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Full Spectrum, Broad Spectrum, CBD Isolate: What’s the difference?

By now, when shopping for CBD Oil, you’ve probably come across products labeled as full spectrum, broad spectrum, or CBD isolate and wondered, “what’s the difference?”. Don’t’ worry, you’re not alone. These terms sound similar, but they are far from being the same thing.

They are used to define which type of CBD is used in a product. Each type presents different important factors to consider and understanding the differences is essential for every CBD consumer. Let’s shed some light on this important subject by explaining that difference and discussing the advantages and disadvantages of each. A great place to start is by discussing the factor that defines each type of CBD — cannabinoids.

Cannabinoids: The What and Why


Within the Cannabis plant, there is a classification of compounds known as cannabinoids. Among these are CBD and THC, along with over a hundred others which scientists have discovered naturally occurring within different Cannabis strains.

Why are these important?

In 1995, researchers discovered that, by interacting with receptors in the human Endocannabinoid System (ECS), cannabinoids like CBD could deliver unique health benefits to the body. Later, it was discovered that each cannabinoid could affect the body differently. For example, while THC delivers the psychoactive effects associated with “getting high,” CBD does not. Actually, scientists have learned that CBD counteracts the psychoactive effects of THC.

With various ranges of effects delivered by other cannabinoids like Cannabigerol (CBG) and Cannabinol (CBN), the full collection of cannabinoids forms what is referred to as the “cannabinoid spectrum.”

The Cannabinoid Spectrum

The cannabinoid spectrum range contained within a product is what determines whether the product is full spectrum, broad spectrum, or CBD isolate. You may be thinking how does that work exactly?

cannabinoid spectrum

To create a CBD product, the cannabinoid content is extracted from the Cannabis plant. Using methods such as CO2 extraction. During this process, other compounds found within the plant are also extracted.  This includes terpenes, flavonoids, and other cannabinoids. Depending on the strain and classification used for extraction, the composition and cannabinoid profile will differ. For example, Hemp, which is a classification of Cannabis Sativa, contains little to no THC.  Compared to the Cannabis Indica strain, Pennywise, which contains a 1:1 CBD to THC content ratio. Depending on the purpose of the end-product, companies will choose to extract from a strain of Cannabis that best suits their needs. Once extracted, the company can then choose to refine the extract to contain only specific cannabinoids and plant parts. It’s these contents of the refined extract that determines if the CBD extract is full spectrum, broad spectrum, or CBD isolate.

Now let’s discuss what each term means. Moreover, help point you in the direction of which is best for you.

What is Full Spectrum CBD?

full spectrum cbd oil

Full spectrum CBD is an extract that contains all compounds found naturally occurring in the plant.  This includes terpenes, flavonoids, and other cannabinoids. The full spectrum of cannabinoids, terpenes, and essential oils extracted from the plant work together to magnify the therapeutic benefits of each individual cannabinoid. This is commonly referred to as the “entourage effect“.

It was previously believed that CBD in its isolated form was more effective than Full Spectrum CBD.  However, in 2005, this theory was debunked by a study from the Lautenberg Center for General Tumor Immunology in Jerusalem. In the study, researchers found that test subjects administered with full spectrum CBD were provided with higher levels of relief, compared to subjects administered with CBD isolate. In addition, the results showed that full spectrum CBD provided enhanced effects with higher dosages. While the effects of CBD remained consistent with increased dosages.

What is CBD Isolate?

cbd isolate

In scientific terms, an isolate is the purest form of a compound, which is produced by singularly extracting that compound from its environment and isolating it from all other compounds. Thus, the term isolate or CBD isolate.

CBD isolate is the purest form of CBD.  Which is produced by removing all other compounds found in the plant including terpenes, flavonoids, plant parts, and other cannabinoids. CBD Isolate is typically extracted from Hemp, due to its low to non-existent THC-content.

What is Broad Spectrum CBD?

broad spectrum cbd oil

Broad spectrum CBD is found in the middle between Full Spectrum CBD and CBD Isolate. Like Full Spectrum CBD, the other compounds found within the plant are preserved in the extract.  However, like CBD Isolate, THC is completely removed. In addition, because Broad Spectrum CBD contains multiple cannabinoids, it can deliver the enhanced benefits of the “entourage effect,” without the risk of psychoactive effects of THC.

What Type of CBD Should You Use?

Now that you have a general understanding of each type of CBD, you’re probably wondering why someone would prefer one over the other.  More importantly, which type you should choose. First, neither of the types is better than the others. Every individual has different needs or preferences. Consequently, determining which type of CBD is best-suited for their unique conditions.

To help point you in the right direction, here are some of the pros and cons of each type. Along with situations each would typically be best for.

CBD Isolate

The purest form of CBD, in which all other plant compounds and cannabinoids have been completely removed.

CBD Isolate

Best For:

  • Persons who were recommended to specifically take high doses of CBD
  • Persons with sensitivity to THC or other cannabinoids
  • Persons who regularly undergo drug screening tests
  • Persons who prefer light flavors or no flavor
  • Persons living in states that have strict THC-laws
  • First-time users that may be hesitant about other cannabinoids

Full Spectrum CBD

CBD that has been extracted from the cannabis plant along with all the other compounds and cannabinoids.

full spectrum pros and cons

Best for:

  • Persons who were recommended a certain THC to CBD ratio
  • Persons with more severe conditions or conditions that CBD isolate and Broad Spectrum could not alleviate
  • Persons living in states where Cannabis is legal

Broad Spectrum CBD

CBD that has been extracted from the cannabis plant along with all other compounds and cannabinoids, except THC.

broad spectrum pros and cons

Best For:

  • Persons with conditions that CBD isolate alone could not alleviate
  • Persons with sensitivity to THC
  • Persons living in states that have strict THC-laws
  • First-time users that are hesitant about THC

Final Thoughts on the Different CBD Spectrums

In closing, let’s reiterate that any one type isn’t better than the others. There are many factors that determine how a cannabinoid will impact the body. To include, the chemical makeup of the person. In addition, the height and weight of the individual, fitness level, fatty acid intake, and the individual’s history with other substances.

For some, Broad Spectrum CBD may be the best choice. As it delivers the full benefits of the Cannabis plant without the psychoactive effects of THC. For others, a high-dosage of pure CBD isolate may do the trick. Others may need the benefits that only THC can provide found in a Full Spectrum CBD product.

Research into the effectiveness of each spectrum at the individual level is still in its early stages. Therefore, it may take some time and experimenting to figure out which is best for you. As researchers continue to learn more about CBD, it may serve as a vital component in the future of medicine. With dozens of health benefits already revealed in existing studies, cannabinoids like CBD have the potential to impact the lives of countless individuals!