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Full-Spectrum, Broad-Spectrum or Isolate: How to Pick the Best CBD for You

CBD has become a popular option for patients seeking a natural alternative to treat maladies as diverse as anxiety, chronic pain, and insomnia, among many others. Its non-toxic nature makes it a safe option for everyone concerned with well-being.

If you are ready to jump on the bandwagon of CBD benefits, you will find products classified as full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolated CBD.

So, what are the differences between them, and which one is best suited for you?

These classifications indicate the type of CBD that each product contains. Isolated products contain CBD solely. Full and broad-spectrum contain a mix of CBD, terpenes and other cannabinoids.

In this article, I will walk you through the variations between them and also discuss their advantages and disadvantages to help you pick the product that better serves you.

Table of Contents

Understanding Cannabis Chemistry

Think of cannabis as a cocktail of chemicals that affect the human body in very different ways. The main chemicals are cannabinoids and terpenes. While we can find terpenes throughout the plant kingdom, cannabinoids are mostly found in cannabis.

Cannabinoids are abundant, experts have identified over 120 different ones. The main ones are THC and CBD; although a lot of research has gone into understanding these two cannabinoids, there is a ton we still don’t know about them.

Cannabinoids affect the human body through the endocannabinoid system,  a net of messengers (neurotransmitters) and a bunch of receptors that interact between your brain and your body.

Your body is able to make its own messengers called endocannabinoids; their effects in the body are similar to cannabinoids. The endocannabinoid system modulates almost every important function of your body and helps to maintain its balance.


Entourage Effect: The Synergy Between Cannabinoids & Terpenes

The entourage effect is a theory claiming that a cannabinoid reaches its full potential when working together with other cannabinoids and/or terpenes.

Something interesting about this concept is the belief that each compound not only amplifies the benefits of the others but also reduces adverse effects and generates less toxicity.


CBD is more abundant in hemp plants. Hemp is legal in the 50 states because it has less than 0.3 percent THC.

Most of the CBD products you find online come from hemp, and they’re still waiting to be reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration FDA.

While CBD is gaining momentum in the health and wellness world, most of the research around it is in its infancy.

CBD is non-intoxicating, therefore it won't get you high

Primarily, research confirms that it may help treat different conditions like anxiety and chronic pain, but most of these studies have been done on rodents. Clinical studies on humans are costly, especially long-term ones, so you don’t find a lot of them and they’re far between and not conclusive.

But there is also a growing community of scientists working to show evidence of all the benefits attributed to the cannabis compounds.

Dr. Ethan Russo, director of research for the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute, has investigated cannabis for 40 years and was the first proponent of the entourage effect.

He has evidence that shows how interesting the cannabinoid-terpenoid interactions are and why he thinks a full spectrum formula may be more beneficial.

Here, I display a few of his investigations’ outcomes:

  • CBD administered with THC can counteract some of THC’s negative side effects, such as psychosis, by “resetting” activity in three brain areas.
  • CBD can prevent the mind-altering effects of THC by blocking some cannabinoid receptors.
  • CBG, also known as cannabigerol, is another cannabinoid that induces relaxation, which makes it a perfect partner for cannabidiol to enhance its anxiolytic effects.
  • CBD mixed with CBN (cannabinol) is a compelling formula to fight insomnia.

Interactions Between Cannabinoids and Terpenes

Cannabinoids and terpenes have also revealed promising synergistic effects. Terpenes are aromatic molecules that give the peculiar smell to cannabis.

There are over 200 terpenes in this plant. Like cannabinoids, terpenes also display a variety of potential health benefits. The most researched are linalool, limonene, pinene, caryophyllene, and myrcene.

This is what Dr. Russo has found:

  • Pinene helps to reduce some cognitive impairment caused by THC.
  • Pinene, with myrcene and caryophyllene, have also shown potential to reduce anxiety, which could boost the effects of CBD.
  • Linalool, myrcene and caryophyllene may increase the effects of CBD and CBN to treat insomnia.
  • Caryophyllene, myrcene, and pinene together may also be helpful for dealing with addictions.
  • Linalool and limonene combined with CBD is a promising aid for acne treatment.
  • Linalool, limonene, and pinene can strengthen the positive effects of THC in Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.

The way cannabis compounds work in our bodies is undergoing research. What is great is that we are now exposed to new possibilities, different from synthetic drugs.

