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When you think of cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) may be the first cannabinoid to come to mind. But there’s another popular cannabinoid to keep on your radar: cannabidiol (CBD).

While much of the research on CBD is new or ongoing, CBD may have certain health benefits, like pain relief.

Because of these potential benefits, CBD products of all kinds have flooded the market. It can be tough to separate the great from the not-so-good products — let alone understand CBD terminology like isolate and full-spectrum.

We’ve got you covered with this quick and easy guide to the differences between each form of CBD.

CBD isolate is pure CBD that contains no THC.

Manufacturers make CBD isolate by extracting all substances and compounds from the cannabis plant, leaving pure CBD behind. What’s left behind is a pure crystalline substance that doesn’t contain THC, terpenes, flavonoids, or other cannabis plant compounds.

While CBD isolate contains no additional cannabis plant compounds, full-spectrum CBD contains all the naturally occurring cannabis plant compounds, including CBD, THC, terpenes, and flavonoids.

But unlike cannabis, full-spectrum CBD contains only trace amounts of THC (less than 0.3 percent), which isn’t enough to produce psychoactive effects.

Both full-spectrum CBD and CBD isolate are extracts from the cannabis plant. But even though they come from the same plant, there are still differences.

Full-spectrum CBD products contain small amounts of other cannabinoids, like THC, as well as flavonoids and terpenes, which are beneficial compounds that provide unique scents and flavors.

CBD isolate products go through further refining, so they only contain CBD.


While any type of CBD may offer benefits, there are pros and cons specific to full-spectrum CBD.


The entourage effect theory suggests that taking CBD and THC together, along with terpenes, may be more effective than taking either cannabinoid alone. That’s why some people prefer to use full-spectrum CBD.

A 2011 review in the British Journal of Pharmacology found that taking a combination of terpenes and cannabinoids may help with:

The same review also concludes that CBD may help lessen unwanted THC effects, like hunger, anxiety, and sedation.

Research from 2018 found that some of the terpenes and flavonoids found in cannabis may reduce inflammation and offer neuroprotective effects.

However, as with lots of other aspects of CBD, research into the entourage effect is ongoing — and not all of it agrees.

For example, a 2019 study in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research found no change in CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors, a part of the endocannabinoid system, when terpenes were added to THC. The research concluded that the terpenes were likely working somewhere other than the CB1 and CB2 receptors.

More research is needed to be able to say for sure how the entourage effect works.


Federally legal full-spectrum CBD products can contain up to 0.3 percent THC. That may sound like a small amount, but if you take a large enough amount of a potent enough product, you could be consuming enough to cause an impairing effect.

It’s also possible that the THC could show up on a drug test.

Like full-spectrum CBD, CBD isolate comes with its own pros and cons.


Some people may want to try CBD but are unsure of THC. That’s where CBD isolate comes in, since it’s the purest form of CBD. There’s less of a chance of consuming THC, so it shouldn’t cause any impairment.


With CBD isolate, you’ll miss out on any benefits from the entourage effect. However, research from 2015 suggests that taking CBD alone may still be beneficial.

CBD isolate may be right for you if you:

  • Want a flavorless, odorless product. Though some CBD isolate products have added flavoring, unflavored products should be pretty taste-free.
  • Want to avoid THC altogether. By using CBD isolate products, you won’t be ingesting THC because they contain pure CBD.
  • Want to take large doses of CBD. Isolate allows you to take higher doses of CBD without worrying about taking too much THC.
  • Have to undergo drug testing. Full-spectrum CBD may be more likely to show up on a drug test. However, there may be a slight possibility that isolate products will show up, too. Even “THC-free” CBD products may contain trace amounts of THC.

Full-spectrum CBD may be the right choice if you want:

  • The benefits of the entourage effect. Since the amount of THC will be less than 0.3 percent, you shouldn’t experience any of THC’s psychoactive effects, unless you take a high-potency product. If you take a potent product — such as one with more than 50 milligrams (mg) of CBD per milliliter (mL) of product — you may experience a euphoric effect from the THC.
  • An earthy flavor profile. You can find flavored full-spectrum products, but unflavored varieties will have a slightly earthy taste.
  • A less refined product. CBD isolate has to go through more refining than full-spectrum THC.

