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Plenty of technical terms are floating around the cannabis industry these days. It can make a cannabis purchase anything but simple. If you’re confused, you’re not alone. A common source of confusion is the term “full spectrum.” You may see it in the marketing of specific products created by extraction methods. How is that any different from just using the entire cannabis plant? Let’s take a closer look.

What’s in the Cannabis Plant, Exactly?

As states like California vote to legalize the plant, more people have been turning to cannabis for both medicinal and recreational use. That’s because, unlike other plants found in nature, cannabis has unique chemical compounds. Those compounds react in specific ways in mammals, including human beings. Research has shown proven benefits for a variety of health concerns, as well as personal enjoyment.

The chemical compounds in cannabis include more than 100 cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD. Each of these cannabinoids reacts differently in the body. For example, THC is responsible for the euphoric “high” that comes from cannabis, while CBD has been shown to help support the body’s ability to maintain functions such as healthy sleep, hormone regulation, weight, and moods.

However, there’s a lot more inside cannabis. For example, terpenes are the chemicals that result in the aroma that sets certain cannabis strains apart from others. Terpenes are also what makes lavender smell differently than peppermint. Just as aromatherapy has benefits, terpenes from cannabis impact people in positive ways as well. Flavonoids, meanwhile, are the compounds that make cannabis taste the way it does. There are benefits there, too.

How Is Full Spectrum Different?

whole plant

One way to enjoy all the benefits of cannabis is simply using the raw flower bud and leaf. It’s possible to smoke or vape, bake the plant into edibles, or soak it in oils at home. Anything you do with the whole plant is a method of processing, or breaking down the plant matrix to access all those beneficial chemical compounds.

Companies who take the whole plant and process it for you into a product labeled “full spectrum” is simply doing the work for you. In laboratories, they remove the fibrous plant materials and extract the botanical benefits. Full spectrum products may include tinctures, capsules, salves, or edibles.

Taking Advantage of the Entourage Effect

The reason that many people look for full spectrum products is due to many scientists believing it is more effective, thanks to a concept called the entourage effect. This means the sum is greater than the individual parts.

Full spectrum products, like consuming the whole plant, offer therapeutic benefits from the combined effect of cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, essential oils, and everything else in cannabis. There is still a lot of research necessary to fully understand the benefits of each element of the plant, but plenty of anecdotal evidence supports the idea of the entourage effect.

These products are different from isolates, which separate and concentrate certain compounds, like CBD or THC, for a specific purpose. Review labels carefully when deciding what is best for you and keep in mind that the cannabinoids of the cannabis plant were meant to work together.