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Cannabidiol (CBD) products have been growing in popularity as a way to help manage a bunch of different conditions, like pain and anxiety. But since the world of CBD is relatively new and research is still ongoing, it can be a little overwhelming to navigate.

If you’ve already started looking for a CBD product to try, you might have noticed that some labels say they’re made from full-spectrum or whole-plant CBD. But what exactly does that mean?

Here’s what you need to know about full-spectrum CBD and how to decide if it’s right for you — plus, our picks for the best full-spectrum CBD products to try.

Full-spectrum CBD is a type of CBD that contains all beneficial compounds naturally found in the cannabis plant. These include:

  • Cannabinoids. There are more than 100 cannabinoids, including CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBD and THC are responsible for the therapeutic and psychoactive effects of cannabis products. While CBD doesn’t cause impairment, THC has an intoxicating effect.
  • Terpenes. Cannabis has more than 150 terpenes, which affect the plant’s fragrance (think: what makes an orange smell citrusy). Terpenes can also have therapeutic benefits (think: how lavender has a calming effect).
  • Flavonoids. Cannabis includes about 20 different flavonoids. Flavonoids are found in all kinds of plants, including fruits, vegetables, grains, and more. Like terpenes, they have therapeutic effects. Research from 2016 shows that the flavonoids found in cannabis have anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and neuroprotective properties.

The biggest difference is that while full-spectrum CBD products contain small amounts of THC, broad-spectrum and isolate products do not.

Broad-spectrum CBD removes THC, but it keeps other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. CBD isolate removes everything except CBD.

Full-spectrumBroad-spectrumIsolate
CBDyesyesyes
THCyesnono
Flavonoidsyesyesno
Terpenesyesyesno

Full-spectrum CBD has a couple of benefits over broad-spectrum CBD and CBD isolate.

The entourage effect

While a 2015 study suggests that CBD can be beneficial on its own, other research suggests that CBD’s therapeutic effects are stronger when combined with other cannabis compounds, including terpenes, flavonoids, and lesser-known cannabinoids. This theory is called the entourage effect.

Broad-spectrum CBD does include other compounds, but the THC found only in full-spectrum products may amp up the anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving benefits of CBD.

Keep in mind that with very low levels of THC (less than 0.3 percent), full-spectrum CBD still shouldn’t cause you to feel “high.” However, this does depend on the product’s potency and the amount you take at once. If you take a large dose of a high potency product, you may be ingesting enough THC to produce a euphoric effect.

Widely available

Full-spectrum CBD is a popular option. It’s easy to find full-spectrum CBD edibles (gummies), topicals (creams or lotions), sublinguals (sprays or oils), and pills or capsules.

Despite the benefits of full-spectrum CBD, it does have a few drawbacks as well.

Contains THC

Not everyone wants THC in their CBD products. You may prefer to avoid it or you might worry about it showing up on a drug test. Depending on the test, this is a possibility, especially if you’re buying CBD products that are mislabeled and contain more THC than they claim.

Not always legal

The products we cover in this article are hemp-derived, which means the plants themselves contain less than 0.3 percent THC. Hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3 percent THC are federally legal, though they’re still illegal under some state laws.

Additionally, some CBD products may be made from what’s commonly referred to as “marijuana” and may have more than 0.3 percent THC. These products can be found at dispensaries in states where cannabis is legal.

If you’re shopping for a full-spectrum CBD product, check how much THC is in it so you can make sure it’s what you’re looking for.

If you’re interested in the potential therapeutic benefits of the entourage effect, full-spectrum CBD may be the best choice for you.

However, if you’re sensitive to THC or just want to avoid it, you might want to try broad-spectrum CBD. That way, you’ll still get some benefits of entourage effect but with no THC.

If you don’t want anything but CBD, isolate will be your best bet.

If you’re ready to dive in, here are a few great full-spectrum CBD products to get you started. The products on our list meet specific safety, quality, and transparency criteria. Each product:

  • is made by a company that provides proof of third-party testing by an ISO 17025-compliant lab
  • is made 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:
  • whether the company makes any unsupported health claims

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $50
  • $$ = $50–$79
  • $$$ = $80–$110
  • $$$$ = over $110

Best full-spectrum CBD oils

CBDistillery Full-Spectrum CBD Oil Tincture

  • Price: $$
  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 33 mg per dropper, 1,000 mg per 1-oz. bottle
  • COA: available on product page

CBDistillery creates high quality products with a transparent process. The company is certified by the U.S. Hemp Authority.

This no-frills tincture is made with just a few simple ingredients, including MCT oil. You can place it under your tongue or add it to food or drinks.

Use code “healthline” for 15% off sitewide or choose the subscription option for 20% off the first 2 subscription orders and 25% off the 3rd order.

Kanibi Full-Spectrum CBD Oil Tincture

  • Price: $$–$$$$
  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 50 mg per dropper, 750 mg or 1,500 mg per 1-oz. bottle
  • COA: available on product page

Kanibi’s tincture comes in five fun flavors, including Skittles and Choco Mint. It’s a bit pricey, but reviewers say it’s worth it.

This tincture uses MCT oil as the carrier oil and is made with natural flavors and sweeteners.

Use code HEALTHLINE10 for 10% off.

Best full-spectrum CBD topical

Lazarus Naturals Soothing Mint Full-Spectrum CBD Balm

  • Price: $
  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 1,000 mg per 0.7-oz. container or 3,000 mg per 2.1-oz. container
  • COA: available online

This soothing balm from Lazarus Naturals comes highly rated by users searching for pain relief, thanks to the full-spectrum CBD, menthol, and wintergreen oil.

