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.
CBD can seem complicated at first, so let’s break it down a little.
The cannabis plant contains a few different types of beneficial compounds:
- 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.
- Terpenes. The more than 150 terpenes in cannabis affect the plant’s fragrance (think: what makes an orange smell citrusy). They 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. Studies show that the flavonoids found in cannabis have anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and neuroprotective properties.
Full-spectrum CBD includes small amounts of all of these compounds, including THC.
By comparison, broad-spectrum CBD removes THC, while CBD isolate removes everything except CBD.
The entourage effect
While some studies suggest 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.” Though, this depends on the product’s potency and your dosage. If you take a large dose of a high-potency product, you may be ingesting enough THC to produce a euphoric effect.
Full-spectrum CBD is a popular option. It’s easy to find full-spectrum CBD edibles (like gummies), topicals (like creams or lotions), sublinguals (like sprays or tinctures), and pills or capsules.
Not everyone wants THC in their CBD products. You may prefer to avoid it or 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.
However, 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 with U.S.-grown 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
- $ = under $50
- $$ = $50–$79
- $$$ = $80–$110
- $$$$ = over $110
CBDistillery Full-Spectrum CBD Oil Tincture
- Price: $$
- Potency: 33 milligrams (mg) per dropper, 1,000 mg per 1 oz. bottle
CBDistillery prides itself on creating 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.
Buy CBDistillery Full-Spectrum CBD Oil Tincture online. Use code “healthline” for 15% off.
Kanibi Full-Spectrum CBD Oil Tincture
- Price: $$–$$$$
- Potency: 50 mg per dropper, 750 mg or 1,500 mg per 1 oz. bottle
Kanibi’s tincture comes in five fun flavors, including Skittles and Choco Mint. It’s a bit pricey, but reviewers say it’s worth it.
This tincture uses MCT oil as the carrier oil and is made with natural flavors and sweeteners.
Buy Kanibi Full-Spectrum CBD Oil Tincture online. Use code “HEALTHLINE10” for 10% off.
Lazarus Naturals Soothing Mint Full-Spectrum CBD Balm
- Price: $
- Potency: 50 mg per 1/2 tsp., 400 mg per 0.67 oz. container or 1,200 mg per 2 oz. container
This soothing balm from Lazarus Naturals comes highly rated by users searching for pain relief, thanks to the full-spectrum CBD, menthol, and wintergreen oil.
A little goes a long way, so the small container may be all you need. But one reviewer commented that the bigger container is easier to open, which may be helpful if you’re dealing with a condition like arthritis.
Lazarus Naturals offers a discount program for veterans, people with low incomes, and people with disabilities.
Buy Lazarus Naturals Soothing Mint Full-Spectrum CBD Balm online.
CBDistillery Full-Spectrum CBD Softgels
- Price: $$$$
- Potency: 30 mg per softgel, 60 softgels per bottle
Pills, capsules, and softgels can be an easy way to take CBD, since the dose is already figured out for you.
Keep in mind that when you take a CBD pill, you’ll need to digest it before you’ll feel the effects. Research shows this may decrease the potency of the product, so don’t be alarmed if 30 mg seems higher than what you might normally look for in a CBD product.
Buy CBDistillery Full-Spectrum CBD Softgels online. Use code “healthline” for 15% off.
Charlotte’s Web CBD Gummies, Calm
- Price: $
- Potency: 10 mg, 60 gummies per jar
These Charlotte’s Web gummies are made with lemon balm, which can help ease stress and anxiety and help you sleep.
Keep in mind that similar to pills, gummies take a little longer to produce effects. If you’re using these for sleep, try taking them an hour or two before bed.
Buy Charlotte’s Web CBD Gummies, Calm online. Use code “HEALTH15” for 15% off.
Best beauty products
Vertly Lip Butter in Tinted Rose
- Price: $
- Potency: 50 mg per tube
Reviewers say this Vertly Lip Butter in Tinted Rose has become an essential part of their beauty routine because of its moisturizing properties and lovely color.
In addition to full-spectrum CBD, it’s made with kokum butter, shea butter, cocoa butter, coconut oil, jojoba oil, and hempseed oil — which is naturally rich in vitamins A, D, and E, as well as omega-3 fatty acids — making this a true moisture powerhouse.
Research from 2009 shows that CBD may be moisturizing, too.
It’s important to note that Vertly tests the hemp used to make its CBD products for mold, pesticides, heavy metals, and residual solvents, but not the final product. These test results are available upon request.
Buy Vertly Lip Butter in Tinted Rose online.
Saint Jane Luxury Beauty Serum
- Price: $$$$
- Potency: 500 mg per bottle
This anti-aging, anti-redness serum from Saint Jane uses sea buckthorn, calendula, and rosehip to fight inflammation and acne and prevent dry skin.
Reviewers say the formula is great for irritated skin and adore the way it smells. It’s a little pricey, so one reviewer recommends trying the mini serum first.
Buy Saint Jane Luxury Beauty Serum online.
Currently, the FDA doesn’t guarantee the safety, effectiveness, or quality of over-the-counter 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.
- Transparency. Make sure the company says where it grows its hemp and how it makes its 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 its 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 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 absorb 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, but some people may experience side effects like:
- changes in appetite or weight
It’s always best to talk with your doctor before trying CBD — especially if you’re already taking any medications or want relief from specific symptoms. CBD may interact with some medications.
Also, if you’re planning on taking CBD productsby mouth, avoid doing so alongside high fat meals. One study found that high fat meals can increase CBD blood concentrations, which can increase the risk of side effects.
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 any 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 your doctor before getting started.
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.