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What Does 'Whole Plant' Cannabis Mean?

If you have done some shopping for cannabis products before, you've probably encountered the term 'whole plant'. And you might be wondering what this is, and what it has to do with the cannabis you buy.

Until recently, the term 'whole plant' was pretty foreign to most, with others arguing that extracts from the whole plant are crude and less effective compared to those of singular, pure and isolated cannabinoids. However, study results and findings suggest otherwise.

What is Whole Plant?

Before we go deeper into whether whole plant extracts are more effective than isolated, pure CBD or THC cannabinoids, lets talk about what we mean by whole plant. The whole plant refers to the entire bud with some leaves and possibly some stems. It does not imply the whole cannabis plant from the roots to the flower.

The buds are what is used to obtain extracts that are being compared to the isolated, pure CBD or THC cannabinoids.

Which is More Effective - Whole Plants, or Isolated Cannabis Extracts?

Today you can find cannabis extracts isolated and purified, ready for use. The most common ones today are CBD and THC. CBD is mostly used for medical purposes, owing to its non-psychoactive nature. It is credited with numerous medical benefits. THC, however, is the cannabinoid responsible for giving the plant it's trademark psychoactive effects.

According to the study, whole plant, CBD-rich cannabis is superior and more effective than synthetic CBD for the treatment of a number of conditions, including inflammations and pain reduction. When studied, pure CBD extracts showed a dome-shaped effect. This means that at a certain point the effectiveness of CBD extracts reaches a diminishing rate of returns, and taking any more won't be helpful.

On the other hand, the effectiveness of whole plant cannabis rises with increased usage, continuing beyond the levels reached by CBD extracts. The anti-pain response also increases with increase in dosage.

The Synergy Between CBD and THC

Ever heard the phrase 'two are better than one?'

Well, this certainly applies to the relationship between CBD and THC. THC is the cannabinoid responsible for getting you high and can also induce less desirable side-effects such as anxiety, paranoia, and headaches. CBD on the other hand is lauded for it's medical applications. It is commonly used to treat epilepsy and it may be an effective add-on for the treatment of various other conditions.

Now, imagine these together. This is what synergy is all about. CBD enhances the effects of THC by reducing the much-unwanted effects, helping you can achieve a more comfortable high without having to worry about anxiety or head-splitting headaches.

The combination of the two cannabinoids is more effective than either standing on its own. Small doses of this combination work better than a small dose of either one by itself.

Similarly, a small dosage of whole plant CBD was found to be more potent than a large dose of pure CBD.

The Entourage Effect

Before we can begin to discuss this effect, we need to understand that whole plant cannabis contains over 400 compounds, including THC and CBD. There are terpenes - which give flavor to the plant and produce that sweet smell you get when you smoke it - as well as fatty acids, proteins, enzymes, sugars and so on.

Each of these compounds has a role to play in enhancing the effectiveness of the whole plant. The previously-mentioned study suggests that this could be the underlying reason why there was no dome shape when the whole plant CBD was tested. The cohesion of these various compounds and the way they work together is sometimes referred to as the 'entourage effect'.

Whole Plant Benefits Roundup

After the study of the whole plant and comparison to isolated CBD and THC cannabinoids, researchers were able to point out a number of factors that suggest whole plant cannabis is a more effective means of treatment for many than cannabis extracts. These are:

  • the capacity to minimize the side effects;
  • the capacity to increase the absorption of active ingredients in the plant;
  • the capacity to affect multiple targets in the body and;
  • the capacity to overcome bacterial defense mechanisms.

Our Take

If you are using cannabis for medical reasons, you might find whole plant cannabis to be a more effective means of treatment. This is because it will ensure that you don't miss out on any of the beneficial compounds that come tagging along. However, always ensure that you seek expert advice at your local dispensary so that you can be able to determine exactly what's right for your body. 

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