Full-spectrum vs. CBD Broad Spectrum or Isolate

Full Spectrum or THC Free? Which is the best CBD option for me?

If you’re new to cannabidiol (CBD), you may have doubts about which form to choose: full spectrum or THC free. With so much information out there, and so many different products, it can be hard to decide. 

Increasingly, CBD has become a popular alternative therapy for the treatment or prevention of many disorders and conditions, such as anxiety and depression, chronic pain, even epilepsy. CBD is non-psychoactive, and for that reason, more people are turning to CBD for relief.

Whether hemp-based or extracted from cannabis, CBD is derived from the mature plant—flower, stem, and leaf. Hemp seed oil comes from cold-pressed hemp seed and it is often mistaken as a source of CBD. Hemp seed oil contains almost no CBD and no THC at all.

CBD isolate

CBD isolate begins as a full-spectrum plant oil from hemp or cannabis. To make isolate, CBD manufacturers extract oils from whole hemp or cannabis plants. There are a variety of extraction methods that produce a CBD concentrate. The safest is the supercritical CO2 method.

The concentrate then goes through a purifying process to remove other phytocannabinoids, oils, waxes, and other plant material. The result is a pure and potent CBD crystalline with no THC. The process leaves only minute traces of terpenes, flavonoids, and other cannabinoids for a nearly 100% pure cannabidiol.

Some isolate users describe the sensations of isolate’s effects as calming, and alternatively, more energized. Others report subjective feelings of wellness from day to day or have better sleep quality or duration.

Full-spectrum CBD

Full-spectrum CBD (also sometimes called pure spectrum) is less processed than isolate because it uses dried plant material, either from cannabis or hemp. Supercritical CO2 extraction draws out the cannabinoids, including CBD, as well as terpenes and flavonoids. The inclusion of all the plant compounds is what makes a full-spectrum CBD. There are 3 additional major cannabinoids in full-spectrum CBD:

  • Cannabigerol (CBG): It is an essential cannabinoid, and researchers suspect it has its benefits. Expect it to be in amounts of less than 3% in full-spectrum products.
  • Cannabichromene (CBC): Despite being another of the 6 most plentiful cannabinoids, expect to find only a small quantity of CBC in a full-spectrum product.
  • Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV): Researchers believe this poorly understood cannabinoid works in combination with THC. Full-spectrum products contain minimal quantities of this cannabinoid.

Some research and anecdotal evidence suggest that full-spectrum CBD is the most effective for many illnesses and conditions. Studies indicate that it is useful for anxiety and depression, nausea, inflammation, and pain. Research and clinical trials have shown that CBD relieves seizures in certain kinds of epilepsy, to reduce or retard cancer tumors and symptoms of cancer treatments.

Because full-spectrum CBD includes all of the plant’s compounds and cannabinoids, many users promote the benefits of full-spectrum’s synergistic effects. The principle behind the entourage effect is that each of the cannabinoids, flavonoids, and terpenes works to enhance the effects of the others. 

Side effects of CBD oil

  • Dry mouth is common and typical of hemp and cannabis because the cannabinoids inhibit saliva production. To counter dry mouth, take plenty of fluids.
  • At higher dosages, CBD oil can cause a small drop in blood pressure. Talk to your doctor if you are taking hypertension medications.
  • Some CBD users may experience dizziness or drowsiness, depending again on dosage levels.
  • Diarrhea is most likely to be caused by other ingredients because of CBD’s strong gastroprotective qualities. The most likely suspect is the carrier oil, so try a product that uses a different oil.
  • Interactions with other medications can result in inhibiting the metabolization of certain drugs. Discuss your medications with your doctor before using CBD.

Full-spectrum vs. CBD isolate

Some users are concerned that full-spectrum products include THC. If drug testing is an issue, even though THC levels are less than 0.3% in full-spectrum CBD, isolate may be the better choice.

When people refer to CBD oil, they usually mean full-spectrum oil that includes other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. These other plant compounds have a key function in producing the entourage effect discussed above. Because THC content in CBD oil is so low, there is almost no chance users will feel psychotropic effects.

CBD alone can be beneficial. CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) by stimulating the production of endocannabinoids. The ECS maintains homeostasis, which is vital for many reasons. Either full-spectrum CBD or isolate will activate the ECS. However, the entourage effect maximizes those benefits.

Terpenes in full-spectrum CBD

The terpenes that are part of full-spectrum CBD are also beneficial. Terpenes are aromatic molecules that plants produce, also often used in aromatherapy. Common terpenes in cannabis include myrcene, pinene, humulene, limonene, and caryophyllene.

Specific terpenes have specific effects. For example, researchers believe the terpene linalool influences natural sleep patterns. Limonene’s benefits include appetite suppression, decreased stress, and improved digestion. Lavender is high in linalool, which is why it’s often used to promote better sleep quality.

By including terpenes in full-spectrum CBD oil, potential benefits are available to users beyond the benefits of CBD isolate. Even though terpenes are sometimes added to isolate, isolate generally does not include anything more than CBD isolate.


Isolate does offer something that full-spectrum can’t: a THC-free CBD product. Usually, people choose CBD isolate to be safe. They may face drug testing, and even minimal traces of THC may risk a positive result.

However, almost every research study and clinical trial have confirmed that full-spectrum CBD offers a broader array of benefits. Despite that consideration, many still tend to choose isolate over full-spectrum for a variety of reasons. Some users don’t understand that THC has medicinal value and think it’s only suitable for its psychoactive properties. But, in such low quantities (0.3%), it’s impossible to produce cannabis’s famous “high.”

CBD has been suspended in a carrier oil, whether full spectrum or isolate. Common carrier oils are coconut, MCT, olive, avocado, or grapeseed, to name a few.

The choice is a matter of personal preference and the reasons for taking CBD in the first place. Both forms offer the same benefits, although full-spectrum is likely to be more effective for a wider range of conditions. Choose isolate if even the low THC content is a concern.

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Jack Studebaker

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