Full Spectrum vs. CBD Isolate – What’s the Difference?

By now, most people have heard about using CBD (cannabidiol) to treat a wide range of ailments and conditions. However, most people may not be aware that there are actually three major types of CBD products. There are important differences between these three types of products and it’s essential that any consumer be aware of what they are when deciding which one to purchase and use.

In understanding the differences between the three types of CBD, it’s crucial to know a little more about hemp and cannabis products generally. Inside these plants can be several different and related compounds that contribute to their usefulness.

Compounds in CBD Products

  • CBD: cannabidiol
  • THC: delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol
  • CBG/N: other types of cannabidiol compounds
  • Terpenes: oils within the plant leaf which general contribute to taste
  • New and emerging compounds: as scientific research into the exact composition and benefits of CBD products, new compounds are being added to this list as they are discovered.

It’s now well-known that these different chemical compounds interact with each other when a CBD product is used and can actually boost its effectiveness. This is called the “Entourage Effect.”

However, there are certainly reasons why consumers might choose a product that does not have any of these other compounds besides CBD.

Why use a CBD Product?

A wide range of conditions can benefit from all three types of CBD treatments:

  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Arthritis pain
  • Inflammation
  • Anxiety
  • Symptoms associated with MS
  • Symptoms associated with cancer treatment

Three major types of CBD treatments:

  • Full Spectrum CBD
  • CBD Isolate
  • Broad Spectrum CBD

In this article, we will explore two of these types. In many ways they are at different ends of the CBD Spectrum. Here, we’ll be discussing full spectrum CBD vs. CBD isolate. As a side note, the third category of CBD products is called Broad spectrum CBD.  These products have either no TCH, or just a trace amount. What they do have, however, are the other cannabidiol compounds and the terpenes, so they should encourage the “Entourage effect.”

Full Spectrum CBD

When Full Spectrum CBD is produced, the manufacturing process is tailored so that the other compounds mentioned above, and perhaps hundreds of others, are not filtered out. This increases the likelihood of the “Entourage Effect” taking place. So, you’ll be getting some CBD, some terpenes, some other cannabidiol compounds, and most importantly, a very small percentage of THC. US federal law has mandated that the percentage of THC cannot exceed .3%.

THC in Full Spectrum CBD

Though .3% is a very small percentage, there are both advantages and disadvantages to its presence.


  • The THC Full Spectrum in Full Spectrum CBD may enhance its effectiveness. This is especially important if someone is seeking relief from a more acute level of pain or discomfort.
  • The level of THC in Full Spectrum CBD products is nowhere near enough to cause a person to get high or “stoned.” This is important to many people who for moral, personal and/or cultural reasons do not want to feel like they are doing something illegal, or that they consider improper, like “taking drugs.”


  • Drug testing. While the level of THC in Full Spectrum CBD products isn’t high enough to actually cause an intoxicated or “stoned” feeling, modern drug tests are extremely sensitive and can detect even miniscule amounts of THC.
  • There are jurisdictions in the United States that restrict even the small amounts of THC in Full Spectrum CBD. In those jurisdictions, you would have to choose a different type of CBD product.

CBD Isolate

When CBD Isolate is manufactured, the process produces an extremely high level of purity.  The CBD is extracted from the plant, but all other compounds are left behind.  Of course, manufacturing quality does vary, so the exact level of purity could vary between companies.


  • No THC. As discussed above there are certainly reasons why a person may, despite its effectiveness, want to avoid consuming even the tiniest percentage of THC.
  • No other compounds. Everyone’s body is truly unique in the way that we process and metabolize various foods, drinks, medications, etc. Some people have found that they have a negative reaction to some of the other cannabinol compounds like THC, CBG, CBN or even the terpenes. If you are sensitive to these other elements, using CBD Isolate may allow you to get at least some of the benefit without the adverse reaction.
  • Legality/availability. As a product with zero percent THC, this product is much more widely available.


  • Due to the lack of interaction between all the other typical compounds (CBG/N, THC, Terpenes), the “Entourage Effect” is no longer possible, and effectiveness may be diminished.
  • Quality Control. Certainly, there are an abundant number of great and reliable CBD Isolate products out there. However, because this consumer market is rapidly emerging, it’s important to carefully select products from reliable manufacturers. Choose ones that provide independent third-party lab testing to verify the exact purity level.

Which should you choose?

If you live in an area where Full Spectrum CBD is illegal, then you have a pretty easy choice to make. Others may choose to start with the CBD isolate, and if that works, stick with that. Still others may choose to start the other way, beginning with the Full Spectrum CBD and if it appears one of the ingredients bothers them, then switch to the Isolate. Because everyone is unique, you’ll have to see which one works best for you.


Because manufacturing methods vary, it is extremely important that you check the independent lab reports to make sure the product meets your needs. With regards to drug testing, it’s important to remember that even using CBD Isolate products could theoretically show up on a drug test, though it is less likely. Be sure to clarify with the entity giving the test what is and isn’t allowable.

Top Choices for Full Spectrum or CBD Isolate

  1. Joy Organics Fresh Lime Organic Full Spectrum CBD Tincture with THC
  2. Royal Full Spectrum CBD Oil, 100mg
  3. Gold Bee Full-Spectrum CBD Oil
  4. Medterra Isolate CBD Tincture
  5. Fab CBD Isolate Chews

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