Why Whole Plant Matters

Why Whole Plant Matters

You’ve probably heard the term ‘whole plant’ used when describing cannabis and hemp products, but what does it mean and why is it important for your health? In this blog post we explore whole plant cannabis and hemp extracts and help you make an informed decision as to what type of product is best for you. 

Although there is no legal definition of ‘whole plant’ and technically anything that is plant derived and not synthetic is whole plant, it’s commonly understood in herbal medicine that a whole plant extract does not contain additives or any synthetic substances. Furthermore, a whole plant extract, especially when considering cannabis or hemp products, should still contain the native terpenes that came from the original source material. 

Often times extracts are ‘purified’ by removing the terpenes, flavonoids and other plant compounds by using additional solvents like ethanol to ‘winterize’ the cannabis or hemp extract and thus leaving only the cannabinoids. These ‘distillates’ or ‘isolates’ have medical value and are common in the industry, but because they’ve undergone additional processing and have been stripped of their terpene profile we do not consider these extracts to be a whole plant product. 

So why does it matter if your product contains a whole plant extract or not? There have been a number of studies that confirm that whole plant extracts are superior to processed cannabinoid extracts in terms of their therapeutic value. The ‘entourage effect’ that is so important to medical patients is based on the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts. In other words, CBD, it is believed, is far more effective when combined with cannabis derived terpenes, flavonoids and other whole plant compounds found in the natural flower. Although more research is still needed on whole plant vs single molecule products, the overwhelming consensus is that whole plant products are far more natural and therapeutic than single molecule products.  

Quality Matters

Additionally there is an object based quality distinction, especially when it comes to cannabis and hemp extracts and products. Single molecule products, especially those made from CBD isolate are typically extracted from bulk biomass and in order to comply with international laws must be extracted from the stalk of the plant and not the flower. However, the US Farm Bill legalized the cultivation and extract of cannabis (hemp) with less than 0.3% THC ushering in a new era of high quality, whole plant CBD and Hemp extracts for use in products like balms, lotions and oils. 

Buy Local

In other words we suggest buying hemp and CBD products made from USA grown hemp that is pesticide free and comes with third party COA lab tests to confirm potency and purity. When in doubt you should talk to your budtender or contact the brand and ask if their product is whole plant or made from distillate or isolate. We are not saying that distillate and isolate have no value or place in the industry, however we think it’s important for consumers to understand what they are getting and have a deeper understanding of the value associated with each product and extraction method. 

Our guiding philosophy at Awakened is to trust the plant and remove our fingerprints from the manufacturing process as much as possible and allow the plant to speak. By keeping our process solvent free and the whole plant we can be assured that we are making the best possible products for our customers that are safe and offer the greatest therapeutic value. 

Specific hemp and cannabis cultivars have unique cannabinoid and terpene profiles that have commonly understood expressions, such as:

  • Indica which are typically rich in the terpenes myrcene and caryophyllene and are understood to produce a sedative and calming effect. 

  • Sativa which are known for their uplifting effects may have a limonene or terpinolene-rich profile.

  • Hybrid which is a combination of both Indica and Sativa and accounts for the vast majority of flowers on the market today are marketed as a balanced effect. 

Years of trial and error and anecdotal evidence have guided our formulations from a whole plant perspective, rather than adopting the big pharma model of single molecules and isolated compounds. In short, farmers overs pharmacies. Whole plant for the win!

To know if your cannabis and hemp products are whole plants or not, request the Certificate of Analysis (COA) and look at the cannabinoid profile. If you only see 1 or 2 cannabinoids odds are the product was made from a heavily processed extract. If, however you see additional minor cannabinoids like THCA, CBDA, CBGA etc, you most likely have a high quality product made from whole plant material. 

There’s no single product that works for everyone, so we suggest trying different products and extraction methods and finding a brand and style that works for you. However, some customers like to know that their product was made from sustainable methods and was not exposed to toxic chemicals during the manufacturing process. This is especially true for patients with compromised immune systems that may be extra sensitive to irritants like butane or toxins like ethanol, even at trace amounts. Transparency is important for trust, so if the brand you use won’t be upfront about their extraction methods, you might want to consider moving on to a more trustworthy and reputable company. 

If you would like to try a whole plant hemp product we suggest starting with our Raw Hemp Balm and Raw Hemp Sublingual. Our Raw Hemp and Raw Cannabis topicals and tinctures are all made using single strain and single origin flower and extracted utilizing our solventless cold infusion process that gently removes the medicinal properties from the plant without the need for high temperatures or solvents like butane or ethanol. By keeping irritants and toxins out of our extraction process can offer products that are truly in harmony with science, nature and our mission to help you become the best version of yourself. Always check the COA of cannabis and hemp products and look for full spectrum cannabinoid profiles.

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Extract literally means to withdraw something by physical or chemical means. Hemp and cannabis extracts are concentrated forms of the plants resin glands which have been removed from the plant material by either solvent extraction or mechanical methods like rosin, ice water hash, dry sift or last but not least, infusion. 

Crude extract or crude oil means an extract that is essentially the ‘first pull’ of the extraction process, particallyar from a solvent extraction from butane, CO2 or ethanol. This exact can vary in quality depending on the source input material and is a true whole plant extract in this form before it has been further processed because it contains all the native phytochemical compounds like flavonoids, terpenes and phytocannabinoids. 

Mechanical extraction is a solventless extraction method that uses physical means rather than chemical solvents to remove the whole plant compounds.

Winterize or winterization means to remove the lipids from a crude extract typically with ethanol. 

Whole Plant refers to both the product used for extraction as well as the extraction process itself. In the cannabis and hemp universe whole plant typically refers to using whole flower (bud) during the extraction method and secondly minimally processing the product to maintain the full plant properties, including: cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids. 

Full spectrum refers to a cannabis or hemp extract that has the full native phytochemical profile of the original plant material, including THC. If, for example you extract a 1:1 CBD to THC flower you should have an extract that is roughly a 1:1 ratio of total CBD to total THC. Full spectrum and whole plant are often used interchangeably, however, full spectrum specifically implies that there is THC in the product.  

Broad spectrum, similar to full spectrum extracts, broad spectrum extracts have the full native phytochemical profile of the original plant material with the exception of THC. In other words, broad spectrum extracts are extracts that either started with little or no THC or had the THC removed via a secondary purification process AKA THC remediation. 

Single Molecule refers to plant extracts that have been processed to remove all compounds except for the desired molecule, such as CBD or THC. This process typically involves a crude extract that was extracted using a solvent like butane, CO2 or ethanol and then that crude oil is further processed to remove the lipids, waxes, terpenes, flavonoids, secondary cannabinoids and other plant compounds leaving behind an ‘isolated’ compound. These extracts can be up to 99.9% pure and are typically in powder form. 

Distillate refers to an extract that has been processed to remove all the other plant compounds with the exception of cannabinoids. Distillate can be full spectrum, broad spectrum or single molecule depending on the source material and methodology. 

Isolate is a single molecule extract that has been purified to remove all plant compounds except one single cannabinoid. 


If you’d like to read more blog posts like this one, check out The Awakened Blog. 

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