Full Spectrum CBD vs Isolate CBD – What’s the Difference?

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If you’ve been researching medicinal cannabis, you’ve probably come across the terms full spectrum CBD and isolate CBD — these terms reference what compounds a medicinal cannabis product is made of. In this blog, we’ll look at what these terms mean, and if they could make a difference in your treatment journey.

What do the Terms Full Spectrum, Broad Spectrum, and Isolate Mean?

CBD is one of the compounds that make up a medicinal cannabis product. In New Zealand, a legal CBD product is one where THC (and other THC-derivatives) are less than 2% of the total amount of CBD. Read the exact definition of a CBD product here.

Full Spectrum CBD contains not only CBD, but also THC along with other minor cannabinoids, terpenes, essential oils and flavonoids. These additional compounds not only change the smell and flavour of the full spectrum CBD product but may influence the effects of the product too. 

Broad Spectrum CBD is similar to Full Spectrum CBD in that it also contains other minor cannabinoids, terpenes, essential oils and flavonoids. However, the big difference between the two is that Broad Spectrum CBD is THC-free.

Isolate CBD is refined so that it contains CBD only, with no traces of THC or additional minor cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids. It contains no other active ingredients, just pure CBD, meaning it also has no taste or smell.

Full Spectrum CBD vs Isolate CBD - What's the Difference?

What Are the Benefits of Isolate CBD vs Full Spectrum CBD?

Although consultation with an experienced doctor will help determine the best course of treatment for your personal health challenges, there are a few factors to consider when comparing CBD products. 

CBD isolate does not induce a ‘high’ and you will not test positive in a workplace drug test. Isolate CBD is a better choice for those people looking for the benefits of CBD without any psychoactive effects. People who take isolate CBD report a calming and therapeutic effect. Some studies also show that CBD isolate may have anti-inflammatory properties, helps relieve chronic pain symptoms and repair sore muscles, and may help with a good night’s rest. However, those using CBD isolate may be missing out on the potential benefits of the combination of other cannabinoids, flavonoids and terpenes.

Full spectrum CBD contains a full spectrum of CBD, terpenes and flavonoids, along with a small amount of THC meaning you may fail a workplace drug test. However, all these compounds are said to work together to make the positive effects of medicinal cannabis more effective. This is known as ‘the entourage effect’. Want to know more about the entourage effect? Keep reading below.

A study from 2018 also has shown that full-spectrum CBD was more effective for pain relief when compared to isolate CBD. Some of the health benefits people report experiencing with full-spectrum CBD include pain relief, anti-seizure effects, nausea and muscle spasm relief, less anxiety and anti-inflammatory properties. Some also see it as less processed and more natural than isolate CBD.

What is the Entourage Effect?

The entourage effect describes how all the compounds that make up medicinal cannabis work in synergy to enhance the positive effects of medicinal cannabis. The theory behind the idea was first suggested in the late 1990s by researchers Shimon Ben Shabat and Raphael Mechoulam. They were looking at how the body’s natural endocannabinoids react with different non-active compounds. 

This theory was further developed in the early 2000s by Elizabeth Wilson, who applied these findings to CBD and THC. Williamson found evidence that the whole plant or its partially purified extract was more effective than an isolate.

Testing for this theory is still ongoing, however, scientists now believe certain strains of cannabis are more effective for treating different conditions, based on the mix of terpenes in each strain. 

Which CBD Products are Available in New Zealand? 

Currently, you can access isolate, broad spectrum, and full spectrum CBD products in New Zealand with a prescription from a doctor. Our doctors prescribe these at our Clinic, alongside other THC and flower products.

Wondering Which Form of CBD is Suitable For You?

A typical patient’s medicinal cannabis treatment plan with us usually contains CBD and may include THC as well to find the right balance to manage the relevant health issue. During your consultation, your doctor will be able to give you a personalised treatment plan based on your current health conditions, medication, social and personal circumstances. 

Dr Waseem says: 

“Some CBD oils are purified extracts meaning they contain nothing but CBD whereas others are closer to full/whole plant extracts. Although they may look similar on the outside, they are quite different products and speaking to a doctor trained in the field will help you select the best one for you.“

If you’d like to find out more about CBD and are wondering if it may help you with any troubling health symptoms you’re facing, book a consultation with us today to begin your medicinal cannabis journey.


  1. https://cannabishealthnews.co.uk/2021/04/01/the-difference-between-full-spectrum-broad-spectrum-and-isolate-cbd/
  2. https://cannigma.com/treatment/what-is-the-entourage-effect/
  3. https://www.goodhemp.com/hemp-hub/cbd-isolate-vs-full-spectrum-cbd-oil-which-ones-right-for-you/
  4. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/cbd-isolate-vs-full-spectrum-cbd#cbd-isolate-benefits

Disclaimer – medicinal cannabis and CBD oil are unapproved medicines in NZ which means that there is no conclusive evidence for their effect, apart from Sativex. Many doctors do not routinely prescribe cannabis medicines. The above article was written for general educational purposes and does not intend to suggest that medicinal cannabis can be used to treat any health condition. Please consult with your healthcare provider. 

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