What’s the Difference Between Full Spectrum CBD, Broad Spectrum CBD, and CBD Isolate?

Author: Joy Hughes

Over the last couple of years, CBD has become increasingly popular, and for good reason. It’s most widely known to address insomnia, anxiety, epilepsy, pain, and inflammation.

However, for those considering adding CBD to their daily routine can find it overwhelming when faced with three of CBD’s most popular formulations: Full spectrum, broad spectrum, and CBD isolate.

The terminology of these formulations alone can be confusing for anyone, especially for first time users. Thankfully, it’s not as complicated as it sounds. In fact, these formulations are very easily defined. In this article we’ll go over what each of these terms mean and which one will best fit your needs.

cbd hemp oil being dropped into a glass tincture

What is Full Spectrum CBD?

Full spectrum CBD, also referred to as whole plant CBD, contains everything that naturally occurs within the hemp plant.

All the plant parts include:

  • Phytocannabinoids — CBD, THC (trace amounts - 0.3%), CBN, CBG, THCA, CBDA, etc.
  • Terpenes
  • Flavonoids
  • Vitamines
  • Minerals
  • Amino acids
  • All other phytonutrients

The combination of these natural phytonutrients produce what Israeli biochemist Dr. Raphael Mechoulam calls the “Entourage Effect”. The entourage effect is when phytocannabinoids, terpenes, and all other phytonutrients synergistically interact within the mind and throughout the body in various ways1. Full spectrum CBD is great for treating more serious ailments such as digestive problems, poor organ function, certain brain conditions, etc.

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What is Broad Spectrum CBD?

Broad spectrum CBD encompasses a whole multitude of phytocannabinoids, terpenes, and nutrients but devoid of all THC. While this particular formulation is free of all THC, it still produces the entourage effect — as it still contains a number of other phytocannabinoids and terpenes that synergistically interact within various parts of the body. Broad spectrum CBD helps in many ways of the same ways as full spectrum CBD. However, with the absence of THC, it may not produce the same results as full spectrum.

What is CBD Isolate?

CBD isolate is pure CBD. During the extraction process, all the phytocannabinoids and nutrients are removed, thus isolating CBD completely. In this case, CBD isolate is free from all other phytonutrients, which does not produce the entourage effect. However, it is highly effective in producing a whole array of therapeutic benefits. CBD isolate is great for calming and relaxing the mind and body.

See our recommended isolate-based products

We've partnered with several CBD retailers to help take the guesswork out of the CBD buying process.

Which is best? Full spectrum, Broad spectrum, or CBD isolate?

There’s a lot of debate circulating around these three formulations. While each formulation contains the therapeutic phytocannabinoid CBD, scientific studies suggest and lean towards full spectrum CBD. In fact, in a recent study, a group of mice were administered full spectrum CBD while another group only received CBD isolate. Researchers quickly noticed that the first group that received full spectrum CBD experienced significant levels of pain relief than the mice who received CBD isolate.2

Other studies suggest that the beneficial effects of THC actually work well with CBD in treating a number aliments — thus suggesting full spectrum CBD to be more effective in a number of ways. Interestingly enough, CBD dominant products, like hemp-derived full spectrum CBD, actually counteract the unwanted psychoactive effects of THC.345

However, broad spectrum CBD still offers the entourage effect minus THC. So for those seeking the therapeutic values of other non-psychoactive phytocannabinoids, broad spectrum is definitely an alternative option.

Now, although hemp-derived CBD products are legal across the U.S., THC is still considered a Schedule I substance. Thankfully, however, the Farm Bill allows consumers to purchase CBD products that contain trace amounts of THC (0.3%) from anywhere in the U.S. But for those who are regularly drug tested, they may find it to be too high a risk to consume full spectrum CBD products. For this reason, broad spectrum and CBD isolate may be the preferred choice, as these two formulations will not result in a failed drug test.6

Conclusion

It’s no doubt that new CBD products are always coming to the market. This is why it’s important to ensure you’re purchasing all CBD products from a reputable company. Unfortunately, due to lack of regulation, full spectrum and broad spectrum CBD products may contain more THC and less CBD than what’s listed on the label, and vice versa. Even some CBD isolate products have been reported to contain synthetic forms of CBD, rather than being isolated from the hemp plant. To ensure you’re getting the highest quality CBD products, it’s important to purchase from companies that thoroughly test their CBD products themselves and use third party testing.

As for deciding between full spectrum CBD, broad spectrum CBD, and CBD isolate, consider what you’re wanting to use the CBD for before purchasing. Always read the reviews of any CBD product, and be diligent in your research.

Supplemental CBD Information

Cannabidiol (CBD) is the second most abundant and active component in cannabis. Unlike the first active component, THC, CBD is completely non-psychoactive.

Amazingly, CBD is just one of over 100 cannabinoids that naturally occur in the cannabis sativa. In each one of our bodies, there is a unique biological system composed of receptor cells found throughout the body, the Endocannabinoid System (ECS). The sole purpose of the ECS is to communicate and maintain homeostatic balance. This is made possible through our own endogenous cannabinoids, however, the ECS is very receptive to plant based cannabinoids, like CBD.

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About Joy Hughes

Joy Hughes writes about health, nutrition, and all things cannabis. Having experienced the therapeutic effects of cannabinoids first hand, she's been spreading the word ever since. She currently travels the country in an RV with her husband and beloved beagle.

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