Probably Not The Best Choice
A lot has been said lately about the benefits of Full-Spectrum Hemp Extract and the purported “Entourage Effect” so I thought it best to explain both based on my experience – the past twenty years as a traditionally-trained biochemist and ethnobotanist. My initial work centered on researching and developing plants from primarily the Amazon but as of late, the multiple uses of unadulterated cannabis extracts
All plants produce chemicals for their own benefit, not ours. The coffee bean contains caffeine not because it gives us energy but because it protects it from insects and kills competitor seedlings. Just like Vitamin C in citrus fruit, resveratrol in red wine, aspirin in the white willow and statins in red yeast rice (to name just a few), plants produce chemicals via their “immune system” that often also happens to affect humans.
An extract is a concentration of the these natural chemicals found in plants. They are typically made by placing plant material (either whole or parts) in a liquid at a high temperature for a specific period of time. The liquid used is either water (an aqueous extract) or alcohol (an organic extract) and each concentrates different plant chemicals. Common extracts like coffee and tea use hot water as the liquid, extracting water-soluble compounds while alcohol is used to concentrate chemicals that do not dissolve in water, like essential oils, resins, alkaloids and terpenes.
A full-spectrum extract (FSE) theoretically contains all of the chemicals found in a plant concentrated in the same ratio as found in nature. The entourage effect is the hypothesis, or belief, that the spectrum of chemicals found in (this case) cannabis interact and together offer more beneficial effects to humans than any single chemical alone. The caveat of course is that currently, dependent upon local laws, a full-spectrum hemp extract may or may not contain THC. Thus, if it is a “THC-Free” extract it cannot by definition be full-spectrum. However, most importantly, even in Nature a plant’s chemical spectrum constantly changes.
For five years, each summer during the harvest, I visited a community of 400 families that cultivated a tuberous plant called Maca in the high Andes of Peru. Like most medicinal plants, single molecules were being studied for their affects on a variety of human diseases. Dependent on the weather (temperature, precipitation, light), soil conditions and predators (animals, insects, bacteria, fungi, etc.), with each harvest, the amounts and percentage of these molecules found in maca would change. Similarly, grapes are sweeter (produce more sugar) during a warmer growing season; the curcumin content of the spice Turmeric is higher when harvested at night; and, blueberries produce more resveratrol in response to insects. Any change in Nature affects the chemical spectrum of a plant – and this includes cannabis.
Because their chemical compositions are never the same, no full-spectrum extract is the same. Because there are over 480 distinct natural chemicals (identified) in cannabis, there is an infinite amount of chemical spectrums. And because the chemical compositions always change, the effects on the user will always change between batches. The amount of the FSE that works today, even a particular brand from a particular strain of plant, may not work tomorrow. This is the simple reason that all dietary supplement research, including cannabis, typically focuses on single molecules in measurable quantities from which accurate dosing can be determined
When you review the published, peer-reviewed scientific and clinical studies just in the US National Library of Medicine alone, since 1840 there have been over nineteen thousand articles on cannabis. Of that, 9,700 are related to THC and 6,200 to CBD. There are a handful related to the entourage effect but this is an interaction between specific quantities of specific molecules – like THC combined with CBD or a terpene – and none regarding full-spectrum.
So while a full-spectrum extract my sound appealing and the entourage effect logical, it requires a leap of faith to believe that either are as effective as a single molecule. Cannabis offers a rare opportunity for people to be able to determine what dose is best for themselves and the only way to do that is using a single molecule like CBD.