What's the Difference? | CBD Isolate, Broad-Spectrum, & Full-Spectrum


CBD is a big topic of discussion in the medical community. Because it is not part of the core curricula in healthcare practitioner education, many providers understandably do not know much about it. But, given the rise of recent interest, its involvement in coursework is evolving and more practitioners are starting to understand that they need to know how to answer their patients’ questions.

When selecting CBD products, it is important to note that you will see differences in the wording that is used to describe them. Three of the most common phrases you will see are CBD isolate, broad-spectrum, and full-spectrum. You are probably wondering—what is the difference and how does it impact product selection? Read on and check out this video to find learn more!

Once the cannabis plant undergoes the extraction process, the extract contains many substances such as cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. If all of these compounds are retained and sold as a product, it is considered full-spectrum. The inclusion of all of these compounds demonstrates the entourage effect, also being referred to as the ensemble effect. It is thought that the many compounds synergize with one another and the endocannabinoid system to promote desired health benefits. Due to the 2018 Farm Bill, the THC concentration has a limitation of <0.3% of the products’ contents if it is to be sold as a hemp-derived CBD product. This quantity of THC demonstrates a very low likelihood of producing euphoric feelings, or feeling “high.” Of note, even these low amounts of THC may be detected on a urine drug test which is one of the reasons the use of CBD should be discussed with your healthcare team before taking it. 

Broad-spectrum is similar to full-spectrum in that it also contains the cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids mentioned, but it does not contain THC. In comparison to full-spectrum, broad-spectrum formulations could be a better option for those who may experience drug testing at their place of work or school, and/or their personal reasons not to take any THC.

CBD isolate products contain purely and only CBD. None of the other additional components are included. Choosing to use CBD isolate products would allow a person to determine whether or not CBD alone could be the right choice for their ailment. However, there is conflicting evidence supporting and negating the use of CBD isolate products due to the discussion of the entourage effect.

When contemplating the use of CBD, it is important to reach out to ask a healthcare practitioner with a specialty in cannabis medicine which option is right for you. Should you find it difficult to find a specialist on your own, consider asking your primary care provider if he/she/they could provide a referral. Please do not hesitate to reach out to our Chief Scientific Officer, Dr. Swathi, at Dr. Swathi’s Corner with any questions.



Cather JC, Cather JC. Cannabidiol primer for healthcare professionals. Proc (Bayl Univ Med Cent). 2020;33(3):376-379.

Coelho S. Full Spectrum CBD vs. Broad Spectrum CBD: Differences and Benefits. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/full-spectrum-cbd-vs-broad-spectrum-cbd. Published September 28, 2020.


This article was written by Dr. Swathi and past Element Apothec Scientific Communications Intern, Kayla Saxton, a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) student at the University of Georgia College of Pharmacy in Athens, Georgia.

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