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Differences between Full Spectrum CBD, Broad Spectrum CBD, and CBD Isolate

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In recent years, as medical cannabis has been legalized in several states, the use of cannabidiol (CBD) has skyrocketed. Although one may think that the medicinal use of CBD is a fairly recent phenomenon, there are historical texts which show these palliative have been used as far back as 2,600 BC in ancient China (Maroon and Boost 2018). Modern academic studies have revealed that CBD are useful in treating a number of different medical ailments, including epilepsy, ulcers and other stomach ailments, anxiety, sleeping problems, cancer and, a host of other diseases and afflictions (Maroon and Boost 2018). The prescription drug Epidolex, which is used to treat symptoms associated with epilepsy such as seizures, is currently the only CBD drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA); however, a variety of CBD medicinal are available in states that allow medical cannabis.

If you are considering using CBD to treatment a physical ailment, you should first consult your physician, as well as your state laws. If your physician and state laws allow you to use CBD, then you need to consider the differences between the various CBD in order to determine which one is a right fit. The three major categories of CBD are “full spectrum CBD,” broad spectrum CBD,” and “CBD isolate.” Despite the similarities of the names, there are some notable differences you need to know before you begin a CBD regimen.

General CBD Information

CBD are derived from the cannabis  and hemp plants and although the cannabis is more popularly known for its intoxicating effects as marijuana, CBD are non-intoxicating. Most CBD contain very little to none of the constituent Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannibinaol - more commonly known as THC, which is the chemical extract that produces the “high” commonly associated with marijuana. The reason CBD do not produce an intoxicating effect when consumed is because the only bind with CB1 and CB2 receptors, which does not does not produce a high (Gallily et. el. 2015, 76). Furthermore, evidence suggests that high doses of CBD may actually counter some of the effects of THC (Maroon and Boost 2018). So, clearly CBD use is vastly different than recreational marijuana use. Essentially, CBD interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the human body to produce many positive health outcomes including the reduction of inflammation and the mitigation of pain caused by a variety of diseases, injuries, and ailments.

Now that you know some of what using CBD does and does not do, it is important to examine the medium or mode by which you can take CBD. The burgeoning medical cannabis industry and established hemp industry has led many enterprising entrepreneurs to develop unique ways to ingest both THC and CBD. As with THC, CBD can be taken in the form of food, often gummies, taken directly or with food, and as topicals (Cheng 2017). A full array are available in states with legal medical cannabis, giving the user plenty of choices.

Full Spectrum CBD

Now that CBD has been defined and some of its basics have been examined, an overview of the three types of CBD is warranted. The first type of CBD in this discussion – full spectrum CBD – refers to CBD products which contain a wide range of cannabinoids, in addition to CBD. Some of the other cannabinoids found in these products may include the following: cannabinol (CBN), cannabicyclol (CBL), cannabigoral (CBG), tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), cannabichromevarinic acid (CBCVA), and sometimes small amounts of THC (Jorczyk 2018) (Cheng 2017) depending on how it is processed. The non CBD cannabinoids are usually added in order to raise the potency of the product.

One criticism of most full spectrum CBD products is the inclusion of THC, which can result in a positive drug/toxicology screening. The reality is, though, that the full spectrum CBD usually do not contain enough THC to trigger a positive in a drug screen and, at least one academic study has shown that the mixture of is more conducive in reducing inflammation caused by a number of different diseases and ailments.

In a 2015 study, Israeli scholars used full spectrum CBD with very low levels of THC they termed “Cannabis clone 202” on mice with various levels of inflammation. The results of their study showed that Cannabis clone 202 was useful in reducing inflammation through progressively increased dosage, as opposed to pure CBD, which lost effectiveness with increased dosage (Gallily et. el. 2015, 79). Although the study demonstrates the full spectrum CBD Cannabis clone 202 was more effective than other CBD types in the long-term, all CBD were more effective than aspirin, which had little effect, and the opioid tramadol, which had no impact on inflammation (Gallily et. el. 2015, 82).

Broad Spectrum CBD

As the name implies, broad spectrum CBD - like full spectrum CBD, utilize a variety of different cannabinoids; but, unlike full spectrum CBD they never contain THC (Jorczyk 2018). The result is achieved through processing that removes the THC, or  more often, they are an isolate base with additional cannabinoids and terpenes added (Jorczyk 2018). For most people, the effects are similar to full spectrum CBD, but without the potential of having THC in the bloodstream.

CBD Isolate

The final CBD type to consider is known as CBD isolate. CBD isolate is the most “pure” CBD by definition, being comprised of at least 99% CBD . The term CBD isolate is derived from the fact that during the production process the CBD is isolated from all other cannabinoids, terpenes, and THC, which gives it its purity. Because CBD isolate is pure and contains no THC, they are the CBD of choice for people subject to drug and toxicology screens.


Full spectrum CBD, broad spectrum CBD, and CBD isolate have many similarities and a few important differences that you, as a potential consumer, need to understand. All three types of CBD produce health benefits that relieve inflammation and pain but, they also have some side effects. All three types are known to produce lethargy, diarrhea, and changes in appetite and weight but, those are minor and, no fatalities have been linked to CBD use (Maroon and Boost 2018). The major difference between the three CBD variations is that full spectrum CBD often contains small amounts of THC. The amount of THC is always minuscule but, may be enough to show up in a toxicology screen so users need to be aware. Also, one recent study has shown that full spectrum CBD is more enduring in its effect compared to the other types of CBDs. As the production and use of medical cannabis and hemp continues to grow throughout the United States and around the world, future studies will, no doubt, further help to illuminate even more positive aspects, and differences, of the three types of CBDs.


Cheng, Michael. 2017. “Full Spectrum CBD vs. Isolate – Which One is More Effective for Treatment?”, April 28. Accessed October 17, 2018.

Gallily, Ruth, Zhannah Yektin, and Lumír Ondřej Hanuš. 2015. “Overcoming the Bell-shaped Dose-response of Cannabidiol by Using Cannabis Extract Enriched in Cannabidiol.” Pharmacology and Pharmacy 6 (February): 75-85.  

Jorczyk, Sarah. 2018. “Full Spectrum CBD Oil Versus Isolate.” Accessed October 14, 2018.

Maroon, Joseph and Jeff Boost. 2018. “Review of the Neurological Benefits of Phytocannabinoids.” Surgical Neurology International 9 (April). Accessed October 16, 2018.


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