Full Spectrum Vs. Broad Spectrum Vs. CBD Isolate: Which CBD Should I Take?

CBD oil from the cannabis plant

Spend just five minutes shopping for CBD products (be it in-store or online), and you’ll likely find yourself lost in the murky, labyrinthine world of cannabis vocabulary.

You’ll see full spectrum CBD, broad spectrum CBD, and CBD isolate to name a few — and we won’t even touch the cannabis slang that swirls around the edges. It’s enough to leave you scratching your head in confusion and dismay. What is full spectrum CBD? What is broad spectrum? What is CBD isolate?

In this article, the cannabis experts at Honest Marijuana will answer all of your questions about full spectrum vs. broad spectrum vs. isolate and help you decide which CBD you should take.

First, though, let’s talk a bit about cannabis plant biology so you fully understand what’s wrapped up in these three terms.

Cannabis Chemicals

Graph of cannabis chemicals

Source: OpenStrain.com

Everything you’ve ever heard or read or felt first-hand about the marijuana experience — the highs, the lows, the medical benefits — is caused by chemicals unique to the cannabis plant.

It’s the presence or absence of these chemicals that ultimately answers the question, “What is full spectrum CBD?”


Cannabinoids are chemical compounds that act on the cannabinoid receptors in your brain. For the purposes of this article, we’re only going to concern ourselves with one class of these chemicals: the phytocannabinoids (found in plants).

But just so you’re ready for the next trivia throwdown, we’ll mention the other two classes: endocannabinoids (found naturally in your body) and synthetic cannabinoids (manufactured in a lab).

Dig deep into the phytocannabinoid class, and you’ll see some familiar names, such as:

These three-letter words are the wonder stuff that alter your perception (THC), relieve depression (CBD), reduce convulsions (CBN), and much, much more.

Put simply, cannabinoids are the heart and soul of the marijuana experience. Without them, it’s just a pretty plant.


image representing cannabis terpenes

During the flowering stage, the pot plant glands produce another key chemical: terpenes. Terpenes are oils that provide the plant with its own unique flavor, smell, and medicinal properties.

Can’t get enough of the skunky smell of Sour Diesel? That’s the terpenes. Jonesing for the taste of Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies (the strain) in your mouth? Terpenes.

All plants have their own mix of terpenes, but those on the marijuana plant interact with the cannabinoids to produce some truly unique psychedelic and medicinal effects.


Flavonoids are molecules within the plant matter itself (leaves, stems, etc.) that combine with the terpenes to produce even more distinctive tastes and aromas.

Like terpenes, flavonoids interact with the cannabinoids to create an entourage of health benefits and help to fully expose and express the ganja’s unique aromatic and euphoric character.

Quick Review

The cannabis plant contains three distinct chemical classes: cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. Within those broad categories lie even more specific chemicals, such as:

  • THC
  • CBD
  • Limonene
  • Terpinolene
  • And many more

In a raw (or dried and cured) cannabis plant, all of these chemicals cohabitate together like a big pile of multi-colored Lego bricks.

With that information and analogy in mind, let’s move on to the question, “What is full spectrum CBD?”

What Is Full Spectrum CBD?

pile of legos as an example of what is full spectrum CBD

Full spectrum CBD is a concentrate that contains all the chemical compounds — cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, essential oils, and others — that naturally occur in the cannabis plant.

Again, think of all those chemicals like a pile of multi-colored Lego bricks.

Each color represents a specific chemical in the pot plant. Black is THC. Yellow is limonene (a terpene). Green is CBN. Red is humulene (another terpene). Blue is CBD. White is myrcene. And so on.

So, when you purchase a full spectrum CBD product, you get all the other chemicals as well — including, possibly, THC.

Though THC levels in a full spectrum CBD product will probably be low, there might be enough of the psychedelic cannabinoid to make you feel a little strange. Always check the label before taking any full spectrum CBD product.

What Is Broad Spectrum CBD?

pile of legos as en example of broad spectrum CBD

Broad spectrum CBD is similar to full spectrum CBD — it’s a high-CBD extract — only without the THC. Broad spectrum CBD also contains less of the naturally occurring terpenes and flavonoids.

Continuing with the Lego brick analogy, imagine that you patiently picked all the blue, red, yellow, and green blocks out of the pile and discarded everything else.

In chemical terms, your broad spectrum CBD product would then only contain limonene, CBN, humulene, and CBD (yellow, green, red, blue).

Of course, this is a simplified illustration — many other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids may still be floating around in the broad spectrum CBD — but it helps you understand what’s going on at the molecular level.

