Full-Spectrum, Broad-Spectrum or Isolate – How to Choose the Right CBD Oil

Full-spectrum vs broad spectrum cbd

CBD is one of over 100 naturally occurring compounds sourced from the hemp species of cannabis sativa. Known for its therapeutic applications, it is becoming a go-to source for treating different conditions in humans and their pets alike. While it contains the same molecules as medical marijuana, they are arranged differently, and unlike THC, this cannabinoid won’t get you high.

As CBD grows in popularity, the number of products containing this remarkable compound grows as well. Everywhere you turn, there is another type of CBD product available for purchase. With so many choices and brands, it can be hard to know what is right for you. Adding to this confusion is the fact that CBD oil itself goes by many names. Here are just a few:

  • CBD Tinctures
  • CBD Extract
  • CBD Drops
  • Hemp Oil (not to be confused with hemp seed oil—they are not the same)
  • Hemp Extract
  • Cannabidiol

Besides the various names of CBD, there are also different formulations that typically fall into one of three categories: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate.

In this article, we will explain the critical differences in these three formulations including how they are made, what they contain, and how to choose the right one for you.

Full-Spectrum CBD Oil

As was mentioned in the beginning, the cannabis plant contains over 100 natural chemicals. Among these are cannabinoids, vitamins, terpenes, flavonoids, amino and fatty acids, and others. Full-spectrum CBD oil contains mainly Cannabidiol (CBD) as the active ingredient. However, many of these other plant compounds are extracted along with the CBD.

Rather than filter them out, they are included in the final product. These other molecules are what make a product full-spectrum and what gives the oils their distinct tastes, scents, and appearances.

These additional compounds extracted from the cannabis plant are thought by many experts to be an essential factor in inducing the entourage effect. The entourage effect is a proposed theory based on the idea that the combination of natural compounds in cannabis working together may provide better results than if each were taken separately.

Full-spectrum oils are made by extracting all these important phytochemicals from the plant, including plant matter, and keeping them intact. Whatever ratios are present in the plant will also be present in the bottled product when it hits the shelves. Depending on the strain or variety of hemp, where it was grown, or when it was harvested, each will have its own unique taste and appearance and may range from green to golden brown. The taste varies from mildly earthy to pungent.

Many researchers and hemp connoisseurs agree that the synergy created by retaining all the natural chemicals in the extraction process produces the most desirable product. You will find numerous minor cannabinoids and terpenes in full spectrum products. This list is an introduction to a few of the primary ones:

Minor Cannabinoids

• Cannabidiol Acid (CBDA)

CBDA is being researched for its potential as an anti-inflammatory, pain reliever, and anticonvulsant. It may help patients control nausea and vomiting. Potentially, it enhances the 5-HTP receptor which produces serotonin.

Further, it may help to prevent cancer. It is a powerful antioxidant and antibacterial. Like CBD, it is not psychoactive.

Cannabichromene (CBC)

CBC is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid shown to have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. It possesses antibacterial and antifungal traits as well and may potentially help with healing some disorders of the gastrointestinal system.

CBC has also shown potential in regenerating brain cells. In the future, it may be used in treating neurodegenerative diseases.

• Cannabinol (CBN)

CBN is a mildly psychoactive cannabinoid that acts as a powerful sedative. It has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties and is being studied for its potential to treat anxiety and insomnia.


Terpenes are found in all full-spectrum products. They are responsible for the distinctive tastes and smells of various oils. These powerful agents also have many benefits. They are found everywhere in nature; plants, fruits, trees, and flowers all contain terpenes.


Pinene is named such because it has the scent of pine trees. It is responsible for giving hemp its distinct musky smell. It is also a bronchodilator and an anti-inflammatory.


Depending on the concentration of myrcene in the formulation, it can produce either sedating or energizing effects.


Ocimene is a pleasing fragrance used in making many scented products. It helps defend the plant in nature. It is also an antifungal.


