As the cannabis industry continues to evolve, so do the words used to describe its various products. Enter “whole spectrum hemp extract,” a mouthful to match the chemical profile it suggests.  Put simply, whole spectrum hemp extract refers to a chemically-rich oil processed from hemp, a cannabis plant containing less than .3% THC. Read on to find out what you need to know about whole spectrum hemp extract and why you may want to make it your next cannabis experience. 

Whole Spectrum Hemp Extract, One Term at a Time

Understanding the words in the label will give you a clearer idea of the product you’re consuming. Here’s a quick definition of each term:

Whole Spectrum vs Full Spectrum

While they sound similar, whole spectrum and full-spectrum CBD extract are the results of two different extraction methods. With full spectrum extraction, only heat is used to extract the plant's CBD, which destroys THC and other sought after nutrients.  With whole spectrum extraction, both heat and cold are used in order to extract CBD without destroying other nutrients. This method also takes much longer than full spectrum extraction and many say results in a higher quality product.


Regulated cannabis businesses use the word hemp based on its legal definition. According to Federal law, hemp refers to cannabis plants containing no more than .3% THC. A cannabis plant with more than that amount of THC is considered marijuana and is federally illegal even if it is regulated by the state. Hemp (and its derivatives ) are legal because it won’t get you high—there’s just not enough THC in it to produce a psychoactive effect. 


If you’ve never tried cannabis oil in your life but you’ve made cookies from scratch, you’ll be able to understand what an extract is. Just as the vanilla extract you use in your chocolate chip cookie recipe is made from vanilla beans, cannabis extract is an oil pulled out of cannabis plant material. Typically, cannabis extracts are made by soaking cannabis plant matter in a solvent, then purifying the mixture until all that’s left are the chemicals that give cannabis its power. Extracts can be further processed into capsules, edibles, tinctures, or ointments for topical use.  Now that you have a basic understanding of what whole spectrum hemp extract is, we’ll take a closer look at the “whole spectrum” so you know exactly what you’re getting from this type of cannabis extract.  

What Does Whole Spectrum Hemp Extract Contain?

Most cannabis consumers are familiar with THC and CBD, the two most abundant chemicals found in the cannabis plant. Hemp is specifically bred to contain as little THC as possible, but that doesn’t mean that it’s only good for CBD. Hemp contains other cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes, all of which may enhance the overall therapeutic effects of the whole spectrum hemp product.  Here are some of the compounds that may be present in the whole spectrum hemp extract sitting on your local pot shop’s shelves:

  • CBD: Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the most prevalent cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Current CBD research suggests that CBD has a beneficial effect on epilepsy and psychotic disorders.
  • CBG: A lesser known cannabinoid, cannabigerol demonstrates neuroprotective, anti-cancer, and anti-oxidant effects.
  • CBC: Though present in small amounts in cannabis, cannabichromene (CBC) studies suggest that the cannabinoid has anti-cancer, analgesic, anti-depressant, anti-inflammatory, and neurogenetic effects.
  • Cannflavins A and B: Flavonoids uniquely present in the cannabis plant, Cannflavins A and B have anti-inflammatory activity 30-times as potent as aspirin.
  • A-Pinene: Of the over one hundred terpenes housed in cannabis, alpha-pinene is one of the most copious, known for its antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective qualities. 

What’s the Difference Between Whole Spectrum Hemp Extract, Regular Hemp Extract, CBD Isolate, and Hemp Seed Oil?

There are a lot of hemp products, and while some are very similar, others may not be quite what you had in mind. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Whole spectrum hemp extract is an oil extracted from hemp plant matter (hemp stalks, flowers, and leaves).  It contains cannabinoids, terpenoids, and flavonoids.
  • Regular hemp extract may or may not contain terpenoids and flavonoids, but it probably contains CBD and small traces of other non-psychoactive cannabinoids like CBG and CBC.
  • CBD isolate can be extracted from hemp or marijuana, but it contains 100% CBD. It does not contain terpenes, flavonoids, or any of the other cannabinoids naturally present in the cannabis plant.
  • Hemp seed oil is extracted from hemp seeds, not the plant matter. Because of its Omega essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals, hemp seed oil is considered an extremely nutritious food. However, it does not contain cannabinoids, terpenes, or flavonoids. 

The bottom line is that oil extracted from hemp seeds will not contain cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids, but oil extracted from hemp stalks, leaves, and flowers might.  The one thing all of these hemp extracts have in common is their legality. If processed in compliance with the US Farm Bill, products derived from hemp plants (including CBD isolate) are legal nation-wide. 

Is Whole Spectrum Hemp Extract Good for You?

Whole spectrum cannabis may produce an “entourage effect” that isolated cannabinoids cannot. The entourage effect refers to the synergistic ways that all of the compounds present in a cannabis plant—cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes—improve the plant’s overall therapeutic capacity. Whole spectrum hemp oil may not have traceable quantities of THC, but it is likely to contain high levels of CBD and moderate to small amounts of CBG, CBN, CBC, and, depending on the strain it’s extracted from, a diverse selection of terpenes and flavonoids. From chronic pain to mood disorders, these compounds seem to have some beneficial effect on an array of medical conditions. Rigorous research is necessary to make conclusive statements about the medical efficacy of these components, but existing cannabis evidence is promising.