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Get to Know the Three Main Forms of CBD

If you’re an avid CBD user, you probably already know that not all CBD products are equal. On top of the quality of the product, the form of CBD you are using might make a huge difference in its effectiveness. 

Obviously, the format through which you take CBD could affect your experience–whether that’s oil drops, pills, edibles, topicals, or otherwise. But the form of CBD doesn’t just mean the format you’re using. 

Most CBD experts consider the three main forms of CBD to include:

  • CBD isolate
  • Broad spectrum CBD
  • Full Spectrum CBD

CBD Isolate

CBD isolate sounds like what it is. It is a concentrated CBD extract that contains only CBD. With isolate, other cannabinoids and chemicals present in the hemp plant are filtered out during the extraction process. This also removes many terpenes, natural compounds present in many plants that might affect flavor, taste, and sometimes even the effects of the herb.

CBD isolate is most commonly utilized in pharmaceutical products. They are also sometimes used as the active ingredient in CBD edibles.

Broad Spectrum CBD

Broad spectrum CBD, unlike CBD isolate, contains many remaining cannabinoids that are naturally present in the hemp plant. Though the effects of many cannabinoids have not yet been fully studied, current knowledge suggests that many of them interact with the body and the endocannabinoid system in some way. This means that broad spectrum CBD may have different impacts than CBD isolate. However, the impacts of additional cannabinoids might range in subtlety for certain users.

Full Spectrum CBD 

Similarly to broad spectrum CBD, full spectrum CBD also includes other cannabinoids present in the plant. 

For example, “full spectrum” CBD oil has all of its original terpenes left in the oil. Terpenes are aromatic compounds that often have a pungent taste, sometimes making for a less desirable tasting CBD product.

Grey Areas and Key Differences 

Overall, there are a few grey areas that can make the distinctions between CBD forms confusing. The general issue is that there are no official definitions within the CBD industry for the three classes of CBD. 

However, the terms can still apply as general indicators of what you might expect from a product. A “broad” spectrum oil, which is a distillate, generally refers to the finest level of extraction. The distillation process removes the dark color, fats, waxes, and often the undesirable tastes of CBD oil. This can also result in the removal of a few extra terpenes.

Full spectrum oils generally undergo a similar, but often less rigorous process. Neither of these two processes are inherently better than the other. The most distinguishable difference lies with the look and taste of the product. Full spectrum oils might look a bit less “pure” looking, and smell or taste more fragrant than broad spectrum oils. 

Trace Amounts of THC

It is important to understand the presence that THC, an additional cannabinoid, can have in broad and full-spectrum CBD oils. 


Trace amounts of THC often remain present in both broad and full-spectrum oils. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is an important factor to understand.

Unlike CBD, THC is a psychoactive cannabinoid that is subject to greater legal restrictions in the United States. For example, all federally legal CBD oils and products must have no more than 0.3% of THC by law. 

With this restriction, the extremely small amounts of THC potentially present in CBD oils will most likely have no effects on the efficacy or experience of the product. 

The presence of high amounts of THC can affect the legality of certain CBD products. If a product has a THC content above 0.3%, it is not legal for over-the-counter purchasing in states in which marijuana is illegal.

Sourcing CBD Extract

Now that you know about the differences between types of CBD, you might wonder how exactly manufacturers produce them. Vaguely speaking, CBD extract is the oil sourced from cannabis plants with a variety of different approaches. To learn about the details and different types of CBD, you might enjoy this interesting article that explains the process in depth.

Another point of confusion can be the question of what plant CBD is sourced from. Does it come from Marijuana? Or a different plant related to marijuana? This is understandably a confusing grey area. The answer is far easier to understand by explaining the difference between marijuana and other forms of cannabis.

Marijuana vs. Hemp vs. Cannabis

In short, marijuana and hemp are both related variations of the same plant, the cannabis plant. Basically, marijuana and hemp are both cannabis, but they are not exactly the same as one another.

Cannabis refers to all forms of the species. Marijuana and hemp differ in their cannabinoid content. Generally speaking, hemp contains no more than the legal limit of 0.3% THC as per regulations, and is not subject to the harsher substance control laws surrounding THC. Marijuana, on the other hand, contains high amounts of THC and has a different set of laws surrounding its production, those of which vary by state. 

CBD extract can in fact be sourced from both types of cannabis. However, sourcing CBD from hemp is typically easier in terms of growing hemp and complying with government regulations. Hemp itself is a less controlled crop than Marijuana. Additionally, the extraction process with hemp can be easier because it does not require all the THC to be filtered out. It is important to note that hemp extraction can still produce Full Spectrum CBD, although the THC will remain under the legal limit.

To learn more about differences in the cannabis plant, feel free to check out Silver Rain’s hemp flower blog for interesting information!

*Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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