Full Spectrum, Broad Spectrum, and Isolate: Which Should You Choose?

How hemp oil extraction and processing affects the active ingredients in your CBD products and what to know when shopping for CBD.

There are a lot of choices in CBD products on the market. So where do you start to look? Getting to know the different types of CBD products available can help you decide on the one that is right for you.

CBD can be consumed as an edible, a capsule, or a tincture. It can also be applied topically with infused balms and lotions. That means it is easy to find a CBD product that fits your unique routine.

CBD products also come in a variety of extract formulations, each with its own distinct chemical composition and advantages. Let’s take a look at the difference between full spectrum hemp extracts, broad spectrum distillate, and CBD isolate. 

A full spectrum extract is the unadulterated extract of the hemp plant, containing all the same compounds as the source plant, including CBD and other cannabinoids, terpenes, and various nutrients. 

CBD isolate removes all the hemp plant’s terpenes, plant material, trace cannabinoids, and more, leaving CBD and only CBD. 

Broad spectrum CBD oil falls in between these. Often highly distilled, broad spectrum oils contain most of the compounds found in a full spectrum hemp plant, but notably lack the THC.

We will go into more detail about each of these choices below to help you choose the one that works for you, but first, there are two important terms you’ll need to know - terpenes and cannabinoids.

Hemp’s Most Active Compounds

When discussing the different spectrums of hemp oil, we will often be looking at the terpene and cannabinoid content of the extracts. These two compounds are responsible for the taste and effects CBD products offer. 

The cannabinoids in hemp extracts interact with the body’s self regulatory system ─ the endocannabinoid system. Also known as the ECS, the endocannabinoid system modulates functions like sleep, appetite and metabolism, mood, immune response, and more to keep the body in balance and working at its peak.

Terpenes are oily substances created naturally by nearly every type of plant, including cannabis plants like hemp. Terpenes were once thought to be strictly responsible for a cannabis plant’s scent and flavor. However, some experts now theorize that terpenes also influence the effects that a cannabis extract like hemp oil has on a user. 

Full Spectrum

Considered the unadulterated form of hemp, a full spectrum hemp extract contains the same 500+ active elements as the hemp plant, including cannabinoids like CBD, terpenes, vitamins and minerals, fatty acids, and more. 

Naturally, hemp’s cannabinoids are found in their acidic forms. This is often referred to as raw hemp oil. Through a gentle heating process called decarboxylation, acidic cannabinoids like CBDA are converted to CBD. While CBDA has its own distinct beneficial properties, CBD is the cannabinoid in hemp driving its popularity as a supplement. 

Full spectrum hemp extracts are popular among those who prefer a whole plant formulation of the hemp plant, using it in a way that is closest to its natural form. Some cannabis experts have purported the entourage effect, theorizing that the elements of cannabis plants like hemp are more effective when used together. 

Although full spectrum CBD products contain trace levels of THC (under 0.3%), it is far too little to induce intoxicating effects. However, some people prefer not to be exposed to THC for a number of reasons, including potential drug tests and just personal preference. 

For this reason, CBD isolate and broad spectrum hemp extracts have gained popularity as THC free alternatives to full spectrum products. 


On the other end of the spectrum, if you will, is CBD isolate. An isolate is a pure form of a compound. With CBD, that means that all terpenes, plant material, and other cannabinoids are removed to create a crystalized CBD. In most cases, CBD isolate is over 99% pure CBD. 

Products formulated with CBD isolate are ideal for consumers looking to avoid even the trace amounts of THC in a full spectrum hemp extract. 

Broad Spectrum

Falling in a place between full spectrum extracts and CBD isolate is broad spectrum. Products that are broad spectrum preserve the terpenes and trace cannabinoids present in hemp, but remove the THC. In some cases, products will introduce terpenes into a broad spectrum oil to enhance its properties, improve its flavor, and more. 

Like full spectrum hemp oil, broad spectrum products offer the entourage effect because it still contains a wide range of cannabinoids and terpenes. Along with CBD, broad spectrum products allow users to take advantage of hemp’s many beneficial cannabinoids, including CBN and CBG, while avoiding exposure to THC. For this reason, many consumers feel that broad spectrum products are superior. 

Choosing the Right Product

When selecting a CBD product, you’ll need to choose from between CBD isolate, broad spectrum, or full spectrum products. For many consumers, the choice between these three types of CBD extracts will be a personal decision. 

Broad spectrum CBD extracts have grown significantly in popularity because they offer the entourage effect benefits of a full spectrum product and enhanced effects from added terpenes, but without the worry regarding exposure to THC. 

On the Green CBD offers a complete line of broad spectrum CBD products: including softgel capsules, vegan gummies, terpene enhanced tinctures, and topicals like roll-ons, lotions, and even sunscreen. Learn more about broad spectrum CBD products from On the Green CBD. 

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By Jeffrey Stamberger