Those familiar with medical cannabis may have heard the term whole plant medicine thrown around. But, what exactly does it mean? In a market with a growing number of concentrates and isolates, learning about whole plant medicine can make finding and selecting the right products even easier. Here’s the scoop on whole plant medicine.
What is whole plant medicine?
While the entirety of the cannabis plant is usable, whole plant medicine does not mean that you use every part of the plant when making your preferred for of cannabis medicine.
Rather, it means that the entire bud (and possibly some leaves and small stems) is used to make a potent medicinal product.
The flower of the female cannabis plant contains the most concentrated amount of resin, which contains valuable medicinal compounds. When choosing extracts or other cannabis-based medicines, there is reason to believe that using products that contain a real, whole cannabis bud may be preferable to using isolated extracts.
Why whole plant medicine is important
Whole plant medicine is important because there is not just one single medicinal molecule in the cannabis plant. The herb contains over 400 different chemical compounds, and researchers have only uncovered the tip of the iceberg about most of them.
Phytocannabinoids are often considered the primary medicinal components in cannabis. But, they certainly aren’t the only beneficial molecules in the plant. Many terpenes, which are aroma molecules found inside plant resins, are also thought to have medicinal uses.
The entourage effect
Evidence suggests that these cannabinoids, terpenoids, and possibly other compounds in the plant work together to produce synergistic effects. While myrcene is thought to have anti-cancer properties on its own, it’s also thought to be the reason why some strains are more sedative than others.
When combined with THC, myrcene can also help the psychoactive cannabinoid enter the brain faster.
When combined with THC, the presence of the terpene linalool is thought to enhance the cannabinoid’s muscle relaxant effects. Linalool is what gives some strains a soothing, floral, lavender aroma. If paired with CBD, the terpene is thought to enhance the herb’s anticonvulsant and anxiolytic properties.
There is also substantial reason to consume plants that contain decent concentrations of both THC and CBD. While both cannabinoids have an array of potential medical benefits on their own, studies show that some medicinal benefits, such as anti-anxiety and anti-tumoral properties, may be enhanced by combining the two cannabinoids together.
Imagine what it might be like to have a medicine that combines all of these compounds and more in a single flower like the cannabis plant does naturally.
This phenomenon is known as the entourage effect. The idea here is that various chemical components of the herb work together to create a powerful medicine.
Whole plant medicine takes advantage of the entourage effect by providing consumers with as many of these harmonious compounds as possible.
How do you find whole plant medicine?
Unfortunately, due to the illegal status of the plant, researchers have been unable to sufficiently study all of the various chemicals in cannabis and how they might possibly interact with one another. But, this early evidence suggests that, when it comes to cannabis, the more diversity the better.
To get a greater diversity, opt for dried flower, raw cannabis, edibles made from flower or raw plant material, kief, pressed hash, bubble hash, ice water hash, or full extract cannabis oils over isolates. Many of the beneficial terpenes and perhaps even some cannabinoids can be lost during some forms of extraction, such as CO2 extraction, distillates, “clear” concentrates, and crystalline.
If choosing an extract, a Rick Simpson oil (RSO) is thought to be the most potent form of whole plant medicine. Butane hash oil (BHO) typically retains more terpenes during processing than other forms of extraction.
The process of CO2 extraction is particularly harsh on the cannabis plants, and fewer terpenes remain in the concentrate after processing.
In time, as scientists learn more about the plant and all that it can do, concentrates uniquely formulated for certain conditions may hit the markets. Until that day comes, however, patients are left to experiment and make educated guesses about which products will best fit their individual needs.