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The Difference Between Full Spectrum vs Broad Spectrum CBD

Shopping for the right CBD products can be challenging, especially when you’re trying to figure out CBD potency levels. Understand CBD dosage. Understanding the ingredients in your CBD oil is important. Learn the difference between full spectrum and broad spectrum CBD extracts!

If you’ve ever searched for any CBD products or CBD oil in general, then you’ve most likely come across different types of cannabinoid spectrum choices. There are three main types: full spectrum CBD, broad spectrum CBD, and CBD isolate.

Understanding these labels is important when recognizing the cannabinoid ingredients inside your choice of CBD oil. Each type has unique benefits, depending on your preferences.

In this article, we’ll focus primarily on broad spectrum CBD vs full spectrum CBD so you can know the difference and which one might be better suited for your needs.

Key Points


  • What is full spectrum CBD?
  • What is the entourage effect?
  • What is a CBD isolate?
  • What is broad spectrum CBD?
  • Comparing full spectrum vs broad spectrum CBD
  • Which one might be better for your specific needs?


The Different CBD Spectrums

To understand CBD oil products, you need to know there are three different CBD spectrums:


  • Full spectrum
  • Broad spectrum
  • Isolate


Each differs in the way it is extracted and formulated, and they also behave differently within your endocannabinoid system. Knowing a bit about each one can help you to figure out which you want to use. We’ll go over a little bit about the extraction process and each of these spectrums of CBD oil.

CBD Oils Contain More than Just CBD

CBD oil doesn’t necessarily just contain CBD and oil. Cannabis sativa synthesizes over 100 phytocannabinoids, with CBD and THC being two of the most well-recognized cannabinoids in the scientific community. But there are others of importance, specifically CBN and CBG.

When you decide to buy a CBD oil product, the product will identify whether it is a full spectrum or broad spectrum, which tells you how much THC, or lack thereof, the product contains. Each product will also identify whether or not there are other cannabinoids such as CBN or CBG in the formulation.

Each spectrum identifies the various other components that work alongside the CBD molecules, enhancing the wholesome CBD benefits. Whether CBD is a full spectrum or broad spectrum depends on how it's further processed after its extraction from the Cannabis sativa plant.

Knowing this information is crucial to helping you analyze broad spectrum CBD vs full spectrum and decide which one is right for you for daily CBD use. Let’s talk a bit about how these formulations are done by taking a look at the extraction process.

CBD Extraction Processes

When raw hemp goes through the extraction process, cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes are stripped from the material and then infused into a carrier oil; however, the cannabinoid profile of your CBD oil may be different based on the strain of cannabis used during the process.

Hemp-based extracts, for example, will usually contain less than 0.3 percent THC – making them non-intoxicating and retaining high amounts of CBD. Other times, cannabis extracts are pulled from strains that have an equal CBD-to-THC ratio or THC content that’s higher than 0.3 percent.

What CBD manufacturers do with the extracted cannabinoids will determine whether the final product is labeled full spectrum or broad spectrum – and in some cases, just a CBD isolate.

Now that we’ve covered a little about how they are formulated, you can learn more about each CBD spectrum and what that means to you. Here’s what each cannabis spectrum means:


cbdMD full spectrum cbd oil natural and full spectrum cbd softgels.


What Is Full Spectrum CBD?

Full spectrum CBD means that it uses all of the phytochemicals found in Cannabis sativa; this includes cannabidiol along with terpenes, essential oils, and other cannabinoids, which means THC. However, the THC content included will usually be under 0.3 percent, as guided by law.

Because the THC content of the full spectrum CBD oil for sale is negligible, you may never feel intoxicated from the trace amounts of THC. But be aware that THC can build up in your system over time, which may be of concern if your employer requires you to not have any THC in your system.

Full spectrum CBD typically allows consumers to experience the “entourage effect.” This effect requires the combination of whole-plant cannabinoids and additional terpenes, and it is quite different from pure CBD that uses CBD isolates only.

So, if you don’t mind a bit of THC inside your CBD oil, you may choose to use full spectrum CBD for your needs. The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp-derived substances from the Controlled Substances Act, making these products more available to consumers as long as they are not marketed as medicines, among other requirements and restrictions.

