Imagine that you are the best guitarist in the world. Now imagine that you play in the best rock band in the world. The kind that sends shivers down your spine every time that you listen to a certain song of theirs. Although you might be on a par with Jimi Hendrix, with all the best will in the world, you’re never going to be able to create those spine-tingling solos on your own, without your drummer and bass player to accompany you.
Well, CBD is the same. It might not make your spine tingle or give you goose bumps, but it will have a far greater impact when it is surrounded by other compounds that are found in the plant, than if it is taken on its own. This is known as the entourage effect.
CBD and its ‘Entourage’
CBD, or cannabidiol is one of the over 100 compounds that are naturally present in the cannabis plant. Although CBD and THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) are the two most prominent compounds, there are many others, including cannabinoids, flavonoids and terpenes which are also found in the plant. It is these other compounds which can give the CBD it’s ‘entourage’, which backs it up and makes it more effective.
When CBD is extracted from the cannabis plant, it is sometimes extracted on its own, or sometimes with some or all of the other compounds which are present. This can have a profound impact on how effective your CBD product is.
The Compounds in the Cannabis Plant
Although there are over 100 major compounds or cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, there are also over 400 trace compounds – many of which are in such small quantities that they are firstly difficult to detect, and secondly not necessarily present in all strains of the plant. THC, for example is a major compound which is present in very low levels in industrial hemp, but high levels in some strains of marijuana.
The cannabinoids which are present in the plant are found in a cannabinoid acid form, which must then be activated (through heat). The eight most common cannabinoids are:
- CBGA (Cannabigerolic acid)
- THCA (Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinolic acid)
- CBCA (Cannabichromenenic acid)
- CBDA (Cannabidiolic acid)
- CBGVA (Cannabigerovarinic acid)
- CBDVA (Cannabidivarinic acid)
- CBCVA (Cannabichromevarinic acid)
- THCVA (Tetrahydrocanabivarinic acid)
The plant also contains around 200 terpenes – which are aromatic molecules which give cannabis and hemp it’s distinctive smell, taste and is also useful to the plant to protect it from animal grazers, insects and fungus.
Some terpenes have been found to be beneficial to our health in addition to its effectiveness in the entourage effect. Beta-caryophyllene, for example, is found in many strains of cannabis as well as in oregano black pepper and leafy green vegetables.
Flavonoids, which are also present in the cannabis and hemp plant are responsible for the characteristics of a plant. They can help with UV filtration, producing chlorophyll (which allows the plant to carry out photosynthesis) and give a plant its colours.
The flavonoids work alongside the cannabinoids and terpenes to create an overall ‘entourage effect’.
CBD Products and the Entourage Effect
When you are looking to buy CBD products, you will usually be given a choice of one of three different products – full spectrum, broad spectrum or CBD isolate or distillate. The difference between these three is in the ‘ingredients’ of the product, and therefore the presence (or not) of the entourage effect.
· Full Spectrum CBD
Full spectrum CBD products are made from a whole plant extract from the (usually) hemp plant. This means that it will contain all of the cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids that are present in the plant.
In some places, where THC is legal to buy and use, full spectrum CBD products might include higher levels of THC. However, in places like the UK and many states across the USA, full-spectrum CBD products will be made from industrial hemp, which, by definition, will have THC levels of 0.3% or 0.2% to ensure that it is legal.
Research says that for most people, full-spectrum CBD is the most effective as it utilises the entourage effect, although users should be aware that there might be low levels of THC present.
· CBD Isolate or Distillate
CBD isolate or distillate is at the opposite end of the spectrum. These products are as close to ‘pure’ CBD as you can get. The extraction process only pulls through the CBD, and nothing else.
Although this is said to be the least effective form of CBD products available, it is useful for people who must be careful about the levels of other cannabinoids (like THC) in their blood and will still give you the health benefits of CBD.
· Broad Spectrum CBD
Broad spectrum CBD products are placed between full-spectrum and CBD isolate or distillate. It will give you some of the compounds from the plant, but not all of them (usually without THC). Broad spectrum CBD products are certainly effective, but not necessarily as effective as full spectrum CBD products.
When you are getting your CBD products, check that they have been tested in a lab. You should be able to then see the results and see exactly what cannabinoids, flavonoids and terpenes are included in the product.
It would be easy to think that one CBD oil is the same as the next one. That isn’t the case, however. One can be drastically more effective than another, and the specific make-up of the oil can also have a different impact on your body.
It can be good to try out different CBD products to find out which ones are best for you, as everybody is different. Remember to speak to your doctor if you are taking medication before you try CBD and remember to start off with low doses and gradually increase them until you reach your optimal dosage.