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What Is the Difference between Full-Spectrum, Broad-Spectrum, & Isolate CBD?

There is confusion, and rightfully so, about what exactly full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate CBD mean. When I first started my education, this confused me because the terms are not used correctly in the marketplace in some instances. 

Some retailers are calling broad-spectrum, full-spectrum but then say it is THC free and others list isolate as CBD but don’t specify that it is isolate. The confusion arises out of the idea that the complimenting cannabinoids such as CBC or CBG and terpenes are present in the tinctures and oils. See? Confusing right? You can watch my video to better understand the difference between full-spectrum, broad-spectrum and isolate CBD or continue reading!

Let me break it down in simple terms for you because when you understand the differences, it becomes very clear:


  • Full-spectrum is the CBD (cannabidiol), THC,  plus all of the complimenting cannabinoids and terpenes available. Which cannabinoids and terpenes are in a full-spectrum product varies depending on the strain of cannabis used and the extraction process (different extraction processes can filter out some cannabinoids and terpenes). So, full-spectrum is any product that has CBD, THC, and any minor cannabinoids and terpenes that are in the strain that was used.  
  • Broad-spectrum is the CBD, plus all of the complimenting cannabinoids and terpenes available without the THC
  • Isolate is the CBD molecule only. It has been isolated out of the other cannabinoids and terpenes through the extraction process. Isolate is much cheaper than full-spectrum or broad-spectrum, has little to no taste so it is used in edible products quite a bit.

For the visual learners, you can refer to the chart below:

About CBD Research

Research done on CBD has primarily utilized CBD isolate because it is easier to control during research but has also been shown to require much higher doses to achieve the same benefits as full-spectrum or broad-spectrum. This benefit from full-spectrum or broad-spectrum CBD has been termed the entourage effect. The entourage effect is the benefit of all of the minor cannabinoids and terpenes that enhance the CBD for the greatest benefits at lower doses. This is why you can take 10 or 20 mg of full or broad spectrum CBD and get the same or better benefits than 10x the dose of isolate. Those complimenting cannabinoids and terpenes while found in micro doses enhances CBD attributes. 

If you follow this train of reasoning you will ask yourself, is CBD soda, gummies, or any other ingestible with only 20 mg of CBD isolate doing anything for your health? Probably not since you don’t get the entourage effect of all of the complimenting cannabinoids. Whole plant medicine is so much more beneficial than over processed isolated molecules of CBD. So, when you are looking at products, look at the labels that specify full-spectrum or broad-spectrum if you don’t want the THC. If it doesn’t indicate either of those there is an excellent chance it’s CBD isolate in the product and you are not going to get the health benefits you are hoping for. For instance, many gummies use CBD isolate because it is tasteless and cheap. Many also have a sugar coating and use artificial dye to make them more attractive. You are spending a lot for glorified candy and would be better off just buying candy and saving the money. So, in summary, read your labels and be mindful of the plant medicine you are buying for your health.