Cannabidiol (CBD) is a cannabinoid naturally produced by the cannabis plant. Also known as whole-plant CBD oil, full-spectrum cannabidiol (CBD) oil is cannabis oil with high concentrations of CBD, as well as all other cannabinoids, terpenes, and trace amounts of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) found in the cannabis plant. 

Research has found that CBD seems to have some important anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety properties. While research remains ongoing, studies suggest that CBD oil may be helpful in managing chronic pain and other health conditions. Additionally, CBD use may promote a general sense of wellbeing.

More about full-spectrum CBD oil

When a CBD oil product claims to be the result of a full-spectrum extraction process, that means the plant's original terpenes and other types of cannabinoids, including cannabinol (CBN), cannabigerol (CBG), and trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), have not been filtered out during the extraction process.

Before you can choose a CBD oil that may work for you, from full-spectrum to other products, it's important to know the difference between hemp-derived CBD oil and marijuana-derived CBD oil. 

Following the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, the US government effectively legalized industrial hemp that contains no more than 0.3% THC, placing CBD oil and other hemp-based products under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Because industrial hemp-derived products only have trace amounts of THC, this type of CBD oil will not produce the intoxicating effects that marijuana does. Additionally, because legal CBD must be made from hemp plants, you may sometimes see products labeled and sold as hemp oil, though it may not be the same thing.

The 2018 Farm Bill catalyzed a huge boom in the use of CBD, as it suddenly became very easy to purchase many hemp-derived products online and at brick and mortar retailers. However, the availability of hemp-derived CBD products in any specific location is still impacted by state laws.

Unlike hemp oil and other hemp-based CBD products, marijuana-derived CBD oil typically contains various amounts of both CBD and THC. A marijuana plant typically has copious amounts of resin, often containing significantly higher levels of both THC and CBD than industrial hemp plants. CBD oil that contains more than 0.3% THC can only be purchased in states where medical or recreational marijuana use is legal.  

Are all CBD oils the same?

No, and not only because of the distinction mentioned above. There are many different products and uses of CBD, and the specific effect of CBD you experience is determined largely by the type of product you use.

The easiest way to understand how CBD oils are different is to put them into one of three categories: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate.

Full-spectrum CBD oil contains the full spectrum of compounds from a high-CBD cannabis or hemp plant, which includes whatever small amount of THC was in the original plant. Broad-spectrum CBD oil contains a nearly full spectrum of compounds, but all THC has been stripped away. CBD isolate contains pure CBD with all other cannabinoids, terpenes, and plant matter stripped away. Full- and broad-spectrum CBD oils may also contain varying doses of actual CBD.

There are three categories of CBD oil: full spectrum, broad spectrum, and isolate.
Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

When shopping for CBD oil, keep these oil types in mind as a basic CBD buying guide. When purchasing full-spectrum CBD oil, it's also helpful to know signs of safe, authentic CBD oil labeling, and avoid any product that makes big claims about curing diseases or other medical conditions. 

Can you buy full-spectrum CBD oil online?

As long as it's hemp-derived, you may be able to find full-spectrum CBD oil in online stores.

When buying CBD oil, keep in mind that the FDA does not allow companies to market CBD as a health product or dietary supplement, so CBD packaging may not include descriptions of potential health benefits. 

Full-spectrum CBD oil vs. CBD isolate

Many consumers wonder, is it preferable to have a full spectrum of compounds in CBD oil or a pure CBD isolate? There is no definitive answer, given the myriad reasons a person may be choosing CBD oil. What works medicinally for one individual may not work for another. 

With that in mind, a full spectrum of cannabis compounds can be more effective than a single compound on its own. Cannabinoids and terpenes from the cannabis plant work together synergistically, potentially becoming more therapeutic as an ensemble, in what's referred to as the ensemble or entourage effect.

Does CBD oil get you high?

No, using CBD oil or other CBD products will not create the same high that marijuana does. While it won't get you high, studies of CBD show that CBD should technically be considered a psychoactive substance, which is defined as a chemical substance that interacts with the central nervous system and alters brain function, resulting in temporary changes in perception, mood, consciousness, and behavior. However, unlike THC, CBD is non-intoxicating, has very few if any negative side effects, and will not make you feel stoned or buzzed.

