Full-Spectrum vs. Broad-Spectrum CBD: Which One Is Right for You?

Full-Spectrum vs. Broad-Spectrum CBD: Which One Is Right for You?

Cannabidiol, better known as CBD, has been touted for its many health benefits over the years.

From helping with anxiety and sleep and to reducing pain, it’s become a popular go-to for those searching for alternative treatments.

While the FDA acknowledges the potential benefits of cannabis (including CBD specifically), it still points out that more research is needed. And so far, there’s only one FDA-approved prescription CBD drug for the treatment of epilepsy.

Any over-the-counter (OTC) CBD product you buy doesn’t have the FDA stamp of approval. 

That’s why it’s so important to take your time when choosing a CBD product, whether it’s full-spectrum or broad spectrum. Here’s what you need to know before you make your choice.

How full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD compare

  • Full-spectrum CBD: Full-spectrum CBD contains small amounts of all components of the cannabis plant. That means it can have trace amounts of  tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Federally legal full-spectrum products will always have less than 0.3 percent THC. In states where cannabis is fully legal, you may also be able to find full-spectrum products with higher levels of THC.
  • Broad-spectrum CBD: This type of CBD does not contain THC. It does contain other components of the cannabis plant, though, so it won’t be 100-percent CBD alone. Consider it the middle child of the three CBD choices.
  • CBD isolate: Your pure CBD product, isolate contains no other compounds found in cannabis, except for the CBD itself.

Pros and cons of full-spectrum CBD

One of the biggest benefits of full-spectrum CBD is that you’ll get what’s known as the entourage effect.  This is a theory that says when multiple components of cannabis work together, you reap more benefits than when taking each individually.

These components include phytocannabinoids (like CBD and THC), flavonoids,  and terpenes (compounds that affect cannabis’s scent). 

If you want to maximize the benefits of cannabis, full-spectrum CBD could be your best bet.

One review found that phytocannabinoids and terpenes taken together may help with pain, inflammation, and anxiety. 

However, a potential downside to full-spectrum CBD is that if you take a large enough dose of a potent enough product, you may feel “high” due to the THC.

But that doesn’t mean that all full-spectrum products will make you feel intoxicated. Small doses of lower potency products are unlikely to produce any euphoric effects.

Finally, since full-spectrum products contain THC, you may run a higher risk of testing positive should you take a drug test

Pros and cons of broad-spectrum CBD

One potential plus of broad-spectrum CBD is that you keep a clear mind — no THC means no “high” feeling. 

A drawback, though, is that CBD sans THC may not be quite as effective as the two together. More research is needed, but the entourage effect suggests they may work best together. 

That’s not to say broad-spectrum products won’t give you any of the entourage effect benefits at all. Broad-spectrum CBD still contains some other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids, which may offer benefits beyond the CBD alone.

Heads up on drug testing

Because CBD products aren’t regulated the same way as drugs or supplements, you do run the risk of trace amounts of THC in any CBD product you buy, including broad-spectrum. If you’re drug tested, you may want to avoid CBD products altogether.

Which type of CBD is right for you? 

If you’re looking for a health boost from CBD but want to skip the effects of THC, then broad-spectrum is probably your best bet.

If you don’t mind THC and want to potentially get more benefits out of your CBD product, then full-spectrum is probably the way to go.

How we chose the best CBD products

To help narrow your CBD search, we rounded up some of the best full-spectrum and broad-spectrum products out there.

Each product we chose meets the standards we set for safety, quality, and transparency. That means each item on this list:

  • has been tested by an ISO-17025 -compliant third-party lab
  • is made with U.S. grown hemp
  • contains a maximum of 0.3 percent THC
  • passes tests for pesticides, heavy metals, and molds, according to the certificate of analysis (COA)
  • doesn’t make any unsupported health claims

We also took into account:

  • the company’s certifications and manufacturing processes
  • product potency
  • ingredients
  • customer reviews
  • lawsuits or FDA warning letters 

How to shop for CBD

When you’re shopping for CBD, keep in mind that the more info the brand shares about their products and manufacturing standards, the better.

CBD isn’t regulated by the FDA in the same way as drugs or supplements, so it’s possible for subpar products to slip through.

To make sure you’re getting a quality product, the first thing you’ll want to look for is an up-to-date certificate of analysis (COA) from a third-party lab. It’s best if the lab is ISO-17025 certified — basically, that means they’ve been certified that they produce accurate results.

Look over the COA to make sure the product contains as much THC and CBD as advertised. The best products will also display contaminant testing so you can be sure you’re not ingesting any potentially harmful substances.

It’s also a good idea to check where the company grows its hemp and how it actually manufactures its products — like what extraction methods it uses.

All of this information should be pretty accessible on the company’s website, although sometimes you may need to reach out by email.

How to use CBD 

You have plenty of options when it comes to how you can use CBD products depending on what you buy. 

Some of the most popular products include:

  • oils
  • topical
  • pills
  • gummys

Pills and gummies are pretty straightforward. With oils, you’ll usually want to place them under your tongue or add them to foods or drinks. With topicals, you can apply them wherever you want to experience targeted relief.

One thing you’ll want to pay attention to is dosage. Everyone differs in what they need, depending on individual factors like weight, health, and how their body reacts to cannabis. It’s best to start small, see how the product is working for you, and build up from there if you need more.

Safety and side effects

CBD is generally considered safe, according to the WHO, but that doesn’t mean it’s without side effects. 

In studies examining those with epilepsy and psychotic disorders, a few side effects popped up, like:

  • sleepiness
  • diarrhea
  • changes in appetite 
  • changes in weight 

Keep in mind that if you take a large dosage of a potent full-spectrum product, you may also feel some of the effects of THC, especially if you’re new to cannabis. 

It’s best to talk to your doctor before taking CBD. CBD can interact with some medications, so your doctor should be able to help you navigate any potentially harmful mixing. 

Sources also suggests that having a high-fat meal can actually increase CBD in the blood, enhancing your risk of side effects. So keep that in mind when you’re having CBD around mealtime.


Talk to your doctor before you try CBD, whether it’s broad-spectrum or full-spectrum.

The biggest difference between the two is the THC content, so decide if you want that in your product or if you prefer to skip it. Then make sure you read the labels before you make your purchase and you choose a quality product to gain the most advantage.

Is CBD Legal? Hemp-derived CBD products (with less than 0.3 percent THC) are legal on the federal level, but are still illegal under some state laws. Marijuana-derived CBD products are illegal on the federal level, but are legal under some state laws. Check your state’s laws and those of anywhere you travel. Keep in mind that nonprescription CBD products are not FDA-approved, and may be inaccurately labeled.