What is the difference between full spectrum, isolate, and broad spectrum CBD oil and why does it matter?

What is the difference between full spectrum, isolate, and broad spectrum CBD oil and why does it matter?

There are so many options when purchasing CBD oil and many people are confused about which oil is best for them. Before using CBD oil, it is important to check with your doctor and educate yourself about the different types. Additionally, you should purchase from a company which provides lab test results to ensure you are getting quality products.

There are three categories of CBD oil on the market: full spectrum, isolate, and broad spectrum. It is important to understand the differences when considering which is best for your situation.

Full Spectrum CBD Oil

Cannabis has 80+ cannabinoids with the most common being THC and CBD. In addition to cannabinoids, the plant also contains terpenes, flavonoids, waxes and other plant matter. Terpenes and flavonoids can be found in other plants and even some animals. They are responsible for the smell, taste, and color of the plant.

Full spectrum CBD oil contains multiple cannabinoids as well as terpenes and flavonoids. When all of these components are present, they work together in what is known as the entourage effect. They work better together than any one does alone. Terpenes and flavonoids have been shown to increase CBD’s antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties. Industry experts agree a full spectrum CBD oil is typically more effective than isolate or broad spectrum options.

Per the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp derived CBD oil must contain less than 0.3% THC to be legal. Although most full spectrum oils have trace amounts of THC, it is not enough to be psychoactive, however, over time, the THC could build up in your system and appear on a drug test.  THC is a federally controlled substance and some employers still test for it. Therefore, if your job depends on passing a drug test, you might not want to take a full spectrum CBD oil.

Different brands of full spectrum oil may vary in color based upon the type of extraction process used and how much plant material has been removed. CBD extract mixed with a quality carrier oil such as MCT coconut oil will result in an oil that has a smooth, earthy cannabis taste. Pricing of full spectrum oil varies but most quality brands sell for between $0.10 and $0.20 per milligram, making it the most expensive option. A full spectrum oil should be your first choice if you are not concerned with trace amounts of THC and the higher price.

Sample of full spectrum CBD oil certificate of analysis (COA) showing 0.1% D9-THC which is below the 0.3% legal limit. Multiple cannabinoids are present.

CBD Isolate Oil

Many people are eager to try CBD oil but do not because their employer requires them to take a drug test that screens for THC. If this is your situation, a CBD isolate oil might be a good choice for you.

CBD isolate is nearly pure cannabidiol powder that has had all other cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids and other plant material removed. Quality CBD isolate should test at least 99% pure. CBD isolate oil is typically made by combining the isolate powder with a carrier oil.

Unlike full or broad spectrum oils, which contain more beneficial plant compounds, CBD isolate oil contains only cannabidiol. Since there are no other cannabinoids, terpenes, or flavonoids present, the entourage effect does not take place, therefore, it may be less effective.

Unlike full and some broad spectrum oils, most CBD isolate oils are very clear as they are made with only the isolate powder dissolved in MCT coconut oil. Some manufacturers add flavoring or other essential oils, often to mask a slight metallic aftertaste. Isolate oil is much less expensive than either a full or broad spectrum oil. You might choose an isolate oil if you need to pass a drug test, are sensitive to THC, or are looking for a low cost option.

Sample of CBD isolate certificate of analysis (COA) showing 99.40% CBD. No detectable THC is present.

Broad Spectrum CBD Oil

Broad spectrum CBD oil is the industry’s answer to delivering an oil that contains no THC but has more beneficial cannabinoids than a CBD isolate oil.

A common way of making broad spectrum oil is to start with a full spectrum extract and remove the THC from it. This is done using chromatography, which is a process of separating components of a mixture. Another method is to start with a CBD isolate and combine other cannabinoid isolates and terpenes. Some companies add the minimum of these components to their oil and claim to be broad spectrum. Since broad spectrum CBD is priced similar to a full spectrum oil, the consumer may be paying too much for an oil that may not provide the full entourage effect due to limited amounts of cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids. Lab test results will show which cannabinoids are present in the broad spectrum oil and should show THC as non detectable.

A quality broad spectrum oil is a good solution for someone needing to pass a drug test or for anyone sensitive to THC.  Broad spectrum oil may vary in color and taste depending on the manufacturing process. An oil made from mixed isolate components is often clear than one where just the THC was extracted. Most broad spectrum oil is priced similarly to full spectrum CBD oil.

Sample of broad spectrum CBD oil certificate of analysis (COA) showing non detectable amounts of D9-THC or THC-A. Multiple cannabinoids are present.


Regardless of the kind of CBD oil you take, it will not cure anything. CBD may help your endocannabinoid system work better and you might start to feel better. Consider which type of CBD oil is best for your situation. Purchase a quality brand of oil and take as directed for the entire bottle. Notice how you feel during this time. People report a spectrum of results and each person is different. As always, check with your doctor before making any changes to your diet, exercise or other health routines.


https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4740396/Cannabis sativa: The Plant of the Thousand and One Molecules

https://cannabisresearch.mcmaster.ca/news/2017/11/01/a-new-trove-of-pharmaceuticals-the-vast-repertoire-of-phytochemicals-in-cannabis-sativaWhat are some of the chemicals in cannabis sativa?


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