According to a Lead Chemist, It’s Not About Full-Spectrum or Broad-Spectrum, but Standardization
CBD oil is undoubtedly a hot topic. People are trying it out for ailments as diverse as mood and pain; researchers are examining its potential for a wide array of diseases; entrepreneurs are starting seemingly countless CBD companies.
Ask any expert, and they will advise consumers to be cautious—not all CBD is created equally. It takes due diligence to ensure that you’re sourcing a high-quality CBD supplement. Even when you do your homework, you still may not get the same thing two times in a row.
We spoke with Dr. Jeffrey Raber, an organic chemist at the forefront of cannabis product formulation. Through his work in the cannabis market, he has come to the conclusion that there is one thing missing from the vast majority of CBD products on the market: standardization.
What Is Full-Spectrum? It’s Not What You Think It Is
When you go out to shop for CBD, you are met with three typical types of products: CBD isolates, full-spectrum hemp oil, and broad-spectrum hemp oil.
CBD isolates are products that contain only CBD. Both full-spectrum and broad-spectrum CBD products are whole-plant hemp extracts, the difference being that full-spectrum contains trace amounts of THC while broad-spectrum does not.
When we asked Dr. Raber what his thoughts were on which type of these CBD products was best, he first explained the potential benefits of a whole-plant extract over a CBD isolate.
“A research scientist by the name of Ruth Gallily did interesting work over in Israel that showed single-molecule CBD did not have an as broad or effective therapeutic window as CBD extracts. So I start to lose all of the benefits of cannabis, in terms of entourage or ensemble effects, when I have all of these other things going along with them. That’s what makes them more beneficial to the body, more physiologically friendly and active if you will than if I have a single molecule.”
But when it comes to the variety of products on the market, Dr. Raber believes that the categorization between full-spectrum and broad-spectrum is much less helpful than it might seem.
“If I have the whole plant and I’m over here, and I have the single-molecule over here, where on that spectrum am I? Is this full-spectrum? Or is this full-spectrum? So it’s really, how much of each of these individual ingredients are in there?”
Dr. Raber understands that there is no telling exactly what you’re getting when you opt for many full-spectrum or broad-spectrum products. Every product can contain a unique blend of cannabis compounds, from CBD and THC to other cannabinoids and terpenes.
So, why is it that these products vary so much in chemical makeup?
It all starts with the hemp plant itself. Hemp plants contain hundreds of different compounds that may influence human health. Each hemp strain is going to contain a unique mixture of these compounds, and this makeup could impact the experience of someone who uses a CBD product made from it. Additionally, the growing conditions and when hemp is harvested can further influence its chemical composition.
What’s more, the CBD-rich hemp extract must be extracted from the hemp biomass before a CBD product is created. Companies use a variety of extraction methods, each of which has its pros and cons that influence the makeup of the final extract.
As Dr. Raber explains, “Each of those processes (extractions) changes the composition from the plant. With CO2 extraction, I’m losing a lot of terpenes and capturing some terpene-rich fraction, but not all of them. And in ethanol, I have to evaporate the ethanol, so a lot of the terpenes and everything are leaving there…so how do I know which ones are there?”
What many CBD companies are doing to help consumers is providing third-party lab results called a Certificate of Analysis (COA) for each batch of their CBD products. This way, consumers can at least have access to information on which compounds are found within.
But there are limitations to these test results. First, they are not a guarantee that what you are buying each time is the same. Rather, they are simply reports telling you what’s within. Outside of fairly consistent CBD and THC levels, most products offer little in the way of consistency from one batch to the next.
Dr. Raber believes that we as an industry can, and should, do better. “I don’t think physiological roulette is a fair thing to have people play.”
Enter: Standardized Formulations
At the Werc Shop, Dr. Raber and his team work to provide their clients with standardized formulations rich in cannabinoids and terpenes, the compounds to thank for the diverse health benefits of hemp.
Rather than take a hemp plant and produce an extract of unknown chemical makeup, Dr. Raber and his team combine cannabinoids and terpenes in such a way as to provide their clients with the same product, time and again.
We asked Dr. Raber to explain standardization and how the Werc Shop uses it to create high-quality cannabinoid products.
“Standardize means, I know I get the exact same thing every single time down to the molecular level, and one of the best ways to do that is by controlling the terpene composition. So if I have high purity cannabinoids, like single-molecule CBD or 90% plus THC, I can pretty much know that I’ve got those handled, and then we provide standardized terpene formulations. And our true to plant technology allows us to put 50 to 60 different components in those formulas. So now I’m looking at this really broad molecular perspective saying, ‘This is the same every time. I know what I’m getting in that concentrate.’”
By providing companies with a way to standardize their products, Dr. Raber encourages the CBD industry to hold themselves to a higher standard. This consistency allows consumers to find a product that works for them and stick with the same formulation time and again.
When consumers go out to shop for CBD oil, they should be aware of the limitations that come from sourcing a product directly from the hemp plant. While extracts like full-spectrum and broad-spectrum hemp oil undoubtedly contain a variety of healthful compounds within, there is little consistency that comes from this type of product.
In the coming years, consumers may see the CBD industry moving further from this Wild West of sorts and closer to standardized formulations, where you know what you’re getting each and every time. Thanks to the work of Dr. Raber and his team of scientists, standardized CBD formulations rich in other cannabinoids and terpenes are slowly being rolled out to consumers.