This legislation loosened the language around the use of hemp derivatives, which makes it easier to provide a wide range of CBD, both broad spectrum CBD and full spectrum, as long as the product contains less than 0.3 percent THC to remain within the legal requirements.

Each state in the US handles CBD and hemp products a little differently, so it is important for you to check the legalities in your state as well as consider employment restrictions. Some businesses or services require no THC whatsoever to be in your system even if the amounts are small and come from full spectrum CBD usage.

If these are concerns to you, then you may want to choose CBD products that are labeled broad spectrum. Understand that though the THC is not selected for inclusion in broad spectrum formulations, trace amounts of THC may be present.

What Is the Entourage Effect?

The active compounds of hemp in full spectrum CBD work together to enhance the benefits expressed by the individual cannabinoids. When these compounds and cannabinoids work synergically like this, they produce what is called the entourage effect.

The entourage effect refers to cannabis components working together to boost or intensify the benefits of hemp. Other than CBD, full spectrum extracts will contain additional cannabinoids, including:


  • Cannabinol (CBN) – a cannabinoid made from oxidized THC. The longer raw cannabis matures, the more CBN it will create from THC. It’s known for its relaxing qualities.
  • Cannabigerol (CBG) – a non-intoxicating cannabinoid produced from cannabigerolic acid during decarboxylation.
  • Cannabidivarin (CBDV) – a minor cannabinoid with a molecular structure similar to that of CBD.
  • Cannabidiol acid (CBDA) – the 2-carboxylic acid form of CBD and an essential ingredient found in raw cannabis.
  • Cannabichromene (CBC) – a cannabinoid that particularly comes from tropical-region cannabis; it is useful for a variety of beneficial reactions.


With full spectrum CBD, the added terpenes and cannabinoids can affect cannabinoid receptors in your endocannabinoid system – either blocking or allowing other cannabinoid molecules to bind or communicate with the connectors. Because of this, it is thought that full spectrum CBD provides a better response at higher amounts because it uses compounds from the entire hemp plant rather than CBD isolates alone.

What Is a CBD Isolate?

A CBD isolate means pure CBD: it contains no other cannabinoids, terpenes, or flavonoids. And even though pure CBD oil uses cannabidiol isolates exclusively, its extraction requires a great deal of additional work.

Earlier, it was briefly mentioned that the extracting process of raw hemp materials pulls out all of the beneficial ingredients inside hemp, along with its terpenes and flavonoids. The extraction to isolate CBD from all the other cannabinoid compounds goes further than usual to ensure safe human consumption. The steps are the same (carbon dioxide extraction, steam distillation, solvent extraction, lipid extraction), only greater care and more thorough processing must be done to isolate the CBD into its purest form.

CBD isolates are the most concentrated form of CBD. A single isolate typically is up to 90 percent CBD, making it potent in CBD content but not necessarily having better or more beneficial attributes. However, CBD isolates are ideal for cooking or mixing with food and beverages where a more concentrated form of CBD would be needed.

But because CBD oil containing only CBD isolates doesn’t utilize the full hemp plant, it can’t offer the more extensive benefits created from the entourage effect. That, and the more expensive and detailed extraction process, make CBD isolate far less popular for daily CBD usage for wellness purposes.

What Is Broad Spectrum CBD?

Like full spectrum, CBD oil labeled broad spectrum also uses cannabidiol with all the other compounds found in hemp. However, there’s one active ingredient that gets removed after the extraction process – THC.

Broad spectrum CBD retains several of the different cannabinoids, such as CBN and CBG. And because the broad spectrum also uses additional terpenes and flavonoids, it can generate the entourage effect without THC.

Even though broad spectrum CBD shares similarities with the full spectrum, it still has that one primary difference that separates it from the other. And you may decide to use broad spectrum CBD if you’re looking for whole-plant benefits without any THC content or you live in an area in the U.S. with stricter cannabis laws.

From a straightforward perspective, you could think of broad spectrum CBD as a combination of CBD isolate and full spectrum CBD. It uses compounds from the whole hemp plant minus the THC.

Without THC content, broad spectrum CBD is particularly useful for people who want the benefits of full spectrum CBD with fewer worries about THC accumulating within their system from daily use.

Full Spectrum vs. Broad Spectrum – Which Is Better?

