A great deal of terminology gets thrown around when discussing marijuana, and if you are newly entering into the world of cannabis or even just mixed up on the details, it can be difficult to keep everything straight. Many conversations surround the distinction of "whole plant" cannabis compared to cannabis in other forms, and despite the common confusion, there is a relatively simple explanation.
What is "Whole Plant" Cannabis?
Contrary to how it might sound, whole plant cannabis does not include every piece from root to tip. Instead, it refers to the entire bud and possibly some leaves and stems. It describes the Cannabis Sativa plant with high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and it is said to be a more "crude" substance than pure extracts and single molecule compounds. It contains many different compounds that react in different ways, and which is better for medical or recreational purposes: whole plant cannabis or single compounds?
Whole Plant or Extracts?
The authoritative source for distinguishing the pros, cons, and overall efficacy of whole plant cannabis versus cannabidiol (CBD) or THC extracts is a study based out of Israel titled "Overcoming the Bell-Shaped Dose-Response of Cannabidiol by Using Cannabis Extract Enriched in Cannabidiol." Basically, the study shatters the myth that whole plant cannabis is less effective than extracts.
Project CBD concludes that "These studies showed that administration of pure, single-molecule CBD resulted in a bell-shaped dose-response curve, meaning that when the amount of CBD exceeded a certain point its therapeutic impact declined dramatically."
When the team mimicked the experiment with whole plant cannabis, it "caused a direct, dose-dependent inhibition of pain, inflammation, and TNFa production." The required dosage was also smaller with whole plant cannabis.
The magic happens in the interaction of the THC and CBD. THC is the substance in marijuana that has psychoactive effects. CBD has properties that can prevent anxiety and other negative side effects for people consuming THC. Some call this the "Entourage Effect." These two working together, plus the other compounds and combinations found in whole plant cannabis, create what may be the ideal result of marijuana.
Whole plant cannabis contains over 400 different compounds, which changes the effectiveness and dosage requirements. Overall, it can serve medical purposes and more easily reach different parts of the body in different ways. If you use weed for medicinal purposes, many recommend using whole plant instead of extracts in order to avoid missing out on any potential benefits that may be found in the plant beyond the pure THC or CBD.
If the conclusion can be drawn that whole plant cannabis has more effective properties, shouldn't everyone be researching it and using it rather than purer substances? Yes, but it's not that easy. Because cannabis is still a Schedule 1 drug and cannot be patented or financially beneficial, few are spending the time and money on researching whole plant cannabis to discover its true potential. More clinical studies are required to minimize risk and maximize reward, but a surplus of regulations require it to be slow going for the future of whole plant cannabis.