Whole-plant cannabis extracts, also known as full-spectrum cannabis extracts, aim to preserve the full profile of beneficial compounds in the cannabis plant. Unlike isolates that target a specific cannabinoid, whole plant extracts include a wide range of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other phytochemicals that work together to enhance therapeutic benefits through what is often referred to as the "entourage effect." 

Benefits of Whole Plant Extracts

The entourage effect suggests that cannabis compounds interact synergistically to create overall effects that are greater than the sum of their individual benefits. This concept is a key reason many users and practitioners prefer whole plant extracts, believing they offer more comprehensive health benefits compared to single-cannabinoid products.

Common Forms of Whole Plant Extracts

Whole plant cannabis extracts can be processed into various forms, each suited for different consumption methods:

  • Liquids: These are often tinctures made by dissolving cannabis in alcohol or another solvent. They are usually administered sublingually (under the tongue), allowing for quick absorption into the bloodstream.
  • Oils: Cannabis-infused oils are made by extracting cannabinoids and terpenes into carrier oils such as coconut oil, olive oil, or hemp seed oil. These can be used in a variety of ways, including ingestion and topical application.
  • Butter: Infused butter, or cannabutter, is another popular form of whole plant extract. It is typically used in edible cannabis products, offering a fat-based medium for the cannabinoids and enhancing the flavor of the final product.

Extraction Methods

The process of making whole-plant cannabis extracts generally involves using a solvent to extract the active compounds from the plant material. Common solvents include:

  • Food-grade Alcohol: High-proof alcohol is effective at extracting a wide range of cannabinoids and terpenes and is often used for making tinctures.
  • Glycerin: Vegetable glycerin can be used as a solvent for cannabis extraction, though it is less effective at solubilizing cannabinoids and is usually considered a safer, albeit weaker, alternative to alcohol.
  • Carrier Oils: Oils like MCT (medium-chain triglyceride), coconut, or olive oil are used to create infused oils. These are not only good solvents for cannabinoids and terpenes but also enhance the bioavailability of the compounds when ingested.

Whole plant extracts are a testament to the complexity of cannabis as a medicinal plant and offer an exciting area of potential for those interested in the holistic aspects of herbal medicine.