If you’re new to CBD, odds are you’ve come across CBD oil products and other extracts labeled “full-spectrum” or “broad-spectrum.” While similar in most respects, their single key difference is decisive for many consumers.
Knowing the distinction between full-spectrum CBD oils and broad-spectrum CBD oils is critical, as your choice could have a far-reaching impact.
So where do these two diverge, and why is it important? Which option is better? Are they safe? Let’s look at everything you need to know before investing in full spectrum and broad-spectrum oil.
Something You Should Know First…
We cover what Full Spectrum and Broad Spectrum are in more detail below, but Full Spectrum and Broad Spectrum products should contain more than just cannabinoids.
They should also contain terpenes, which are found in hemp that have been shown to hold a wide range of health benefits and enhance the effects of CBD, but nearly all Full Spectrum and Broad Spectrum products in the market do not contain terpenes.
Just because a product is a Full Spectrum or Broad Spectrum does not mean it contains terpenes, despite brands claiming theirs does. It’s crucial to look at third-party lab reports and look for the terpene profile test section to verify their Full Spectrum CBD and Broad Spectrum CBD contain terpenes.
If it’s not tested or it shows “ND,” which stands for “Non-Detect,” then it does not contain terpenes, and you should reconsider purchasing the product because the brand is making false claims if they do claim it contains terpenes.
Now, continue reading below to learn about the difference between Full Spectrum and Broad Spectrum CBD.
Does CBD Type Matter?
Yes, CBD type matters for many reasons. We’ll cover this in greater detail soon, but full-spectrum CBD oil and broad-spectrum CBD oil offer similar benefits, with THC content being the only notable difference.
Ultimately, CBD type matters based on your preferences and health goals.
What Different CBD Types Are There?
There are three different types of CBD products available. Each offers benefits and drawbacks. They’re split into the following categories based on cannabinoid content:
- CBD isolate
Full Spectrum vs. Broad Spectrum vs. CBD Isolate
Full-spectrum CBD, broad-spectrum CBD, and CBD isolate can add value to your daily wellness routine. However, the first step is picking the hemp-derived CBD products that best fit you.
- Contains up to 0.3% THC (every 1,000mg of hemp extract contains 30mg of THC)
- All terpenes and cannabinoid compounds extracted from the plant (“whole plant”)
- Offers the largest amount of beneficial compounds
- Strong “hempy” flavor
- All compounds, other than THC, are present
- THC is removed and contains “Non-Detectable” levels of THC
- If purchased from a reputable company, THC will not show up on drug tests
- Contains the same range of plant compounds and other cannabinoids as full-spectrum
- Strong “hempy” flavor
- Up to 98% pure CBD
- No other plant compounds present
- No THC
- Least potent option
- The least effective form of CBD to use in CBD products because it doesn’t contain other compounds that synergically work together.
What is Full Spectrum CBD?
Full-spectrum CBD contains an entire array of cannabis-derived compounds, such as other cannabinoids (i.e., CBN, CBC, CBG) and terpenes as its source cultivar. This is why full-spectrum products are often referred to as “whole-plant.”
The main difference between full and broad-spectrum CBD products is that full-spectrum contains up to 0.3% THC, as per federal law.
What is Broad Spectrum CBD?
Broad-spectrum CBD is nearly indistinguishable from full-spectrum products. Both contain the same minor cannabinoids and terpenes. However, broad-spectrum extracts are stripped of THC, providing full spectrum’s various benefits with little to no THC.
Third-party lab tests
Before we go into the THC issue, let’s talk about third-party testing. Not all vendors do this, with potentially harmful consequences. Although hemp-derived CBD is no longer listed under the Controlled Substances Act, there’s no federal regulation and almost no state guidelines on hemp-extracted cannabinoids.
Consequently, there aren’t any FDA-approved nonprescription CBD products. Without accountability, companies can cut corners everywhere, from labeling to the extraction process (ideally clean carbon dioxide extraction).
Third-party tests published on the vendor’s website ensure that the label accurately reflects what you ingest.
What Does “THC-Free” in Broad Spectrum CBD Mean?
