One of the most important first steps on your CBD journey is to understand the difference between the three major types of hemp-derived CBD products. Once you know the difference between full spectrum, broad spectrum and isolate, you’ll be better equipped to make educated decisions about the type of CBD product that is best for your needs.
What is Full Spectrum CBD Oil?
Full spectrum CBD products contain all of the naturally-occurring compounds in the hemp extract from the source hemp plant. This includes a full array of cannabinoids such as CBD, CBG, CBN and THC in addition to terpenes, flavonoids and cannaflavins.
Although clinical research is limited, there is some evidence that the natural combination of all the compounds is needed to achieve the full range of potential therapeutic benefits from CBD oil. When the compounds are working together in their natural balance, the synergistic effect can produce more benefits than each would on its own. This is often referred to as the entourage effect.
Full spectrum products are by far the most popular choice of users. Based on user feedback, they are also considered the most effective. This is especially true among users who are using CBD products for relief from more severe conditions.
If you choose to purchase a full spectrum product, make sure that it’s truly full spectrum. The only way to do this is to look at the third-party lab reports. These are posted for each product on the websites of all reputable CBD brands. If the cannabinoid profile of the lab report doesn’t show the presence of multiple cannabinoids, including trace amounts of THC, then the product is not truly full spectrum.
Those who are subject to drug testing should be cautious when it comes to full spectrum products that are taken internally. The THC found in full spectrum hemp-derived products is minimal. THC levels must be less than 0.3% to be legally sold online or in local stores. But even these trace amounts can still trigger a positive drug test.
What is Broad Spectrum CBD Oil?
Broad spectrum CBD products can be thought of as a variation of full spectrum with undetectable levels of THC based on the manufacturer’s lab testing. They are not truly full spectrum since they are THC free. But they do contain multiple cannabinoids and terpenes in addition to CBD. So there can still be some benefits from the entourage effect.
Broad spectrum is a good option for those who want the benefits of the entourage effect but have drug testing concerns or a sensitivity to THC. For example, some users find that even the trace amounts of THC in full spectrum CBD oil can cause increased anxiety.
What is Isolate CBD Oil?
Isolate products are often described as being 99+% pure CBD. These products only contain CBD that has literally been isolated from all of the other natural compounds. Isolate CBD oils typically consist of a carrier oil, such as MCT oil, that is infused with the crystalline isolate powder. You can also find the “raw” CBD crystalline powder or slabs (a form of concentrate) on its own.
When looking at isolate, it’s important to verify the purity. While most are in the 99+% range with no identifiable amounts of THC, there are lower purity ones (such as 99.5% or lower) that may still have trace amounts of THC. This small amount is typically negligible, and is nowhere near the amount usually found in full spectrum products. But it’s still something to be aware of for those seeking the purest that they can find.
There are also products out there called terpsolates. A terpsolate is the crystalline isolate infused with terpenes. These products can give you a bit of an enhanced effect over just CBD isolate on its own depending on the terpenes that have been used.
Which is Better – Full Spectrum, Broad Spectrum or Isolate?
Each of the 3 product types have their own advantages and disadvantages. As mentioned above, full spectrum is the most popular CBD product type and is considered to be the most effective based on feedback from users. Limited clinical research, such as this study on CBD use for inflammation, also leans in favor of full spectrum.
If you don’t have concerns about drug testing or a sensitivity to THC, then full spectrum may be the right place to start. It’s hard to go wrong with products that contain a balance of cannabinoids and terpenes that was created by nature. If you do have concerns about THC content, then you should consider broad spectrum or isolate products since those have minimal levels of THC.
Ultimately, there is no “best” product type for everyone since we all have unique needs and concerns. You may need to experiment with a few different brands and product types until you find the one that works best for you.
We hope that this explanation of the differences between full spectrum, broad spectrum and isolate will help you make educated decisions that fit your needs.