We’ve done the research to bring you our top-rated CBD isolate and full-spectrum picks. These all meet our criteria for quality, safety, and transparency. Each product:

  • is made by a company that provides proof of third-party testing by an ISO 17025-compliant lab
  • is made with by a company that discloses the source of their hemp
  • contains no more than 0.3 percent THC, according to the certificate of analysis (COA)
  • passes tests for pesticides, heavy metals, and molds, according to the COA

We also considered:

  • company certifications and manufacturing processes
  • product potency
  • overall ingredients
  • indicators of user trust and brand reputation, such as:

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $40
  • $$ = $40–$60
  • $$$ = over $60

Editor’s pick and best CBD isolate oil

Kanibi CBD Pure Isolate

  • Price: $$$
  • CBD type: isolate
  • CBD potency: 750 mg per 1-oz. bottle
  • COA: available on product page

Kanibi’s CBD isolate is available in cinnamon, Skittles, and unflavored varieties. It’s made with organic, U.S.-grown hemp and MCT oil.

The company provides a 100 percent money-back guarantee.

Use code “HEALTHLINE10” for 10% off.

Best full-spectrum CBD oil

Lazarus Naturals High Potency Full-Spectrum CBD Tincture

  • Price: $–$$$
  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 1,500 mg per 30-mL bottle
  • COA: available on product page

Each bottle of Lazarus Naturals High Potency Full-Spectrum CBD Tincture includes a graduated dropper to accurately dose about 50 mg of CBD per 1-mL serving. The tincture is vegan and contains no artificial flavors, preservatives, or added sweeteners. It’s made with Oregon-grown hemp.

Best full-spectrum CBD capsules

Bluebird Botanicals Classic Concentrated CBD Soft Gels

  • Price: $
  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 15 mg per softgel
  • Count: 30 softgels per package
  • COA: available on product page

These CBD softgels are a great choice if you’re averse to the strong, earthy flavor of CBD oil. Each capsule contains 15 mg of CBD and organic cold-pressed virgin hempseed oil.

Bluebird Botanicals is also U.S. Hemp Authority certified, so you can be sure you’re getting a quality product.

Best full-spectrum CBD cream

R+R Medicinals Hemp Extract Infused Cream

  • Price: $$
  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 1,000 mg per 2.5-oz. package
  • COA: available on the product page

If you’re looking for targeted relief for aches and pains, a topical product like this full-spectrum CBD cream may be the right choice. The vegan formula absorbs quickly into the skin and contains soothing plant-based ingredients like arnica, calendula, and jojoba oil.

It’s a good pick for people with scent sensitivities since it’s free of strong artificial fragrances and scented ingredients like menthol and eucalyptus.

Best CBD isolate gummies

Fab CBD Chews

  • Price: $$
  • CBD type: isolate
  • CBD potency: 25 mg per gummy
  • Count: 30 gummies per package
  • COA: available online

These fruit-flavored CBD chews are vegan, non-GMO, and gluten-free. The CBD is sourced from organically grown hemp. They’re sweetened with organic cane sugar and tapioca syrup.

Note that while Fab CBD says these gummies are made from CBD isolate, the COA shows a very small amount of the terpene d-limonene. Even though they don’t contain any other cannabinoids, that suggests that the gummies may be better classified as broad-spectrum.

Use code “HEALTHLINE” for 20% off your first purchase.

Editor’s pick and best CBD isolate oil

Kanibi CBD Pure Isolate

  • Price: $$$
  • CBD type: isolate
  • CBD potency: 750 mg per 1-oz. bottle
  • COA: available on product page

Kanibi’s CBD isolate is available in cinnamon, Skittles, and unflavored varieties. It’s made with organic, U.S.-grown hemp and MCT oil.

The company provides a 100 percent money-back guarantee.

Use code “HEALTHLINE10” for 10% off.

