The benefits of cannabis without the high? It may be the key to selling the “green revolution” to the wider population. This series investigates how CDB-based products are changing the products we use every day and how those products will drive the promised growth of the CBD industry.
Today I’m not highlighting any single type of CBD product; rather, I’m highlighting something you need to consider when researching and sampling CBD products: what other natural chemicals are—or should be—coming along for the ride? This question is more commonly known as the entourage effect.=
For those new to the cannabis world, the “entourage effect” probably sounds like someone trying to describe what happened to Adrian Grenier’s acting career. But it’s a critical—and controversial—topic in the world of cannabis.
Cannabidiol—aka CBD—is one of over 100 different cannabinoids identified, with more continuing to be discovered. The most famous cannabinoid is THC, but every cannabis plant contains these chemicals—along with terpenoids and flavonoids—in varying degrees. Higher levels of THC are more common in “marijuana” while high CBD levels are now prized in industrial hemp.
The question is whether CBD needs THC and other cannabinoids, and vice versa, or if these chemicals are effective on their own.
When shopping for CBD products, you’ll run into three phrases that will define your cannabinoid experience: broad spectrum CBD, full spectrum CBD, and CBD isolates. Here’s what they mean, according to Aaron Cadena, Editor-in-Chief at CBDOrigin.com:
Full Spectrum CBD: Otherwise known as “whole-leaf,” full spectrum CBD includes all of the cannabinoids along with cannabidiol—even THC, in small amounts.
Broad Spectrum CBD: A multi-cannabinoid offering without THC.
CBD Isolates: Pure, concentrated cannabidiol.
The thinking behind the entourage effect is that there is a critical synergy between the cannabinoids that make them more effective (i.e., that you need a tiny bit of THC to make CBD effective). Research says that the entourage effect is, in fact, in play. According to peer-reviewed-research from Frontiers in Plant Science, there are multiple instances of broad spectrum CBD treatments performing better than isolates.
CBD isolates have been effective, though, particularly at getting past the anti-cannabis stance of the U.S. government. One synthetic CBD isolate has been approved by the FDA as a prescription drug, Epidiolex, to treat a childhood seizure disorder. And enforcement is almost always stronger when it comes to THC than CBD products, which is why you can find CBD products readily available online. CBD advocates thought they had a path to widely-available, FDA-regulated CBD when the 2018 Farm Bill legalized industrial hemp production, but the DEA and FDA have been slow to regulate CBD products. Thus, currently, CBD on its own is in a legal grey area.
So, one reason for the commonality of CBD isolate products is the politics of THC. While CBD is in a grey area, THC is illegal at the federal level and in many states, so to avoid these issues producers are isolating CBD from its cannabinoid siblings. Making THC non-detectable in CBD products can help wary consumers warm up to CBD products by removing the fear of getting high—or arrested.
I spoke with Derek Du Chesne, Chief Growth Officer of EcoGen Laboratories, about the conundrum consumers face when navigating the entourage effect. EcoGen Laboratories is the largest vertically-integrated manufacturer and supplier of specialty cannabis-derived ingredients in the U.S.A., including CBD isolate and broad spectrum CBD products. One of the things that EcoGen Laboratories specialize in is the genetics of CBD to help companies deliver consistent products.
While the entourage effect has been a long-time topic of discussion in the cannabis world, only now as the industry heads towards legalization can consumers really know what’s happening in their products. “Buying CBD isolates and CBD oil used to be a very, very murky industry before the 2018 Farm Bill,” Du Chesne told me. “Nobody had websites, you were basically buying things out of people’s trunks. Now, with genetics testing where it’s at, farmers are now able to more effectively control the cannabinoid types in their crops.
With more transparency about what cannabinoids are present in the crops, terms like full spectrum and isolate mean something—from reputable manufacturers. “Unfortunately, the emerging CBD industry is attractive and not all the players are on the up-and-up. A lot of people claiming broad spectrum are full spectrum.”
When it comes to choosing between the isolate and a spectrum product, Du Chesne believes there’s a purpose for both, but that broad spectrum offers more holistic benefits. “While these single cannabinoids are effective, it's nowhere near as effective as a true broad spectrum. When the cannabinoids are all working together, it creates an entourage effect. Even just having trace amounts of THC is going to make a considerable difference in many cases.”
As the CBD market matures, THC becomes legal federally, and more companies can accurately account for the cannabinoids in their products, consumers will be better equipped to figure out what levels of THC and other cannabinoids they need to accompany their CBD regimens. Despite the strong opinions on both sides, consumers should choose the type of product that works best for them, whether the CBD has its entourage or not.
Andre Bourque is a cannabis industry connector, executive advisor to several cannabis companies, brand strategy advisor, and a cannabis industry analyst. In addition to Benzinga, Andre’s articles have been featured in Forbes, The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Yahoo Finance, CIO Magazine & ComputerWorld.
You can connect with him at @socialmktgfella on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.
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The preceding article is from one of our external contributors. It does not represent the opinion of Benzinga and has not been edited.
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