By / May 12, 2020

Harvard and MIT start joint research into full-spectrum CBD and CBD isolate

Two renowned research institutes are starting a joint study into the differences between full-spectrum CBD and CBD isolate. They are reportedly receiving the largest budget ever allocated for cannabis research.

What are the differences between CBD with the full spectrum of useful plant parts and a CBD isolate? Does one work better than the other? And what is the role of the entourage effect? Harvard Medical School is going to investigate this together with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). They will receive a budget of no less than $9 million(€8.3 million).

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Which one of the two types works better for consumers

CBD consumers can choose between two types: full spectrum CBD or products with isolated CBD. However, research into the medicinal effect of cannabis usually takes place with isolated cannabinoids. This means that a single active ingredient is isolated from the cannabis plant. Many researchers, therefore, work with, for example, pure THC or pure CBD. All other components are omitted.

What actually works better? There are strong signals that cannabinoids influence each other enormously. CBD, for example, works differently (allegedly much better) if it also contains a bit of THC. This probably applies to all cannabinoids as well as terpenes and flavonoids; a total of several hundred active ingredients.

This principle is called the ‘entourage effect’. All active ingredients in the hemp and cannabis plant work together for a large, synergistic result that give the beneficial properties of cannabis. At least, that is the conviction of many leading scientists.

Should people take full spectrum CBD oil or is an isolate just as good? And do studies with insulated CBD produce good, reliable results? That’s what this new study is supposed to find out.

Harvard receives one of the largest cannabis research funds

The funds, said to be the largest ever for cannabis research, was awarded to Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Two renowned research facilities with $4.5 million each at their disposal.

One of the principal investigators is Staci Gruber, a senior associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “Anyone interested in the use of a cannabis-based product wants to understand the possible differences between single extracted compounds and full-spectrum compounds,” Gruber said in a statement. “With the grant money, we can identify differences in these two approaches.”

In order to see the differences, Gruber will test CBD products on patients with anxiety. Whole plant extracts and isolated CBD will be compared with placebos.

“Our research could clarify the potential for synergistic effects that many believe occur when using full spectrum versus single extracted compounds.”

More data and further research into cannabis is needed

The grant for Gruber’s research comes from Charles R. Broderick, an alumnus at MIT and Harvard University. Broderick previously invested in the medical cannabis market in the U.S. and Canada. He hopes that studies such as Gruber’s will provide more information on both the beneficial and harmful effects of cannabis use.

“More and more people around the world are researching the use of cannabis and cannabinoid-based drugs or products. However, at the moment, we don’t have much data on the impact of individual cannabinoids compared to cannabinoids along with other compounds [from the cannabis plant],” Gruber said.

“It’s important to determine which approach is more effective and has an impact on harm reduction. We don’t want to expose individuals to compounds unnecessarily if we can achieve the same with a single compound.”

Gruber believes this research will provide valuable information for consumers, clinicians and patients. But also for policy makers and regulators. “Cannabis is a rather polarizing topic with people who are often very much for or very much against it,” she said. “This underlines the importance of science in decision making. Policy often surpasses science. In this case we want science to surpass policy.”


(Featured image by chuttersnap via Unsplash)

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