CBD Versus Hemp Oil (The Entourage Effect)

A search of CBD (cannabidiol) on PubMed yields 2,164 published papers. PubMed, a database maintained by the US National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health, hosts peer-reviewed biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. The vast majority of these papers tout the health benefits of CBD, one of 113 cannabinoids that have been isolated in Cannabis Sativa, the species including hemp, which does not contain THC.

This growing body of research is the catalyst for the FDA’s recent approval of CBD extract as a medication, its application as an anti-inflammatory, and its rising popularity as a health supplement.

Purchasing CBD Versus Hemp Oil

When researching CBD for purchase, consumers will find advertisements for two main forms, CBD oil, and hemp oil containing CBD. Ever wonder if there is a difference? There is actually a big difference. CBD oil is, well, just that, CBD, cannabidiol, by itself. Hemp oil, on the other hand, is the original CBD containing essential oil before isolation. Hemp oil contains additional cannabinoids along with some very curious molecules known as terpenes.

The Benefits of Terpenes


Terpenes are defined as “any of a large group of volatile unsaturated hydrocarbons found in the essential oils of plants, especially conifers and citrus trees.” Aromatic molecules that evaporate easily and create scents, researchers have started emphasizing the pharmacological importance of terpenes.

Around 200 terpenes have been found in cannabis. The terpenes allowed the herbaceous plant to continue to thrive throughout history in different parts of the world by repelling insects and animal grazers. Others are antifungal and antibacterial. Terpenoids, as they are also called, exist in all kinds of plants. Think of all the popular scents of essential oils: lavender, eucalyptus, orange zest. We have terpenes to thank. Aromatherapy is based around vaporizing these oil-based compounds to breathe in for a hoped or perceived benefit. This is, in essence, the same as vaporizing cannabis just in a milder application. We humans actually interact with and consume terpenes all of the time.

Dr. Ethan Russo published a study in the British Journal of Pharmacology in which he discussed the wide-ranging therapeutic attributes of terpenoids, ”typically lacking in ‘CBD-only’ products.”

Beta-caryophyllene, for example, is in black pepper, oregano, and other edible herbs, as well as in various cannabis strains and in many green, leafy vegetables. This specific terpene acts as an antiinflammatory by binding directly to the peripheral cannabinoid receptor known as “CB2.”

Dr. Russo’s study also found that terpenoids and cannabinoids both increase blood flow, enhance cortical activity, and kill respiratory pathogens, including MRSA. He felt cannabinoid-terpenoid interactions “could produce synergy with respect to treatment of pain, inflammation, depression, anxiety, addiction, epilepsy, cancer, fungal and bacterial infections.”

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The Entourage Effect

Terpenes also affect the potency of cannabinoids, including CBD and THC. The Entourage Effect is the term for the cumulative effect of the various substances.  

Dr. Debra Rose Wilson states, “There have been studies that showed how the whole plant was more effective than the single-molecule compounds of one CBD or another. This was true even when the whole plant had lower doses of the active components. There is some theory that the different parts of the plant work together to boost effectiveness, without increasing dose or side effects.” High-quality hemp oil allows for the Entourage Effect because it contains CBD along with natural terpenes and additional, non psychoactive cannabinoids.

Researching Cannabis, CBD, & Hemp

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The Body Has its own Endocannabinoid System

Many people don’t know that our body contains an endocannabinoid system. The National Institute of Health states, “the endocannabinoid system has been recently recognized as an important modulatory system in the function of the brain, endocrine, and immune tissues. It appears to play a very important regulatory role in the secretion of hormones related to reproductive functions and response to stress.” In other words, the endocannabinoid system in humans helps them properly respond to stressors on the nervous system. There are receptors for cannabinoids found on cells all over the body, from head to toes and even on the cells of organs.

How to Choose the Correct Product

CBD alone is a beneficial substance. While it doesn’t bind directly to cannabinoid receptors of the body, It acts as a modulator of their activity. CBD can help to heal and control inflammation and even has a stabilizing effect on mood-related chemicals in the brain. With that said, full spectrum hemp oil has more potential benefit to the user because of the entourage effect attained by the various other cannabinoids and terpenes in the essential oil in combination with CBD.

In the same vein, different products will have different effects due to their terpene profiles and cannabinoid concentrations. By trying different preparations users can find the optimal combination. If you find relief from CBD oil, you may find greater relief or additional benefits from hemp oil. One might also find no benefit from using isolated CBD, but using hemp oil actually helps with their condition. Because neither hemp oil nor CBD is psychoactive, a bad experience using full spectrum oil shouldn’t be blamed on CBD. Many consumers seeking relief from CBD have had a bad experience because they used a cannabis oil-based product containing both THC and CBD and not actual hemp oil. They should give CBD a try before writing off these oils altogether.

Cannabis users, both medical and recreational, often miss out on the potential benefits of CBD since many current strains are bred to contain high concentrations of THC and low concentrations of CBD. Part of the reason for this is CBD seems to reduce the activity of THC in lab tests; however, users might find different combinations of hemp and/or cannabis provide various desirable entourage effects. This is especially true for medical patients seeking to best treat their symptoms.  

The Entourage Effect is a synergy associated with compounds in the two variants of Cannabis Sativa, hemp and cannabis. CBD may be a great place to start for first-timers, but we should explore the bouquet of benefits to be had by consuming different combinations of cannabinoids and terpenes in their natural ratios. On the other side of the coin, there is value in being able to consume isolated CBD without worrying about additional entourage effects in certain cases. Coming research is going to help us nail down best practices and the exact benefits, but right now we do know that there are anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and mood elevating properties to hemp oil and that’s pretty damn exciting.