What Is the Meaning of the Whole-Plant Approach?

Written by Derek Johnson

The cannabinoids tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are two of the most active compounds in cannabis plants. As such, many manufacturers focus solely on these alkaloids when creating their products, which include extremely pure extracts and isolates.

However, there are those producers who take a different approach with their cannabis products by using a whole-plant approach. As its name implies, the whole-plant methodology involves the use of the entire cannabis plant and its compounds and not just the cannabinoids.

Cannabis produces hundreds of different compounds, nearly 100 of which are cannabinoids. The plant also produces terpenes and flavonoids. Those who use the whole-plant approach, also known as the full-spectrum approach, believe in the entourage effect. This phenomena demonstrates that the most active cannabinoids (THC and CBD), although highly effective when isolated, are more beneficial for their users when consumed in conjunction with the terpenes, flavonoids, and other cannabinoids found in the plant.

When taken as an isolate, research has shown that CBD is initially effective as an anti-inflammatory medication. However, after repeated dosing, the cannabinoid’s effectiveness is observed as a bell-shaped curve, meaning it loses its effectiveness upon continued dosing. This severely limits the isolate’s utility in a medical setting. However, research has also shown that when CBD is administered with complimentary terpenes, flavonoids and cannabinoids to mice, the bell-shaped curve is non-existent. Instead, repeated doses produce further anti-inflammatory results in the mammals.[1]

For hemp farmers, the whole-plant approach to cannabis production can potentially have a positive effect on the profitability of their operations. When producing full-spectrum products, the entire plant is used, including the fan leaves and the stalks. Whereas with isolate production, only the flower is typically utilized. The end result is a higher product yield per plant with whole-plant operations versus isolate operations.

Both isolate and whole-plant products are valuable for cannabis consumers. Fortunately, both are available in the growing marketplace and both are continually being studied closely, which benefits all aspects of the industry.

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  1. Gallily R, Yekhtin Zhannah, Hanuš Lumír Ondřej. Overcoming the Bell-Shaped Dose-Response of Cannabidiol by Using Cannabis Extract Enriched in Cannabidiol. Pharmacology & Pharmacy. 2015; 6(2): 75-85.

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Derek Johnson

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