There’s a lot of confusion around “broad spectrum” and “full spectrum” hemp extracts. Many companies sell wildly different products using the same terminology which can make the differences difficult to spot. You may find yourself frustrated and asking, “Aren’t they all pretty much the same?”
Unfortunately, the answer is no.
Below, we break down a few industry fallacies and provide insider tips to help you evaluate hemp extract quality. We’ll also touch on why Treehouse has avoided common terms like “distillate” or “T-Free” altogether when it comes to our premium hemp extract ingredient line “Elemental Extracts”.
The Broad Spectrum Fallacy
A general understanding of full spectrum versus broad spectrum is that full spectrum extracts contain detectable THC whereas broad spectrum extracts have had the THC and/or other cannabinoids removed. The US Hemp Authority goes further to define broad spectrum extracts as “...the total extract of the hemp floral material present in the finished hemp product that contains at least two cannabinoids derived from hemp and a minimum of one terpene.” Some circles view broad spectrum extracts as lower quality or poorer performing because they “lack” some of the cannabinoids present in full spectrum extracts.
Hemp processors should be capable of far more than what’s described by the US Hemp Authority. In fact, Treehouse would tell you to not buy the hemp extract described by the US Hemp Authority’s definition. A high quality broad spectrum product should contain many detectable cannabinoids if it’s produced using scientifically advanced methods, and the total minor cannabinoid content should be no less than what’s found in a full spectrum extract.
Treehouse defines a “broad spectrum” extract as a total hemp extract with at least four detectable cannabinoids, multiple detectable terpenes and undetectable THC. (Undetectable THC in this case means below the limit of quantification [LOQ] of a given testing lab.)
To create our Elemental Extracts we follow Nature’s elegant lead, replicating the in folium conversion of THC to CBN in a highly controlled fashion. This means that nothing has been removed from the hemp extract in the process of remediating THC, making our extracts as cannabinoid rich as any full spectrum extract.
And we don’t stop there. We also advise that any high caliber hemp extract has a consistent cannabinoid profile.
Every detectable cannabinoid in a hemp extract is important because every individual cannabinoid biochemically interacts with the body in a unique way. (Think about how different the effects of THC and CBD are.) This means any combination of cannabinoids in a hemp extract can have a distinctly different effect. The general idea here is that blends of molecules can produce an effect that is greater or different than the sum of the individual molecular constituents. (This is commonly referred to as the entourage effect). With current research, it's impossible to know what varying ratios will impact or their result. However, you can guarantee a consistent ratio, which will result in a consistent experience with your product and, therefore, recurring purchases.
So how do you know if you’re working with a standardized or high quality extract? Ask for the cannabinoid potency certificate of analysis (COA) from the last three manufactured batches of the product and carefully evaluate them. Make sure to look at more than just the CBD content. That’s the easiest to manipulate.
All Treehouse Elemental Extracts are standardized batch to batch. It requires a lot more effort in sourcing and processing, but it’s important for consistent, high quality products.
The T-Free Fallacy
“THC-Removal”, “0% THC”, “T-Free” and “Undetectable THC” are widely used terms that can be misnomers. To understand these potential misnomers as a purchaser, you’ll need to don your labcoat, throw on some safety goggles and put your scientist hat on (if it’s not already). In chemistry “0%” is not so simple and you’ll find this evidence on your cannabinoid potency COA. Every potency COA lists a limit of quantification (LOQ) next to every individual cannabinoid potency. This number tells you the lowest amount of an individual compound that the lab can accurately quantify. A compound may still exist below that level, but the lab’s method is not sensitive enough to accurately quantify it. For example, if a lab’s LOQ for delta-9 THC is 0.2% and the potency result for delta-9 THC is listed as 0% on the COA, this only means there is less than 0.2% THC. If you sent the exact same sample to a lab with an LOQ of 0.1%, you may find out your sample actually contains 0.16% THC because the second lab is able to quantify THC at a lower level.
Decide for yourself what limit is right for your products and don’t fall for sales reps that say their extracts contain 0% THC without asking for the LOQ of their preferred lab. If the sales rep does not know the answer or cannot find out the find answer, be wary of the overall scientific caliber of the company and its products.
Treehouse holds a patent in THC removal technology and our THC remediation method is patent-pending. We work with our customers to determine what level of THC is right for them and can customize products that require THC levels to be lower than average limits of quantification. Our standard Elemental Extracts are available with detectable THC or undetectable THC at an LOQ of 0.1%.
The Distillate Fallacy
Not every high CBD hemp extract is actually distillate and that’s okay. (Distillation simply refers to a common method of purifying compounds. If you ever indulge in a rum and Coke, or sip a nice Scotch, you are drinking alcohol distillate.) As the hemp industry has developed, so has processing. There are methods to produce different cannabinoid profiles in extracts (without blending in isolates) that have advantages compared to distillate. Not all distillate is the same either. This is true for a variety of reasons including variable hemp strains, different processing methods, and the potency issues we touched on earlier.
Our best advice here is to decide what really matters to you. Is it color, THC level, physical format or profile consistency? Don’t rely on the term “distillate” to guide you. With so many companies marketing non-distillate products as distillate, it’s important to decide what’s most important for your products including cannabinoid profile, color and consistency.
Treehouse uses sophisticated processing to create different profiles and formats of concentrated hemp extracts. Our scientific team is always available to explain our processes and help you decide which ingredient is best for your goals.
The Terminology We Use
Instead of marketing our extracts with the herd, we want you to know what they actually are and educate you about the process. That's because we’ve found words like distillate, broad spectrum and full spectrum don’t mean much when explaining and understanding high quality concentrated hemp extracts.
Our team of scientists has worked hard to develop our patented THC removal technology and continues to innovate with new methods to create unique high quality hemp ingredients like our Elemental Extracts. Our Elemental Extracts are never diluted and contain superior cannabinoid profiles. Derived solely from our carefully sourced hemp, we guarantee a natural abundance of minor cannabinoids and a consistent cannabinoid profile.
With our extracts, it is possible to formulate consumer products that have multiple detectable cannabinoids with or without detectable THC. They are flexible in application from tinctures to topicals and beyond.
Our Elemental Extracts
Below is a brief overview of our premium line of Elemental Extracts: E1, E2, and E3.
E1 is crystal resistant and contains a 2:1 ratio of CBD to minor cannabinoids.
E2 provides a formulation base that yields detectable minor cannabinoids in typical tincture formulations.
E3 is a great product to use if you’re currently using a distillate based CBD product but are looking for a standardized cannabinoid profile beyond just CBD.