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Is CBD legal? Hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are legal federally but still illegal under some state laws. Marijuana-derived CBD products, on the other hand, are illegal federally but legal under some state laws. Check local legislation, especially when traveling. Also, remember that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved nonprescription CBD products, which may be inaccurately labeled.

Full-spectrum and broad-spectrum are two main types of cannabidiol (CBD) extract. The differences concern the presence of other naturally occurring plant compounds within the extract.

CBD is one of many compounds in the cannabis plant. Other than THC, it is the plant’s most abundant compound.

The main difference between full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD is the compounds they contain.

If a CBD product contains several naturally occurring cannabis plant extracts, such as terpenes and other cannabinoids — including up to 0.3% THC — it is full-spectrum CBD.

Broad-spectrum CBD also contains several cannabis plant compounds but is typically entirely free of THC. That said, there may sometimes be trace amounts of THC in broad-spectrum CBD products.

Learn more about full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD.

CBD isolate

CBD isolate is the third most common form of CBD. This pure form of CBD contains no other cannabis plant compounds.

Learn more about different CBD types.

However, while these terms carry some meaning, CBD and related terms do not undergo much regulation, so some manufacturers may use the words interchangeably or misuse them.


There are three main ways to extract CBD from the cannabis plant. These are:

  • Carbon dioxide extraction: Uses CO2 to separate CBD oil from the cannabis plant. It is a popular extraction method for CBD products and can successfully produce high-concentration CBD.
  • Steam distillation: Manufacturers use steam to help separate the oil from the plant material. It is a popular method for extracting essential plant oils but is less effective than the CO2 method.
  • Solvent extraction: Although effective, this method can leave behind solvent residue, posing a potential health risk. Solvent extraction can also affect the flavor of the extract.
  • Lipid extraction: This process is gaining popularity, as some companies are now trying to avoid using CO2 and solvents.

After extraction, manufacturers refer to the resulting CBD oil as full-spectrum. Hemp-sourced CBD will have a THC concentration of 0.3% or less.

Additionally, the extract must undergo a cooling and purification process to convert it into a CBD isolate. Further processing leaves behind a crystalline isolate, or CBD crystals.

CBD resources

Visit our dedicated hub for more research-backed information and in-depth resources on CBD.

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Someone new to CBD may prefer to begin with an isolate, as it is the purest form.

Those more familiar with CBD products may choose broad-spectrum or full-spectrum.

Those with painful joints or muscles or those looking for relaxation may opt for topical CBD products or products they can add to a bath to soak. Others may choose a more on-the-go CBD form, such as gummies or tinctures they can add to drinks.

Whichever type or product an individual chooses, they should always follow manufacturer dosage instructions carefully and contact a doctor or healthcare professional if they have any questions or notice any side effects.

Full-spectrum CBD has numerous other cannabinoid compounds from the cannabis plant, along with low levels of THC. Usually, the THC quantities are less than 0.3% on a dry weight basis since this is the federal law requirement for CBD products.

This low quantity of THC is not usually potent enough to cause the “high” people typically associate with cannabis use.

However, THC levels can increase when manufacturers create concentrate products. For example, some tinctures can contain up to 2 milligrams (mg) per milliliter (ml) of THC; in some cases, this can cause a euphoric effect.

Full-spectrum CBD also contains terpenes from the cannabis plant. Terpenes tend to give plants their scent.

A 2020 study describes an “entourage effect” that the plant’s multiple compounds, including terpenes, can produce. Studies discussed in this work suggest that terpenes that produce the entourage effect can improve the effects of CBD, including its mood-stabilizing effects.

However, the authors note that more research is needed to investigate the benefits of adding terpenes to CBD, especially when treating conditions such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.

Pros of full-spectrum CBD

Some of the potential health effects of CBD include:

It may also ease the symptoms of some mental health conditions and provide relief from muscle spasms.

A recent study notes there is limited evidence on the use of CBD in dental health conditions. However, the researchers state that flavonoids and terpenes in CBD may have anti-inflammatory, analgesic, or anti-microbial properties, so people may take CBD products if they have a toothache, gingivitis, or dental cavities.

Learn more about the potential health benefits of CBD oil.

Cons of full-spectrum CBD

A potential disadvantage of full-spectrum CBD is that in a large enough dose, a person may feel a euphoric high.

