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

Healthline editors have tried some of the products in this article. All opinions are their own.

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, remember that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved nonprescription CBD products, which may be inaccurately labeled.

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. However, there may be trace amounts of THC in broad-spectrum CBD products.

Learn more about the difference between full-spectrum CBD, broad-spectrum CBD, and CBD isolate.

CBD isolate

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

Learn more about different CBD types.

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.

CBD resources

Visit our dedicated hub for more research-backed information and in-depth resources on CBD.

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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 can always follow manufacturer dosage instructions carefully and contact a healthcare professional if they have questions or notice any side effects.

Full-spectrum CBD has numerous other cannabinoid compounds from the cannabis plant, along with low levels of THC. The THC quantities are usually 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; in some cases, this may cause a euphoric effect.

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

A 2020 review describes an “entourage effect” that the plant’s multiple compounds can produce. Studies in this review suggest that using CBD products with multiple compounds, including terpenes, can improve the effects of CBD, including its mood-stabilizing effects.

However, the authors note that more research is necessary 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 review notes there is limited evidence on the use of CBD in dental health conditions. The researchers state that flavonoids and terpenes in CBD may have anti-inflammatory, analgesic, or antimicrobial properties, making CBD a potential option if people have a toothache, gingivitis, or dental cavities.

Learn more about the potential health benefits of CBD oil.

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.

People who use full-spectrum CBD products may also 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.

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

Pros of broad-spectrum CBD

CBN may have the following potential health effects:

  • antibiotic
  • antiseizure
  • anti-inflammatory

Broad-spectrum CBD will have trace amounts of THC, well below the federal limit of 0.3%.

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 only contains trace amounts of THC. This may mean it does not have as many benefits as full-spectrum CBD.

People who use CBD products run the risk of returning a positive on a drug test. Broad-spectrum CBD may have trace amounts of THC, which may appear on these screenings.

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

Learn more about CBD isolate.

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, evidence suggests that using CBD products that contain multiple cannabis plant compounds may produce more prominent results due to the entourage effect. CBD isolate products may not provide the same benefits.

Medical News Today’s methodology

Medical News Today chooses products that meet the following criteria:

  • Ingredients: MNT chooses products containing safe and high quality clearly labeled ingredients. They should also confirm they are free from pesticides, heavy metals, and mold.
  • Dosage: MNT chooses products that must clearly state the CBD dosage.
  • Serving size: MNT selects products in which manufacturers recommend a dosage.
  • Third-party labs: MNT chooses products that must undergo third-party testing for contaminants by an ISO 17025-compliant laboratory.
  • Available certificate of analysis: MNT chooses companies that demonstrate transparency and share a product’s COA after receiving its third-party lab results.
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People should always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when using CBD products.

Some general guidelines include:

  • Edibles: People can chew or swallow edible CBD products such as gummies and capsules. Companies will provide instructions on how many edibles to take on the product’s packaging.
  • Topicals: Individuals rub topical CBD products, such as creams and lotions, on their skin. Some topical CBD products are available as transdermal patches, which a person places on their skin.
  • Sublingual products: People place sublingual CBD products, such as oils and tinctures, underneath their tongues. Companies will provide instructions on using these products on the packaging.

However, as the CBD industry has no established guidelines for CBD dosing, it is also a good idea to consult a healthcare professional with working expertise in cannabis. They can advise on the safety and dosage of CBD products.

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.

The extract must also undergo a cooling and purification process to convert it into a CBD isolate. Further processing leaves behind a crystalline isolate or CBD crystals.

CBD product labels inform people of the product’s ingredients, strength, and dosage. It is also important to ensure a product has a current COA.

CBD ingredients

CBD products contain either full-spectrum CBD, broad-spectrum CBD, or CBD isolate. They may also include cannabinoids and terpenes.

There are over 100 different cannabinoids, including THC and CBD. Cannabinoids may help with conditions like chronic pain and multiple sclerosis.

Terpenes are aromatic compounds that provide scent and flavor.

CBD strength and dosage

Companies often display a CBD product’s strength in large letters in the product description and packaging.

Companies will also often display the strength per dose on the product label. For CBD gummies, a person can divide the total strength by the number of gummies in the packaging to calculate the strength per dose.


It is important to purchase CBD products that have a current COA. A COA means that the product has undergone testing by a third party to ensure the label is accurate and the product is safe to use.

Many companies provide COAs online. However, a person can email the company to receive a copy if the COA is unavailable.

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 also notes that CBD could interact with medication and may cause liver damage.

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

Full-spectrum CBD contains up to 0.3% THC, whereas broad-spectrum contains trace amounts. Both types of CBD come in several strengths, including very strong varieties.

Some research suggests that full-spectrum CBD may help relieve pain.

A 2019 study that reviewed the effects of full hemp extract CBD in people with chronic pain found that it helped improve their symptoms. More than half of the participants could reduce or stop taking opioids for pain management after using CBD for eight weeks.

2020 research also found that full-spectrum CBD may have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects. However, there is an overall lack of evidence that any type of CBD relieves pain most effectively.

People can work with a healthcare professional to address how best to treat or manage pain. A doctor can also describe whether CBD is advisable.

The most effective form of CBD depends on a person’s individual needs. For example, those with joint pain may prefer a topical CBD product because it provides targeted and localized relief.

However, other people may consider buying oil or tinctures to help them relax and relieve stress.

People can administer CBD oil under the tongue for a faster effect, and it often comes with a dropper to measure the amount of CBD they take.

Buying creams may make it difficult to apply the recommended amount.

Broad-spectrum CBD contains trace amounts of THC, which means people may not notice as strong effects as they would with full-spectrum CBD.

Broad-spectrum CBD only contains trace amounts of THC, but it is possible that a person will test positive on a drug test. People who regularly undergo drug testing may prefer to use CBD isolate.

Full-spectrum CBD contains all the compounds present in the cannabis plant, while CBD isolate is the pure form of CBD.

Some people may prefer full-spectrum products. Research suggests that combining multiple compounds may make the product more effective.

The current evidence suggests that full- and broad-spectrum CBD products may be more effective than CBD isolate. However, more research is necessary.

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 interested in trying CBD to ease various ailments, such as pain and anxiety, can research manufacturers that engage in third-party laboratory testing.

Individuals looking to try CBD can speak with a doctor first, as these products may have some side effects and drug interactions.