What is Full Spectrum CBD?

What is Full Spectrum CBD?

Full spectrum CBD contains the federally legal amount of THC (less than 0.3 percent), and enables the full benefits of the entourage effect.

For a lot of people, the terms full spectrum CBD, broad-spectrum CBD, and CBD isolate means next to nothing – except that they all have something to do with CBD.

Determining the best kind of CBD oil for you can be a very personal choice – everyone’s routine, life, and work needs differ, which is why it’s important to know what types of CBD oil are available to you, and more specifically, how those variations differ.

A key question to ask is: Do they include other cannabinoids? Do they contain THC?

If you don’t understand what kind of product you’re purchasing (or worse, using), then you will likely be very surprised or disappointed in what you receive. This also means you won’t be able to clearly inform medical practitioners or your employer of what they need to know. Because full spectrum CBD contains the federally legal amount of THC (less than 0.3 percent) while broad-spectrum CBD is THC-free,* and that just might matter.

Some of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to full-spectrum CBD are:


  • What does full spectrum CBD mean?
  • Is full spectrum the best CBD?
  • Can full spectrum show up on a drug test?


Not all CBD is extracted, processed, manufactured, or created equally. So what is full-spectrum CBD? Or broad-spectrum CBD for that matter?

Let’s get into it.

Not All CBD Is Created Equal

Before deciding to purchase any CBD product, it’s important to understand what kind of CBD you’re looking at because not every CBD formula or product is created in the same way. This may sound trivial, but understanding the production process is crucial to know what ingredients are in the CBD product you’re about to ingest or apply to your skin.

All CBD production in the US begins with industrial hemp, a non-intoxicating form of the Cannabis sativa plant which contains less than 0.3 percent THC.

The three main types of CBD are full-spectrum CBD, CBD isolate, and broad-spectrum CBD. Depending on how CBD is extracted from the hemp plant, the compound produced may contain pure CBD or a combination of any number of cannabinoids, as CBD is just one of over 100 cannabinoids found in the hemp plant. THC is the other cannabinoid that most often comes to mind.

THC, as many know, is the psychoactive compound found in hemp and is responsible for the “high” you get from marijuana. While Delta 9 THC is the most common type of THC, followed by 11-hydroxy-THC (typically associated with edibles), delta 8 is quickly rising in popularity thanks to its ambiguous legal standing.

Once consumed or applied topically, CBD oil interacts with your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). When other cannabinoids are present, they can work alongside each other in what’s called the entourage effect.

We’ll get further into full-spectrum CBD below, but for now, let’s dig into the endocannabinoid system and the entourage effect. We’ll also cover CBD isolate, broad-spectrum CBD, and how they differ.


Diagram of CB1 and CB2 receptors in the body.


The Endocannabinoid System

The endocannabinoid system, less commonly referred to as the endogenous cannabinoid system, is a complex network of cell receptors that runs throughout your body and is responsible for helping maintain homeostasis and overall health and wellness.

Through a system of neuron transmissions, the ECS plays a role in several systems within our bodies, including our immune system, nervous system, and many of our organs, and is present in our skin, muscle tissue, GI tract, and multiple other parts of our bodies.

Did you know that your endocannabinoid system also influences your mood, sleep, metabolism, stress levels, and appetite? Basically, the ECS is a hell of a lot more important than many people give it credit for.

Despite its name, your ECS functions regardless of whether or not you use CBD products or other cannabinoids and consists of three main parts: cannabinoid receptors (CB1 receptors and CB2 receptors), endocannabinoids, and metabolic enzymes.

CB1 receptors are predominantly found within your central nervous system, consisting of the brain and spinal cord, while CB2 receptors are typically associated with your peripheral nervous system, containing all other nervous system tissue.

When it comes to the ECS, two types of cannabinoids can interact with the cannabinoid receptors in your body. Phytocannabinoids are those synthesized from plants (such as the Cannabis sativa plant) and include CBD, THC, cannabinol (CBN), cannabigerol (CBG), and various other cannabinoids. Endocannabinoids, on the other hand, are naturally produced within our bodies to maintain homeostasis.

CBD typically binds to your CB2 receptors. THC, however, normally attaches to your CB1 receptors, which is what creates the psychoactive effects or “high.” As a result, THC-free* products primarily interact with CB2 receptors, but the small amounts of other cannabinoids in the product may interact with CB1 receptors, CB2 receptors, or both. And while the federally legal amounts of THC in some products cannot cause intoxication, they can provide further ECS support through CB1 receptors.

The Entourage Effect

One of the first things that set the various forms of CBD apart is the entourage effect, which is a term describing how various cannabinoids may provide greater benefits when they interact with each other inside your body. The only way to achieve the entourage effect is to consume or apply additional cannabinoids along with CBD, such as CBG and CBN.

Broad-spectrum CBD, as we’ll explain below, allows for some of the benefits of the entourage effect, but not all, due to the omission of THC. Full-spectrum CBD, on the other hand, enables the entourage effect to fully enhance the benefits of the various cannabinoids and terpenes.

CBD Isolate

CBD isolate is what is known as 99 percent “pure” CBD because it contains no other cannabinoids or terpenes. CBD isolate is most often produced through CO2 or ethanol extraction. The CBD is then separated from the other cannabinoids and terpenes. Without terpenes or other cannabinoids, CBD isolate will not produce the entourage effect.

On its own, CBD isolate is a white powder that is then easily infused into a carrier oil and turned into CBD oil. From here, the CBD oil is then combined with other ingredients to form several CBD products such as tinctures, gummies, and topical creams.

CBD isolate products are extremely popular with professional athletes, executives, and any other professionals who don’t want to risk failing a drug test.