Additionally, people who use full-spectrum CBD products may run the risk of returning a positive result on a drug test. One of the drugs that drug tests screen for is THC, which certain full-spectrum CBD products can contain.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

Broad-spectrum CBD products also contain additional compounds from the cannabis plant, including cannabinol (CBN), cannabichromene, and terpenes.

Pros of broad-spectrum CBD

CBN may have the following potential health effects:

  • antibiotic
  • anti-seizure
  • anti-inflammatory

While most broad-spectrum CBD products do not contain THC, some may have trace amounts.

Like full-spectrum CBD, broad-spectrum CBD products may also have additional health benefits due to the resulting entourage effect.

Cons of broad-spectrum CBD

A potential disadvantage of broad-spectrum CBD is that it does not contain THC. This may mean it does not have as many benefits as full-spectrum CBD.

Additionally, people who use CBD products run the risk of returning a positive on a drug test. Broad-spectrum CBD may have trace amounts of THC, which may appear on these screenings.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

CBD isolate only contains CBD and contains no additional compounds from the cannabis plant.

Learn more about CBD isolate.

Pros of CBD isolate

People who wish to avoid THC altogether may prefer using CBD isolate products.

With CBD isolate, a person can determine if CBD alone eases their ailments effectively, as no other active compounds present can interfere or interact with its effects.

Cons of CBD isolate

However, as mentioned above, evidence suggests that using CBD products containing multiple cannabis plant compounds may produce more prominent results from the entourage effect. Additionally, CBD isolate products may not provide the same benefits.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

Medical News Today’s methodology

Medical News Today chooses products that meet the following criteria:

  • Ingredients: MNT chooses products containing safe and high quality clearly labeled ingredients. They should also confirm they are free from pesticides, heavy metals, and mold.
  • Dosage: MNT chooses products that must clearly state the CBD dosage.
  • Serving size: MNT selects products in which manufacturers recommend a dosage.
  • Third-party labs: MNT chooses products that must undergo third-party testing for contaminants by an ISO 17025-compliant laboratory.
  • Available certificate of analysis: MNT chooses companies that demonstrate transparency and share a product’s COA after receiving its third-party lab results.
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People who do not wish to use a THC product may prefer CBD isolate or broad-spectrum CBD. However, while most broad-spectrum CBD products do not have any THC, some may contain trace amounts.

People interested in products with THC may prefer to use full-spectrum CBD.

People should always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when using CBD products.

Some general guidelines include:

  • Edibles: People chew or swallow edible CBD products like gummies and capsules. Companies will provide instructions on how many edibles to take on the product’s packaging.
  • Topicals: Individuals rub topical CBD products, such as creams and lotions, on their skin. Some topical CBD products are available as transdermal patches, which a person places on their skin.
  • Sublingual products: People place sublingual CBD products, such as oils and tinctures, underneath their tongues. Companies will provide instructions on using these products on the packaging.

However, as the CBD industry has no established guidelines for CBD dosing, it is also a good idea to consult a healthcare professional with working expertise in cannabis. They can advise on the safety and dosage of CBD products.

CBD product labels inform people of the product’s ingredients, strength, and dosage. It is also important to ensure a product has a current COA.

CBD ingredients

CBD products contain either full-spectrum CBD, broad-spectrum CBD, or CBD isolate. They may also include cannabinoids and terpenes.

There are over 100 different cannabinoids, including THC and cannabidiol. Cannabinoids may help with conditions like chronic pain and multiple sclerosis.

Terpenes are aromatic compounds that provide scent and flavor.

CBD strength and dosage

Companies often display a CBD product’s strength in large letters in the product description and packaging.

They will also often display the strength per dose on the product label. For CBD gummies, a person can divide the total strength by the number of gummies in the packaging to calculate the strength per dose.


It is important to purchase CBD products that have a current COA. A COA means that the product has undergone testing by a third party to ensure the label is accurate and the product is safe to use.

Many companies provide their COAs online. However, a person can email the company to receive a copy if the COA is unavailable online.

While CBD is generally safe and people tolerate the substance well, it can cause the following side effects:

  • changes in alertness, such as drowsiness
  • diarrhea
  • increase in appetite
  • changes in mood, such as irritability and agitation

The FDA identified a potential risk of liver damage in the approved CBD product, Epidiolex, which treats rare seizure disorders. The FDA also noted that CBD could interact with medication.

