You may have recently heard of CBD oil and its health benefits. Yet despite growing popularity, CBD remains a confusing substance shrouded in scientific jargon.
For example, CBD products can be labeled as full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or isolate. These different types of CBD have their own advantages and disadvantages, and their effectiveness is linked to what is called the “entourage effect.”
But do these terms mean? What is the difference between full-spectrum and CBD isolate? And which one is the best for you?
The Cannabis Plant: Not Just CBD and THC
To start off, it is important to highlight that CBD (Cannabidiol) and THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) are not the only beneficial compounds in cannabis. Indeed, the cannabis plant contains hundreds of therapeutic components, such as other cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, fatty acids, and vitamins.
These compounds have therapeutic effects of their own and interact with each other and CBD. Terpenes in particular are the next great frontier in cannabis research as they have hundreds of unique effects and interact with cannabinoids in unique ways.
The Entourage Effect
The entourage effect is used to describe the magnified health effects of whole-plant cannabis products in comparison to isolated cannabinoids. Simply put, this means the combination of CBD and all other compounds in cannabis is more potent than pure CBD.
This effect was discovered by researchers in 1998 and demonstrated in multiple studies. For example, in one 2015 study, mice were given one of two treatments: whole-plant CBD extract, or isolated CBD.
The whole-plant CBD was significantly more effective at supporting the ECS, leading the researchers to conclude that “CBD in a standardized Cannabis sativa extract is more potent or efficacious than pure CBD.”
The entourage effect makes sense because herbal compounds are not found in their isolated form in nature. Instead, they are always mixed with other natural components of plants. These components can have benefits of their own or modulate the effects of the main active ingredient.
This helps explain why most herbal products—and not just CBD—are typically more effective when they contain the whole plant extract.
So, what does the entourage effect have to do with the three different types of CBD: CBD isolate, broad-spectrum and full-spectrum?
Also known as whole-plant CBD, full spectrum is a formulation that contains not just cannabidiol, but all other compounds naturally found in the cannabis plant.
Although CBD is still the main ingredient, full-spectrum products also contain THC (0.2% or less), other minor cannabinoids such as cannabichromene (CBC), cannabigerol (CBG), and cannabigerivarin (CBGV), terpenes, and flavonoids.
All of these compounds work in synergy with CBD and each other, making full use of the entourage effect. This way, the therapeutic benefit of whole-plant CBD is greater than the sum of its parts. This explains why full spectrum is the most popular type of CBD.