So, you have decided you want to try taking CBD to help with a health issue such as pain, anxiety, sleeplessness or some other issue. However, as you look at the labels, you see words like “Isolate” and “Broad-Spectrum”. If you live in a state that allows recreational marijuana you may also see the term “Full-Spectrum”. You wonder, what is the difference between these types of CBD spectrum products? Which one should you choose? Let’s look at each of these terms in more detail so that you have a better understanding what they mean and which may be a better choice for you. But first let’s talk about the various phytochemicals that are found in the plants of Marijuana and Industrial Hemp and how they relate to each other.

Cannabinoids, Terpenes/Terpenoids, and Flavonoids

First what is a phytochemical? Basically, it is a fancy, more scientific, term describing the chemicals that makeup a plant. Industrial Hemp and Marijuana both contain CBD, Cannabidiol. However, Marijuana also contains THC, Delta 9-Tetrahydrocannabinol. In the Cannabis world we use a lot of three- and four-letter abbreviations and at first this can get a bit confusing. But, hang in there. After a while these abbreviations will become second nature to you. Both CBD and THC are considered phytochemicals, but more specifically cannabinoids.In addition to these two cannabinoids, there are more than 100 other known cannabinoids found in Industrial Hemp and Marijuana and each of the cannabinoid can have their own distinct impact on the body. One of the precursors for the formation of THC and CBD is known as CBGA, cannabigerolic acid. In order for both THC and CBD to be made from CBGA there must be two different enzymes present. The first step in creating THC and CBD is for the enzymes to transform CBGA into THCA, Delta 9-Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid and CBDA, cannabidiolic acid. These are the acid forms of THC and CBD, respectively. Marijuana possesses, in its DNA structure, the necessary codons to produce both of the necessary enzymes, called synthases, that will produce THCA and CBDA from CBGA. Industrial Hemp’s DNA contains primarily one codon; that being the synthase to create CBDA from CBGA. These acids, THCA and CBDA, are then converted by a non-enzymatic process, called decarboxylation, to provide their final forms of THC and CBD. The decarboxylation takes place under the conditions of heat and or light. CBGA, our starting material, also undergoes decarboxylation by heat and or light to create CBG. THCA, CBDA, CBGA, and CBG, while structurally different from THC and CBD, still have health benefits that are similar to THC and CBD. See the schematic for the formation of THC/CBD from CBGA and also the conversion of CBGA to CBG.

CBGA Conversion Diagram

conversion chart for the formation of THC CBD and CBG from CBGA

All Phytochemicals that interact with the “Endocannabinoid System” in the human body are known as cannabinoids. The body produces its own cannabinoids, specifically, Anandamide (AEA) and Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). The endocannabinoid system contains primarily two different receptors in the body and the binding thereof produces differing effects. These receptors are referred to as CB1 and the CB2. CB1 is found in the brain and both CBD and THC competitively bind to this receptor. However, only the binding of THC causes the euphoric “High”. CBD binding to the CB1 receptor in the brain generally causes a relaxing effect. The CB2 receptor is found in the periphery of the body, that is; all body parts other than the brain. Both CBD and THC can bind to the CB2 receptor, however; no euphoric “High” can be produced from this receptor, regardless of THC binding. CBD and THC appear to have similar effects when binding to the CB2 receptor. The CB2 receptor is very much associated with the immune system in our bodies. In fact, having both CBD and THC binding to the CB2 receptors can cause a synergistic response bolstering the immune system or reducing pain. Synergism is when the two components, such as CBD and THC, are working together to provide a response that is greater than that sum of either one individually. The result is multiplicative rather than additive. Not only can the combination of CBD and THC cause a synergistic effect, but all the other 100+ cannabinoids found in marijuana and hemp can have a synergistic effect with CBD. Unfortunately, there is no way to have THC react with the CB2 receptors without reacting to the CB1 receptors as well. If THC is present, it will bind to those receptors in the brain and cause euphoria. Therefore, if avoiding euphoria is desired or you do not live in a state that allows medical or recreational marijuana, then the only source of CBD you can obtain must come from Industrial Hemp.

