If you’ve been shopping on the CBD market for long, you may have noticed there are different types of CBD out there—broad-spectrum, isolate, and full-spectrum. And, while broad-spectrum, which is processed to remove THC, and isolate, which is essentially pure CBD, have their place the market, full-spectrum, or whole plant CBD including all the components naturally-occurring in the plant, tends to be the most sought after for relief from severe medical issues because it’s the most effective.
The reasons for this preference are scientifically supported. One 2020 scientific study, which looked into the anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing benefits of full-spectrum CBD for Multiple Sclerosis, reported that “studies using purified THC or CBD may not accurately reflect the potential health benefits of full-spectrum cannabis extracts. Indeed, the cannabis plant produces a wide range of cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other bioactive molecules which are likely to contribute to the different biological effects. The presence of all these bioactive molecules in cannabis extracts has garnered much attention of late especially with regard to their potential role in the treatment of neuropathic pain associated with multiple sclerosis.”
But, why exactly does full-spectrum CBD offer this enhanced benefit? The answer comes down to how the major cannabinoids—including CBD and THC—interact synergistically with the terpenes and flavonoids naturally-present in the cannabis plant. Together, they boost the overall effect of a CBD product. This phenomenon is called the entourage effect.
“The entourage effect is believed to emerge from the interactions between cannabinoids and between terpenes and cannabinoids. Terpenes are essential oils with distinctive aromas and flavors, and the characteristics of individual cannabis products are often determined by their relative concentrations of specific terpenes,” reports Cannabis Tech.
Steven Walman, co-founder of Max & Steven’s, a CBD brand based in Maryland, has experienced the deeper benefits from full-spectrum CBD due to the entourage effect, which is why his company is committed to selling only one high-quality full-spectrum CBD product.
“I had joint pain and inflammation and it was diagnosed through multiple rheumatologists and it was a hard thing to nail down the root cause of my issues so through them just throwing pills at me for a long time, I was looking for other alternatives and that’s when I learned about CBD versus THC and I got into all the molecules of the plant,” said Walman. “There’s a whole other side of it [than recreational cannabis use], much more complexity to the plant that can help with other issues.”
Max Sobol, the other founder of Max & Steven’s, had a similar experience with full-spectrum CBD treating his, his wife, even his dog’s severe anxiety. And, in 2014, when he moved back to his hometown of Baltimore, MD and reconnected with Walman, who he knew from high school, they began considering starting a CBD business together.
“We went to high school in Maryland and then after high school we went our separate ways. I stayed here and raised a family, and Max moved to Philadelphia, went to school, and had his family out there and I guess it was 2013 when he moved back to Baltimore,” said Walman. “We connected on this [CBD] opportunity – Max, his family and his dog [used] hemp and CBD and I had, too. It’s unregulated, it’s the wild west, and that’s when we decided to jump in and make a difference.”
They launched Max & Steven’s officially in 2018. Today, Max & Steven’s focuses specifically on one product—Full-Spectrum CBD drops. Their drops are meticulously-extracted, and always rigorously third-party tested to meet and exceed quality standards.
“We appreciate a holistic approach [of Full-spectrum CBD]” said Sobol, “We have one product and we don’t mix anything with it. It’s just natural plant with natural terpenes [and] our product is very versatile. It’s used sublingually, it’s used topically directly on the skin in lieu of a cream because you really don’t need a cream because it’s concentrated. You can put it directly in a pet’s mouth, on their skin, in their food. You can mix it in your own food.”
Along with CBD and trace amounts of THC content, the drops include all the terpenes that naturally occur in cannabis plants. Terpenes are aromatic molecules found in a variety of plants, including cannabis, and they are typically responsible for giving each strain or product a specific smell and taste.
The most common terpene in commercial cannabis is myrcene, which has a musky, earthy smell and elicits calming effects. Some other common terpenes are limonene, which smells citrusy and is thought to reduce anxiety, and caryophyllene, a spicy-smelling terpene that induces an anti-inflammatory effect. Overall, more than 20,000 different terpenes have been identified across the various types of cannabis plants.
And, while throughout the industry you will find brands isolating terpenes and taking them individually for their specific effects, Sobol and Walman are steadfastly opposed to that method. They don’t believe that’s not how to really reap that specific terpene’s fullest benefit.
“We believe in the whole plant as mother nature intended, and many times when you extract the cannabinoids and terpenes from that plant, they vary, you know,” said Sobol.
Walman adds that seeing good results from CBD is less about the specific terpenes present and more about consuming a whole plant product that is rich in terpenes to begin with.
“What I like is at least is a high concentration of terpene. It doesn’t necessarily matter to me which ones they are, although the relationship between the concentration of terpenes and the different cannabinoids definitely has some impact,” said Walman. “I know a lot of people will say, oh I like linalool, or I like myrcene, or limonene is my jam, whatever. Fine. It hasn’t been my experience.”
Walman and Sobol also acknowledge that this opinion of terpenes isn’t popular. In fact, the industry of “terpene isolates” is a rapidly growing sector of the cannabis industry—or at least a niche that is garnering interest.
“There is no doubt that these products have entered the market firmly,” reports the CBD company Dinafem, “foreboding future significant transformations in the fast-growing cannabis industry.”
What’s more, many consumers swear by isolates and broad-spectrum CBD—which do not promote the entourage effect—because they are concerned about and product that includes THC and may cause them to fail a drug test or feel high.
“I think a misconception is if you get a full-spectrum, you’re going to fail a drug test…They hear oh, it has THC in it, well, you know, that’s a problem because I’m going to fail a drug test. That’s not always the case, so that’s one of the concerns people have with full-spectrum, which is why they would go to something else,” said Walman.“Or, ‘I’m going to get high,’” Sobol adds.
Walman and Sobol don’t believe either outcome is a risk with full-spectrum CBD because if the product is designed to meet the appropriate legal standards of less than 0.3% THC, the THC content is too low and amount to be picked up on a drug test or to be psychoactive. That said, they do warn consumers to vet any brand they’re considering purchasing full-spectrum CBD from for proof of third-party testing, just so the consumer can be sure that the product they are buying really contains what it says it does at the levels it advertises.
“We were relatively frustrated with the lack of transparency in the industry [when we started out]. It’s hard enough to find a [Certificate of Analysis] so we decided to take that a step above and we don’t sacrifice any cost when it comes to making sure our product is done correctly.”
Sobol and Walman are so committed to promoting transparency and consumer education around issues like the benefits of full-spectrum CBD, they’ve also started the CBD information site, understandingcbd.com, which includes an accompanying weekly Sunday radio show that dives deep into issues relating to the CBD industry.
“[It’s] really to educate consumers,” said Walman. “[We believe in] normalizing the whole cannabis experience and the whole plant.”