Full-spectrum, broad-spectrum and isolate CBD are the three main types of cannabidiol (CBD) extract. The main difference between full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD is in the compounds. Both contain all occurring compounds found in the hemp plant, but broad-spectrum CBD does not contain Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), whereas full-spectrum can include up to 0.3% THC.*
The combination of these compounds is believed to produce a synergistic effect — otherwise known as the “entourage effect” — which is the notion that all the compounds work together to produce a better effect than when taken alone.
* THC is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis and, if enough is present, it will lead to a positive drug test.
Broad Spectrum and Full Spectrum vs Isolate CBD
Isolate CBD is different from both full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD as it is purified to remove all other occurring compounds, including other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. This means that isolate CBD is not associated with the “entourage effect” as there are no additional compounds — it is pure cannabidiol (99% pure). As a result, “Pure CBD” is often synonymous with CBD isolate.
While CBD isolate does offer certain health benefits, it is thought that these have less effect than those gained from using a full-spectrum or broad-spectrum products.
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Pros & Cons of Broad Spectrum CBD
Broad-spectrum CBD contains all occurring compounds found in the hemp plant, but does not contain THC — you can think of it is a middle ground between isolate and full-spectrum CBD.
- Produces the desired entourage effect. A 2011 review in the British Journal of Pharmacology found that taking a combination of terpenes and cannabinoids may help with anxiety, pain, inflammation, seizures, fungal infections and cancer.
- Doesn’t contain Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), so won’t show up on a drug test.
- Suitable for those that are sensitive to THC.
- Less readily available than full-spectrum or isolate products.
- Stronger smell and taste than isolate products.
Pros & Cons of Full Spectrum CBD
As the name suggests, full-spectrum CBD contains all occurring compounds found in the hemp plant, including THC, other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids.
- Produces the entourage effect. Consuming CBD, THC and other cannabinoids in unison has a greater effect than taking them alone.
- Even though the amount of THC is low, there is still a risk of failing a drug test.
- Not suitable for individuals sensitive to THC, or those who need to avoid it for other reasons.
- Stronger smell and taste than isolate products.
Pros & Cons of Isolate CBD
CBD isolate is the purest form of CBD, but it shouldn’t be mistaken for best. After going through the extraction process, isolate products remove all compounds, including other cannabinoids, which means you won’t be able to achieve the desired entourage effect. Full and broad-spectrum CBD produce more pronounced effects than isolate, but there are a few reasons why you might use it.
- Suitable for those who don’t want to consume Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
- Suitable for those who want a flavourless and odourless product.
- Suitable for people with skin or digestive allergies, who have reacted to other cannabinoids or cannabis compounds.
- No entourage effect as it doesn’t contain other flavonoids, terpenes or compounds, so it is much less effective than its alternative. Studies have also shown that isolate doesn’t last as long as full or broad-spectrum CBD.
- A 2015 study suggested that people need much higher doses of CBD isolate for pain relief than other forms of CBD, so it is less cost-effective and might increase the chances of adverse side effects.
- Another study found that CBD isolate is only effective against pain and swelling at a specific dose.
- Although safe to use, it is a highly processed product. This means you should purchase from reliable manufacturers, and check their lab results.
To learn more about each type, read our full guide on The Different Types of CBD.
Image via Hempton Farms of the various benefits that different terpenes offer. Terpenes are present in full and broad-spectrum CBD, but not in isolate CBD.
Should I Use Full Spectrum, Broad Spectrum or Isolate CBD?
Your CBD results depend on how well you match your needs with the right product. There are several factors that can point you in the direction of one type of CBD instead of the other, but your choice should come down to what CBD spectrum will work best in your case.
In general, we would consider broad-spectrum the best choice as it delivers the entourage effect without THC and the legal risks of failing a drug test. For this reason, it is often considered the most balanced option.
However, this might not be the case for everyone. Your unique body chemistry can influence the way you react to different cannabinoid profiles, so a bit of trial and error is recommended to find the perfect CBD product and dose for you.
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