Do you need a prescription for CBD oil?

You do not need a doctor's recommendation or prescription to use CBD oil, making it especially easy to try CBD for managing ongoing conditions such as chronic pain and anxiety. In fact, following the legalization of industrial hemp, CBD oil can be purchased online or, in many states, even in local pharmacies. However, access to marijuana-derived CBD oil containing higher levels of THC is limited to states where medical or adult use of marijuana is legal.

Please note that the FDA has not officially approved CBD as a health aid or dietary supplement, so while many consumers and researchers report positive health benefits, you may not see the benefits listed on a CBD product's label.

Do you need a prescription for other CBD products?

No, you do not. As with CBD oil, you do not need a prescription to buy other products. And as long as the product is derived from hemp plants — plants with 0.3% THC or less — it should be legal to purchase and consume without a prescription in most states (Tennessee and Idaho are two exceptions).

What does CBD feel like?

Many consumers say that CBD has a relaxing and soothing effect, but not to the extent of actually getting high. To explain the effects of CBD, it's important to understand how both THC and CBD interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is made up of endocannabinoids, receptors that cannabinoids bond to, and enzymes that break them down. 

While THC activates the CB1 receptors, research shows that CBD induces the opposite outcome, inhibiting activity in the CB1 receptors. Existing research suggests that the complementarity between these two cannabinoids creates a more mellow high and reduces some of the adverse effects of cannabis, such as anxiety and paranoia. 

The interaction between CBD and the body may create a feeling of relaxation and improved mood.
Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

The interaction between CBD and the body may create a feeling of relaxation and improved mood, and offer therapeutic value in the treatment of pain, inflammation, anxiety, and other ailments. 

Potential health benefits of CBD

There is a relatively robust body of research into cannabidiol (CBD), with numerous studies investigating how it interacts with the human body and its potential health benefits. Despite these studies, however, more research is needed in order to establish conclusive information about the ways that CBD oil may help certain conditions.

Research and studies completed to date indicate that the primary benefits of CBD stem from its apparent anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety properties. Because of these properties, CBD might help reduce symptoms arising from several health conditions.

Using CBD may help manage or treat the following:

  • mood disorders
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • sleep disorders
  • appetite issues
  • chronic pain, especially nerve pain
  • epilepsy and seizures
  • health conditions related to inflammation
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Similarly, taking CBD may help contribute to a more general sense of wellbeing.

Finally, new research indicates that CBD may have neuroprotective properties. As a result, CBD oil may help prevent and treat neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, and more.

Is CBD oil a drug?

CBD is generally not considered a drug.

The FDA and other governmental agencies have not officially classified CBD as a medical drug. Instead, it tends to live somewhere in the less-defined realm of health and wellness. This somewhat unclear position arises largely from the lack of knowledge we have about CBD. But as studies continue, we are getting a better idea of how CBD might help prevent, treat, and manage certain health conditions. Similarly, CBD is generally not considered a recreational drug because it does not produce the sensation of being high or stoned.

What are the side effects of CBD?

Even high doses of CBD generally do not produce negative side effects. According to the Mayo Clinic, the Minnesota-based nonprofit academic medical center, side effects of CBD use are typically limited to dry mouth, diarrhea, reduced appetite, drowsiness, and fatigue. For many, the potential health benefits of CBD outweigh its potential side effects.

Does CBD show up on a drug test?

CBD will not show up on a drug test, but if you are taking large quantities of CBD products that contain THC, there's a chance you might fail your drug test.

Keep in mind that full-spectrum and even broad-spectrum hemp-derived CBD may still have a tiny amount of THC in it. (Marijuana-derived CBD could have much more.) Theoretically, if you take a massive dose of full-spectrum, hemp-derived CBD oil, you could end up with enough THC floating around in your system to fail a drug test. If you know you may have to take a drug test, choose an oil with CBD isolate to reduce the risk of accidentally testing positive for marijuana.

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The information contained in this site is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical or legal advice. This page was last updated on May 10, 2022.