As cannabis legalization expands, scientific research is identifying more and more of the plant’s therapeutic and medicinal benefits. Researchers are starting to identify and understand specific cannabinoid functions, like how cannabidiol (CBD) can decrease pain and inflammation or reduce anxiety.
While isolating specific compounds can prove beneficial—consider the FDA-approved epilepsy medication Epidiolex which contains CBD isolate—research is showing it may not always be the most effective approach. That’s because cannabis contains hundreds of active chemical compounds that were designed by nature to work together, so while CBD on its own can work to calm your inflammation, CBD combined with the rest of cannabis’s components can work better. Research is still being done, but essentially science is confirming what humans have known about botanicals, or plant medicines, for centuries—the whole of the cannabis plant is greater than the sum of its parts.
This natural synergy created by the cannabis plant is known as the “entourage effect,” and it’s the reason using full-spectrum CBD products over isolates could prove more effective for you.
The Value of the Entourage Effect
Entourage Effect Main Components
To understand the entourage effect, let’s first break down its main components: cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. Cannabinoids are active chemical compounds that interact with our Endocannabinoid System (ECS) which is responsible for maintaining homeostasis within the body. The two most well-known and well-studied cannabinoids are Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Unlike cannabinoids, terpenes are not specific to cannabis. Found throughout nature, terpenes are aromatic compounds responsible for scents like the skunk of cannabis or the bright notes of lemon. They also interact with our ECS, as well as with other receptors and functions in the body, playing an important role in the entourage effect.
The final class of synergistic compounds found in the Cannabis plant are flavonoids, which are also found throughout nature. Flavonoids are known to have a wide variety of health-promoting effects, and have many applications in the pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, medical, and cosmetic industries. These compounds have anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, anti-mutagenic, and anti-cancer properties and have the ability to modulate key cellular enzyme functions. They’re responsible for the pigment in flowers and are why some cannabis strains are more purple than others. They work together with terpenes to produce odor and flavor.
Entourage Effect Evidence
Scientists are still researching the entourage effect and how it works, but the evidence supporting it is strong. All three classes of compounds have been shown to interact with our ECS in some way, whether that be by binding to ECS receptors to stimulate functions or blocking ECS receptors to inhibit functions. Additionally, all three compounds have been shown to interact with other processes within the body outside of the ECS, adding to the synergistic effects.
Take the terpene beta-caryophyllene for example. Found in some cannabis strains, black pepper, oregano, and other herbs, it can bind to our ECS’s CB2 receptor, helping to reduce inflammation. CBD can also reduce inflammation, but it does so by inhibiting an eicosanoid enzyme called COX2 and by reducing the effects of pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines. So, both beta-caryophyllene and CBD can help reduce inflammation. But, since they do it through two different means, using them together could be more effective than using them separately.
In research, one animal study from 2015 found that isolated CBD relieved pain up to a point, but once that dosage was exceeded it showed reduced effectiveness. But, when increasing the dose with CBD that was combined with other cannabinoids and terpenes, the evidence showed a consistent increase in the effectiveness of pain relief. This supports the idea that the different cannabis compounds worked together to achieve relief, and there’s only so much one compound can do on its own.
Full-Spectrum, Broad-Spectrum, and CBD Isolate Defined
Full-spectrum CBD products are going to be the best and most effective way to take advantage of the entourage effect because they maintain the full profile of the Cannabis plant they were extracted from. That means they also hold up the aromatic and flavor profiles of the plant better than broad-spectrum or isolates because none of the terpenes or flavonoids were lost along the way.
Broad-spectrum CBD products can still offer you a partial entourage effect, but they don’t contain the full profile of the plant. Generally, broad spectrum CBD refers to products with only the THC removed. However, THC plays a major role in the medicinal synergy of Cannabis, even at very small doses. In broad-spectrum CBD products, the producer decides which compounds to keep and which to dispose of, so while there is more than just CBD, you won’t receive the same full flavor or effects that full-spectrum CBD can offer.
A CBD isolate is simply CBD with all other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids removed. CBD alone does offer some anti-inflammation and anti-anxiety benefits, but as science has shown, it won’t always work as effectively as a product that contains all of the original plant chemistries.
While all three types of CBD products can offer you some form of relief, full-spectrum CBD products are the most therapeutic. Since they contain all the compounds extracted from the plant, the extraction method is particularly crucial. Terpenes and flavonoids can be quite delicate, so it’s important the extraction method doesn’t lose or destroy any of them.
Full-Spectrum CBD CO2 Extraction
There are several types of extraction methods out there, but CO2 is the superior option when it comes to extracting full-spectrum CBD oil. CO2 is a versatile solvent, tolerating temperature and pressure changes and making it easy to target specific compounds like volatile terpenes.
Cannabis, like all plants, contains essential oil. In order to extract it, special equipment or processes are needed, which is where using CO2 as a solvent comes into play. Some producers choose to use other solvents like propane or butane, but those can stay trapped in the oil, so it’s best to use a full-spectrum CBD oil produced via CO2 extraction.
The technique behind it can get a bit complicated. Put simply, different compounds are safely extracted from the plant at different temperatures and pressures. Since CO2 can easily change temperature and pressure, it makes it easy to manipulate specific molecules to come out at different times during the extraction process. This ability to separate the compounds is what makes CO2 extraction so ideal for full-spectrum CBD oil—the terpenes and flavonoids are safely removed, staying intact for the best flavor and synergy.
Optimize Your Entourage Effect with Medicinal Herbs
Using a full-spectrum CBD oil infused with other medicinal herbs can take your entourage effect to the next level. By simultaneously stimulating your ECS with cannabis compounds while utilizing the healing benefits of other medicinal plants, you can enhance your overall experience and benefits.
For example, herbs like white willow bark, Indian pipe, and California poppy, all have unique pain-reducing properties that can work synergistically with cannabis. Using a full-spectrum CBD oil with those specific herbs can offer you more complete pain relief and comfort because you’re targeting inflammation from several angles, not just activating your ECS.
Garlic, barberry, and Shiitake mushroom all promote immune system health, as does full-spectrum CBD oil. However, they all do so in different ways, so the combination of them all offers a more effective boost to your immune system than using them individually. Think of your immune system like a home-security system. The more lines of defense you have, the more protected your home is. The combination of full spectrum CBD and immune-enhancing herbs provides multiple lines of defense for your body.
Grains like hops and milky oats also have chemical compounds in them that can enhance the entourage effect, specifically when it comes to sleep. They’re both known to calm the nervous system and can help you fall asleep. Combined with the relaxing effects of a full-spectrum CBD oil, this blend can help you fall asleep easier, stay asleep longer, and wake up rested.
Basically, when you’re talking full-spectrum CBD, you’re talking about the entourage effect. While isolating cannabis’s compounds can offer some benefits, utilizing them as a whole will offer you more.
Cannabis contains hundreds of active compounds known as cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. Their synergy is what’s known as the entourage effect.
Full-spectrum CBD products contain all three active compounds, maintaining the full profile of the cannabis plant they were extracted from, as opposed to broad-spectrum or isolate products.
CO2 extraction is the best method for producing full-spectrum CBD because it tolerates temperature and pressure changes, allowing delicate terpenes and flavonoids to be removed without harm.
Using a full-spectrum CBD oil infused with other medicinal herbs can take your entourage effect to the next level. By simultaneously stimulating your ECS with cannabis compounds while utilizing the healing benefits of other botanical extracts, you can enhance your overall experience and benefits.
The bottom line is that if you’re using CBD for its therapeutic properties, you’ll get the most out of a full-spectrum CBD product.