What Is The Difference Between Full & Broad Spectrum CBD?

Full Spectrum Vs Broad Spectrum CBD

CBD is a product that comes in many different forms, covering everything from CBD oils and CBD e-liquids to CBD gummies and even CBD skincare products.

Any reputable CBD product will include a clear indicator, either on the labelling or a product’s website page, clarifying whether it is a full spectrum or broad spectrum product.

But why does this matter?

What’s the difference between broad spectrum vs full spectrum CBD?

To those who are new to the CBD world it may seem like a negligible issue, but as a point of debate it has a long history of conflicting opinion within the CBD community.

Some CBD users will swear that broad spectrum CBD is better than full spectrum, whilst others will argue that full spectrum CBD is the only way to go.

It’s a small but fundamental difference that separates these two products, but its presence will impact everything from how an individual reacts to CBD to whether a product complies with the law.

It all revolves around a single compound, a naturally occurring element of the hemp plant that is extracted in exactly the same way as CBD, but has been one of the key reasons CBD has seen such strict prohibition across the world.

That element is THC.

What Is The Difference?

A broad spectrum CBD product will contain a range of cannabinoids, primarily CBD but also several others found naturally within the cannabis plant. The biggest difference is that all THC compounds have been removed, leaving the final product with no psychoactive properties whatsoever.

Full spectrum CBD meanwhile does contain THC, though it will be in an extremely small concentration. A UK-legal full spectrum CBD product will contain trace amounts of THC which, whilst measurably negligible, does technically have a psychoactive effect.

It will be nowhere near the level experienced by those who take higher THC concentration products sold elsewhere in the world, such as certain US states, but nevertheless is present. It is this psychoactive element that will get people ‘high’ and has also been the cause of much confusion surrounding CBD.

CBD itself works through a part of the body called the endocannabinoid system, a naturally occurring set of receptors that help to regulate a range of bodily functions. CBD will not get you ‘high’ no matter how much you take, as its effects are entirely separate to that of THC.

Broad Spectrum CBD oil

The Entourage Effect

So, if THC won’t have any of its most notable effects in UK legal CBD products, why do people still purchase full spectrum CBD? If there is no real difference, then what’s the point of the full spectrum vs broad spectrum CBD argument?

Well there is a difference, just not the one you may be thinking of. THC is included in low quantities in full spectrum products for the same reason that other cannabinoids are included in both kinds of CBD: the entourage effect.

The entourage effect is a principle that revolves around the idea of cannabinoids working in concert with each other. Essentially, it is believed by various members of the CBD community - though not supported by any scientific study - that including multiple cannabinoids will enhance the effects of CBD.

Though based largely off anecdotal evidence, it has been noted that both broad spectrum and full spectrum CBD seem to have a stronger effect than CBD isolate, which contains no cannabinoids other than CBD.

Whether the inclusion of THC in full spectrum CBD makes a notable difference to the entourage effect is a less easily addressed matter. Some suggest that the THC actually impedes the effects of the CBD by supplanting it in the endocannabinoid receptors.

Others meanwhile argue that the concentration of THC in UK legal products is so negligible as to make no difference at all. Yet other CBD users will insist that it is precisely this limitation that is perfect for enhancing the entourage effect; that a trace amount of THC will enhance the CBD without getting in the way.

As with so much in the CBD world, the specifics are unclear and further studies are needed. There certainly is a notable difference between spectrum CBD products and CBD isolate, but whether this difference extends to between full spectrum and broad spectrum CBD is another matter.

Either way, even if this difference is ultimately a placebo, it has made enough of an impact to influence CBD manufacturers, as there now exists a general understanding in the CBD community of what kind of CBD is best used where. 

Applications & Uses

Although both full spectrum and broad spectrum CBD can be used in a wide variety of CBD products, a trend has emerged within the industry of selectively using certain kinds of CBD in certain products.

The full spectrum vs broad spectrum CBD debate isn’t necessarily the final word on what sort of CBD can be used in which products, but this is certainly one of the most widespread practices within this innovative industry.

In general, full spectrum CBD is used in a wide range of oils, often those aiming for stronger concentrations of CBD. In theory this greater concentration allows for an amplified entourage effect, making full use of the additional THC content to ensure that your CBD experience is as full as possible.

Broad spectrum CBD is used on a wider range of products than full spectrum, including most topicals, the more flavour-focused CBD oils, pure extracts and many edibles.

Broad spectrum CBD is often seen as the more flexible option, as well as the kind of CBD that can best be flavoured. Because of this many CBD e-liquids use broad spectrum, although just as many use pure CBD isolate instead.

These are by no means strict rules: innovation is one of the CBD industry’s strongest assets, and any good R&D department will consider the kind of CBD they use as an essential component in product design.

Whatever way you dose your CBD, your product should always clearly indicate what kind of CBD it uses.

Full spectrum CBD oil


The question of full spectrum vs broad spectrum CBD is a straightforward one to answer: in the end, the only real difference is THC content. There’s a lot more dividing these two from CBD isolate than there is from each other.

Yet, because THC is such a core issue in the history of CBD use, this question has come to dominate much of the CBD community and drive manufacturing in a certain direction.

Both broad spectrum and full spectrum CBD benefit from the entourage effect, helping to enhance your CBD experience. Whether the presence of THC gives it a particular edge over a broad spectrum product is indeterminate.

Many people prefer one over the other, but just as many consider them virtually interchangeable. Although particular industry practices separate these different kinds of CBD into different products, their interchangeability in things like CBD oils highlights the lack of real difference.

Full spectrum CBD may be more widely used in higher concentration CBD oils, but many people find broad spectrum CBD oils of the same concentration to be just as suitable.

Like so much of the CBD world the real difference lies in personal taste. As you try different CBD products you’ll find that different kinds of CBD work for you, letting you develop your own unique preferences.

Industry production standards may direct the use of certain kinds of CBD to specific products, but this should by no means restrict your own choices. If you find an e-liquid that uses full spectrum or a strong broad spectrum oil that sounds enticing, the type of CBD it uses shouldn’t necessarily hold you back.

Innovation has always been at the heart of this industry and it would be a mistake to allow existing practices to restrict new possibilities. As long as you’re confident about the reputability of the manufacturer and the content of the product, there’s no reason you shouldn’t give a new kind of CBD a try.

Further Resources