CBD Isolate vs Broad Spectrum

A recent study of arthritis sufferers found that “…a large proportion of patients did not know the type of CBD product (e.g. isolate, broad-spectrum, full-spectrum) that they were consuming”, even though a majority experienced a reduction in pain after using CBD. In fact, it’s likely that subjects weren’t even aware that there are different types of CBD products.

Does this even matter? I think it does. CBD has many health benefits, but CBD products are not all the same. Different products contain different ingredients, which may not be clearly shown on the product label.

For example, full-spectrum CBD products contain small amounts of THC, which may show up on a drug test [link to drug test blog?]. To be an educated consumer, it’s important to understand what is in the product you’re using.

CBD “isolate”, “broad-spectrum”, and “full-spectrum”. These are the three main types of CBD formulations, and each is slightly unique. In this article, we’ll explore what these terms mean, and why they should matter to you. 


To understand the three main types of CBD products, you first must understand CBD. CBD is the acronym for cannabidiol, which is one of two major cannabinoids. THC is the other major cannabinoid.

THC and CBD are considered “major cannabinoids” because they are chemical compounds found in the highest amounts in the cannabis plant. This contrasts with the “minor cannabinoids”, which are found in much smaller amounts.

The next thing to clarify is the difference between hemp and cannabis. The term “cannabis” refers to the plant whose botanical name is Cannabis sativa. The term “marijuana” is often used interchangeably with cannabis, but this word has a complicated history, leading many experts to avoid using it.

However, it is still a legal term used by governments, including in the United States. Hemp is a sub-species of cannabis that contains less than 0.3% THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. Hemp looks quite different from cannabis, but it contains many of the same chemical compounds. 

The reason it is important to distinguish between cannabis and hemp when it comes to CBD products is that CBD derived from hemp is federally legal, while CBD from cannabis (marijuana) is not.

CBD from hemp was legalized with the 2018 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill differentiated marijuana from hemp-based on THC concentration. This allowed hemp to be legalized while maintaining marijuana as a controlled substance. Since hemp contains only minuscule amounts of THC, it is non-intoxicating.

CBD products currently being sold in the United States contain CBD derived from hemp. Products that contain CBD derived from cannabis are also available, but only in US states in which recreational cannabis is legal, or that have legalized medical cannabis (in which case a doctor’s prescription is required). The legalization of CBD from hemp extract in 2018 made it possible for consumers to access CBD and the market was quickly flooded with a wide variety of different products. CBD is safe to use with very minimal side effects.

Hemp Composition

In addition to CBD, and trace amounts of THC, the hemp plant also contains other chemical compounds including minor cannabinoids and terpenes. Minor cannabinoids share structural and functional similarities to the major cannabinoids but are found in smaller amounts, while terpenes are chemical compounds widely distributed in plants that give them their characteristic smells and tastes.

The minor cannabinoids in hemp plant extracts include CBDA, CBG, CBGA, CBN, CBNA, CBC, CBCA, THCV, THCVA, CBDV, CBDVA, CBL, and CBLA. Most of these are found in very small quantities. The terpenes in hemp include myrcene, limonene, and beta-caryophyllene.

The minor cannabinoid and terpene profile of the hemp plant will be variable between products and depends on many factors, such as the genetic makeup of the seeds and the environmental conditions, such as sun and soil composition. Hemp also contains other nutritional plant compounds, including amino acids, vitamins, minerals, flavonoids, and fatty acids. 

Depending on the way hemp-derived CBD products are manufactured, any of these components of hemp may be present as ingredients. High-quality products will provide a comprehensive Certificate of Analysis (COA) that usually lists the major and minor cannabinoids and terpenes. Look for the COA on the product and follow the instructions to access the full details. 

Now that we have covered these important foundations, let’s look at the differences and similarities between the three main types of CBD broad spectrum, isolate and full-spectrum.

CBD isolate

CBD Isolate means that during the production process CBD has been completely isolated from any other compounds found within the hemp plant. In an isolate-based CBD product, the only active ingredient you are consuming is…CBD. CBD isolate is often suspended in an oil carrier, such as coconut oil. CBD isolate products have been separated from the THC terpenes in the plant, so are usually tasteless, unless it has been mixed with some other ingredients. 

CBD isolate is also available in a powder form that you can stir into CBD smoothies, coffee, water, and sprinkle on food. There are many beneficial effects of incorporating CBD isolate into your diet. CBD isolate and full spectrum CBD differ because CBD isolate will not flag a drug test and will not make you feel “high”.  

Broad-Spectrum CBD

Broad-spectrum CBD products are very much the same as full-spectrum CBD, except the THC has been removed. This makes broad-spectrum CBD a safer option for people who want to enjoy the benefits of CBD but can’t risk testing positive on a drug test, or who – for a variety of reasons – want to avoid consuming THC.

While all broad-spectrum products should be THC free, the only way to know for sure is to look at the product’s COA. A high-quality product will conduct trace THC testing, conducted by a third-party lab. Be sure that you also link the COA to the specific CBD product batch. 

Full-Spectrum CBD

Think of full-spectrum CBD as the opposite of an isolate. In a full-spectrum product, you are getting close to consuming the full plant. You’ll have more cannabinoids (things like CBN and CBG) which can impact the system in additional ways, and some terpenes, which some theorize have additional complementary effects on the body. This is known as the “entourage effect”.

The important thing to know about full-spectrum CBD products is that they will contain small amounts of THC. While the hemp plant – and by extension, full-spectrum CBD products – are supposed to contain less than 0.3% THC, there are studies that have found higher THC levels in commercial products.

The only way to know for sure how much THC is in a full-spectrum product is to look at the product COA. If you take a full-spectrum CBD product, it is possible that you could test positive on a drug test. 

Ways to Consume CBD

All three types of products that include CBD and THC come in a variety of different forms. Oil is the most common, but other forms include water-soluble powders, pre-formulated beverages, and edibles. Inhalable CBD products are also available but are used less commonly.

Oils can be messy and may also have a strong taste, leading some consumers to prefer forms like CBD gummies. At Fringe, we make a tasteless and odorless CBD isolate and broad-spectrum water-soluble powder that can be added to beverages or food, which is another great option if you’re looking for convenience and taste.

What this means for you

Now you can decide which formulation of CBD makes more sense for you! At Fringe, we recommend if you’re new to CBD start with CBD isolate. It’s a simpler way to know what’s working for you when you take a single ingredient. If you are an experienced CBD user and already take a full spectrum and broad spectrum product (like a CBD oil, gummy, or capsule) then go for our broad-spectrum product – giving you a more whole-plant experience.

The contents in this blog; such as text, content, and graphics are intended for educational purposes only. The Content is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider.

This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of medical advice or treatment from a personal physician. All viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions or before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program. Neither Dr. Genevieve Newton, publishers of this content, or Fringe, Inc. takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.

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