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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. Full-spectrum CBD contains a wider range of compounds than broad-spectrum CBD, and up to 0.3% THC.

A quick look at CBD products

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process.

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 differenceTrusted Source 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 it 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 common form of CBD. This is the pure form of CBD and contains no other cannabis plant compounds.

Learn more about different CBD types.

However, while these terms do 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 is capable of successfully producing 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 it is not as effective as the CO2 method.
  • Solvent extraction: Although this method is effective, it can leave behind solvent residue, which can 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 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 it into a CBD isolate product. 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.

How we chose

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 following receipt of its third-party lab results.

People who do not wish to use a product containing THC may prefer to use CBD isolate or broad-spectrum CBD. However, while most broad-spectrum CBD products do not have any THC, some may contain trace amounts.

People interested in products with THC may prefer to use full-spectrum CBD.

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%Trusted Source 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 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. Terpenes tend to give plants their scent.

2020 studyTrusted Source describes an “entourage effect” that can be produced by the wide 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 it is used to treat 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 that there is 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, and so, people may take CBD products if they have toothache, gingivitis, or dental caries among others.

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.

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 a test screens for is THC, which certain full-spectrum CBD products can contain.

Full-spectrum CBD products

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

Full-spectrum CBD gummies: Sunday Scaries Unicorn Jerky CBD Candy

Sunday Scaries Unicorn Jerky CBD Candy 100 mg

This full-spectrum CBD product contains 10 servings of candy, with each piece containing 10 mg of CBD.

This product is not suitable for those with wheat or tree nut allergies.

A portion of each purchase of Sunday Scaries Unicorn Jerky CBD Candy goes to The Trevor Project, a charity that provides advocacy and support for LGBTQIA+ youths.

Sunday Scaries provides certificates of analysis (COA) on its website.

At the time of publishing, Sunday Scaries Unicorn Jerky CBD Candy costs $19.

Learn more about the Sunday Scaries brand.


Full-spectrum CBD tincture: Lazarus Naturals High Potency CBD Tincture

Lazarus Naturals High Potency CBD Tincture 50 mg

This organic full-spectrum CBD oil contains 50 mg of CBD per ml.

The company recommends people start with a 50 mg dose and wait 2 hours to feel the full effects. The product is reportedly suitable for serving sizes of 25–200 mg.

However, this product is not suitable for those with a tree nut allergy. The company recommends speaking with a doctor before using the product if a healthcare professional has advised against ingesting grapefruit.

Lazarus Naturals’ COA is available on its website.

At the time of publishing, prices for Lazarus Natural High Potency CBD Tincture start from $24.

Learn more about Lazarus Naturals.


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

CBN may have the following potential health effectsTrusted Source:

  • 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 some 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 drugs test. Broad-spectrum CBD may have trace amounts of THC, which may show up on these screenings.

Broad-spectrum CBD products

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

Broad-spectrum CBD gummies: Joy Organics CBD Gummies

Joy Organics CBD Gummies 300 mg

These cruelty-free, broad-spectrum gummies contain 0.0% THC.

Each serving contains 10 mg of CBD.

Joy Organics recommends a person start with half a gummy and increase the dosage as necessary. The company has COAs available on its website.

At the time of publishing, Joy Organics CBD Gummies cost $39.95.

Learn more about Joy Organics.


Broad-spectrum CBD tincture: Holmes Organic CBD Oil Tincture

Holmes Organic CBD Oil Tincture 450 mg

This organic, broad-spectrum oil tincture does not contain any THC.

Each serving contains 15–30 mg of CBD.

Holmes Organic recommends taking this product by mouth, mixing it with food, or using it in recipes.

The company includes a QR code on the product’s packaging. People can scan this code to check the product’s COA.

At the time of publishing, Holmes Organic CBD Oil Tincture starts from $49.95.


Pros and cons of CBD isolate

CBD isolate only contains CBD and does not have any 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 there are no other active compounds present that may interfere or interact with its effects.

