With all the cannabis products on the market today, having a decent understanding of the herb is more important than ever. There’s a lot of jargon: whole-plant medicine, full-spectrum CBD, high-THC strains, high-CBD strains, one-to-one strains. And there are tons of product types too, from creams to coffee to concentrates.
It’s concentrates that will be our focus in this article. The market is being flooded with pure, potent concentrate and isolate products. Knowing all about whole-plant medicine and the effects of various cannabis compounds enables you to make a better-informed purchase. So without further ado, let’s learn more about whole-plant medicine.
Whole-plant medicine: what’s it all about?
The entire cannabis plant can be used for medicinal purposes, but that isn’t necessarily what “whole-plant medicine” refers to.
Instead, the term is used to describe a product that uses all of the flower from a plant, and perhaps some of the stems and leaves too.
The most concentrated, potent resin can be found in the flowers of female marijuana plants – this is where most of the THC and CBD can be found. Scientists have determined that when using cannabis products such as CBD vape oil and concentrates, whole-plant or full-spectrum medicine is more effective than isolate medicines – products that separate individual compounds (i.e. CBD and THC) from the rest of the extract.
Understanding the benefits of whole-plant medicine
Whole-plant medicine includes every single one of the 400-plus compounds found in marijuana. Researchers have only studied a few of these cannabinoids and terpenes extensively – suggesting there may be more therapeutic benefits to cannabis that we are, as yet, unaware of.
Cannabis science is complex, with more than 100 of the compounds produced by cannabis known as cannabinoids – rare chemicals that are unique to the cannabis plant. CBD and THC are cannabinoids, as is CBG, CBN, CBC and THCV. CBD has developed into a popular treatment for medication-resistant epileptic conditions, including Dravet’s syndrome.
Cannabinoids, or phytocannabinoids, rightly get the praise for being the key medicinal compounds in marijuana, but they are far from the only chemicals that offer benefits. Also in abundance are terpenes, compounds responsible for the aroma of cannabis and many subtle, therapeutic effects.
The beta-caryophyllene terpene, found in black pepper and some cannabis strains, has anti-anxiety traits.
Understanding the entourage effect
The science seems to suggest that the cannabinoids, terpenes and other chemicals in cannabis plants interact, leading to a synergistic reaction often known as the ‘entourage effect’. For example, myrcene has anti-bacterial properties, although its presence in a strain is thought to contribute to making it more sedative.
Furthermore, myrcene also works with THC to speed up absorption of the cannabinoid – when the two are combined, the THC gets to the brain more quickly, bringing on a more intense psychoactive high.
Linalool helps to boost the muscle relaxant properties of THC – this terpene is found in lavender, and is known for being calming, soothing and having floral notes. When CBD and linalool are combined, the cannabinoid becomes a more potent anxiolytic and anticonvulsant.
Picking strains with an even ratio of THC to CBD (these are one-to-one strains) perhaps offer the best medicinal potential. In addition to having their own properties, THC and CBD also interact to produce extra medical benefits – for example, the antipsychotic and anxiolytic qualities of CBD reduce anxiety by THC and the compound’s psychoactive effects.
These are just two or three examples of where a link up of chemicals enhances overall effects – just imagine how much could really going on among all 400 of them.
Whole-plant medicine is the best way to get the maximum benefit from the entourage effect, as these products are made with strains that have a great base of cannabinoids and terpenes to begin with and are extracted in a way that preserves as many of those compounds as possible.
Where can you buy whole-plant medicine?
Because cannabis is banned by the federal government, researchers have not had the opportunities to study the plant to the extent they would like. Therefore, we only have a deep understanding of a new cannabinoids and terpenes, and only have a limited idea on all the interactions they make with other compounds. However, it seems likely that the more compounds there are in a strain, the greater its therapeutic properties are.
If you have access to whole-plant products, then they are invariably a better option to isolates. To explore all the effects that cannabis can provide, be sure to experiment with cannabis flower, kief, hash, ice water hash, full-extract oils and edibles. It’s possible for some terpenes to be lost when extracting plant matter to make cannabis oils, hence why having a variety of products is recommended. When you do buy extracts, you may want to check that your product has been manufactured using supercritical CO2 extraction.
While the CO2 extraction method makes the clearest, cleanest and purest extract, it can remove more terpenes than other methods.
Rick Simpson Oil (RSO) is considered one of the best whole-plant medicine products if you’re looking for potency. For maximum terpene retention, perhaps look for butane hash oil (BHO).
In the next few years, researchers are only going to reveal more about the remarkable therapeutic benefits that can be harnessed from cannabis. That improved knowledge will help manufacturers produce even better products. Until we reach a cannabis nirvana however, it’s up for cannabis users to experiment and help others find the most effective marijuana treatment plan for them.