What Is CBD Isolate?

pile of only blue legos as example of CBD isolate

CBD isolate is CBD separated from all the other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids in the cannabis plant. Essentially, it’s the purest form of CBD you can get.

To finish out the Lego block analogy, imagine that you picked out all the yellow, green, and red blocks until all that was left was a great big pile of blue blocks (CBD). That’s your CBD isolate. Nothin’ but CBD.

Because CBD isolate is almost 100-percent pure cannabinoid, it’s very potent. It’s not going to get you high or make you smell colors (CBD doesn’t do that), but in terms of dosage, a little goes a long way with CBD isolate.

Pros And Cons Of Full Spectrum CBD

cannabis plant matter


  • Less processed
  • Offers the full chemical profile of the cannabis plant


  • Strong natural flavor and aroma
  • Contains THC
  • Produces psychoactive effects
  • Detectable on a drug test
  • May cause unwanted side effects

Pros And Cons Of Broad Spectrum CBD


  • No risk of mind-bending effects
  • Offers a more complete chemical profile than CBD isolate


  • Strong natural flavor and aroma
  • Not as readily available as other CBD products
  • More processed than full spectrum CBD
  • Not as well-researched

Pros And Cons Of CBD Isolate

CBD Isolate


  • Tasteless
  • Odorless
  • Contains zero THC
  • No risk of psychoactive effects
  • Considered safe
  • Purest form of CBD


  • No benefits from other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids

Which CBD Should You Take?

doctor holding cannabis plant matter and writing on a clipboard

Your unique situation will determine which type of CBD you should take. We will give you general guidelines and suggestions, but one solution doesn’t fit every case.

Full Spectrum CBD

Full spectrum CBD is best for individuals who:

  • Live in a state where cannabis is legal and grown locally
  • Have been prescribed a specific CBD-to-THC ratio by their doctor
  • Suffer from conditions that broad spectrum CBD and CBD isolate won’t treat

You might be wondering why full spectrum CBD would be better than the more potent CBD isolate in some cases. To put it as simply as possible: because full spectrum CBD contains more chemicals.

The full combination of chemicals in the cannabis plant work together to produce a synergistic effect — an effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.

For example, THC is an ideal treatment for appetite loss, while CBD helps to lessen anxiety. You can’t substitute CBD for THC and expect to get your appetite back. The two are not interchangeable, and by themselves, they each have a unique effect.

But put them together and suddenly you have a wide variety of treatments and effects available. From depression and OCD to arthritis and migraines — the combination of THC, CBD, terpenes, and other cannabis compounds makes these treatments possible.

That’s why full spectrum CBD may be better than broad spectrum, and even CBD isolate, when it comes to treating a wider variety of issues.

Broad Spectrum CBD

Broad spectrum CBD is best for individuals who:

  • Don’t want to deal with psychedelic effects
  • Live in a state with strict THC laws
  • Don’t need the medicinal effects of THC
  • Are worried about putting THC in their system

As with full spectrum CBD, broad spectrum CBD may suit you better than a CBD isolate because of the condition(s) you’re trying to treat.

Broad spectrum CBD contains a wider variety of chemicals and produces more of an entourage effect than CBD isolate (though less than full spectrum).

CBD Isolate

CBD isolate is best for individuals who:

  • Don’t want to deal with off-putting flavors and aromas
  • Undergo drug screenings on a regular basis
  • Have been prescribed high doses of CBD
  • Live in a state with strict THC laws
  • Worry about purity and how they may react to other cannabinoids

CBD isolate comes in one of two forms:

  • Crystals
  • Powder

The crystal form is the less refined of the two, but you can only use the crystals in one way (dabbing).

The powder form is pulverized and processed crystal that you can mix in edibles; sprinkle in a blunt, joint, or spliff; vaporize; or brew into a DIY tincture.

Try Them All And Decide For Yourself

As we mentioned, the type of CBD you settle on will depend on your own unique situation (including your likes, dislikes, tastes, and lifestyle). The best way to decide which type is right for you is to try them all and decide for yourself.

Just be sure when trying a full spectrum CBD product that it doesn’t contain too much THC (unless that’s what you want). If you’re really concerned about how you’ll react to THC, check out our article Get The Right THC Dose: The Honest Marijuana Guide.

For more information on all things marijuana, and to check out our 100-percent-all-natural cannabis products, visit HonestMarijuana.com today.

The post Full Spectrum Vs. Broad Spectrum Vs. CBD Isolate: Which CBD Should I Take? appeared first on Honest Marijuana.

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