The medical cannabis movement is sweeping around the world with everyone from celebrities and pro athletes to Midwest farmers and stay-at-home moms proclaiming their love of cannabidiol (CBD). Conversely, not enough are talking about the other 400-plus known chemical compounds in the cannabis plant or the entourage effect which offers a theory about the value of full spectrum or whole plant medicine.
CBD: A Recap
CBD is one of 113 known phytocannabinoids (cannabinoids) that make up the cannabis plant. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the most recognized of these molecules is which is the primary source of the plant's psychoactive effects (the "high"). CBD's movement in the medical community and public is mostly because it offers medicinal value without the psychoactive effects of THC.
Cannabis compounds often share some, but not all, characteristics. For areas where THC levels are regulated such as .02 percent in the UK, 1 percent in Switzerland, and .03 percent in the U.S., CBD is a legal option in many areas of the world that offers the potential to treat dozens of medical conditions. In places where THC is legal for medical and/or recreational use, CBD allows people who don't tolerate THC well or are uncomfortable it's effects can get some benefits of cannabis.
What is the Entourage Effect?
The entourage effect is a theory of Dr. Ethan Russo, an expert in cannabinoid medicine. It considers the medical benefits of ALL the plant's compounds together rather than isolating one or two such as THC and CBD. While both forms have their advantages and disadvantages, the benefits of a whole plant extract outweigh the isolate.
In a recent interview with ProjectCBD Director, Martin A. Lee, Dr. Russo explains,
You can read the rest or watch the rest of the interview. But he goes on to explain that all the different molecules provide synergy or boost the initial effect of each cannabinoid. For example, CBD, THC, pinene, and myrcene all have pain relieving properties. Together, even in a flower that has a low ratio of THC and high ratio of CBD, a whole plant extract can provide more pain relief than a single isolated compound (Only THC or only CBD.)
What Are the other molecules?
The Other (Phyto) Cannabinoids
Yes—There is more data about THC and CBD than the other 111 known cannabinoids. However, that doesn't mean researchers are in the dark about them. Here are a few of the additional 111:
- Cannabigerol (CBD)
- Cannabichromene (CBC)
- Cannabigerivarin (CBGV)
- Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV)
Each cannabis strain has different percentages of the cannabinoids. THC and CBD are dominant or major compounds and CBGV and THCV are minor ones with only a small amount in each plant. Proponents of isolates point out that the medicinal value of the individual molecules is as essential as the whole plant.
Terpenes: More Than an Aroma
There are more studies about terpene isolates than as a whole plant medicine. However, experts know that certain terpenes can enhance the benefits of the cannabinoids—Or create an entourage effect.
What About the Flavonoids?
Cannabis flowers get their variety of deep greens, bright purples, yellows, and reds from flavonoids. Like terpenes, they are found in many plants besides cannabis. To date, researchers have isolated about 20 flavonoids in the cannabis plant.
The market for full spectrum extracts and CBD isolates is exploding. With the expansion of legal hemp production in the U.S. and further clarification of CBD laws pushing for more changes and legalization of cannabis in Canada advancing research, expect this industry's growth to continue to reach new highs over the next few years. You can also expect researchers to remain at odds over the benefits of the entourage effect despite similar theories found in the medical community.