Cannabidiol, better known as CBD, has been touted for its many health benefits over the years.
From helping with anxiety and sleep to reducing pain, it’s become a popular go-to for those searching for alternative treatments.
While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) acknowledges the potential benefits of cannabis (including CBD specifically), it still points out that more research is needed. And so far, there’s only one FDA-approved prescription CBD drug for the treatment of epilepsy.
Any over-the-counter (OTC) CBD product you buy doesn’t have the FDA stamp of approval.
That’s why it’s so important to take your time when choosing a CBD product, whether it’s full-spectrum or broad-spectrum. Here’s what you need to know before you make your choice.
You’ll find CBD products in three forms: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and CBD isolate.
- Full-spectrum CBD: Full-spectrum CBD contains small amounts of all components of the cannabis plant. That means it can have trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Federally legal full-spectrum products will always have less than 0.3 percent THC. In states where cannabis is fully legal, you may also be able to find full-spectrum products with higher levels of THC.
- Broad-spectrum CBD: This type of CBD does not contain THC. It does contain other components of the cannabis plant, though, so it won’t be 100-percent CBD alone. Consider it the middle child of the three CBD choices.
- CBD isolate: Your pure CBD product, isolate contains no other compounds found in cannabis, except for the CBD itself.
One of the biggest benefits of full-spectrum CBD is that you’ll get what’s known as the entourage effect. This is a theory that says when multiple components of cannabis work together, you reap more benefits than when taking each individually.
These components include phytocannabinoids (like CBD and THC), flavonoids, and terpenes (compounds that affect cannabis’s scent).
If you want to maximize the benefits of cannabis, full-spectrum CBD could be your best bet.
One 2011 review found that phytocannabinoids and terpenes taken together may help with pain, inflammation, and anxiety.
However, a potential downside to full-spectrum CBD is that if you take a large enough dose of a potent enough product, you may feel “high” due to the THC.
But that doesn’t mean that all full-spectrum products will make you feel intoxicated. Small doses of lower potency products are unlikely to produce any euphoric effects.
Finally, since full-spectrum products contain THC, you may run a higher risk of testing positive should you take a drug test.
One potential plus of broad-spectrum CBD is that you keep a clear mind — no THC means no “high” feeling.
A drawback, though, is that CBD sans THC may not be quite as effective as the two together. More research is needed, but the entourage effect suggests they may work best together.
That’s not to say broad-spectrum products won’t give you any of the entourage effect benefits at all. Broad-spectrum CBD still contains some other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids, which may offer benefits beyond the CBD alone.
Heads up on drug testing
Because CBD products aren’t regulated the same way as drugs or supplements, you do run the risk of trace amounts of THC in any CBD product you buy, including broad-spectrum. If you’re drug tested, you may want to avoid CBD products altogether.
If you’re looking for a health boost from CBD but want to skip the effects of THC, then broad-spectrum is probably your best bet.
If you don’t mind THC and want to potentially get more benefits out of your CBD product, then full-spectrum is probably the way to go.
To help narrow your CBD search, we rounded up some of the best full-spectrum and broad-spectrum products out there.
Each product we chose meets the standards we set for safety, quality, and transparency. That means each item on this list:
- has been tested by an ISO 17025-compliant third-party lab
- is made with U.S. grown hemp
- contains a maximum of 0.3 percent THC
- passes tests for pesticides, heavy metals, and molds, according to the certificate of analysis (COA)
- doesn’t make any unsupported health claims
We also took into account:
- the company’s certifications and manufacturing processes
- product potency
- customer reviews
- lawsuits or FDA warning letters
- $ = under $40
- $$ = $40–$60
- $$$ = over $60
Absolute Nature Full Spectrum CBD Oil Drops
- Price: $$$
- CBD potency: 1,000 milligrams (mg) per 30-milliliter (mL) bottle
This CBD oil is made from non-GMO hemp that’s grown on a farm in Colorado. For every milliliter serving, you get 33 mg of CBD, plus another 5–10 mg of other cannabinoids like cannabigerol (CBG).
The product has just two ingredients: whole-plant full-spectrum CBD extract and MCT oil, which works as a carrier oil. A 2020 study found that terpenes were preserved longer in MCT oil than they were in olive oil, another common carrier oil used in CBD products.
Buy Absolute Nature Full Spectrum CBD Oil Drops online.
CBDistillery Full Spectrum CBD Softgels
- Price: $$$
- CBD potency: 30 mg per softgel (60 softgels per bottle)
Softgels provide an easy, on-the-go method for taking your CBD whenever and wherever you need it. All you have to do is pop it with water for a dose of hemp-derived CBD.
These softgels from CBDistillery contain just coconut oil, hemp extract, and gelatin — no unnecessary, chemically-derived ingredients.
Buy CBDistillery Full Spectrum CBD Softgels online. Use code “healthline” for 15% off.
Lazarus Naturals Soothing Mint Full Spectrum CBD Balm
- Price: $$
- CBD potency: 1200 mg per 2-oz container
Not only will the fresh scent of this balm soothe you, but the 50 mg of CBD in each half teaspoon may also help any achy area feel better. Rub it over any spot you feel you need relief.
