You’ve likely heard (or personally experienced) that CBD products can be great for anxiety. But which type of CBD is the best? Should you use full-spectrum or broad-spectrum CBD?
Generally speaking, full-spectrum CBD is the best choice for anxiety and most health issues because it contains one more active ingredient than broad-spectrum products: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
However, it’s not uncommon for people with anxiety to be extremely sensitive to THC. That means even the small amounts present in full-spectrum CBD products can make them more anxious. If that’s the case, then broad-spectrum CBD will suit you better.
Read on to learn about the differences between full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD and which one is better for anxiety.
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Full-spectrum CBD is a whole-plant hemp extract.
It contains not only CBD but dozens of other cannabinoids, as well as other beneficial active compounds such as terpenes and flavonoids. This includes a small amount (0.3% or less) of THC, the main psychotropic component of cannabis.
All of these ingredients work in synergy, producing what researchers have dubbed the cannabis entourage effect.
Multiple studies provide evidence of the entourage effect. For example, research in epilepsy patients showed that CBD-rich full-spectrum cannabis extracts were 4 times more potent and produced fewer side effects than pure CBD.
The bottom line is that full-spectrum CBD products tend to be more effective than those containing pure CBD (isolate).
Broad-spectrum hemp extract is the same as full-spectrum CBD but with one key difference: the THC has been removed*. That means it provides all of the same entourage of beneficial cannabinoids, terpenes, and other natural substances but with no THC.
As a result, broad-spectrum CBD products are ever so slightly weaker than full-spectrum ones since you’re missing one additional active ingredient. However, in the case of anxiety, this can be a good thing.
*Removed to the point of being undetectable on cannabis lab tests, so some minuscule amount might remain.
In most cases, full-spectrum CBD is slightly better than broad-spectrum CBD for anxiety. However, some people — and especially those prone to anxiety issues — are highly sensitive to THC.
This means even the small amount of THC (0.3% or less) present in a full-spectrum CBD product can actually make them more anxious.
Why does this only happen to some people? It’s the same reason some get anxious from smoking marijuana while others feel more relaxed.
Research suggests that certain factors can make people more likely to experience anxiety from THC, including: 
- individual genetic factors
- personality traits
- infrequent use
- history of previous anxiety reactions
- presence of anxiety disorders or symptoms
- basal anxiety levels
- being female
- the environment and the context in which the THC is consumed
As we can see, higher base anxiety levels and a history of anxiety issues or disorders are risk factors for being sensitive to THC.
That’s why some people who take CBD for their anxiety might feel more anxious after they take a big enough dose of a full-spectrum product.
I personally experienced an increase in anxiety after taking an 80 mg dose of full-spectrum CBD from one specific brand. If I had to estimate, it had about 3-4 mg of THC. For most people that wouldn’t be enough to cause anxiety but some are more sensitive.
I’ve previously experienced bouts of anxiety from smoking even small amounts of marijuana while my friends had the opposite effect, so it made perfect sense.
That’s why I lowered my full-spectrum CBD dosage to no more than 60 mg and also tried a bunch of different brands. I haven’t had any issues since and regularly take full-spectrum CBD to help with anxiety, sleep, and overall health.
If you’re taking CBD for anxiety, full-spectrum products will usually be the best option. For most people, the small amount of THC present in a full-spectrum product isn’t enough to cause anxiety or other unwanted effects.
But if you find that your anxiety symptoms get worse from full-spectrum CBD, you should either lower the dosage or switch to a broad-spectrum (THC-free) CBD product.
You should also verify that your broad-spectrum product is free of THC by looking at the third-party tests provided by the brand. You should never buy from companies that fail to provide these test results.
Of course, you can also use products that contain pure CBD, called isolate.
However, this isn’t recommended because you’ll be missing out on the entourage effect that makes whole-plant hemp and cannabis products so much more effective than their purified forms.
As one last tip, if you’re new to CBD, be sure to start with a small dose (5-15 mg). Pay close attention to how you feel and slowly work your way up to the dosage that provides you with the desired anxiety relief.
- Russo, Ethan B. “The case for the entourage effect and conventional breeding of clinical cannabis: no “strain,” no gain.” Frontiers in plant science 9 (2019): 1969.
- Pamplona, Fabricio A., Lorenzo Rolim da Silva, and Ana Carolina Coan. “Potential clinical benefits of CBD-rich cannabis extracts over purified CBD in treatment-resistant epilepsy: observational data meta-analysis.” Frontiers in neurology 9 (2018): 759.
- Stoner, S. Effects of Marijuana on Mental Health: Anxiety Disorders. Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute (2017).
Gleb is a freelance writer from Vancouver, Canada specializing in CBD and cannabis. He’s read thousands of research studies on CBD and other supplements, helping him translate complex science into plain language. Gleb has tried and reviewed dozens of CBD brands and products, written third-party testing reports, and knows the CBD industry inside and out. When not writing, he likes to spend his time in the gym and out in nature.