This terpene is typically used to make perfumes, lotions, and other scented skin care products. It has relaxing qualities and a pleasing scent.


Humulene works as an appetite suppressant as a potent anti-inflammatory.


Linalool has a flowery, spicy scent and has been used as an anti-epileptic. It is known to combat pain, anxiety, and stress as well.


Limonene has a pleasant lemon or citrus scent. It assists other terpenes in bioavailability by helping them absorb through the mucous membranes and the skin. It is also used to help with anxiety and depression.

Remember, this list contains just a fraction of the many other cannabinoids and terpenes found in the cannabis plant.

CBD Isolate

There is another camp that feels that the best way to improve the therapeutic outcome of Cannabidiol is to use a single molecule product. When it comes to healing, CBD is the most researched cannabinoid—second only to THC—and it appears to have a wide range of potential applications. Some people find they have better results in treating their conditions with CBD isolate.

CBD isolate is exactly what it sounds like. During extraction, the CBD is isolated from the other 100+ compounds until only CBD remains. The purity of Isolates is around 99%.

Isolates are commonly created using Chromatography, a chemistry technique which removes all the unwanted compounds from the oil. The process even removes the terpenes which give hemp its distinct aroma and flavor. Sediment, water, and plant matter are taken out as well until all that remains is pure isolated CBD. The result is unexpected; all that is left is a tasteless, odorless, white powder.

One advantage of using a CBD isolate over a full-spectrum product is that isolates contain no THC at all. For people concerned about workplace drug testing, it is the ideal way to consume CBD without worrying about a false positive urinalysis.

It is unlikely that full-spectrum CBD products would cause a positive drug testing result, but it has happened. Along with all the other compounds included in full-spectrum oils, they do contain trace amounts of THC. To be federally legal, CBD must contain less than 0.3% THC. This amount is generally undetectable and certainly not enough to cause any mind-altering effects, yet it occasionally shows up.

For people whose livelihood depends on regular clean drug tests, it is usually recommended to forego full-spectrum CBD and use an isolate (or broad spectrum, as you will see next) product instead to play it safe.

Another merit that isolates are known for is their versatility. Because they are unscented and flavorless, they can easily be added as an ingredient in different foods and beverages. Many CBD-infused products are available that are made with isolate. Coffee, tea, gummies, baked goods, and more can be purchased pre-made. The powder itself can be obtained to make your own concoctions as well.

When CBD isolate is sold as an oil or tincture, it is typically suspended in a food grade oil like olive, coconut, or grapeseed oil which serves as a carrier oil for easy absorption and bioavailability.

Broad-Spectrum CBD Oil

The final formulation is one that is beginning to gain more traction. Broad spectrum CBD oil is kind of a hybrid between full-spectrum and isolates. Like full-spectrum oil, it retains all the complimentary chemicals from hemp that are needed to experience the entourage effect, yet like isolate, it contains zero THC.

Broad-spectrum products are ideal for those who want to experience everything that hemp has to offer but are wary of having even a trace of THC show up during a routine drug test. It is literally the best of both worlds.

There are two ways that broad-spectrum CBD products are made. The first is simply by starting with isolate and then adding the other compounds back into the formulation, minus the THC.

The other way is by obtaining the oil through a CO2 extraction process identical to what is used to create full-spectrum oil but then putting it through an additional step. Like isolate, this step involves performing High-Performance Liquid Chromatography to remove all traces of THC from the oil, but unlike isolate, that is the only compound that is removed, while the rest remain.

The demand for these different CBD isolates is increasing, and this has resulted in many companies choosing to offer both options to their consumers. It is essential that when you are looking for a personalized solution to help you with any health concern that you try out different formulations and potencies.

Broad-spectrum CBD, full-spectrum CBD, and CBD isolate each has its own distinct advantages and will work differently within the endocannabinoid system.  Since everyone is different, you will want to see what works for you individually.

These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


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