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What Does “Whole Plant” Mean?

Understand the benefits of whole plant cannabis products.

Ab Hanna

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You may have come across the term “whole-plant” while shopping for cannabis products. Now, you’re probably wondering what does whole plant mean in relation to other cannabis products? As the name hints, whole plant products consist of cannabinoids and the other potentially beneficial components in cannabis. Research has suggested there are added therapeutic benefits to combining isolated cannabinoids with other cannabinoids or terpenes.

Whole Plant vs. Pure CBD

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Research from Israel has illustrated pure CBD wasn’t as effective as at alleviating pain as extracts from the flowers of a high CBD strain.

The extract from the high CBD strain contained 17.9 percent CBD, 1.1 percent THC, 1.1 percent cannabichromene (CBC), 0.2 percent cannabigerol (CBG) with traces of cannabinol (CBN).

The purified CBD had a bell-shaped dose-response which means it would lose its therapeutic abilities whenever the dose was below or passed a certain point.

On the other hand, the whole plant CBD’s anti-inflammatory and anti-pain responses would increase in higher doses.

Entourage Effect

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Dr. Ethan Russo, MD, found CBD antagonized the effects of THC in a study from 2006. In fact, CBD could negate the psychoactive effects of THC. Moreover, CBD can help prevent the anxiety that some people experience when consuming high doses of THC. The researchers from the study found other combinations of cannabinoids enhanced the effects of THC.

This prompted an interest in the synergistic effects of cannabinoids and terpenes. That’s when Dr. Russo conducted further research which found terpenoids have “complementary pharmacological activities that may strengthen and broaden clinical applications and improve the therapeutic index of cannabis extracts.”

Since then, interest in the entourage effect spread across the cannabis community. Now, breeders are on the hunt for strains with unique terpene profiles. In fact, exotic seeds are selling for thousands of dollars.

Growers went from hunting for strains higher in THC to finding strains lower in psychoactivity with unique cannabinoids or terpene profiles.

Because of the discovery of therapeutic benefits in CBD, there are now dozens of strains with high concentrations of CBD. We’re seeing a similar rise in terpene-rich strains.

Whole Plant Advantage

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The main benefit to using whole plant medicine versus isolated THC or CBD is for the synergetic effect. Having more than just THC can help balance out the psychoactive side effects of THC but there are plenty of other benefits to using whole plant medicine. Whole plant extracts can target more parts of the body than THC alone.

Research has also suggested that certain terpenes which create the smell of weed have the ability to increase the sedative effects of THC. It is believed this happens because myrcene helps to improve the absorption of active ingredients.

Final Hit: What Does Whole Plant Mean?

Whole-plant products are also referred to as broad or full spectrum extracts. Both refer to the fact that the final product will contain all of the beneficial component found in the natural plant. If you’re using cannabis for medical purposes you’re better off with a whole plant product to ensure you aren’t missing any of the potential benefits the plant has to offer. You can ask your local dispensary about full-spectrum if they carry whole plant products.

Ab is an East Coast editor for High Times. He enjoys learning about cannabis and cannabis products through experience and from experts in the industry.

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