Terpenes are a class of volatile phytochemicals produced in plants which are attributed to a plant’s scent. Terpenoids are generally considered to be those terpenes that have undergone oxidation, or structural change, but still provide fragrance to the plant. For the most part, these two terms, terpene and terpenoid, are used interchangeably, even though there is a distinct difference in their meaning. Some terpenes smell like fruit, such as Limonene and Valencene. Limonene is what we smell in lemons and limes. Valencene comes from oranges such Valencia oranges. Pinene has that typical pine tree scent. Other terpenes have a flowery fragrance such as linalool and yet other are described as spicy, woodsy or earthy. Over 200 different terpenes/terpenoids have been found in hemp and marijuana. Terpenes bind to a variety of receptors found throughout the body to provide beneficial health effects independent of cannabinoids. They are being studied for their impact on pain, antimicrobial, antifungal, and anticancer properties to name a few. But what is the importance of terpenes relative to cannabinoids, such as CBD? What makes terpenes valuable is that they can also work in concert with cannabinoids like CBD. The reduction of pain for instance can be enhanced when both terpenes and CBD are taken together. There are a number of companies that isolate and sell individual terpenes, such as D-Limonene, linalool, caryophyllene, myrcene, etc. Some individuals will supplement their CBD with purchased terpenes. By buying Terpenes separately, individuals can make their own terpene cocktail which is tailored to that individual’s preferential desire.


A new area of evaluation is the impact of phytochemicals known as “Flavonoids” and their interaction with CBD. Flavonoids are a complex mixture comprising anthocyanins, Flavan-3-ols, Flavanones, Flavones, Flavanols, Isoflavones, and other categories.
This is such a new area that only a small amount of work has been done to understand the relationship. But if the relationship for Flavonoids to CBD is similar to that of the terpenes, a whole new area of research will soon blossom. Nature does not like wasting anything and everything has a purpose. Just as terpenes make up a plant’s scent, flavonoids are those phytochemicals similar in structure to the chemical “Flavone” and make up a portion of the color pigments in the plant. Flavonoids have been shown to have health boosting benefits independent of either terpenes and or cannabinoids.

As we have discussed the addition of other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids with CBD may provide enhanced health benefits.
This beneficial effect is known as the “Entourage Effect”. An entourage by definition is a group of people attending to or surrounding an important person. In this case, we are talking about all the phytochemicals interacting with CBD and enhancing its health benefits.


Now that we have a better understanding of what components are found in cannabinoid plants, we can now discuss the differences between products that are labeled as Isolates, Broad Spectrum, and Full Spectrum.
Your choice of CBD isolate, full-spectrum CBD, or broad-spectrum CBD will determine what you get in your product along with CBD.

A CBD Isolate is where the CBD is isolated from all other compounds of the cannabis plant. No terpenes, flavonoids or any other component is present.
CBD isolate is typically isolated from Industrial Hemp and generally has a purity of about 99.9%. Isolates are generally tasteless and odorless and may be sold in in low or high dose forms.

A Broad-Spectrum CBD contains all the phytochemicals naturally available in the hemp plant. It will contain all terpenes, flavonoids, and cannabinoids (except THC).
It will most likely have a yellowish to brownish coloration due to the flavonoids. It will also have a strong grassy taste.

A Full-Spectrum CBD contains all the phytochemicals naturally available of the marijuana plant, including THC, CBD, other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids.
The product will have a yellowish to brown coloration and a strong grassy taste.

So, which should you choose? Some people prefer Full-Spectrum because they want the all the plant’s benefits from all the cannabinoids (including THC), terpenes, and flavonoids working in synergy.
Remember, to get a Full-Spectrum product, you must live in a state that offers marijuana either medically or recreationally. Others may choose Broad-Spectrum because they want all the cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids but without any appreciable amount of THC. A Broad-Spectrum product will be obtained from Industrial Hemp which has a slightly different combination of cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids compared to Marijuana. Some people might prefer CBD Isolate because it’s tasteless and odorless, or they don’t want any other compounds included in their preparation. While the isolate does not contain terpenes or flavonoids, both terpenes and flavonoids can be purchase independently and taken with your CBD to give you the spectrum profile you desire.

By now you are probably thinking why choose an isolate if terpenes and flavonoids enhance the effects of CBD are already built-in.
Before you make up your mind to that question, let’s look at some of the Pros and Cons between the isolate and the full or broad-spectrum products of CBD.

CBD Isolate vs Broad-Spectrum (CBD A-Z Video Series)

CBD Isolate vs Broad Spectrum CBD YouTube Video

Full-Spectrum CBD: Pros & Cons

Full-Spectrum CBD
ProsCons
User benefits from the entourage effectTHC will show up on a drug screening and may cause problems with your employer
Product is less processed than isolateTHC may cause problems with local law enforcement
All the natural flavors and aroma of marijuana will be present and may be rather strong
Different concentrations of CBD may be limited or unavailable


Full-Spectrum products may help individuals with more severe symptoms that CBD isolate and broad-spectrum products fail to help.
However, individuals must live in states that have a legal marijuana market, medical and or recreational, in order to obtain a Full-Spectrum product.

