What Are the Best CBD Oils?

by Jacobus on May 10, 2020 2 comments

A huge misconception that most CBD users have is based on the false belief that one product labeled “CBD” is identical to the one next to it. Whether you are a regular CBD consumer or just getting into it, you may have come across terms like Full Spectrum, Broad Spectrum, and CBD Isolate while browsing the internet. For an inexperienced consumer, these terms will make it difficult to understand what CBD concentrates should be consumed and what ones should be left on the shelf. In this article, we will be breaking down the “spectrum” of CBD, the location of each extract within this spectrum, and the pros/ cons of each extract.

By the end of this reading, you will be equipped with a basic understanding of the differences between a full/ broad-spectrum CBD oil and a CBD isolate and should be able to articulate which type of CBD product is for you.

The length of this article is longer (approx 2000 words or an 8-minute read) than previous posts as I felt that the importance of really explaining and understanding this content is vital for consumer knowledge. If you prefer to skim through the bulk of this post, at the bottom of the page is an overview highlighting the differences and pros/cons of each extract. Feel free to skip to that part if you can do without the in-depth knowledge.


The Spectrum of CBD


Understanding the Spectrum

As you may know, CBD and THC are two of the most familiar cannabinoids sourced from either hemp or marijuana plants. Generally, marijuana is high in THC, which results in sedation and euphoric highs. Hemp, being the opposite, is high in CBD and low in THC which allows it to be used medicinally or recreationally as long as it follows the rules and regulations created by federal hemp laws. In order to target and bottle these cannabis compounds, an extract is required. Within the hemp industry, alcohol-based extraction (via ethanol) or supercritical CO2 extraction methods are used quite commonly.

Proceeding extraction, the oil is then put through the purification and activation process. This is what determines the entire CBD spectrum. Depending on the purification/ activation process, one of the three spectrums below is created.

In a nutshell, the spectrum is based on different naturally occurring compounds present in an extract. This is determined based on the purification processes that are used. A full spectrum product will undergo few purifications in comparison to a broad or isolate extract as both the latter require more compounds to be removed.


Full Spectrum CBD
hemp oil

On one end of the spectrum we have full spectrum CBD which will contain:

  • CBD plus ALL cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, polyphenols, and trace amounts of THC (a maximum of 0.3%).

CBD Isolate

At the other end of the spectrum, we have what is called CBD isolate

  • It’s the purest form of CBD
  • Isolate is free from other natural compounds inside the hemp plant (terpenes, flavonoids, polyphenols, etc)
  • You can think of full-spectrum CBD and CBD isolate as polar opposites, each existing on the opposite end of the CBD spectrum.
  • THC free


Broad Spectrum CBD

In the middle of the spectrum, we have broad-spectrum CBD which will contain:

  • all the natural cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and polyphenols from the original hemp plant WITHOUT any trace of THC concentrates (totally THC free)
  • this type of CBD extract is closer in resemblance to a full spectrum rather than an isolate.

Now that you have a basic understanding of the CBD spectrum and how it is classified, let’s put the three types of CBD products under the microscope and further discuss their differences and importance.


What is Full Spectrum CBD Oil?

Building off what was stated earlier, full-spectrum CBD oil contains everything that is present inside the hemp plant. This includes terpenes, flavonoids, phytonutrients, and a variety of other cannabinoids besides CBD and THC. These are all typically available in greater quantities than broad-spectrum oils as it contains an entire spectrum of naturally occurring compounds.

The best way to remember full-spectrum CBD is that it is going to have absolutely everything in it. If you start to alter or distill the concentrations within the extract you are getting into the territory of broad-spectrum oils and isolates.

Another subtle difference between full, broad or isolate CBD is its purification and activation stages. All hemp plants go through various extraction processes that separate cannabinoids, terpenes, flavanoids, etc from plant material. After an initial purification and activation stage, full-spectrum oil will not go through any additional purification stages like a broad spectrum or isolate product would.


The Entourage Effect

Most consumers of full-spectrum CBD oil prefer this product over the others due to its ability to induce what’s known as the entourage effect. If you haven’t read our previous blog post on Understanding CBD; the entourage effect can be explained as the synergy between CBD and other compounds that produce an amplified effect. In other words, all the compounds within the product interact in a combined effort to produce a stronger effect than any of the compounds alone. The more “full”  the spectrum, the more entourage.


Call the Reinforcements: Full Spectrum Backup Support

The addition of compounds like terpenes and phenolics within a full-spectrum oil have similar effects on mood, pain, and inflammation as CBD. CBD responds to over 65 targets within the body, in which, the activity at each target varies. Other members (compounds) of the entourage effect could be just as or more effective than CBD when you need it most. This is why a full-spectrum option can be very beneficial.


Complementary Pathways and Bell Shaped Dose Curve Resistance

The title of this topic may be very foreign to you upon first glance, so allow me to explain. While CBD is often busy acting on serotonin receptors, other members of the entourage might focus on other neurotransmitters. However, scientists believe that purified CBD has a bell-shaped dose-response curve because it activates different targets at various concentrations.

All this means is that there is an optimal dosage point to feel the benefits of purified CBD. Go past this optimal point and the negative effects start to obscure the benefits.

For example, CBD can relieve anxiety by acting on the 5-HT1A receptors but could potentially trigger anxiety-inducing neurotransmitters at higher doses that surpass the optimal concentration. Higher doses don’t turn off the positive effects, but rather turn on the negative effects that hide the benefits.

How does this relate to full-spectrum CBD oil? Well, the bell-shaped response disappears in a full spectrum, CBD-rich extract. In a study involving inflammation in the paws of mice, purified CBD was only anti-inflammatory in moderate doses. A full spectrum extract, however, became more effective with higher doses.


