The 3 CBD Types: Isolate vs. Full Spectrum vs. Broad Spectrum

The 3 CBD Types: Isolate vs. Full Spectrum vs. Broad Spectrum

Isolate, full spectrum, broad spectrum… Chances are you’ve come across these terms while searching for CBD. With the variety of forms and types of CBD available, it can be difficult to know which one works best for you. Do you want the purity of CBD isolate or the variety of full spectrum CBD? What about the relative newcomer, broad spectrum CBD?

It used to be simple. There was marijuana, and it was an illegal Schedule 1 drug. Enlightened? No. But simple. Easy.

These days, it’s hard to keep up with both the medicine and the law surrounding cannabis use and production. We’ll clarify a few central terms as we go through the process of how CBD oils are made and what can be included in them. Then we’ll demystify the differences between the various types of CBD and talk about things you should consider when choosing between them.

CBD: From Plant to Final Product

How is CBD processed? Let’s start at the beginning, with the plants.

Hemp vs Marijuana

We all know that CBD products come from hemp plants, but what are hemp plants? And how are they different from marijuana? 

All cannabis products come from cannabis sativa L plant. “Hemp” is a term used to distinguish plants with less than 0.3% THC, while Marijuana plants have more. Neither refers to a specific species or strain. They only serve as broad classifications.

Crude Oil

First, the oil is extracted from the flowering part of the plant. Types of CBD extraction include solvent extraction, olive oil extraction, and CO2 extraction. 

In its crude form, the oil contains cannabinoids, vitamins, and aromatics known as terpenes. Depending on their method, producers then can further tailor their product.

Refinement: What’s Included?

The focus of this post is on what parts of the crude oil producers can include in their final product. The different possibilities determine whether an oil is isolate, full spectrum, or broad spectrum. So what can go in?

cbd oil lab


All CBD products contain—you guessed it—CBD. This compound is the MVP of all the teams for which it plays. Short for cannabidiol, CBD accounts for a little under half of the plant’s extracts and can be isolated from THC, the compound that generates cannabis’s psychoactive effect.

Why do we love it? While further research is necessary, CBD may help alleviate symptoms in individuals suffering from any of these conditions*:

  • Anxiety
  • Pain and inflammation
  • Epilepsy
  • Cancer/the side effects of cancer treatment

As of July 2020, CBD is legal at the federal level and in 49 of 50 states. Idaho remains the final holdout now that South Dakota and Iowa have joined the rest of the country. Some restrictions apply in different states, and it’s a good idea to check on your local laws regarding CBD sale and use.

Other Cannabinoids 

The crude oil also includes other cannabinoids that can be included in the final product.

  • CBG (Cannabigerol) 
    One of the most expensive cannabinoids to produce in isolate form, CBG has the potential to offer benefits that rival those of CBD. Present in trace amounts in full and broad spectrum CBD, it can contribute to the entourage effect.
  • CBN (Cannabinol) and CBC (Cannabichromene)  
    These are two of the (more than 100!) other compounds present that are also thought to offer individual gains. CBN, in particular, has been associated with pain relief and relaxation. 
  • THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol)
    THC is the compound responsible for cannabis’s psychoactive effect or “high.” While there are possible health benefits to be found in THC, its testing and research has lagged behind that for its more family-friendly associate, CBD.

Terpenes and Vitamins

Terpenes are aromatic compounds that can be found in fruits, flowers, and all herbs. The crude oil also includes a good amount of B-complex vitamins.


Final Product: Classification

There are three main types of CBD oil, defined by what’s included. CBD isolate is precisely what it sounds like: the CBD compound without any of its possible teammates. Broad spectrum CBD also contains the other compounds found in the plant, many of which have potential benefits, except for THC. Finally, full spectrum contains the full array, including THC. 

The Three Main Types of CBD

Before going into more detail for each of these types, we should take a moment to define a term often thrown around when talking about CBD types. The entourage effect is the theory that all of these compounds work better together, that a full spectrum blend is more effective than the mere sum of its parts.

More isn’t always better–though sometimes it is. With no further ado, the three types:

CBD Isolate

As mentioned above, CBD isolate is the pure extraction of CBD, unadulterated by any of the other compounds. 

People who wish to avoid any hint of THC—as well as anything else that might bring its own effects or complications—tend to prefer it. In addition, CBD isolate has no discernible taste or smell and is easy to dose, qualities that make it attractive to those looking to cook with the product.

The downside comes from the fact that this MVP is playing solo, denying the user any advantage gained from other compounds or the entourage effect. 

Full Spectrum CBD

Full spectrum CBD contains the full profile of the material found in the native plant. This includes a trace amount of THC. 

There are whole-plant benefits to full spectrum CBD. It offers all the possible perks of its constituent parts. Furthermore, if the entourage effect holds true, then full spectrum allows the user to profit thereby, increasing the efficacy of each of its components by combining them.

An important caution–the tiny bit of THC can appear on drug tests. In addition, each element brings its own potential for adverse reaction in individuals sensitive to it. 

Broad Spectrum CBD

Broad Spectrum CBD contains everything but the kitchen sink—if the kitchen sink is THC. In the manufacture of broad spectrum CBD, the THC is isolated and removed, but the other components are left intact and together.

Because of this, the user can realize most of the gains they would from full spectrum while avoiding the risks—and the rewards—of THC. 


What CBD Is Right for Me?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer. You should evaluate your personal needs and priorities when making your selection between the various forms of CBD. A couple points to consider:

Passing a drug test

If you are (or could be) subject to testing, then you’ll probably want to steer clear of products containing THC, which means you should choose CBD isolate or broad spectrum rather than full spectrum CBD. To be clear, in most states, the trace amount in full spectrum products is legal. However, individual corporations may have individual policies when it comes to CBD and drug testing. Besides, why risk the headache a positive test result would bring?

Are you excited about the entourage or worried about accomplices?

If you’re sensitive to or concerned about the other compounds in full or broad spectrum CBD, then CBD isolate may be for you. Alternately, if you’re looking to experience the fullest range of potential benefits, you’ll want one of the other two.

Remember that CBD extracts vary between brands as well as between these three major types. You may have to experiment to find the perfect product for you.

*Individuals should consult with their doctors before engaging in a course of treatment, and the FDA thus far has only approved the medical use of CBD in a couple of prescription drugs used to treat epilepsy.