As hemp oil becomes more popular, it’s starting to pop up in all different forms. One term you’ve likely noticed on hemp supplements, tinctures, and creams is “full spectrum.” Here’s what that means and why it’s important to look out for.
What “full-spectrum” means on a hemp oil label.
A quick breakdown: Both full-spectrum hemp oil (not to be confused with hemp seed oil) and full-spectrum CBD oil are cannabis plant extracts. The distinction lies in which type of cannabis plant the product was derived from.
Full-spectrum hemp oil will only be derived from hemp. Hemp is the term for a cannabis plant with 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or less—not enough for mind-altering effects. But a CBD oil can be extracted from either hemp or marijuana. Marijuana is the term for cannabis plants with higher levels of THC. When in doubt, check the label for THC concentration.
The benefits of full-spectrum hemp oil.
Full-spectrum hemp or CBD oil will contain all of the naturally available compounds the cannabis plant has to offer, including more than 100 cannabinoids and a host of terpenes and flavonoids to boot. In contrast, a CBD isolate product will only contain a single cannabinoid: CBD.
When you take a full-spectrum supplement rather than an isolate product, the cannabis plant’s hundreds of compounds have a way of working together to boost the product’s overall benefits. Researchers call this synergy the entourage effect: when cannabis compounds work together, they’re more powerful than any one cannabinoid on its own.
So what are all those compounds, and what do they do? First, let’s explore cannabinoids. Cannabinoids affect the body’s endocannabinoid system, which plays a role in regulating other systems, such as the immune, digestive, and central nervous systems.
Our bodies actually make their own endocannabinoids to help keep us in balance or homeostasis. But researchers theorize that sometimes we become deficient in endocannabinoids, which can lead to chronic conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome or migraines. And sometimes our bodies just need a little help to combat stress, aches and pains, anxiousness, or other issues that make us feel off. When taken as a supplement, phytocannabinoids, which come from plants, may be able to help ease some of the symptoms by helping our endocannabinoid system perform its delicate balancing act.*
One of the most talked-about and researched phytocannabinoids in hemp oil and CBD oil is, of course, CBD. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg: Scientists are still studying just how many cannabinoids can be derived from hemp and what their capabilities are individually, collectively, and in various combinations.
Cannabinoids are just some of the beneficial compounds present in cannabis that end up in a full-spectrum product. Terpenes, responsible for the aroma of cannabis, enhance how we process the plant’s many cannabinoids. And flavonoids—also abundant in tea, fruits, veggies, and more—are phytonutrients known to have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects.
“When you mix all those phytocannabinoids together and not just the phytocannabinoids—but their supportive compounds and antioxidants that are in the [hemp plant] stalk—it’s a whole mix,” functional medicine practitioner Robert Rountree, M.D., explained on the mindbodygreen podcast. “There’s this whole system at work.”
With full-spectrum hemp oil, the compounds derived from cannabis—including all the cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids—team up to benefit your body and help keep you in harmony. In short, full-spectrum presents a whole orchestra rather than just one cannabinoid’s solo performance.
If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking medications, consult with your doctor before starting a supplement routine. It is always optimal to consult with a health care provider when considering what supplements are right for you.
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