What Is the Difference Between Full-Spectrum and Broad-Spectrum CBD?

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Whether shopping online or in-store for CBD products, you’ve probably noticed the vast range of cannabinoid spectrum options. With so many options, it begs the question - is one better than the other?

While most of the products might seem similar, they’re actually very different from one another. In this article, we’ll help explain the difference between full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD.

Full Spectrum CBD


“...different cannabinoids and terpenes work together to create a more significant effect than they would alone.”


We’ll start with full-spectrum CBD, which is what a product is called when it is the least processed type of extract. What this means is that the oil contains all the phytochemicals found on the plant like CBD, THC, CBN, CBC, terpenes, etc.

But why does having all of these other compounds besides CBD necessary? The reason is that there is evidence to suggest that all the different cannabinoids and terpenes work together to create a more significant effect than they would alone.

This effect is known as the ‘entourage effect,’ but we’ll get into the specifics of it later.

You might be concerned that these products contain THC, but they must contain less than 0.3% THC content. According to the 2018 Farm Bill, any CBD product produced legally from a hemp farm containing less than 0.3% THC is legal on the federal level.

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Still, you might not like the idea of having any THC in your system, especially if you might be drug tested. There has been anecdotal evidence of false-positives on drug tests among those who use CBD oil frequently. 

If this is a concern of yours, then that’s where broad-spectrum CBD oil shines.

Broad-Spectrum CBD


“[With broad-spectrum CBD] you can have no fear of having any THC in your system, and you can still take advantage of the entourage effect.”

Broad-spectrum CBD is almost the same as full-spectrum CBD except that it has all of the THC completely removed. So after the initial extraction of all the cannabinoids and terpenes, the THC is stripped from the final product.

shallow focus photography of green leaves

So now you can have no fear of having any THC in your system, and you can still take advantage of the entourage effect. The only downside is that broad-spectrum CBD is a little more processed than full-spectrum.

CBD Isolate


“The major downside to CBD isolate is that you won’t get the entourage effect from it since it’s only CBD.”


There’s still one last type of CBD product you may have seen - CBD isolate. CBD isolate is the most processed form of CBD oil and the purest. After the initial extraction, all of the other compounds are removed, leaving only CBD. 

This is helpful for people who need large doses of pure CBD. The major downside to CBD isolate and why there isn’t such a high demand for it is because you won’t get the entourage effect from it since it’s only CBD. 

So what is the entourage effect exactly?

The Entourage Effect Explained


“With such a diversity of compounds, there are almost countless ways each can be combined to create an abundance of different effects.”


In 2011, a research paper by Dr. Ethan Russo theorized that there was a synergistic effect of all the compounds in a cannabis plant. He explained that this entourage effect is what was responsible for the wide range of effects people feel from different cannabis strains. 

So we know all about the most popular cannabinoids - CBD and THC. However, there are many compounds found in cannabis that all play some kind of role.

You may not have heard of these other cannabinoids like CBG, CBN, THCV (and dozens more), but they are present in cannabis. They are usually present in tiny amounts, but each one has an effect. For example, CBN promotes pain relief, and THCV can help reduce anxiety.

Then there are also terpenes present in cannabis, which is what gives the plant its distinct smell. Terpenes are aromatic compounds also found in many other plants like lavender, eucalyptus, black pepper, pine trees, and much more.

Terpenes also have their own effects, for example, the terpene linalool is abundant in lavender, and it has been used historically for relaxation. On top of that, terpenes can also interact with cannabinoids by regulating how much is absorbed by your body.

With such a diversity of compounds, there are almost countless ways each can be combined to create an abundance of different effects. Dr. Ethan Russo was enthusiastic that new drugs could be created simply by researching and mixing the correct compounds.

While all of this sounds theoretical, there’s a lot of practical evidence. First of all, if you’ve ever consumed different types of cannabis strains, you know that some strains are radically different than others.

Second, there is actual clinical evidence from a 2015 clinical trial that shows therapeutic benefit. Cancer patients were given either CBD alone or another full-spectrum CBD to help manage pain.

The patients that took the full-spectrum CBD had a much better response than with the CBD alone. The researchers also found that after a specific dosage, the CBD alone stops providing relief, but the full-spectrum didn’t have a limit.

So Which One Is Right For Me?

So now that you know the differences between the CBD oils, which one to choose? Well, that really depends on what you want from the product.

white markee light

If you prefer to have a CBD that is the least processed and you don’t mind having THC in it, then full-spectrum might be the one for you. If you are concerned about having THC in your body or your state mandates that all CBD must not contain THC, then it needs to be broad-spectrum.

Also, broad-spectrum CBD oil has one extra processing step to remove the THC, where full-spectrum doesn’t. So if you want the most ‘natural’ CBD oil, then full-spectrum is the one you’re after.

However, if you’re searching for a pure CBD product, then you should choose CBD isolate. Considering all cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids are stripped from CBD isolate, you’ll be left with 100% pure cannabidiol.

If you have the option to experience each of these CBD spectrums, then we recommend giving full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and CBD isolate a go. A little bit of experimentation can lead you to discover the best CBD for you.