Full-Spectrum, Broad-Spectrum and Isolate CBD: Which Is Best?

We’re living through a time of tremendous change in the cannabis and hemp industries. Marijuana can be seen as being both over- and under-regulated, depending on where you live and what your feelings are on the subject. This is particularly true when it comes to cannabidiol (CBD), the current landscape is at best a bit confusing, and at worst, like with the unregulated market, a sketchy road to go down at your own risk.

Cannabis manufacturers are using more and more methods to create their products, sometimes leaving folks scratching their heads as they wonder:

  • How were they made?
  • What exactly is in them?
  • What are the differences in terms of effects?

If you browse a dispensary or online CBD store, you’ve probably seen these three terms to describe a product:

  • Full-spectrum (sometimes called whole plant)
  • Broad-spectrum
  • Isolate

These terms describe the extraction processes the manufacturers used to separate the cannabinoids from the plant material. Let’s take a look at each one to help determine what’s the best product for you.

Choose Full-Spectrum to Take Advantage of the Entourage Effect

Full-spectrum products represent the gold standard in the cannabis extraction world. As the name implies, full-spectrum CBD means they extract the entire plant.

Manufacturers use a variety of extraction techniques to derive full-spectrum oil from the cannabis plant. They commonly use CO2 for extraction, thought by many manufacturers to be safer and healthier than using solvents.

Advocates of full-spectrum extraction point to the importance of the entourage effectin cannabis medicine.

The entourage effect describes the process in which all of the chemical components of cannabis interact in the body, compounds such as:

  • Cannabinoids
  • Terpenes
  • Flavonoids
  • Fatty acids

Proponents of entourage effect says that all of these chemicals work better together than they do on their own, so full-spectrum products have a greater benefit to the consumer.

Though much more research needs to be done, there seems to be mounting evidence that full-spectrum provides consumers with greater health benefits than other kinds of CBD.

Full-spectrum cannabis, when properly manufactured, can contain more than just CBD, and in fact it should. Just a few of the intriguing other cannabinoids which are showing great promise in easing several medical conditions include:

  • Cannabigerol CBG
  • Tetrahydrocannabivarin THCV
  • Cannbinol CBN

Always remember that full-spectrum CBD products derived from hemp will still have a very low, trace amount of THC. Full-spectrum CBD products derived from cannabis and sold in dispensaries may have a significantly higher percentage of THC.

For those who wish to take advantage of the entourage effect and are interested in the many benefits whole-plant cannabis has to offer, full-spectrum cannabis products are the way to go.

Broad Spectrum: More Than CBD, But no THC

Like full-spectrum, broad-spectrum CBD contains all the bells and whistles of full-spectrum products, with one standout exception: It doesn’t contain any THC.

Manufacturers create broad-spectrum in a couple of ways:

  • By creating a recipe, starting with CBD isolate (which we’ll discuss below) and adding in the other cannabinoids and terpenes into the mix.
  • By removing THC from a full-spectrum extract.

Broad-spectrum fans appreciate the ability to enjoy everything that full-spectrum products have to offer, without the psychoactive effects related to THC.

CBD Isolate Is CBD Only

CBD isolate represents where a certain sector of the cannabis industry is headed, and that’s deep inside laboratories. The extraction process, which includes what’s called winterization results in the creation of a tasteless, odorless powder. CBD isolate is literally isolated CBD, with nothing else added. It’s touted as the purest form of CBD available and many people purchase the powdered isolate to make their own salves and topical products.

Manufacturers use isolate in the manufacture of many products like edibles, because it adds nothing to the product but the cannabinoid itself. Folks can also smoke or vape it, which provides the most immediate effects—a benefit for those taking it to treat anxiety. Isolates are sometimes combined with other ingredients to create a new CBD product.

There is one significant benefit to isolate: If you’re someone who must pass drug tests, consuming a CBD isolate product is the safest way to consume CBD.

Most drug tests look for traces of a THC metabolite. CBD isolate, when properly manufactured, contains no THC, making it possible for consumers to take trusted CBD isolate products with little concern of failing a drug test.

But because federal and state regulations are still sometimes vague, even products claiming to be CBD isolate could still retain traces of THC. Buying trusted brands from trusted sources, particularly in states where cannabis is already legal in some form, is the best way to ensure you’re getting what you paid for.

Other Factors to Consider When Choosing Your CBD

Until there are more standards around regulations, it’s very important to look at the contents of cannabis products you purchase. In legal states, labels must contain clear explanations of the ingredients. Labels are the best way to determine if you’ve purchased a full-spectrum product or something claiming to be one.

Operators in the unregulated market and manufacturers taking advantage of the CBD boom to sell cheap products in convenience stores often make unsubstantiated claims about their products and aren’t very stringent about what they put on their packaging.

But in legal states, dispensaries can usually access lab reports about the products they sell, providing consumers with another layer of confidence and security.

Photo credit: ElRoi/

Want to try CBD, but don’t know where to start? Shop our selection of high-quality, lab-tested CBD productsand have them shipped to your door. And if you have questions about CBD, ask them and our community will answer.


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