Full Spectrum CBD: Benefits, Effectiveness & More

This post is part of a series on hemp extract spectrums. For more information and a listing of all the spectrums available, see the CBD Extract Guide.

What is Full Spectrum CBD?

When it comes to finding the most effective CBD oil on the market, the first place to start is by determining what is in the hemp extract used in a given product. Full spectrum products offer a true whole-plant approach to consuming CBD, providing the maximum potential benefits to the user.

These therapeutic benefits are due to the chemical makeup of a full spectrum CBD extraction. Because these extracts are not filtered or isolated into a single molecule, they contain a full range of cannabis compounds. These compounds include cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, fat, y acids and other plant material. Individual compounds work to provide unique effects and together they've been shown to work in a synergistic manner to provide even more therapeutic benefits.

How is Full Spectrum CBD Oil Made?

Water Soluble CBD Tincture

To produce full-spectrum oils, manufacturers first extract hemp down into a thick, oily substance using one of several available extraction methods. This extract is then processed before being packaged for sale or sent off to be used as an ingredient in the formulation of common CBD products like capsules or tinctures. Common processing includes winterizing, filtering, and heat activation via decarboxylation.

As with all CBD-rich extracts, full spectrum oil begins with a high-quality cannabis source. Though a similar extract could be sourced from marijuana, the THC content would be too high for sale to the general public. Across the CBD industry, you'll find that full-spectrum products universally begin their life as low-THC hemp.

Hemp contains only trace amounts of THC, levels that are non-psychoactive yet still produce beneficial therapeutic effects. Industrial hemp used in the production of full-spectrum extracts must legally contain less than 0.3% THC by dry weight.

Producers of full-spectrum CBD products strive to start with the highest quality hemp strains. These strains are often bred to be terpene-rich and high in CBD or other cannabis compounds. Because the chemical contents of a hemp oil extraction mirror the original plant source, the better hemp source, the better the CBD extract will be.


When you shop around for a full-spectrum product, 95% of what you'll find on the market has been decarboxylated. While the term makes this process sound complex, all that is happening is heat being applied to an extract. This process is applied to these extracts because the star cannabinoids like CBD actually originate in a raw form.

For example, cannabidiol (CBD) is found on a fully mature hemp plant as CBDA or cannabidiolic acid. When 'raw' CBDA is heated, it loses a carbon atom resulting in 'activated' CBD. This same thing happens for a range of cannabinoids. See the chart below for a quick reference or dive in deep with our guide to cannabis compounds:

Cannabinoid Synthesis Diagram

Raw Cannabinoids & Full-Spectrum Blends

While the majority of the CBD-industry focus is on the heated, 'activated' cannabinoids, there is encouraging research showing that the unheated 'raw' versions of these compounds offer unique benefits of their own. For example, in our CBD vs ibuprofen article, we covered how CBDA may be effective as a painkiller as it shares a similar function with common NSAIDs.

Because raw cannabis offers these unique benefits, some companies are beginning to carry fully unheated extracts or heated/unheated blends. These products are created via low-temperature extraction methods or by juicing hemp. These products add a whole extra dimension to a full spectrum CBD extract and are an exciting area that could see a bright future.

Benefits & Effectiveness of Full Spectrum CBD

Full Spectrum Icon

When it comes to finding a CBD product which provides the maximum therapeutic potential, full-spectrum is THE choice. Unlike an isolate, these products contain a whole-plant chemical profile, they offer the most potential benefits to the user. These products are being used to effectively address a wide range of minor and serious ailments.

As a consumer, it's important to understand that not all full-spectrum products are equal. As you see from the section above, cannabis is a complex plant that contains a wide range of compounds. It is important to seek out products which are extracted from the best available hemp sources. These products will be rich in cannabinoids and terpenes, and thus rich in therapeutic potential.

To find an effective product, first, start by looking at high-quality brands. These companies will be providing lab tests for their products. By reading these lab reports, you'll be able to compare cannabinoid and terpene levels, choosing the best product for your needs.

Will Full Spectrum CBD Show Up On a Drug Test?

Generic 5 Panel Drug Test

A true full spectrum product extracted from hemp will contain trace amounts of Delta 9-THC. This psychoactive compound is responsible for producing the high associated with marijuana use. In a hemp-extracted CBD product, the levels of THC will be too low to produce these same psychoactive effects. There could, however, be enough to trigger a drug test, even without ever being high.

Common drug tests for marijuana are looking for the presence of THC-COOH, the metabolite that is produced in the body when THC is consumed. Since a full-spectrum product contains THC, your body will produce this metabolite. There have been many reported cases of failed drug tests due to full-spectrum use. For more information, see our article which covers drug testing and CBD use.

Many users who are looking for full-spectrum benefits without the THC will find a broad spectrum product to be the perfect solution. These products retain the maximum therapeutic benefit by preserving a whole-plant extract profile with only the THC removed.

Find the Best Full Spectrum CBD Products

If you're interested in finding full spectrum product, the best place to start is our recommended brands list. We've selected the best brands from across the industry, doing the auditing and vetting to save you time. Many of the brands we highlight sell pure isolate and/or isolate-infused products.

Originally Published: October 31, 2018 | Last Updated: November 19, 2018

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