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

Understanding the difference between the three major types of CBD products (full spectrum, broad spectrum, and isolate) is one of the most important first steps on your CBD journey. Once you understand the difference between them, you’ll be better equipped to make an educated decision on which CBD oil product to buy for your needs.

The three most popular types of CBD oil used today are: Full Spectrum, Broad Spectrum and Isolate. You may also come across products labeled as “Whole Plant” or “Pure CBD.” This article will explain the differences and similarities among these.

Full Spectrum

Full spectrum (or “whole plant”) products contain CBD as well as terpenes and other cannabinoids such as CBG, CBN and trace amounts of THC. Usually these will be in ratios that were naturally-occurring and extracted from the plant and specific strain. Terpenes and cannabinoids are occasionally added back into products as an isolated form to raise the potency of the product.

Full spectrum products are by far the most popular choice among users. With full spectrum CBD oil products, you have the advantage of something called the “entourage effect.” This is where all the cannabinoids and terpenes are working together in synergy, something that broad spectrum and isolate products will lack.

Those subject to drug testing should be cautious when it comes to full spectrum products. The THC found in full spectrum CBD oil products is minimal (less than 0.3%), but can still trigger a positive drug test.

Broad Spectrum

Broad spectrum products are typically the product type of choice for those who have drug testing concerns and those who are sensitive to THC. They contain an array of cannabinoids and terpenes in addition to CBD but zero THC based on the manufacturer’s lab testing. Third party lab reports that are readily available from reputable companies can tell you which cannabinoids and terpenes are in the product and at what levels.

These products have often gone through additional processing to try to isolate and remove as much THC as possible while still maintaining the other cannabinoids and terpenes. In other cases, they are isolate-based with additional cannabinoids and terpenes added in.


Products labeled as isolates will generally be highlighted as being 99+% “pure CBD.” Usually, these products will have nothing but CBD in them because the CBD has literally been isolated from everything else. You can find pre-made isolate oils that typically consist of a carrier oil, such as MCT oil, 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 is important to verify the purity. While many are in the 99.9+% range with no identifiable amounts of THC, there are lower purity ones (such as 99.5% or lower) that may still have trace amounts that show up on the labs. 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 they can find.

There are also products out there called terpsolates, which 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.

Full Spectrum, Broad Spectrum, CBD Isolate and Terpsolate

Which is Better – Full Spectrum, Broad Spectrum or Isolate?

While there is much debate on which type is better, this 2015 study leans in favor of full spectrum CBD oil products. There are many that believe that other cannabinoids, THC especially, are necessary to take full advantage of the benefits that cannabis has to offer. Ultimately, however, we are all different and it comes down to the individual user and their needs. If drug testing is a concern, you’re encouraged to seek out broad spectrum or isolate products instead of full spectrum.

Sarah Jorczyk

Sarah Jorczyk is an advocate for CBD products and one of the Administrators of the CBD Oil Users Group on Facebook. She strives to educate the public, and promotes the use of safe products while helping others throughout their CBD journey. You can also find a variety of her content, including reviews and educational videos, on the group's youtube page.

  1. Thanks, interesting reading , helped my education about the difference between full spectrum and isolates

  2. I have noticed I use both the 750 No THC and the sleep aid. I had some strange nightmares with the sleep aid. Is it just me or did I do something wrong. I mix it with small glass of juice and drink it.

  3. This has been quite helpful. I am on probation, so have switched to CBD products. I use one that says full spectrum but says THC free. I drug tested myself last night and failed. This is frustrating. If it says THC free, then it should be! Now I have to clean myself out, but hopefully it wont take long since there shouldn’t be much THC in me. Can they get away with this???

    • The lack of regulation in the industry means that companies can use whatever terminology they want to on the website and labels. A truly full spectrum product will have detectable levels of THC up to the 0.3% limit. Even products marketed as being “THC free” can still have trace amounts that were less than the detectable limit used in the lab testing. These trace amounts can build up over time and trigger a positive test. So this is why we recommend that anyone who would suffer dire consequences from a failed drug test not use any CBD products. https://cbdoilusers.com/thc-free-meaning/

  4. In my research of cbd products, some have said that full spectrum is not good if you’re looking for something for anxiety and/or depression, how true is this?

    • It really depends on the individual. Some find that even trace amounts of THC can result in increased anxiety so prefer broad spectrum or isolates. Others prefer full spectrum for the benefits of the entourage effect. Unfortunately, there is just no “best” brand or product type for everyone. Most people have to try a few different products to find what truly works best for them.

  5. I find relief from my lower back pain I suffer with. I am now retired due to my diagnosis. The higher strength Balms are the best for topical pain relief. I’m starting on my third month and feel a whole lot better. My only complaint is the restrictive laws that limit us to CBD oil stripped of its arguably great features.

  6. Question. If broad spectrum is suspect in causing stomach and bowel issues, may full spectrum make a difference

    • Possibly. You may want to pay particular attention to the carrier oil used in your current broad spectrum product. That may be what is causing the issues based on what other users have told us. So for example, if you current product uses a MCT coconut oil you may want to try a different product that uses hemp seed oil as the carrier or vice versa.

  7. Wow. Thank you so very much for this valuable information. I had no idea about the variables in CBD oils. Terrific!

  8. Can you have a full spectrum that COA shows 0.0 THC?

    • A product with undetectable levels of THC is not true full spectrum. “True” hemp-derived full spectrum products contain all the naturally-occurring cannabinoids and terpenes from the source hemp, and will include detectable levels of THC up to the 0.3% legal limit. If CBD is the only cannabinoid and there are no terpenes, then it would be an isolate. If there are other cannabinoids and terpenes but 0% THC, then it should be classified as broad spectrum.

  9. Im using cbdMD 750 Premium. Which Spectrum does this fall under? Does not say no THC on bottle. Please answer this for me on this site as I do not use e-mail.

  10. Thank You. Still searching for a product to treat Prostate Cancer for my husband. We are yet to purchase anything at this point. Still researching

    • We get the most benefits from full spectrum. The isolate doesn’t seem to help us with at all with anxiety issues.

  11. Thank you for the info. This explains the differences between the three very well and is easy to understand.

  12. It work on me

  13. Wow!! This is great info xx

  14. Well written. Thank you.

  15. This is a great link! It really helped me realize I’m using an oil that isn’t the best for me! I made the mistake because I didnt understand the difference between full spectrum & reg cbd!
    Also, your recommendations helped a lot! Thank You!

    Leave a reply

    CBD Oil Users