The mixture contains just a short list of ingredients, including mango butter, beeswax, coconut oil, menthol, and of course, hemp extract.
Buy Lazarus Naturals Soothing Mint Full Spectrum CBD Balm online.
Vertly Infused Bath Salts
- Price: $
- CBD potency: 100 mg per 7-oz bag
Create the perfect night of calm with these bath salts, meant to help with post-workout soreness and any other body aches. Handcrafted in California, the salts also have a blend of essential oils, including lavender, lemon, and clary sage. To use, add them to warm water and soak for at least 20 minutes.
One thing to note with Vertly products is that while the CBD oil that goes into making each product is tested for contaminants, the final products are tested for potency only, so it’s a little bit harder to verify the quality.
Buy Vertly Infused Bath Salts online.
CBDistillery Broad Spectrum CBD Anytime Gummies
- Price: $$
- CBD potency: 30 mg per gummy (30 gummies per bottle)
These vegan gummies offer 30 mg of CBD each — but zero THC. Buy them in either tropical fruit or mixed berry flavor and the sweet taste feels like a treat.
Made from non-GMO hemp, the gummies contain no artificial colors or chemical flavoring. Instead, they offer natural flavoring and a light sugar coating.
Buy CBDistillery Broad Spectrum CBD Anytime Gummies online. Use code “healthline” for 15% off.
Go Green Hemp CBD Stick
- Price: $$$
- CBD potency: 1,000 mg per 2.2-oz stick
This topical product features just three ingredients: beeswax, MCT oil, and CBD from organic hemp.
Reviewers love the easy application and the fact that this stick is unscented, so you don’t have to worry about a strong smell after use. Apply directly onto skin for a relaxing, soothing feeling.
Buy Go Green Hemp CBD Stick online.
Social CBD Cinnamon Leaf Broad Spectrum CBD Drops
- Price: $–$$$
- CBD potency: 375 mg, 750 mg, or 1,500 mg per 30-mL bottle
Vegan, soy-free, and sugar-free, this CBD oil can easily fit into your daily routine. Add it to drinks or food or simply place it under your tongue. Sweetened with stevia and natural flavors, reviewers say it has a nice subtle cinnamony taste.
Buy Social CBD Cinnamon Leaf CBD Drops online.
Joy Organics CBD Bath Bombs
- Price: $
- CBD potency: 25 mg per bath bomb (4 per package)
You have the promise of zero THC and a money-back guarantee with this broad-spectrum product. Pop one in a warm bath for the ultimate relaxation experience, as they’re also infused with the calming scent of lavender oil.
Buy Joy Organics CBD Bath Bombs online. Use code “healthcbd” for 15% off.
When you’re shopping for CBD, keep in mind that the more info the brand shares about their products and manufacturing standards, the better.
CBD isn’t regulated by the FDA in the same way as drugs or supplements, so it’s possible for subpar products to slip through.
To make sure you’re getting a quality product, the first thing you’ll want to look for is an up-to-date certificate of analysis (COA) from a third-party lab. It’s best if the lab is ISO-17025 certified — basically, that means they’ve been certified that they produce accurate results.
Look over the COA to make sure the product contains as much THC and CBD as advertised. The best products will also display contaminant testing so you can be sure you’re not ingesting any potentially harmful substances.
It’s also a good idea to check where the company grows its hemp and how it actually manufactures its products — like what extraction methods it uses.
All of this information should be pretty accessible on the company’s website, although sometimes you may need to reach out by email.
You have plenty of options when it comes to how you can use CBD products depending on what you buy.
Some of the most popular products include:
Pills and gummies are pretty straightforward. With oils, you’ll usually want to place them under your tongue or add them to foods or drinks. With topicals, you can apply them wherever you want to experience targeted relief.
One thing you’ll want to pay attention to is dosage. Everyone differs in what they need, depending on individual factors like weight, health, and how their body reacts to cannabis. It’s best to start small, see how the product is working for you, and build up from there if you need more.
CBD is generally considered safe, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), but that doesn’t mean it’s without side effects.
In studies examining those with epilepsy and psychotic disorders, a few side effects popped up, like:
- changes in appetite
- changes in weight
Keep in mind that if you take a large dosage of a potent full-spectrum product, you may also feel some of the effects of THC, especially if you’re new to cannabis.
It’s best to talk to your doctor before taking CBD. CBD can interact with some medications, so your doctor should be able to help you navigate any potentially harmful mixing.
Research also suggests that having a high-fat meal can actually increase CBD in the blood, enhancing your risk of side effects. So keep that in mind when you’re having CBD around mealtime.
Talk to your doctor before you try CBD, whether it’s broad-spectrum or full-spectrum.
The biggest difference between the two is the THC content, so decide if you want that in your product or if you prefer to skip it. Then make sure you read the labels before you make your purchase and you choose a quality product to gain the most advantage.
Is CBD Legal? Hemp-derived CBD products (with less than 0.3 percent THC) are legal on the federal level, but are still illegal under some state laws. Marijuana-derived CBD products are illegal on the federal level, but are legal under some state laws. Check your state’s laws and those of anywhere you travel. Keep in mind that nonprescription CBD products are not FDA-approved, and may be inaccurately labeled.