Best CBD isolate cream

Medterra CBD+ Manuka Honey Healing Cream

  • Price: $–$$
  • CBD type: Isolate
  • CBD potency: 125 or 250 mg per 1-oz. package
  • COA: available on the product page

Honey is delicious, but did you know it’s also great for your skin? Medterra uses Manuka honey, sourced from New Zealand, in their CBD isolate cream to provide additional skin-friendly benefits. Other ingredients include arnica, aloe, and various nourishing plant oils.

Plus, the U.S. Hemp Authority certified company also uses organically grown hemp to make their CBD products.

Some CBD companies make misleading claims about their products. Some even mislabel them. Since the FDA doesn’t regulate CBD products the same way it regulates dietary supplements or drugs, that means it’s super important to do careful research.

Look out for the following when shopping for CBD products:

Test results

Look for products that include an up-to-date COA from a third-party lab. Some companies will ship the COA with the product, while others may post it online. In some cases, you may have to request it by email.

Here’s what to check for when you review the COA:

  • Contaminants. Check that the product doesn’t have pesticides, mold, and heavy metals.
  • Cannabinoid profile. If you’re interested in purchasing a CBD isolate product, for instance, verify that the product is free of THC.
  • Potency. Check that the amount of CBD listed on the COA matches what’s listed on the label.


Be sure the product you’re buying actually contains CBD. If the ingredients list only says hempseed oil or Cannabis sativa oil, it doesn’t contain CBD.

CBD source

Opt for products made from organic, U.S.-grown hemp. U.S.-grown hemp is subject to regulation, so it can’t contain more than 0.3 percent THC by law.

CBD type

It’s up to you which kind of CBD you choose, but if you prefer to avoid THC, choose a CBD isolate product. If you’d like to have other cannabis compounds, choose a full-spectrum product. If you fall somewhere in between, you may want to explore broad-spectrum products.

Product type

There are all sorts of CBD products out there, from topicals to gummies.

Topical CBD products help target specific pain areas. Oils and gummies are more useful for whole-body relief.

It can be hard to find the right dose when using topical CBD products, but a good rule of thumb is to use about as much as you would with a non-CBD topical cream.

When taking an oil or gummy, always start with the lowest dose and work your way up. Edibles may take longer to kick in than other types of products, so wait a bit before you take more.

One week after starting CBD, reassess your symptoms. If you haven’t noticed much improvement, increase the dosage by about 5 mg per day. This should help you find the right dosage for you.

If you need more help figuring out CBD dosage, check out our CBD dosage guide.

The World Health Organization notes that CBD is generally safe and well-tolerated, but some studies note potential side effects, including:

  • changes in appetite and weight
  • diarrhea
  • fatigue

It’s always a good idea to talk with a doctor before trying CBD. That’s especially important if you’re taking any medication, since CBD can interact with certain medications, including those that carry a grapefruit warning.

Studies also show that ingesting CBD products with high fat meals can dramatically increase CBD concentration in your blood. This may increase your risk of experiencing side effects.

It’s a good idea to talk with a doctor before taking CBD if you’ve never taken it before. It’s especially important to consult a doctor if you’re currently taking medications and want to find out if it’s safe to also take CBD.

Will CBD make me high?

No. CBD itself is nonintoxicating. Taking CBD isolate will not make you feel “high.”

However, full-spectrum CBD products do have the potential to cause a high because they contain THC. If you take a lot of a high potency product all at once, you could consume enough THC to make you feel “high.”

What’s the difference between full-spectrum CBD and isolate?

CBD isolate is pure CBD. Full-spectrum CBD, on the other hand, contains additional compounds like small amounts of THC, terpenes, and flavonoids.

What’s the best type of CBD?

That depends on what you’re looking for. Full-spectrum products may produce more pronounced effects because of the interaction between CBD and other cannabis plant compounds.

But that doesn’t mean CBD isolate is completely useless. It may be a good choice for those who are sensitive to THC or who want to take large quantities of CBD for issues like chronic pain.

Full-spectrum CBD contains small amounts of other cannabis compounds, like flavonoids and terpenes. It also contains a small amount of THC. CBD isolate, on the other hand, contains CBD only.

While the entourage effect suggests that full-spectrum products may work best, CBD isolate may still produce beneficial effects.

Always talk with a doctor before taking any CBD products.