Understanding CBD Full-Spectrum vs Broad-Spectrum vs Isolate

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In the past year, we’ve seen a boom in the popularity of cannabis products and peripherals, such as our line of CBD vape. No longer are all cannabis products maligned as unsafe or dangerous. And nowhere is this more evident than with the flourishing of cannabidiol (CBD). 

CBD is one of over 100 cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is another cannabinoid, but there are others. We know very little about them, but research is underway across the country to discover the potential of CBC and CBG. 

Today, science is awakening to the possibilities of CBD. But with this new awareness brings the realization that the CBD you find in oils, edibles, drinks, and vapes aren’t all the same. 

That’s right, companies do not manufacture all CBD oils the same way, and the resulting compounds differ greatly. There are actually three types of CBD extracts that you can buy. We know them as full-spectrum, broad-spectrum and isolate. 

It turns out some of them may be better for you than others. But what are the differences between CBD oils and which one should you buy? Let’s find out. 

Introducing the Phytocannabinoids


In the US, all CBD extracts must derive from a specific group of cannabis plants. That’s because the federal government’s Farm Bill only legalized hemp plants. 

The US government distinguishes hemp plants from other cannabis plants by how much THC they contain. If the plant has 0.3% THC or less, then it’s hemp. Any more THC and they deem it illegal cannabis. Other countries have similar designations. In Europe, for example, the cutoff is 0.2% THC.

Governments have learned to distinguish the many varieties of cannabis plants by the amount of THC they contain because THC is illegal and, perhaps more interestingly, hemp plants and cannabis plants are identical to the naked eye.

THC and CBD are just two phytocannabinoids in the cannabis plant. The prefix phyto, from the Greek word phyton, means “of the plant.” So phytocannabinoid literally translates to cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. 

Cannabis contains over 100 phytocannabinoids, including CBC, CBN, and CBG. Cannabis is also rich in other notable compounds, like terpenes, which are responsible for the taste and smell of cannabis. 

What’s interesting about phytocannabinoids is that scientists don’t know what all of them do exactly, but they think they have potential. Early research suggests that the terpene linalool, for example, promotes relaxation, and limonene elevates your mood. 

The salient idea to take away here is that hemp plants are more than just CBD. Some extracts on the market take advantage of this fact, some do not. 

All CBD extracts you’ll find in oils, edibles, and topicals fall into three categories. When you read the ingredient list, their CBD will be one of these three, even if they don’t mention it by name. We recommend that you know what type of extract you’re buying. 

The Whole Plant: Full-Spectrum CBD


Our first extract, full-spectrum CBD, is easily the most interesting. The term spectrum is used to denote how much of the plant compounds are present. It’s “full” because it boasts the highest amount of phytochemicals and therefore the most potential to benefit your body. 

A dark liquid, full-spectrum extracts are processed just enough to sift out water and plant matter. They include the entire spectrum—cannabinoids and terpenes, but also lignins and flavonoids, to name just a few. That means they’ll have CBD and varying amounts of other cannabinoids, including THC. 

Remember that every batch of hemp will have a unique profile because every plant is unique. Companies that don’t test each batch could have varying degrees of THC. This has become a problem in recent months, where users of full-spectrum extracts have failed drug tests. 

And while companies have denied that their products can cause a drug test fail, it’s not impossible. THC is fat soluble, so even small doses, if taken frequently, can store up in your body and excrete in your urine, blood, and hair. 

Full-Spectrum CBD is ideal for:

  • Sustained Pain Relief

  • Acute Inflammation 

  • Auto-Immune Disorders

  • Acute Anxiety and Stress

  • Insomnia and Sleep Apnea

  • Epilepsy 

The Isolate Cocktail: Broad-Spectrum CBD

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Companies itching to capture the extensive profile of phytocannabinoids and other chemicals but eschew THC have resorted to broad-spectrum CBD. 

To isolate and remove THC from the extract they must separate the entire profile of cannabis, portioning out the cannabinoids and terpenes. Once they remove the THC, they combine the other compounds back together. 

This process simulates a full-spectrum extract, but it loses some diversity and potential gains of full-spectrum. It’s essentially a concoction of cannabinoid isolates and, sometimes, terpenes. So far, this is the only way to safely remove the THC. 

Many companies will advertise their broad-spectrum as a natural compound, but in fact, it’s the most synthetic of the three options.

Broad-Spectrum CBD is ideal for:

  • General Pain Relief

  • Arthritis and General Inflammation

  • Social Anxiety

  • Daily Preventative Medication

  • Smoking Cessation

Just the One: CBD Isolate

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CBD isolates are the most common extract on the market for a reason: they're cheap. Because they remove everything but the CBD from the hemp, manufacturers can make them with cast-off crops and winnowed material. Plus, they don’t have to worry about potential contaminants since they plan to strip everything but the CBD.

A crystalline powder, CBD isolates are easy to store. Customers often report needing much more of an isolate than a full- or broad-spectrum compound. Which makes sense, because they do not contain any other cannabinoids or terpenes, the effects are less potent. 

That’s not saying they have no potential benefits. You just aren’t getting as much of a benefit as full-spectrum and broad-spectrum. And some companies sell their isolates for as much or more than the other options, which is unfair considering they cost a lot less money to produce. 

CBD Isolate is ideal for:

  • Mild Pain Relief

  • Mild Inflammation

  • General Sleeplessness

  • Digestive Aid

  • Recreation

Full, Broad, Isolate: How Do You Choose?

Your choice between the three common options on the market comes down to preference and budget. But there's one last riddle to mention before we compile our assessments: the entourage effect. 

Myth, miracle, somewhere in between—honestly, we don’t know. The idea behind this mysterious effect is that the natural combination of phytocannabinoids in cannabis plants imbues its restorative powers. 

Proponents of the entourage effect argue that CBD isolates are only a fraction as beneficial as full- and broad-spectrum CBD.

But plenty of people love CBD products that contain isolates, and they champion its many benefits. The science isn’t yet robust enough yet to evince any real conclusion. So based on what we know, here’s our summary. 

Full-Spectrum: Most beneficial for mind and body, but contains trace amounts of THC. While unlikely, enough exposure to full-spectrum CBD can cause you to fail a drug test. 

Broad-Spectrum: Contains most of the phytocannabinoids found in its full-spectrum brethren, but minus the THC. Small amounts of THC could be useful to the mind and body. But those who fear drug tests should consider this option. 

Isolate: The most popular extract on the market and the least beneficial. You will get the benefits of CBD, but any entourage effects, if they exist, are lost. The plus side? You cannot fail a drug test on a CBD isolate, and they can be purchased cheap if you know where to look. 

We hope this has been an informative overview of the different CBD extracts on the market. Remember that whatever extract you choose, vaping remains the most effective method of enjoyment. We’re proud to offer an affordable CBD vape option, so check our stock out today. 

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