by, Tracey Roizman, DC
With the rapidly expanding legalization of hemp and subsequent ramping up of cannabinoid research you can be sure that many scientists will be kept busy for the foreseeable future documenting and cataloging the precise, detailed biological fingerprint of each of the more than 120 known phytocannabinoids as well as all of the known and yet to be discovered cannabinoid-like compounds found in hemp. And, though it’s tempting for both pharmaceutical manufacturers and supplement marketing companies alike to assign each cannabinoid a particular and unique function, is the reductionist, silver bullet paradigm the most effective approach?
The Entourage Effect
Already, the preponderance of emerging research tells us that cannabinoids work best in concert with each other and with the hundreds of terpenes and non-cannabinoid compounds present in whole hemp extract. The synergistic interactions that occur among CBD and the array of bioactive constituents result in greater efficiency at lower dose levels. This happens, in part, because when all the phytocannabinoids are present their overall solubility increases. And when solubility increases absorption improves. Also, the “lesser” cannabinoids, as we are learning, provide additional therapeutic benefits of their own. Though synergism is not unique to hemp this phenomenon in association with hemp is increasingly being referred to as the “entourage” effect.
When a standardized broad-spectrum hemp extract is compared with pure CBD isolate the dose-response curve shows that milligram for milligram, as the dose increases the broad-spectrum extract is usually more effective, while the isolate produces a diminishing return.
Numerous studies have confirmed the entourage effect when applied to numerous conditions and with various combinations of cannabinoids. For example, the anti-inflammatory effects of a full-spectrum hemp oil extract were found to significantly surpass those of purified CBD isolate in laboratory animals, leading the researchers to conclude that, as yet unidentified synergistic interactions between CBD and other components in the extract were responsible.
Similar results were obtained in a colon cancer study. In the tissue culture arm of the study, a standardized cannabis extract that contained a high content of CBD showed a greater ability to bind to CB1 and CB2 receptors compared to pure CBD, which showed only low binding ability to CB1 and none for CB2. Confirmation was found in the next arm of the study in which human colon cancer growths were transplanted into laboratory rats and the high-CBD full spectrum extract was more effective than CBD isolate at inhibiting cancer cells from reproducing. And in a preliminary study on prostate cancer a variety of different full-spectrum extracts combined with CBD all showed greater potency against the cancer cells compared to CBD isolate.
Terpenoids in hemp are also powerful bioactive molecules that contribute to the entourage effects, yet are safe enough to be included on the FDA’s Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list. Terpenoids are a branching molecular family that derives from the same precursor molecule as phytocannabinoids. Studies show that terpenes interact synergistically with both phytocannabinoids and non-phytocannabinoid compounds and have been found to reduce pain and inflammation as well as help in the management of epilepsy, mood and behavioral disorders, cancer and even challenging fungal and antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections. There is currently much excitement swirling through scientific communities for the many potential therapeutic applications of terpenoids in concert with CBD and other bioactive hemp constituents.
The Manufacturing Conundrum
Since CBD is the most abundant and bioactive of the cannabinoids, it makes sense from both a health and marketing perspective, to design a CBD nutritional supplement or CBD-infused vape product, protein powder, snack bar, or beverage that provides the maximum dose of CBD as well as the maximum potential absorption and utilization of CBD and its many synergistic compounds.
This could presumably be accomplished by using a full-spectrum hemp oil boosted with additional CBD isolate. However, the relatively poor solubility of CBD and other cannabinoid isolates presents a challenge in that regard. By comparison, broad-spectrum phytocannabinoid-rich hemp oil disperses, emulsifies, and homogenizes much more easily than CBD isolate. As a result, isolates may not deliver a consistent dose of CBD in each serving.
As much as the scientific knowledge of phytocannabinoids is struggling to advance beyond its infancy the current regulatory landscape is nearly as murky. While CBD and other phytocannabinoid isolates will eventually find their proper and rightful place in pharmaceutical drugs and supplements, the FDA has yet to approve any such products. As a result, if you’re not thoroughly confused, you’re probably not paying close enough attention. However, for those who are determined to bring their products to market, there is a workaround, and that is to make sure that your CBD product contains no detectable levels of THC. Using this as a guideline, products containing whole hemp oil with a broad spectrum of phytocannabinoids can legally contain as much as 80% CBD.
How is Broad Spectrum Phytocannabinoid Hemp Oil better than using purified Cannabidiol isolate?
Overcoming the Bell‐Shaped Dose‐Response of Cannabidiol by Using Cannabis Extract Enriched in Cannabidiol
Inhibition of Colon Carcinogenesis by a Standardized Cannabis Sativa Extract with High Content of Cannabidiol. Phytomedicine, 21, 631-639
Non-THC Cannabinoids Inhibit Prostate Carcinoma Growth in Vitro and in Vivo: Pro-Apoptotic Effects and Underlying Mechanisms. British Journal of Pharmacology, 168, 79-102
Taming THC: Potential Cannabis Synergy and Phytocannabinoid-Terpenoid Entourage Effects. British Journal of Pharmacology, 163, 1344-1364.