CBD Isolate vs. Full Spectrum

A No-Frills Analysis

Chances are, if you are reading this article you already know what Cannabidiol (CBD) is and are aware of all the benefits.

Words like “Full Spectrum”, “Broad Spectrum” and “Isolate” are found all over the internet in product descriptions and articles. 

So what’s the difference?

This article will answer that question in a direct way without any extra unnecessary information, in addition to giving you guidance for choosing the right CBD format to fit your needs.

Cannabinoids: The Key to Understanding Cannabis Products

Let’s first define spectrum. 

According to 2(a) of the Merriam-Webster dictionary a spectrum is defined as a continuous sequence or range.

So what does that have to do with CBD? 

In order to understand that, one must understand what CBD is.

CBD is a cannabinoid.

A cannabinoid is a chemical messenger, a substance in the body that travels from one part to another delivering an instruction.

This occurs within the nervous system, which is a network within the body that serves as a communication system sending messages from one part to another.

For example, when someone you love gives you a hug you get a rush of dopamine, an internal chemical messenger that sends messages from the point of contact to your brain that says “this feels great, it makes me happy!”.

In that sense, a cannabinoid works with the endocannabinoid component of the nervous system that sends messages concerning pain, mood, stress, memory, appetite, sleep, immune function, metabolism and reproductive function.

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Types of Cannabinoids

For the purpose of this article, we will group cannabinoids into two main groups.

The first group is endocannabinoids. These are produced naturally by the body from internal factors.

The second group is called phytocannabinoids. These are external cannabinoids that we can take into the body from outside sources. “Phyto” means “plant” in Greek, and while the most discussed cannabinoids are found in cannabis, they are also found in other plants such as those in the Echinacea family. 

Besides CBD, the other well-known cannabinoid found in cannabis is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the chemical responsible for psychoactive “high” sensations. In addition to CBD and THC, there are at least 144 different cannabinoids that have been isolated from cannabis which exhibit different effects. Some of the most studied include:


Cannabinol (CBN) emerges when THC degrades in storage. Considered to be mildly psychoactive, CBN is thought to increase when exposed to light and air.


Cannabigerol (CBG) is considered to be non-psychoactive and suspected to contribute to the overall effects of Cannabis.


Found in certain central Asian and southern African strains of Cannabis, Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV) is thought to lessen the psychoactive effects of THC.


Found in small amounts in Cannabis, cannabidivarin (CBDV) has been found in hashish in Nepal and in wild cannabis plants from the northwest Himalayas.


Cannabichromene (CBC) is considered to be non-psychoactive and is thought to have anti-tumour effects

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The Effects of the CBD Extraction Process

When CBD products are created, the cannabinoids are extracted from the Cannabis plant using specific methods like CO2 extraction. 

This process tends to remove other compounds within the plant, altering its original composition. Depending on the desired end-product, many manufacturers of CBD products will selectively extract from a Cannabis strain in order to create a specific chemical composition. 

The resulting refined extract can then be classified as either full spectrum, broad spectrum, or CBD isolate, depending on what cannabinoids remain in the finished product.

Full Spectrum CBD = A Full Range of Benefits

Full spectrum CBD extract contains all the natural compounds found in the cannabis plant, including all the cannabinoids, terpenes and essential oils.

Known widely as the “entourage effect“, full-spectrum CBD is thought to have different therapeutic qualities because all the medical components of the plant work together to magnify the effects. 

It must be noted, however, that full spectrum CBD contains THC and is likely to produce psychoactive sensations.

CBD Isolate: Pure Straight-Up CBD

CBD isolate is created by singularly extracting only the CBD from the Cannabis plant. Considered to be the purest form of CBD, CBD isolate is the straight-up powder without any of the other cannabinoids, terpenes or flavonoids

Broad spectrum CBD: A Mix of Both

Broad spectrum CBD is similar to full spectrum CBD in that it contains multiple cannabinoids (for an enhanced “entourage effect”), but with the difference that the THC is completely removed. 

CBD benefits

Which CBD Type Should I Choose?

There is no clear answer to this question. All cannabinoids have different qualities that result in different effects for people depending on their condition. 

Since all cannabinoids work together, some people prefer to have the synergistic “entourage effect” working in their favour. Others prefer to have the concentrated effect of CBD isolate to address their specific symptoms. Broad spectrum CBD seems to be a compromise of both, without any psychoactive effects associated with marijuana.

Whatever CBD type you choose, it is always best to research your condition and select the best one suited for your condition. 



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