A person who requires regular medication should always inform a doctor if they use any CBD products.

Below are some frequently asked questions about CBD products.

Is CBD legal?

Hemp-derived CBD is legal federally. However, it may be illegal under some state laws.

In contrast, cannabis-derived CBD is illegal federally but legal under some state laws.

With this in mind, people should check the laws of the state they reside in or are traveling to before purchasing and consuming CBD products.

Are CBD products FDA-approved?

The FDA does not currently approve any CBD products apart from Epidiolex.

The agency advises people that CBD products, such as gummies, oils, and lotions, have not undergone FDA evaluation to determine what doses are safe and whether the products cause any side effects.

Can CBD help with symptoms of health conditions?

Although research on CBD is still in the early stages, many people are eager to try CBD products. Anecdotal evidence suggests some individuals have found CBD helpful in relieving ailments such as anxiety and pain.

One 2018 study revealed that 62% of participants who take CBD use it for medical symptoms, including pain, depression, and anxiety.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health states there is some evidence that CBD can help with certain conditions or symptoms, including:

  • Pain: There is some evidence CBD can provide a small benefit to those experiencing pain. However, the quality of this research is low or moderate.
  • Anxiety: CBD products may help reduce anxiety symptoms, including those of social anxiety disorder.
  • Multiple sclerosis: CBD products may help reduce spasticity in individuals with multiple sclerosis. Spasticity causes an increase in muscle tone or muscle stiffness, which can cause discomfort and pain and interfere with movement and speech.

Is full-spectrum or broad-spectrum CBD better for anxiety?

Research from 2019 suggests that CBD can help with anxiety, but little research has investigated whether full- or broad-spectrum CBD is more effective for this use.

A 2021 animal study found that broad-spectrum CBD oil may help reduce anxiety and depression symptoms that develop due to trauma.

It is important to consider the ingredients in any CBD product. Broad-spectrum products can contain trace amounts of THC. Anyone who does not want to consume any THC might opt for a CBD isolate product containing no THC or other cannabinoids.

Which is stronger full or broad-spectrum CBD for pain relief?

Some research suggests that full-spectrum CBD may help relieve pain. A 2019 study that reviewed the effects of full hemp extract CBD in people with chronic pain found that it helped improve their symptoms. More than half of the participants could reduce or stop taking opioids for pain management after using CBD for 8 weeks.

2020 research also found that full-spectrum CBD may have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects.

However, there is an overall lack of evidence that any type of CBD relieves pain most effectively.

Work with a healthcare professional to address how best to treat or manage pain. A doctor can also describe whether CBD is advisable.

Does CBD show up on a drug test?

If a person uses a full-spectrum CBD product, there is a possibility of returning a positive drug test. Full-spectrum CBD products contain THC, which drug tests screen for.

Will CBD make me ‘high’?

CBD alone cannot make a person high. THC is the psychoactive compound responsible for the high feeling some people experience when using cannabis. FDA regulations mean that CBD products must contain no more than 0.3% dry-weight THC, which is insufficient for a person to feel high.

What is broad-spectrum CBD best for?

Broad-spectrum CBD products do not always contain traces of THC, so they may be suitable for individuals who want to avoid THC consumption.

Broad-spectrum CBD also has other cannabinoids and terpenes, which may cause the entourage effect. This increases the product’s likelihood of producing health benefits.

What’s the most effective form of CBD?

People using CBD may consider buying tinctures. These come with a dropper with markings so that users will know the amount of CBD they have to take.

Buying creams can make it difficult to apply the recommended amount.

Is full-spectrum CBD better than regular CBD?

Full-spectrum CBD contains all the compounds present in the cannabis plant, while CBD isolate is the pure form of CBD.

Some people may prefer full-spectrum products. Research suggests that combining multiple compounds may make the product more effective.

Although the current evidence suggests that full- and broad-spectrum CBD products may be more effective than CBD isolate, more research is necessary.

The presence of additional cannabis plant compounds may increase the effects of CBD products. However, because there is no current regulation of the terms “broad spectrum,” “full spectrum,” and “isolate,” it can be challenging to determine a CBD product’s exact contents.

People interested in trying CBD to ease various ailments, such as pain and anxiety, should research manufacturers that engage in third-party laboratory testing.

Individuals looking to try CBD should also speak with a doctor first, as these products may have some side effects and drug interactions.