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  • Writer's pictureGulf Coast Acupuncture and Fertility

Full-spectrum vs. broad-spectrum CBD: What is the difference?

Is CBD legal? Hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are legal federally but still illegal under some state laws. Marijuana-derived CBD products, on the other hand, are illegal federally but legal under some state laws. Check local legislation, especially when traveling. Also, keep in mind that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved nonprescription CBD products, which may be inaccurately labeled.

Full-spectrum and broad-spectrum are two of the three main types of cannabidiol (CBD) extract. The main differences concern the presence of other naturally occurring plant compounds within the extract.

Full-spectrum vs. broad-spectrum comparison

CBD is one of many compounds in the cannabis plant. Other than THC, it is the plant’s most abundant compound.

The main difference between full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD is the compounds they contain.

If a CBD product contains several naturally occurring cannabis plant extracts, such as terpenes and other cannabinoids — including up to 0.3% THC — it is full-spectrum CBD.

Broad-spectrum CBD also contains several cannabis plant compounds but is typically entirely free of THC. That said, there may sometimes be trace amounts of THC in broad-spectrum CBD products.

CBD Isolate

CBD Isolate is the third most common form of CBD, and this pure form of CBD contains no other cannabis plant compounds.

However, while these terms carry some meaning, CBD and related terms do not undergo much regulation, so some manufacturers may use the words interchangeably or misuse them.


There are three main ways to extract CBD from the cannabis plant. These are:

  • Carbon dioxide extraction: Uses CO2 to separate CBD oil from the cannabis plant. It is a popular extraction method for CBD products and can successfully produce high-concentration CBD.

  • Steam distillation: Manufacturers use steam to help separate the oil from the plant material. It is a popular method for extracting essential plant oils but is less effective than the CO2 method.

  • Solvent extraction: Although effective, this method can leave behind solvent residue, posing a potential health risk. Solvent extraction can also affect the flavor of the extract.

  • Lipid extraction: This process is gaining popularity, as some companies are now trying to avoid using CO2 and solvents.

After extraction, manufacturers refer to the resulting CBD oil as full-spectrum. Hemp-sourced CBD will have a THC concentration of 0.3% or less.

Additionally, the extract must undergo a cooling and purification process to convert into a CBD isolate. Further processing leaves behind a crystalline isolate or CBD crystals.

Which CBD type is best?

Someone new to CBD may prefer to begin with an isolate, as it is the purest form.

Those more familiar with CBD products may choose broad-spectrum or full-spectrum.

Those with painful joints or muscles or those looking for relaxation may opt for topical CBD products or products they can add to a bath to soak. Others may choose a more on-the-go CBD form, such as gummies or tinctures they can add to drinks.

Whichever type or product an individual chooses, they should always follow manufacturer dosage instructions carefully and contact a doctor or healthcare professional if they have any questions or notice any side effects.

Pros and cons of full-spectrum CBD

Full-spectrum CBD has numerous other cannabinoid compounds from the cannabis plant, along with low levels of THC. Usually, the THC quantities are less than 0.3% on a dry weight basis since this is the federal law requirement for CBD products.

This low quantity of THC is not usually potent enough to cause the “high” people typically associate with cannabis use.

However, THC levels can increase when manufacturers create concentrate products. For example, some tinctures can contain up to 2 milligrams (mg) per milliliter (ml) of THC, and in some cases, this can cause a euphoric effect.

Full-spectrum CBD also contains terpenes from the cannabis plant and tends to give plants their scent.

A 2020 study describes an “entourage effect” that can be produced by the vast array of compounds found within cannabis, including terpenes. Studies discussed in this work suggest that terpenes that produce the entourage effect can improve the effects of CBD, including its mood-stabilizing effects.

However, the authors note that more research is needed to investigate the benefits of adding terpenes to CBD, especially when treating conditions such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.

Pros of full-spectrum CBD

Some of the potential health effects of CBD include:

It may also ease the symptoms of some mental health conditions and provide relief from muscle spasms.

A recent study notes limited evidence on the use of CBD in dental health conditions. However, the researchers state that flavonoids and terpenes in CBD may have anti-inflammatory, analgesic, or anti-microbial properties, so people may take CBD products if they have a toothache, gingivitis, or dental caries.

Cons of full-spectrum CBD

A potential disadvantage of full-spectrum CBD is that in a large enough dose, a person may feel a euphoric high.

Additionally, people who use full-spectrum CBD products may run the risk of returning a positive result on a drug test. One of the drugs that drug tests screen for is THC, which certain full-spectrum CBD products can contain.

Pros and cons of broad-spectrum CBD

Broad-spectrum CBD products also contain additional compounds from the cannabis plant, including cannabinol (CBN), cannabichromene, and terpenes.

Pros of broad-spectrum CBD

CBD may have the following potential health effects:

  • antibiotic

  • anti-seizure

  • anti-inflammatory

While most broad-spectrum CBD products do not contain THC, some may have trace amounts.

Like full-spectrum CBD, broad-spectrum CBD products may also have additional health benefits due to the resulting entourage effect.

Cons of broad-spectrum CBD

A potential disadvantage of broad-spectrum CBD is that it does not contain THC. This may mean it does not have as many benefits as full-spectrum CBD.

Additionally, people who use CBD products run the risk of returning a positive on a drug test. For example, broad-spectrum CBD may have trace amounts of THC, which may appear on these screenings.

Pros and cons of CBD isolate

CBD isolate only contains CBD and contains no additional compounds from the cannabis plant.

Pros of CBD isolate

People who wish to avoid THC altogether may prefer using CBD isolate products.

With CBD isolate, a person can determine if CBD alone eases their ailments effectively, as no other active compounds present can interfere or interact with its effects.

Cons of CBD isolate

However, as mentioned above, evidence suggests that CBD products containing multiple cannabis plant compounds may produce more noticeable results from the entourage effect. Additionally, CBD isolate products may not provide the same benefits.

Safety and side effects of CBD

While CBD is generally safe and people tolerate the substance well, it can cause the following side effects:

  • changes in alertness, such as drowsiness

  • diarrhea

  • increase in appetite

  • changes in mood, such as irritability and agitation

The FDA identified a potential risk of liver damage in the approved CBD product, Epidiolex, which treats rare seizure disorders. The FDA also noted that CBD could interact with medication.

A person who requires regular medication should always inform a doctor if they use any CBD products.

Below are some frequently asked questions about
CBD products.

Is CBD legal?

Hemp-derived CBD is legal federally but may be illegal under some state laws.

In contrast, cannabis-derived CBD is illegal federally but legal under some state laws.

With this in mind, people should check the laws of the state they reside in or are traveling to before purchasing and consuming CBD products.

Are CBD products FDA-approved?

The FDATrusted Source does not currently approve any CBD products apart from Epidiolex.

The agency advises people that CBD products, such as gummies, oils, and lotions, have not undergone FDA evaluation to determine what doses are safe and whether the products cause any side effects.