“THC-free” in broad-spectrum extract means that the THC is gone or undetectable. Since broad-spectrum comes from the entire plant, traces of THC can be left behind. However, the levels are so negligible that no reasonable amount of the product would cause intoxicating effects or trigger a drug test.
In other words, this fraction of a percentage will have no impact, making broad-spectrum extract “THC free” by definition.
What Does Non-Detect (ND) Mean in Broad Spectrum?
In broad-spectrum products, “non-detect” (ND) means that the substance is either not present or too sparse for the tests to detect in the CBD hemp extract. Broad-spectrum products should show as “ND” in the THC category.
Can THC Be Found in Broad Spectrum?
THC can be found in any broad-spectrum CBD product since trace amounts may stay behind after filtration. Again, this isn’t anything to worry about.
However, deliberate negligence and human error (as was the case with licensed producer Curaleaf in 2021) can lead to catastrophic consequences, especially if the consumer has never used edible THC.
In another instance, a July 2022 study tested 105 CBD products. They found only 24% of them were accurately labeled. The rest had discrepancies in CBD levels, while some “THC-free” CBD oils contained intoxicating amounts of THC.
Even after years of self-regulation and refining, the CBD industry is still tricky to navigate.
Research the vendor and always check third-party tests before you make a purchase.
What is CBD Isolate?
CBD isolate is CBD in its purest form. Unlike full-spectrum CBD and broad-spectrum CBD products, CBD isolates are devoid of other compounds. It’s colorless, flavorless, and odorless.
While isolates aren’t hard to find, most vendors and consumers find full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD better for their therapeutic benefits.
The Entourage Effect
Before we get into the pros and cons of different cannabis extracts, we must understand the “entourage effect.”
The entourage effect is a synergistic relationship between CBD molecules and other beneficial compounds, such as minor cannabinoids and terpenes. When combined, these components build upon and enhance each other’s benefits.
The CBD and other cannabinoids harness our endocannabinoid system to restore a state of internal balance (homeostasis), while terpenes offer their own range of practical effects.
Pros and Cons of Full Spectrum CBD
Full-spectrum CBD has a complete cannabinoid and terpene profile, retaining all the beneficial compounds of its host plant. Nothing is filtered out, which can be a deal-maker or a deal-breaker, depending on what suits you.
A full complement of CBD and other compounds works best for a full entourage effect. The experience varies depending on the product’s cannabinoid and terpene content, but this allows you to customize your experience based on those compounds.
As we mentioned, the main difference separating full-spectrum vs. broad-spectrum CBD products is that the former contains up to 0.3% THC, while the latter is THC-free (or very close to it).
But while THC provides a full entourage effect, some highly sensitive people could experience mild intoxicating effects. Additionally, there is a chance – albeit negligible – that the THC in full-spectrum CBD oil could trigger a drug test.
Full spectrum CBD also has a strong “hempy” flavor, even when masked by the taste of edibles like CBD gummies.
Pros and Cons of Broad Spectrum CBD
When finding a perfect middle ground, broad-spectrum CBD extract is the ideal choice.
You experience virtually identical therapeutic benefits as full-spectrum CBD, minus the subtle impact of THC. People concerned about drug tests or THC sensitivity will find broad-spectrum CBD better than full-spectrum CBD products.
Despite having THC removed during the extraction process, our endocannabinoid system enjoys the same benefits from minor cannabinoids.
Additionally, preserving all the terpenes ensures that broad-spectrum hemp plant extracts maintain the beneficial entourage effect comparable to that of full-spectrum CBD products.
Since THC is the main point of contention with full-spectrum extract, a broad-spectrum CBD product addresses that issue.
However, the taste of broad-spectrum isn’t any better than its full-spectrum CBD oil counterpart. Consequently, broad-spectrum CBD gummies, drinks, and other flavor-infused CBD products will have a slightly “hempy” flavor – although the benefits outweigh this minor inconvenience.
Pros and Cons of CBD Isolate
While full and broad-spectrum are almost identical, the contrast between isolate and the other CBD options couldn’t be any clearer.
Isolate’s most significant advantage is that it’s up to 98% pure CBD with no other compounds, including THC. If even trace amounts of THC concern you, isolate is the best choice to put your mind at ease.