Cons of CBD isolate

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

CBD isolate products

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

High-strength CBD isolate tincture: Extract Labs Daily Support CBD Tincture – CBD Isolate

Extract Labs Daily Support CBD Tincture isolated on a green background.

This CBD isolate tincture from Extract Labs contains organic coconut oil and is free from THC.

The company says that the product has undergone testing from third-party labs and has Good Manufacturing Processes certification, conveying that the manufacturing processes involved meet safety and hygiene standards.

This high-strength tincture contains 2,000 mg of CBD. Extract Labs recommends taking a 0.5-ml half dose or a 1-ml full dose orally.

One 30-ml bottle costs $95.


Low-strength CBD isolate gummies: Green Gorilla Organic CBD Gummies

Green Gorilla Organic CBD Gummies 600 mg

These organic CBD isolate gummies do not contain any THC.

Each gummy contains 10 mg of CBD.

Green Gorilla recommends taking one gummy and waiting to feel the effects. A person can then increase the dosage if necessary.

The company also provides COAs for its products on its website.

At the time of publishing, Green Gorilla Organic CBD Gummies has a list price of $59.99.


How to use CBD products

People should always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when using CBD products.

Some general guidelines include:

  • Edibles: People 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 with a healthcare professional with working expertise in cannabis. They can advise on the safety and dosage of CBD products.

How to read labels and dosages

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

CBD ingredients

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

There are over 100Trusted Source different cannabinoids, including THC and cannabidiol. Cannabinoids may help with certain conditions, such as chronic pain and multiple sclerosis.

Terpenes are aromatic compounds that provide scent and flavor.

CBD strength and dosage

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

They 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 their COAs online. However, if the COA is not available online, a person can email the company to receive a copy.

Safety and side effects of CBD

While CBD is generally safe and people tolerate the substance well, it can causeTrusted Source 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 is used to treat rare seizure disorders. The FDA also noted that CBD can interact with medication.

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

Frequently asked questions

Below are some frequently asked questions about CBD products.

Is CBD legal?

Hemp-derived CBD is legal federally. However, it 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 are residing in, or 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 available to buy, 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.

Can CBD help with symptoms of health conditions?

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

One 2018 studyTrusted Source revealed that 62% of participants who take CBD use it for medical symptoms, including pain, depression, and anxiety.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative HealthTrusted Source states there is some evidence that CBD can help with certain conditions or symptoms, including:

  • Pain: There is some evidence CBD can provide a small benefit to those experiencing pain. However, the quality of this research is low or moderate.
  • Anxiety: CBD products may help reduce anxiety symptoms, including those of social anxiety disorder.
  • Multiple sclerosis: CBD products may help reduce spasticity in individuals with multiple sclerosis. Spasticity causes an increase in muscle tone or muscle stiffness, which can cause discomfort and pain and interfere with movement and speech.

Is full-spectrum or broad-spectrum CBD better for anxiety?

Research from 2019Trusted Source suggests that CBD can help with anxiety, but little research has investigated whether full- or broad-spectrum CBD is more effective for this use.

2021 animal study found that broad-spectrum CBD oil may help reduce anxiety and depression symptoms that develop due to trauma. And the National Institute on Drug AbuseTrusted Source reports that CBD has been effective in reducing anxiety and stress in rats. However, it does not mention the type of CBD that would be suitable for a person to use for this purpose.

It is important to consider the ingredients in any CBD product. Broad-spectrum products can contain trace amounts of THC. Anyone who does not wish to consume any THC might opt for a CBD isolate product, which contains no THC or other cannabinoids.

Is full-spectrum or broad-spectrum CBD better for pain relief?

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 8 weeks.

And 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.

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

Does CBD show up on a drug test?

If a person uses a full-spectrum CBD product, there is a possibility of returning a positive drug test. Full-spectrum CBD products contain THC, which is screened for in a drug test.

Will CBD make me ‘high’?

CBD alone cannot make a person high. THC is the psychoactive compound responsible for the high feeling some people experience when using cannabis. FDA regulations mean that CBD products must contain no more than 0.3%Trusted Source dry weight THC, and this is not enough for a person to feel high.


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

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

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

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