolate.
We ran into the same issues trying big brands that sold the benefits of full-spectrum but left us with nasty histamine side effects (including anxiety and insomnia).
That's really the biggest issue but it's not the only one.
Let's look at THC.
THC issues for anxiety
Full-spectrum CBD may have up to .3% THC in it.
This is the max allowable by law.
For use with anxiety, we want ZERO THC.
THC has been shown to actually cause an increase anxiety by itself.
In fact, most of the "entourage effect" that most full-spectrum brands are pushing comes from CBD's ability to offset the negatives of THC!
You can learn all about the relationship between the two in our Do you need THC to activate CBD article.
This relationship is all over NIH research as you see in that specific article.
Many brands will say…"Hey, it's a small amount!".
Not for people with anxiety!
Look, roughly 24-36% of the population is allergic to THC.
Small amounts have very negative effects (the bad trip from cannabis is likely due to this) including pretty intense anxiety and paranoia.
The small amounts in legal full-spectrum CBD are enough to make you fail a drug test so clearly, it's adding up in the system.
We covered this in detail at our CBD versus THC for anxiety article.
CBD has shown powerful effects on anxiety. That's all the research is showing.
For that reason, CBD Isolate is a better option than full-spectrum for anxiety
Master overview of CBD and anxiety pathways to look at various aspects we can directly affect.
Links to CBD and anxiety research with dozens of anxiety-specific topics.
Always work with a doctor or naturopath with any supplement!
The information provided here is not intended to treat an illness or substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified healthcare provider.