Broad-Spectrum CBD: Pros & Cons

Broad-Spectrum CBD
ProsCons
The user benefits from the entourage effectFewer choices are available since there are fewer Industrial Hemp strains
The product is less processed than isolateAll the natural flavors and aroma of Industrial Hemp will be present and may be rather strong
Different concentrations of CBD may be limited or unavailable


A Broad-Spectrum product may benefit CBD users who do not want the influence of THC but would benefit from the remaining entourage effect of the phytochemicals found in hemp.
In some cases, there are people who are sensitive to THC and experience some of the negative aspects that THC may have. In some cases, there may be no choice since the individual lives in a state that does not have either legal medical or recreational cannabis programs.

CBD Isolate: Pros & Cons

CBD Isolate
ProsCons
It can be provided in highly concentrated formsIt does not contain any phytochemicals that would offer the entourage effect
It is legally available in all 50 states since it is derived from Industrial Hemp
It is predominately odorless and tasteless


An Isolate product may benefit CBD users who require higher strengths of product to negate their health issue.
As with the Broad-Spectrum some people who are sensitive to THC may also be sensitive to other phytochemicals found in the hemp plant. Therefore, an isolate may be the better choice for them. Some just may not like the taste of the Broad-Spectrum. The isolate is basically tasteless.

Final Thoughts

Many factors come into play when you are trying to decide which spectrum of CBD product is best for you. Everyone is unique and must take into account a number of variables when choosing, such as your overall health, weight, lifestyle, where you live, what’s legally available to you, and your history with other components such as the terpenes, flavonoids and other phytochemicals. There are many factors that can point you in the direction of one cannabis spectrum instead of the other. In some cases, a Broad-Spectrum CBD from hemp may be your best choice as it delivers the entourage effect without the euphoric effects of THC. For others, pure CBD may be enough to alleviate their symptoms. If you live in a state that allows medical or recreational marijuana, the addition of THC in the Full-Spectrum CBD formula may be what is necessary to feel the difference. Unfortunately, there is no one dose regimen that works for everyone. It is suggested that you start with a low dose and see if you get relief. If relief is not obtained you may want to try increasing the dose. By systematically increasing your dose or moving from an isolate to a broad-spectrum formulation, you may find the dose and or formulation that is best suited for you. Always read product labels prior to taking anything to ensure your safety. So, the best thing you can do for now is to use the ol’ trial and error process to determine which option is beneficial for your health issue.

Article FAQ

What Is The Best Type Of CBD?

When considering which type of CBD is right for you it’s important to know the key differences between each type of extract.
CBD Isolate is legally available in all 50 states, contains no THC and is typically odorless and tasteless.
A Broad-Spectrum CBD product may benefit CBD users who do not want the influence of THC but would benefit from the remaining entourage effect of the phytochemicals found in hemp.
Full-Spectrum CBD products may help individuals with more severe symptoms that CBD isolate and broad-spectrum products fail to help. However, individuals must live in states that have a legal marijuana market, medical and or recreational, in order to obtain a Full-Spectrum product.

What Is CBD Isolate?

is where the CBD is isolated from all other compounds of the cannabis plant.
No terpenes, flavonoids or any other component is present.
CBD isolate is typically isolated from Industrial Hemp and generally has a purity of about 99.9%.
Isolates are generally tasteless and odorless and may be sold in in low or high dose forms.

What Is Broad Spectrum CBD?

Broad-Spectrum CBD CBD contains all the phytochemicals naturally available in the hemp plant. It will contain all terpenes, flavonoids, and cannabinoids (except THC).
It will most likely have a yellowish to brownish coloration due to the flavonoids.
It will also have a strong grassy taste.

What Is Full Spectrum CBD?

Full-Spectrum CBD contains all the phytochemicals naturally available of the marijuana plant, including THC, CBD, other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids.
The product will have a yellowish to brown coloration and a strong grassy taste.

What Are Flavonoids?

Flavonoids are a complex mixture comprising anthocyanins, Flavan-3-ols, Flavanones, Flavones, Flavanols, Isoflavones, and other categories.
They are responsible for making up the color pigments in plants.
Flavonoids have also been shown to have health boosting benefits independent of either terpenes and or cannabinoids.

What Are Terpenes?

Terpenes are a class of volatile phytochemicals produced in plants which are attributed to a plant’s scent.

What Are Terpenoids?

Terpenoids are generally considered to be those terpenes that have undergone oxidation, or structural change, but still provide fragrance to the plant.
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CBD Isolate vs. Broad-Spectrum CBD