Thousands of anecdotal evidences from people around the world and some existing studies are vouching for the entourage effect. Cannabis compounds like CBD have the potential to change the lives of millions of people.

Which Type of CBD Is Better?

Let me clarify that either may bring you benefits, but you have to find out which one works best for your needs. We are all wired differently, and genetics play a big role in how we react to drugs.

CBD is not different to any other drug in that matter, and effects can vary widely from one person to another. The best way to determine the type and dosage is by trial and error.

While full-spectrum extracts may appear to be the most beneficial to harness the entourage effect, there is a range variety of circumstances that would make you prefer the benefits of an isolated formula.

The Benefits of a Full-Spectrum Formula.

Full-spectrum or whole plant extracts contain many compounds of the cannabis plant, including CBD as the main ingredient, trace amounts of THC, terpenes and flavonoids.

I’m team entourage, so full-spectrum extracts are my personal favorites. I found that a bit of THC really helps me cope with anxiety.

Here I’m listing the most important benefits of these formulas.


According to Dr. Russo, whole-plant extracts are not only more effective but also have fewer side effects than pure CBD at higher doses. Terpenes and flavonoids work backstage to enhance CBD properties, while counteracting unappealing effects.


In terms of anxiety CBD can mimic serotonin—the neurotransmitter that makes you feel happy, while terpenes like bisabolol can impact the GABAA receptors, limonene can enhance dopamine and norepinephrine.

All these neurotransmitters and receptors are critical to enhance your mood, make you feel calm and relaxed, which make a full-spectrum formula a more complete anxiety solution.


We live in watery bodies, but CBD is a fat loving molecule, we all know water and fat don’t mix. So, CBD is poorly absorbed by the human body.

However, the back-up support of terpenes and flavonoids can speed up the way cannabinoids get into the bloodstream, facilitating CBD’s absorption.

It’s also worth indicating that full-spectrum products are less processed, but these formulas have a higher cost per milligram.

  • You're a seasoned user and prefer a more potent formula.
  • Your specific condition calls for a full-spectrum formula.
  • Your physician prescribed a tailored THC to CBD ratio.
  • You’re not sensitive to THC.
  • You’re lucky and live in a state where cannabis is legal.
  • You don’t mind a bit of a taste.
  • You need high doses of CBD for your condition. The entourage effect from all the cannabis compounds makes CBD more efficient.

When Is Best to Pick a Broad-Spectrum CBD?

Broad-Spectrum is a more refined full-spectrum formula that offers all the cannabis compounds, but THC is taken out. In this light, you still get the entourage benefits without the side effects of THC.

For many users, finding the right CBD formula takes time and a little experimentation. The broad-spectrum formula may suit you if you’re indecisive about THC but still want to explore the CBD and terpene combination.

Finding the CBD formula best suited for your needs can be daunting because of your unique conditions and your genetics. Always look for lab-tested products extracted from Pesticide-Free, non-GMO hemp plants.

What Are the Benefits of Pure Isolated CBD?

Isolated is the purest form of CBD, it only contains cannabidiol. It’s extracted from the hemp plant because of its almost non-existent THC content.

Some ailments respond better to isolated CBD because other cannabinoids may cause negative reactions or be unnecessary. Isolated products are your best choice if:

  • You’re a beginner, starting with a single cannabinoid is the best approach for first-time users.
  • You’re sensitive to THC.
  • You undergo drug tests regularly.
  • You live in a state where THC is not legal.
  • You prefer a tasteless product.
  • You’re looking for a more affordable product.

A Few Things to Consider:

  • Scientists have studied CBD as a medication with the potential to stimulate your endocannabinoid system, support your body’s balance, and treat a wide variety of ailments.
  • More research needs to be done. Some experts have concerns about CBD health benefits and advise patients to proceed with caution.
  • CBD is studied as a drug, so it can’t be regulated as a food or supplement.
  • The CBD products in the market are not FDA-approved.
  • Only Hemp-derived CBD is legal in the 50 states.

I invite you to learn as much as you can about the different CBD products in the market and the impact these products may provide to your body, so you can make an informed decision before purchasing.

Don’t forget to talk with a healthcare practitioner if you’re looking to use CBD with other medications.

Are you enjoying the benefits of full-spectrum CBD or you prefer Isolates? Share your thoughts in the comments below; ask away if you have questions and don’t forget to share if you find this article helpful.

Thanks for reading.