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

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 CBD 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 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 CBD 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 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 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.

Full Spectrum, Broad Spectrum, CBD Isolate and Terpsolate

Summary of the Difference Between Full Spectrum, Broad Spectrum and Isolate CBD Products

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.

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.

22 Comments
  1. which one of these spectrums will be appropriate to give a 9 year old 35 pound Cockerpoo dog with seizures

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

  3. I have noticed I use both the 750mg with 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. If broad spectrum is suspected in causing my 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.

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

  9. 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.

  10. I’m using cbdMD 750mg premium CBD oil. 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 email.

  11. Thank you. I’m 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.

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

  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 didn’t understand the difference between full spectrum and regular CBD. Also, your recommendations helped a lot! Thank you!

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