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Industry Terms Explained: CBD Isolate vs Full-Spectrum vs Broad-Spectrum

Written by Alexandra Hicks
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With the CBD industry experiencing a recent surge in demand, a plethora of information has come to light regarding the different types of products available.

A few terms you may frequently notice when shopping for CBD products are isolate, full spectrum, and broad spectrum. But what exactly is the difference between these terms? And is one type of product better than the others?

In short, they’re each very different from one another but they all have their own unique benefits to offer. Let’s take a few minutes to go over each – isolate, full spectrum and broad spectrum – and what they can do for you.

CBD Isolate

Let’s start with CBD isolate, which by definition, is CBD just on its own – separated from any other type of cannabinoids and terpenes. In its final form, it’s a white power that is pure cannabidiol extract.

The are multiple different methods used to make CBD isolate including supercritical carbon dioxide (CO2) and ethanol-based extractions. Regardless of the method chosen, the plant will be completely stripped of all its components such as cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, lipids, and other compounds. Then, the CBD is separated from the resulting extraction through a series of chemical washes.

Although many people prefer the entourage effect (which we’ll touch on a bit more later) that comes along with full and broad spectrum products, there are quite a few specific benefits to using isolates – starting with their versatility.

Because the CBD extract is in its purest form, it can be mixed into a variety of products, from edibles to topicals and more. It can also be used sublingually. Another convenience to using CBD isolate is that it’s easy to measure and dose. Because there are not other ingredients to consider, it’s easy to quantify the exact amount of CBD you want to utilize.


Broad Spectrum

Broad Spectrum CBD is basically the happy medium between the two. It’s ‘almost’ full spectrum, just minus the THC. So, broad spectrum offers all the entourage effect benefits because it has numerous cannabinoids and terpenes, but there is no risk of ingesting THC is that’s something you’re trying to avoid.

There are two different ways to make broad spectrum CBD. Some people start with a CBD isolate and add back all the compounds that were stripped out – sans THC of course. Others choose to remove only the THC from the original product – which leaves for a more natural product. 

A broad spectrum product ideally has absolutely no THC, but some may have up to 0.3%, the legally permissible amount. 

Full Spectrum

Full spectrum CBD products are by far the most popular and the most commonly used (for now). As the name indicates, this type of CBD also contains a ‘full spectrum’ of other plant compounds, including THC, so you get to experience the complete effect of all the components working in tandem. This is referred to as the entourage effect.

The combination of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids is believed to help treat various medical conditions such as anxiety, pain, and nausea – and there are multiple reasons for this. The main one being that these compounds in their natural form and ratios, compliment each other in way that a man-made product never could.

It’s also recently been discovered that certain compounds in the cannabis plant help CBD move through the body with more ease. For example, certain terpenoids are ideal to add to transdermal delivery options as they help move the CBD across skin barriers.

Which is best?

Although many people are of the opinion that full or broad spectrum are superior, it actually comes down to a number of unique factors. As you know, everyone has individual needs which determines what CBD product you should choose. 

For starters, you’re planned delivery method can have a big impact on which spectrum is best for you. Isolate is great if you plan on mixing it into food or topicals, whereas full or broad spectrum are best for treating pain-related conditions. 

Research on the specifics of each spectrum is still in its infancy, but in the future you can expect to find more information on which one is best suited for your needs. 

Do you have a preference when it comes to CBD Isolate vs Full Spectrum vs Broad Spectrum? If so, why do you use those specific products. We’d love to hear from you! Just drop us a comment in the section below. 

About the author

Alexandra Hicks

Alexandra is the managing editor at CBD Testers. She has always been interested in alternative and natural remedies, and the versatility of cannabis as a healing plant is something that greatly appeals to her. It's for this reason that she decided to work as a cannabis industry journalist and editor, to help spread accurate information about the benefits of this plant.

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