It should come as no surprise that cannabis is a complex plant containing a wide range of compounds. Marijuana and hemp, the two well-known types of cannabis, have been widely researched and hundreds of compounds have been identified - some unique to the plant and others commonly found throughout nature.
Some of the most abundant compounds in cannabis are cannabinoids and terpenes. These compounds, plus others like flavonoids and fatty acids, are undergoing constant research to discover their potential therapeutic benefits and applications.
Current research and anecdotal evidence agree that the therapeutic benefits provided by these compounds are superior when consumed in a whole-plant form, rather than as individual isolated compounds. Consumed together the compounds in cannabis offer synergistic interactions known as the "entourage effect".
If you look around the hemp-fueled CBD market today you'll quickly find many companies selling white powders called isolates. This crystalline substance is created through processing a full spectrum hemp oil extract until only the cannabidiol (CBD) molecule remains. The resulting crystal form of CBD is wiped of all other cannabis compounds.
With all the research and evidence pointing to the effectiveness of a product NOT stripped down to a single chemical, you're probably wondering why isolates have become so popular. There are many reasons including:
While many find isolates to suit their needs, the unfortunate truth is that often consumers are simply misinformed or uneducated about the products they consume and choose an inferior product. For those who use isolate-based products, it can be eye-opening to learn about the additional benefits consuming a whole-plant extract can offer.
When a high-quality hemp source undergoes extraction in a professional lab, the resulting CBD-rich oil contains a chemical profile that reflects that of the original plant material. This whole-plant extract is known as "full-spectrum" because it contains just that - the full spectrum of cannabis compounds found in the hemp it was sourced from.
In addition to CBD, this extract contains a wide range of cannabinoids and terpenes that provide neighboring and cooperative benefits when consumed together. The result is a superior therapeutic profile when compared to an isolate. For this reason, we absolutely recommend a full spectrum product to anyone looking to experience the maximum benefits from a CBD product.
Like we mentioned above the trouble with full-spectrum products for many is the presence of THC, a compound which many cannot consume. Until recently CBD isolate was the only option for consumers looking for a THC-free product. Thankfully advances in extraction technology have led to a new spectrum of product.
Broad-spectrum products are produced by extracting only the THC from a full-spectrum oil. The result is a THC-free option that retains the maximum entourage effectiveness without the presence of this compound which is troublesome for so many.
If you're a new CBD user that falls into this group, or an existing isolate user looking to improve the overall benefits, we suggest checking out our article which does a deep dive comparing broad spectrum vs CBD isolate. You may also browse our product line which contains a full offering of broad-spectrum CBD oil.
Though the concept of the entourage effect was first discussed by well-known cannabis researcher Raphael Mechoulam in an article published in 1998, there is still much to learn on the topic.
Further research outlines one of the most common examples of the entourage effect known today. A 2011 paper outlined an inverse relationship between CBD and THC - when consumed together, CBD was found to reduce the psychotic symptoms associated with THC use.
The interaction of these star cannabinoids just scratches the surface of understanding the synergies that other compounds may offer. In 2011, Ethan Russo, M.D., a neurologist with a long history of studying cannabis published an instrumental study. This paper detailed not only how cannabinoids interact, but how even minor compounds called terpenes, the aromatic oils that give cannabis its smell, can make a big difference.
Some examples include limonene, a terpene which helps increase the absorption of terpenes and cannabinoids through the skin, mucous membranes, and digestive tract. Additionally, the interaction between cannabinoids THC and CBN resulted in enhanced sedating effects. There are many more examples of interactions which offer exciting potential in the future.
While it may take some time before research develops and more chemically specific products are created, you can still enjoy the entourage effect today. As a consumer be sure to be on the lookout for full or broad-spectrum products which maximize the potential whole-plant benefits of cannabis use.
Originally published: June 2, 2018 | Last Updated: March 12, 2019
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