Whole Plant Medicine vs Isolate
Not all cannabis is equal.
Once you begin to explore cannabis as a medicine, you frequently hear the terms like, “whole-plant medicine” or “full-spectrum cannabis”. What is whole plant medicine? What does full-spectrum cannabis mean? And why is it important?
The terms “whole-plant” and “full-spectrum” are synonyms and are thus used interchangeably. Full-spectrum compounds differ greatly from isolate. To understand the difference between the two, you need to understand the basic chemistry of the cannabis plant.
What is whole plant medicine?
Whole-plant medicine, or full-spectrum cannabis, refers to utilizing all the compounds withing the cannabis flower for therapeutic purposes. Whole plant medicine can refer both to cannabis cultivars that are high in THC, or hemp-based strains that are high in CBD and contain hardly any THC.
If you were to break down the flowers and leaves of cannabis, you’d find hundreds of different molecular compounds. You’d find cannabinoids, terpenes, and polyphenols. There are over 100 minor cannabinoids, and over 400 terpenes in cannabis & hemp.
All of these compounds contribute to the therapeutic effects of cannabis. More so, these compounds tend to work together to affect the individual in different ways, this is commonly called the “entourage effect”.
The compounds in cannabis exist in different ratios depending on the specific cultivar. The interactions between these various compounds makes the experience of each cultivar very different.
We see whole-plant medicine being used when patients smoke or vape cannabis flower, or when flower is used to prepare edibles or extract concentrates.
What is Isolate?
Isolate refers to isolated cannabinoids. Isolates are almost entirely composed on ONE single compound. The purity is usually 98% – 99% depending on the project.
The most common and well researched compounds in cannabis are CBD and THC. CBD isolate is widely available. THC isolate is commonly used in regions that offer legal cannabis products.
Isolates are often found in edibles, cartridges, tinctures, and topicals.
Patients should carefully read labels to determine if a product has been prepared with isolates or full-spectrum cannabis.
Therapeutic Differences in Full-Spectrum vs Isolate
Are there differences between using full-spectrum or isolates?
Most health care providers with cannabinoid experience, recommend full-spectrum cannabis. The American Cannabis Nurses Association states in their position statement, “The American Cannabis Nurses Association calls on the Nation’s governing bodies to acknowledge the importance of cannabis as a whole.”
There are many more cannabinoids than just THC and CBD, and all of these cannabinoids are therapeutically active. Additionally, terpenes contribute significantly to the therapeutic effects experienced by cannabis users. As the American Cannabis Nurses Association further explains in their position statement, “science has only just begun to understand the “entourage effect” which can be described as the synergy of these components when used in the natural form rather
than isolated as individual components.”
Although whole-plant medicine shows the most significant health effects, isolates still have an important role in the industry. Isolates are especially beneficial in research because it allows for dialed-in accuracy. When using whole-plant medicine, the variation in other cannabinoids, terpenes, and polyphenols are variables that are difficult to control.
Some patients choose to utilize exclusively CBD isolates because they may decrease the risk of a false positive on a drug test.
Using Isolates to Boost Potency
Isolates can be used to boost the potency of compounds that made from whole-plant medicine. For example, I personally add CBD isolate to the whole-plant cannabis oil I make at home in order to boost the CBD content. I do this because the oil already contains a variety of minor cannabinoids and terpenes that were extracted from the whole-plant flower.
CBG, or cannabigerol, is growing in popularity. You can use CBD isolate to boost the CBG content if you already use full-spectrum cannabis oil or full-spectrum CBD oil.
When possible, use full-spectrum, whole plant medicine. You’re likely to find a great deal of benefits from the minor cannabinoids and terpenes in the plant. If you’re simply looking to boost you CBD or CBG intake, adding isolates to your full-spectrum cannabis use, might be beneficial.