A little goes a long way, so the small container may be all you need. But one reviewer says that the bigger container is easier to open, which may be helpful if you’re dealing with a condition like arthritis.

Lazarus Naturals offers a discount program for veterans, people with low incomes, and people with disabilities.

Use code “Healthline10” for 10% off your first order. One time use only.

Best full-spectrum CBD softgels

CBDistillery Full-Spectrum CBD Softgels

  • Price: $$$$
  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 30 mg per softgel
  • Count: 60 softgels per bottle
  • COA: available on product page

Pills, capsules, and softgels can be an easy way to take CBD, since the dose is already figured out for you.

Keep in mind that when you take a CBD pill, you’ll need to digest it before you’ll feel the effects. Research from 2018 shows this may decrease the potency of the product, so don’t be alarmed if 30 mg seems higher than what you might normally look for in a CBD product.

Best full-spectrum CBD gummies

Plus CBD Citrus Punch CBD Gummies

  • Price: $
  • CBD type: full-spectrum
  • CBD potency: 10 mg per gummy
  • Count: 30 or 60 gummies per container
  • COA: available online

These gummies are sweetened with organic sugar and tapioca syrup and dyed with natural coloring. According to reviewers, they taste great.

With just 10 mg of CBD per gummy, they’re a good introductory product.

Plus CBD also offers a subscribe and save option if you want to repurchase.

Currently, the FDA doesn’t guarantee the safety, effectiveness, or quality of over-the-counter (OTC) CBD products. That means it’s especially important to research before buying to make sure you’re getting a quality product. Here are a few important things to look out for:

  • COA. Make sure the product has an up-to-date and comprehensive COA from a reputable third-party lab. Take a look at the cannabinoid profile, the potency, and contaminant testing results.
  • Transparency. Make sure the company says where they grow their hemp and how they make their products. Hemp grown in the United States is subject to certain regulations, making it a safer bet.
  • Unsupported health claims. Make sure the company doesn’t claim that their products treat or cure any diseases. CBD may help manage symptoms, but it’s not currently an FDA-approved treatment for any disease outside of prescription Epidiolex for seizures.
  • FDA warning letters, lawsuits, or poor customer reviews. Review any FDA warning letters the company may have received. These could mean that the company made health claims they shouldn’t have. Also, check for any legal issues or poor reviews from customers.

There are a lot of different kinds of full-spectrum CBD products. How you use them varies by type:

  • Topicals. Topical products are applied to your skin and can come as cream, lotions, or salves. They’re usually used for muscle and joint pain or skin conditions.
  • Edibles. There are a lot of different kinds of edibles available. You’ll find gummies, mints, lozenges, chocolates, and even beverages.
  • Pills or capsules. Precisely dosed and straightforward to take, pills and capsules are an easy way to add CBD into your routine.
  • Sublinguals. Sublingual products are taken under your tongue. These include tinctures, oils, and sprays. Products placed under your tongue will take effect more quickly than edible products.

If you’re new to CBD, it’s best to start with a very small dose and work your way up depending on how you feel.

Research shows that CBD is generally considered safe. However, you shouldn’t take CBD if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.

Additionally, some people may experience side effects like:

  • tiredness
  • diarrhea
  • changes in appetite or weight

It’s always best to talk with a doctor before trying CBD, especially if you’re already taking medications or want relief from specific symptoms. CBD may interact with some medications that have a grapefruit warning.

If you’re planning on taking CBD products by mouth, avoid doing so alongside high fat meals. One 2020 study found that high fat meals can increase CBD blood concentrations, which can increase the risk of side effects.

If you plan on using a topical product, avoid applying it to broken skin. Do a patch test before using it broadly.

Does full-spectrum CBD make you “high”?

CBD on its own will not make you feel “high.” However, full-spectrum CBD does contain some THC, and THC can make you feel intoxicated.

If you take a large enough dose of a potent full-spectrum CBD product, you may be consuming enough THC to feel the effects. If this is something you want to avoid, opt for a low potency product, and start with a small dose.

Is full-spectrum CBD better than broad-spectrum or isolate?

Not necessarily. While full-spectrum CBD may offer additional benefits thanks to the entourage effect, broad-spectrum CBD and CBD isolate still carry benefits on their own.

Is full-spectrum CBD safe for everyone?

No. People who are pregnant or breastfeeding, as well as children, should avoid OTC CBD products.

Additionally, if you want to try CBD, talk with a qualified cannabis clinician or your doctor first. They can help you monitor any side effects that may occur and talk with you about how safe CBD is for your specific needs and condition. They may also want to monitor your blood level.

Full-spectrum CBD can be beneficial due to the entourage effect, which theorizes that CBD is more effective when taken alongside other cannabis compounds.

Full-spectrum CBD does have traces of THC, but it’s likely not enough to have an intoxicating effect. This depends on the CBD product’s potency and your dosage, though. If you take a large dose of a high potency product, you may be ingesting enough THC to produce a “high.”

CBD can interact with some medications. It’s best to talk with a doctor before getting started.

Is CBD legal?The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the legal definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. This made some hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3 percent THC federally legal. However, CBD products containing more than 0.3 percent THC still fall under the legal definition of marijuana, making them federally illegal but legal under some state laws. Be sure to check state laws, especially when traveling. Also, keep in mind that the FDA has not approved nonprescription CBD products, and some products may be inaccurately labeled.


Ruby Thompson is an editor on the Greatist team. She recently graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School with her master’s degree in journalism, specializing in media innovation and content strategy. Outside of work, she spends most of her time snuggling her cocker spaniel pup, taking barre classes, and wishing she knew how to cook.