Bioavailability: How Much is Actually Absorbed?

The entourage effect increases the bioavailability (the rate at which a substance is absorbed) far more than that of CBD alone. This means that a product that lacks full-spectrum content will not absorb or travel farther through the body without its entourage. Terpenoids, found in cannabis extracts are commonly added to products to increase transdermal delivery due to its optimal ability to move compounds across skin barriers.



Various compounds of the entourage are metabolized by the same enzymes as CBD. This means that the entourage could delay CBD breaking down within the body. This leads to the ongoing circulation of CBD and increased effectiveness.


What is CBD Isolate?

CBD Isolate is a substance containing 99%+ CBD concentration, as it has been removed and refined from all the other naturally occurring compounds and plant material within the hemp plant. Isolate is pure CBD and has no entourage of naturally occurring compounds. It can be mixed well with water and is frequently used with food to prepare a CBD-based recipe. There is no risk associated as CBD isolate is free of any impurities such as THC and servings can be managed easily.

The bland and basic appearance of an isolate is difficult to produce as extra steps are needed to further isolate the CBD. A hemp plant is placed through numerous processes to remove certain cannabinoids and plant materials like plant waxes, flavonoids, chlorophyll, terpenes, THC, and more.


Usage of CBD Isolate

  • Placing it under the tongue and letting it dissolve (this is the quickest method as it goes directly through the blood-brain barrier)
  • Combining it with carrier oils such as MCT oil which leads to better bioavailability.
  • Can combine it with other products like cannabis and smoke it
  • Using it as an add-in for certain recipes, meals or drinks (ie smoothies, coffee, sauces, etc)


The Downside of CBD Isolate

As mentioned earlier, purified CBD has anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, and pain-relieving properties. However, it also can come with a downside. The downside is known as a bell-shaped response curve. Although purified CBD is effective for what it treats, this effectiveness peaks at a medium dose and then taper off at higher or lower doses. This results in CBD isolate having limited usefulness because of a narrow, hard to pinpoint optimal dosage.

So the key to receiving maximum benefits is finding YOUR optimal dosage.


What is Broad Spectrum CBD Oil?

Broad-spectrum CBD oil contains other compounds of the hemp plant like phytonutrients, terpenes, cannabinoids, flavonoids, etc. Broad-spectrum can be remembered as the middle man in between full-spectrum and isolate CBD as it doesn’t have the full set of compounds but rather a “broad” amount.

The quality of those compounds is typically not considered to be in great quantity in comparison to a full-spectrum oil. The main component missing from a broad spectrum of oil is THC. Broad-spectrum uses everything that is present inside the hemp plant except for THC. This is very attractive for consumers who work in industries that require pre-employment drug tests:

  • Government
  • Health Care & Hospitals
  • Manufacturing
  • Automotive
  • Transportation & Logistics
  • Private Security
  • Aerospace & Defense
  • Construction
  • Information Technology
  • Education & Schools
  • Pro or Collegiate Level Athletics
  • and more

What Most Consumers Get Wrong

A huge misconception most people have about CBD and THC is that you need THC for CBD to work. However, this isn’t entirely true. While it is accurate to state that CBD and THC work well together. You simply DON’T need THC for CBD to work. CBD will continue to provide its potential benefits to the consumer whether it’s isolated (CBD isolate) or in a full/broad-spectrum setting. However, without THC the benefits are weaker as the entourage is smaller (lacking THC and/ or other compounds).


What’s the Best CBD Oil to Buy?

So there you have it. A basic understanding of the CBD spectrum, how it’s classified, and the differences between full, broad and isolate CBD. Below is a quick overview of the differences and pros/cons between the three extracts. This is intended for those who want a quick review or for those that chose to skim through the bulk of this article.


Full Spectrum Oil

  • Contains all cannabinoids, flavonoids, terpenes, polyphenols, and phytonutrients of the original plant
  • Has trace amounts of THC (max of 0.3%)
  • Has full benefits from the entourage effectwhat are the different types of cbd oil
  • Is the least processed CBD product
  • Minor chance of failing a drug test
  • Increased bioavailability (absorption)


Broad Spectrum Oil

  • Contains all cannabinoids, flavonoids, terpenes, polyphenols, and phytonutrients of the original plant
  • Has no amount of THC (completely THC free)
  • Will pass on a drug test
  • Can still benefit from the entourage effect
  • Less processed than CBD isolate
  • This is less researched than the full spectrum or CBD isolate products. Scientists still don’t know if the lack of THC has an effect on the overall product or if the loss is minimal



CBD Isolate

  • 99%+ CBD
  • Is extremely concentrated with no filler components
  • Serving portions are easy to manage
  • Mixes well in water
  • Can cook with it
  • Zero THC
  • Will pass on a drug test
  • The effects are not as strong as full or broad spectrum due to not having an entourage effect


At the end of the day, the difference between full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and CBD isolate products has to do with the quantity and type of cannabinoids and other naturally occurring compounds found within each extract. The purification and activation processes that pertain to each also further differentiate each product.

Now that you have a basic understanding, you are more equipped to know what YOU specifically need when purchasing CBD products out in the market.

JacobusWhat Are the Best CBD Oils?


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  • Margarette - May 22, 2020 reply

    Wow, great stuff.

    I’ve been wanting to try CBD oil for some time to help alleviate inflammatory issues and also for pain management but was unsure of how to choose one.

    This post is very informative about CBD spectrum and which may be be best for me.

    I will try the full spectrum and a CBD isolate to figure out which will best serve my needs and take it from there.

    Thanks again for all the great info.

    Jacobus - May 22, 2020 reply

    Thank you Margarette for your kind words and comments. I am glad that you were able to take something from this post and hopefully apply it to benefit your life. That is the end goal of this website and blog. 

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