Full spectrum cannabidiol (CBD) and broad spectrum CBD are two of the three main types of CBD extract available. The main difference between the two relates to the other naturally occurring plant compounds in the extract.

Although much of the research into CBD is still in its early stages, many people are eager to try CBD products. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some people have found CBD helpful in relieving ailments such as anxiety and pain.

In fact, one 2018 study in people who use CBD revealed that 62% of people use it for medical symptoms, including pain, depression, and anxiety.

CBD is one of many compounds in the cannabis plant. Other than tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), it is the most abundant compound in the plant.

Keep reading to learn more about the differences between full spectrum and broad spectrum CBD, as well as some of the potential benefits of these compounds.

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Is CBD legal? Hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3% THC are legal federally but still illegal under some state laws. Cannabis-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.

The main difference between full spectrum and broad spectrum CBD is which 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 it is typically entirely free of THC. That said, there may sometimes be trace amounts of THC in broad spectrum CBD products.

CBD isolate is the third common form of CBD. This is the pure form of CBD, containing no other cannabis plant compounds.

However, although these terms do carry some meaning, “CBD” and related terms are not heavily regulated, 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: This method uses CO2 to separate CBD oil from the cannabis plant. It is a popular extraction method for CBD products and is capable of successfully producing high concentration CBD.
  • Steam distillation: With this method, steam helps separate the oil from the plant material. It is a popular method for extracting essential plant oils, but it is not as effective as the CO2 method.
  • Solvent extraction: Although this method is effective if solvents are left behind, the process does pose 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 CO2 and solvents.

After extraction, the resulting CBD oil is considered full spectrum. Hemp-sourced CBD will have a THC concentration of 0.3% or less.

The extract must go through a cooling and purification process to obtain a CBD isolate product. Further processing leaves behind a crystalline isolate, or CBD crystals.

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” that people typically associate with cannabis.

However, the levels of THC can increase when the manufacturer creates a concentrate. For example, some tinctures can contain up to 2 milligrams per milliliter of THC, and this can, in some cases, have a euphoric effect.

Full spectrum CBD also contains terpenes from the cannabis plant. Terpenes tend to give plants their scent.

Research points to the existence of the “entourage effect,” which posits that when multiple cannabis plant compounds are present along with CBD extract, this increases the health benefits of the CBD.

Because full spectrum products contain compounds in addition to CBD, such as THC, they may maximize the “entourage effect.”

Some of the potential health effects of CBD include:

  • antiseizure
  • antioxidant
  • antianxiety
  • pain relief
  • anti-inflammatory

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

One review from 2018 also suggests that flavonoids and terpenes in the CBD may have anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects.

Learn more about the potential health benefits of CBD oil here.

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

CBN may have the following potential health effects:

  • antibiotic
  • antiseizure
  • anti-inflammatory

Most broad spectrum CBD products do not contain THC. However, on occasion, products may have trace amounts.

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

Broad spectrum CBD may be more suitable for people who wish to avoid THC, as even the low amounts in full spectrum CBD could show up on a drug test.

Learn more about CBD and drug testing here.

CBD isolate only contains CBD and does not have any additional compounds from the cannabis plant.

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

By using CBD isolate products, a person can determine whether or not CBD alone effectively eases their ailments, as there are no other active compounds present that may interfere or interact with its effect.

As mentioned above, there is evidence to suggest that the use of CBD products containing multiple cannabis plant compounds may produce more prominent effects.

Learn more about CBD isolate here.

Although the current evidence suggests that full and broad spectrum CBD products may be more effective than CBD isolate, there is a need for additional research.

It is possible that the presence of additional cannabis plant compounds may increase the effects of CBD products. However, because there is no current regulation of the terms broad spectrum, full spectrum, and isolate, it can be challenging to determine a CBD product’s exact contents.

People who are looking to try CBD to ease various ailments, such as pain and anxiety, should seek manufacturers that perform third-party laboratory testing.

People looking to try CBD should also speak to a healthcare provider beforehand, as it may have some side effects and drug interactions.