If you’re currently wondering which spectrum of CBD oil is better than the other one, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a competition between the two. Our bodies process CBD differently based on a variety of factors.

Your initial question regarding broad spectrum vs. full spectrum CBD oil should be which one will better suit your needs. Your physiology, lifestyle, and even health history can influence how your body reacts to cannabinoids.

Based on the factors covered in this article, here’s a quick recap of the differences and similarities between full spectrum CBD, broad spectrum CBD, and CBD isolate:


Full Spectrum CBD

Broad Spectrum CBD

CBD Isolate

Uses “whole plant” extract containing other cannabinoids, terpenes, and essential oils

Contains THC

Uses pure CBD extract with no other cannabinoids or additives


For some CBD users, a broad spectrum is their best choice because it’s like receiving all of the good without worrying over THC if that’s your particular point of view. Others may be fine with the full spectrum because their lifestyle, living area, or work environment is more lenient towards THC.

Some users may be completely satisfied with CBD isolate because it works for them, while others don’t notice a difference between full spectrum and broad spectrum CBD or CBD isolate when they use them. Given the higher price point for CBD isolate, many users opt to go with full spectrum CBD or broad spectrum CBD.

Should I Choose One Spectrum Over the Other?

The point here is that many factors can drive your decision to choose one type over the other, so choose the one that best fits your preferences – instead of trying to decide which could inherently be better than the other.

 A diagram of the entourage effect. 

You now know that both spectrums use whole-plant extracts containing CBD with terpenes, essential oils, and most importantly, other cannabinoids. And because each spectrum includes cannabis elements other than CBD, they allow for the “entourage effect.”

However, the main difference between the two is the THC content: full spectrum CBD oil contains THC, and broad spectrum CBD doesn’t. The THC included with full spectrum CBD oils isn’t enough for consumers to become intoxicated, although extraneous use may lead to higher levels of THC in the system.

Why Should I Use Full Spectrum CBD Oil?

Some people prefer the inclusion of small amounts of THC in their CBD oil products. This is an individual choice and should be made with your personal needs in mind, as well as any restrictions you may have from your employer or any organization of which you are a part.



  • Full spectrum CBD oil allows the benefits of the entourage effect
  • Small amounts of THC – which some users may prefer
  • May deliver greater overall benefits than CBD isolates




  • Is more regulated by some states
  • Stronger natural taste that some may not like
  • THC in the system may be restricted by employers or organizations


Why Should I Use Broad Spectrum CBD?

Broad spectrum CBD could be viewed as the best of both worlds in terms of CBD oils. Like CBD isolate, broad spectrum has no risk of any psychoactive effects, but like full spectrum CBD, it also offers benefits from the entourage effect.

It’s most useful for people who might be sensitive to THC or those living in areas with strict THC regulations – and it may be the best choice for people who want to use CBD oil for the first time but are held back due to warnings of THC.



  • Broad spectrum CBD has no psychogenic effects
  • Also offers benefits of the entourage effect
  • May deliver greater overall benefits than CBD isolates




  • May contain small trace amounts of THC simply because they weren’t completely avoided after the extraction process
  • Some employers won’t allow any hemp-derived product usage, including CBD without THC.


Choose What CBD Oil Is Best for You

There are a host of reasons why you may prefer one formulation over another such as lifestyle, desired effects, and whether or not you feel you need the inclusion of THC for more calm or if it helps you to sleep better. One top consideration when comparing full spectrum vs broad spectrum CBD is how the small amounts of THC in full spectrum affect you.

If THC seems to help you more, then opt for the full spectrum. Some people can be particularly sensitive to THC and may do better with the broad spectrum CBD. You know your body best, and which one of these spectrums is best for you is a decision to be made for yourself, perhaps with the input and guidance of your doctor.

Here at cbdMD, we offer both broad spectrum and full spectrum options so that you can choose what works best for you. You may also opt to design your own CBD regimen using a combination of oral products and topical ones.

Full Spectrum CBD Oil Options



Broad Spectrum CBD options



If you’ve already tried them all, let us know your story. Or share your reason why you chose one spectrum over the other. You can also post your experiences with broad spectrum or full spectrum CBD on our Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram pages.

This post was originally published in April 2021 and has since been updated.

Originally written by: William Carter