Another upside is that isolate is colorless, odorless, and flavorless. This lets it blend seamlessly with CBD gummies, drinks, flavored oils, and CBD e-liquid. You can even add it to your favorite smoothies or salad dressing. Isolate makes taking CBD easy and fun.
If you enjoy flavor and aren’t as focused on symptom control or general wellness, CBD isolate is for you.
Ironically, isolate’s biggest strength is also its greatest weakness. While it can contain up to 98% CBD with no THC, it also lacks other cannabinoids and terpenes necessary for the synergistic entourage effect. Without those other compounds, the results are limited. This is why isolate is unsuitable for health-focused individuals.
Health-focused users should consider full-spectrum CBD or broad-spectrum CBD oil products.
Is Full Spectrum Better than Broad Spectrum CBD?
Full-spectrum and broad-spectrum extracts are both excellent choices. The ultimate decision is whether you’re comfortable with trace amounts of THC.
Again, having an extra cannabinoid like THC helps boost the entourage effect and may provide benefits that CBD alone won’t offer (such as appetite stimulation). But if you’re worried about THC, it’s best to choose broad-spectrum CBD.
Is Broad Spectrum Better than CBD Isolate?
Yes, broad-spectrum is better than CBD isolate – at least from a health perspective. The therapeutic benefits of broad-spectrum CBD outweigh isolate’s by leaps and bounds.
But if you don’t like the cannabis flavor of broad-spectrum CBD oil, isolate is your best option.
Do Colorado Botanicals Products Contain THC?
Yes, some Colorado Botanicals products contain THC. Colorado Botanicals offers full-spectrum CBD, which doesn’t exceed 0.3% THC.
However, THC-free broad-spectrum CBD oil is also available.
If you’re concerned about THC content, Colorado Botanicals publishes all its third-party results on their website in an easy-to-read format.
Frequently Asked Questions About CBD Types
What is the Difference Between Full Spectrum, Broad Spectrum, and Isolate CBD?
The difference between full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate CBD products is mainly THC (or lack thereof).
Again, full-spectrum CBD and broad-spectrum CBD products share the same abundance of minor cannabinoids and terpenes. The former, however, contains up to 0.3% THC, while the latter is THC-free.
Isolate is a completely different CBD extract compared to its natural plant counterparts. Stripped of everything but CBD during the extraction process, isolates offer limited therapeutic effects in exchange for increased versatility.
Will Full-Spectrum CBD Make Me High?
No, full-spectrum CBD won’t make you high. In rare circumstances, people who are genetically predisposed to THC sensitivity may notice some slight grogginess or sedation. But a 0.3% THC concentration isn’t enough to trigger intoxicating effects.
Human error and negligence (as we covered earlier) are the only ways full-spectrum CBD could cause intoxication. If a vendor doesn’t properly test or label its products, the CBD extract may contain well over 0.3% THC.
Can CBD Show Up On A Drug Test?
No, CBD won’t show up on a drug test. Since CBD is widely accepted as a non-intoxicating health supplement, law enforcement and employers don’t need to screen for it.
However, keep in mind that, while the 2018 Farm Bill made hemp and hemp-derived CBD legal at the federal level, some states have banned hemp and its derivatives.
Which Type of CBD Is Best?
Full-spectrum is best for a full complement of therapeutic effects, while broad-spectrum is a close second. Isolate isn’t suitable in this context, but it has some unique advantages – as we covered earlier.
Should You Buy Full Spectrum or Broad Spectrum CBD Oil?
If you want the full benefits of whole-plant extract, full-spectrum CBD is the best choice. But for some, the 0.3% THC content might be a dealbreaker.
Fortunately, broad-spectrum CBD offers nearly identical benefits with little to no THC.
Choosing full-spectrum vs. broad-spectrum CBD is a matter of personal preference and therapeutic goals. Although low in THC, full-spectrum products could affect sensitive individuals and potentially – albeit highly unlikely – trigger a THC drug test.
Broad-spectrum solves the THC issue while still retaining all the other cannabinoids and plant terpenes.
Both are excellent choices – assuming you buy from a reputable vendor. But regardless of which one appeals to you, don’t add CBD to your daily routine without speaking to a doctor or other health professional.