Broad Spectrum CBD

Unlike CBD isolate, broad-spectrum CBD contains many additional cannabinoids and terpenes derived from industrial hemp. But what it doesn’t contain is THC.

Thanks to the other cannabinoids, broad-spectrum CBD often generates the entourage effect within your body. By remaining THC-free,* broad-spectrum CBD serves as a great alternative to full-spectrum CBD for those who want all the same benefits, but live in more cannabis-strict areas or have personal concerns about THC content.

Broad-spectrum CBD is often considered to be the best CBD product because it offers similar benefits as full-spectrum CBD, including the entourage effect, without the presence of THC. At cbdMD, our Superior Broad Spectrum formula offers consistent levels of CBD, terpenes, and additional cannabinoids CBG and CBN.

So if CBD isolate is pure CBD and broad-spectrum CBD is a combination of cannabinoids and terpenes, what is full-spectrum CBD then?

What Does Full Spectrum CBD Mean?

Full-spectrum CBD is derived from the same industrial hemp as CBD isolate and broad-spectrum CBD, with one very important difference: full-spectrum CBD oil contains THC. When produced and sold in the US, full-spectrum CBD should not contain more than 0.3 percent THC.

That being said, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only just begun to monitor CBD production, and as it currently remains unregulated, it may be difficult to know what’s really in your full-spectrum CBD products, despite what the label says. Of 41 products tested by the FDA in 2019, 29 percent contained THC despite it not being included on the label.

However, when bought from a reputable company, full-spectrum CBD contains no more than the federally legal amount of THC – which brings us to the question, what is full-spectrum CBD and how do you know if it can be trusted? Two words: third-party testing.

Every reputable CBD company provides readily available Certificates of Analysis for every product they produce. At cbdMD, our finished product batches are shipped to a third-party, ISO-certified lab for testing with each batch report made publicly available.

Is Full Spectrum CBD the Best of the Three?

That depends on what you’re looking for.

Are you only interested in the specific benefits of CBD, or do you want all the benefits that various cannabinoids and terpenes can offer? Does the inclusion of the federally legal amount of THC matter to you? It might be if you have strict guidelines at work or you have other issues that prevent you from ingesting it.

But if it doesn’t? Full-spectrum CBD might be the best choice for you, especially if you want to reap the most benefits possible from the entourage effect. As we mentioned above, the inclusion of the federally legal amount of THC (less than 0.3 percent) enables the other cannabinoids and terpenes to go above and beyond in their benefits.


cbdMD full spectrum oil and softgel bottles.


Can Full Spectrum CBD Show Up on a Drug Test?

Again, that depends.

While you won’t ever feel the psychoactive effects of THC in full-spectrum CBD, when taken often or in large quantities, it can trigger a false positive on a drug test. So if drug tests are a concern for you, broad-spectrum CBD products may be a better option.

It is also important to check your local and state laws before ordering, consuming, or applying full-spectrum CBD.

Full Spectrum CBD vs. Broad Spectrum CBD: The Nitty Gritty

Determining the real difference between full-spectrum CBD and broad-spectrum CBD really comes down to a preference for THC-free* products or products that contain the federally legal amount of THC (less than 0.3 percent).

At cbdMD, our CBD oil never contains just CBD. Rather, we make sure to include additional cannabinoids and terpenes to offer you the most benefits possible. That being said, when it comes to CBD oil, most people only consider the product in terms of CBD and THC. In actuality, both full-spectrum CBD and broad-spectrum CBD are extracted from the hemp plant in the same way. It’s what happens during the refinement stage that determines whether the end product is considered full spectrum CBD or broad-spectrum CBD.

Both full-spectrum CBD and broad-spectrum CBD contain additional cannabinoids and terpenes, and provide the same general benefits, with one main difference.

How Do the Effects and Benefits Differ?

Full-spectrum CBD becomes broad-spectrum CBD during the production phase by removing THC. This means that full-spectrum CBD, as we mentioned above, offers you the complete benefits of the entourage effect. But using it may cause a positive drug screening.

Broad-spectrum CBD, on the other hand, will afford you most of the benefits of the entourage effect without THC content. Plus, broad-spectrum CBD tends not to have as strong of a natural hemp smell or taste, unlike full-spectrum CBD. Broad-spectrum CBD is also considered a great choice for those who are new to CBD oil and want the added effects of additional cannabinoids without the worry of THC.

How long CBD oil stays in your system depends on several factors, including what kind of CBD oil you use, the ingestion or application method, your body composition, how frequently you use it, and how much CBD oil you use.

Is There a Huge Difference in Cost?

Not at cbdMD!

Despite the additional cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other plant compounds, it’s important for us that all of our products are accessible and affordable. Our full-spectrum CBD tinctures and softgels are the same price as our Superior Broad Spectrum CBD formula, so you can choose whatever product is right for you, regardless of cost.

Are There Different Suggested Serving Sizes?

To keep it simple, at cbdMD we’ve kept the suggested serving size the same, although our new full-spectrum CBD tinctures will be offered in a different range of concentrations, including 750 mg, 1500 mg, and 3000 mg CBD per 30 mL bottle. Our new full spectrum CBD softgels, on the other hand, will each contain 33 mg of our new full spectrum CBD formula, available in both 30 count (1000 mg) and 60 count (2000 mg) bottles.

For more information on full-spectrum CBD and how it differs from broad-spectrum CBD or other types of CBD, stop by our frequently updated blog. Looking to stay up to date on the latest news and special offers? Make sure to connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter – we want to hear from you! Have additional questions about all things CBD? Contact us or chat live with a CBD specialist today!