What is full spectrum CBD oil? Understanding the entourage effect
by Taylor Hogan
The hemp plant is more complex and beneficial than most people realize. For example, did you know that the human endocannabinoid system — an important network of cell signalers called cannabinoid receptors that help keep us in homeostasis — was discovered during research into the hemp plant?
This endocannabinoid system is what makes cannabidiol (CBD) products so effective for people. Compounds called cannabinoids and terpenes produced by the plant bind to our cannabinoid receptors to change the state of our bodies. However, these compounds aren’t present in every part of hemp – certain parts naturally contain more than others
Full spectrum CBD oil refers to tinctures, hemp oils, or other CBD products that are made from extracts of the whole hemp plant. You may be wondering why you see these terms thrown around so much in CBD marketing and labels. So what is full spectrum CBD oil? To understand this better, let’s explore the major cannabinoids and how they work together to create a powerful effect that may help provide CBD users with relief and balance.
Major cannabinoids and terpenes of the hemp plant
Hemp is a form of the cannabis plant grown for use in a variety of products. With only trace levels of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid that gets you high, hemp plants still have valuable cannabinoids that research is beginning to connect with therapeutic use, as in the below examples.
These cannabinoids include:
- Cannabidiol (CBD): Arguably the most popular cannabinoid on the planet right now, CBD is popping up in all sorts of edibles, capsules, and tinctures. First isolated from hemp by researchers at the University of Illinois in 1940, today CBD is the active ingredient in the only drug derived from hemp with FDA approval, Epidiolex.
- Cannabigerol (CBG): CBG is the precursor to the more well-known CBD cannabinoid. It was first identified and defined by scientists in Israel in the 1960s. While it’s less common and a lesser known cannabinoid than CBD, it’s still being studied for its neuroprotective potential and other possible benefits.
- Cannabinol (CBN): CBN is created naturally as THC ages. Although it’s one of the oldest cannabinoids known to science — discovered at the end of the 19th century — it’s currently being evaluated as a compound for reducing muscle sensitivity in lab rats. Experts are also studying its potential uses for human muscle disorders and whether it may have a sedative effect.
There are a lot more cannabinoids than the three listed above. Conclusive science about the hemp plant and its chemical compounds is still hard to find, in part due to its legal status, but estimates on the number of total cannabinoids in the hemp plant range from 60 to over 100. Other prominent cannabinoids include cannabichromene (CBC) and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA).
What are terpenes?
Terpenes (or terpenoids) are a class of phytotherapeutic agents occurring naturally in all plants, not just hemp. In nature, they affect the smell and color of plants. If you’ve ever had a drink garnished with an orange peel or eaten a mango, you’ve experienced terpenes.
Researchers are studying the potential benefits of terpenes and their interactions with cannabinoids like CBD (more on this in the next section). A few of the most common terpenes are:
- Limonene: Commonly found in lemons and other citrus fruits, it’s considered the second-most abundant terpene in nature.
- ɑ-Pinene: The most abundant terpene in nature, found in many different conifer trees. It’s being studied as a treatment option for neuropathic pain.
- β-Myrcene: This terpene is found in wild thyme and other hops. Myrcene was found to have sedative effects on laboratory mice studied by researchers.
Again, the science is limited, so it’s impossible to state conclusively whether or not these terpenes actually provide therapeutic benefits and to what degree. Also, everyone is different — your reaction to cannabinoids could be completely different than your partner’s or coworker’s response.
But the reason that higher terpene content is sought after in full spectrum CBD products relates to a scientific phenomenon known as the “entourage effect.” The entourage effect is why it’s important to know the difference between CBD isolate and full spectrum CBD oil when you’re shopping for hemp products.
What is the entourage effect? Why cannabinoids work best together
There are over 100 different cannabinoids in the hemp plant, many of which are yet to be understood or even identified by modern science. However, a few landmark studies have hypothesized that terpenes might affect the way cannabinoids interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system. This phenomenon, known as the entourage effect, is a hypothesis that terpene content in full-spectrum hemp extract makes its effects more pronounced than pure CBD on its own.
People describe the benefits of the entourage effect in many different ways. Some talk about a calming effect that comes along with using CBD while others say it helps them stay more focused. The synergy between terpenes and cannabinoids and how they interact isn’t fully understood yet, but as government and research organizations continue to study cannabinoids and their impact on people, we’ll learn even more about their potential benefits.
Full spectrum CBD oil offers a natural hemp experience
In recent years, so many industries have seen a push toward the use of products that are more organic and closer to their natural state. While they may be newer than other consumer products, CBD oils and topicals are no different. Choosing a full spectrum CBD product allows you to use hemp oils or lotions with a chemical profile closer to the hemp plant in nature.
These products have a larger number of cannabinoids and terpenes than products that are CBD isolates, where oil from the plant is distilled until only the CBD cannabinoid remains.
Of course, everyone has their own reasons for using cannabidiol and other CBD products. If you’re curious about the specific benefits, check out reviews of CBD oil and tinctures from real users who have experienced their effects.
Will full spectrum CBD oil make me fail a drug test?
As mentioned, full-spectrum CBD products contain more types of cannabinoids than CBD isolate. One of those cannabinoids is THC — but under federal law, even full-spectrum hemp and CBD products can’t have a concentration of more than 0.3% THC, far below the amount required to experience any effects.
But just because you won’t feel any type of high doesn’t mean that trace amounts of THC won’t be present in your system. It’s impossible to say whether a drug test will detect this trace level. Too many factors are involved, including the sensitivity of the test, your body composition, and the kind of CBD product you were using.
If you aren’t sure how hemp or cannabis-derived products will be evaluated in your workplace, talk to your employer privately to get clarification on their policy.
Choosing the right full spectrum CBD products
Most of the time, you won’t be able to tell the chemical makeup of a CBD tincture or topical product by looking at it. Many manufacturers don’t put this information on their labels, instead preferring to use broad claims like “high-quality” or “all natural.”
The only way to truly be sure you are using quality products that have a diverse range of cannabinoids and terpenes is to check out the product’s lab results. Your CBD merchant should be able to explain the concentration of prominent compounds in hemp products, including CBD, CBG, and CBN.
Now that you’ve learned about full spectrum CBD oil and the entourage effect, you should understand why it matters that full-spectrum hemp oil contains a wide range of terpenes and cannabinoids. Want to learn more about how to use CBD and how it works? Check out our video tutorial on how and when to take CBD oil or read our recent guide to help you determine how much CBD oil is right for you.