EducationFull spectrum CBD & the entourage effect

Full spectrum CBD & the entourage effect

11 min read

Sam North

Full spectrum CBD & understanding the entourage effect

If you're keeping up with the latest trends, you may have noticed that more and more people are interested in CBD-based products. Your online research may have led you to terms such as cannabis extract, cannabinoids and isolate, which may be confusing terms if you've never heard of them before. 

Furthermore, with the various products available, it's easy for beginners to be unsure as to what CBD product is right for them. 


Full spectrum CBD products are often considered a favourite because of their multiple components and cannabinoids. Even though further research is required, the currently available clinical studies are showing that CBD may offer many potential benefits for patients, whether physical or psychological.

This article will explain how full spectrum CBD product are made, the contained compounds, and how the "entourage effect” may offer further therapeutic benefits. Please continue reading to understand better full-spectrum CBD distillate, its potential benefits, and its side effects.

What is full-spectrum CBD?

Before going through the specifics of full-spectrum CBD, you should understand where it comes from. The cannabis plant comprises a ridiculous number of different chemical compounds, including at least 113 various phytocannabinoids. The two most well-known are CBD and THC.

CBD is short for cannabidiol. This cannabinoid is totally non-intoxicating and doesn't produce the euphoric “high” feeling. THC (or tetrahydrocannabinol), on the other hand, is known for its psychoactive effects.

CBD products come in three main categories, depending on the compounds or cannabinoids present in the specific product. 

They are known as:

  • CBD isolate – as the name implies, this purified form of cannabidiol does not contain any other compounds from the hemp plant and lacks the psychoactivity of THC. CBD isolate in its raw form is a white crystalline powder, which may be added to products such as vape pens, topical creams and more.
  • Broad spectrum CBD – besides cannabidiol, all other natural compounds (terpenes and flavonoids) from the hemp plant are found in the mixture. However, there's not even the slightest dose of THC present, as it will have been removed. These products are typically more popular from a regulatory perspective, as they avoid potential issues with THC levels.
  • Full-spectrum CBD – contains cannabidiol and numerous other cannabinoids from the hemp plant, as well as terpenes and flavonoids. When sold in the UK, full-spectrum CBD oil cannot exceed more than 0.2% of THC (which puts it in the EU's definition of Hemp).

Even though full-spectrum CBD contains small amounts of THC, the government strictly regulates this. It is thought that full-spectrum CBD may be more effective due to the entourage effect. This theory states that the sum of all the benefits provided by the various cannabinoids and terpenes (even in trace amounts) is better than the sum of the benefits from each component alone. 

The entourage effect

The entourage effect is a theory that the cannabis plant has different compounds that work together to create a unique and beneficial effect. First proposed by Mechoulam and Ben-Shabat in 1998, they hypothesised an increase in the activity of the compounds in conjunction with the body's endogenous cannabinoids (endocannabinoids).

A recent 2020 study on treating anxiety and mood disorders with terpenes and cannabinoids also mentions this effect. Even though the researchers state that further research is needed, they conclude that several compounds in the hemp plant may improve CBD's overall effects.

The synergistic interactions can either occur between different cannabinoids or between cannabinoids and terpenes. Moreover, the effects of terpenes during this process may alter how CBD is bound with our natural CB2 receptors.

A study from 2011 suggests that the entourage effect may potentially minimise the adverse side effects of THC. Furthermore, combining terpenes and phytocannabinoids could potentially aid anxiety, inflammation, epilepsy, and fungal infections.

Lastly, although the benefits may differ when using different combinations of non-intoxicating ingredients, most seem to have the potential to provide mood-stabilising effects.

Extraction methods

Another critical issue you should be wary of is how CBD compounds are extracted. Should you decide to consume full-spectrum CBD, understanding how it is extracted plays a crucial role in the quality and safety of the product, since some methods are safer than others in terms of harmful by products. 

Extraction by solvent

This method uses food-grade butane, ethanol, or other hydrocarbons to draw out the desired compounds. Even though this efficient process preserves the flavour and aroma, the resulting products may be less pure since small amounts of residual solvent can remain.

Steam distillation

Using steam to separate the desired compounds from the plant first turns them into vapour, which is then cooled and condensed. Even though this is a popular solvent-free method, it is not the most efficient and does not always produce consistent concentrations of CBD. Furthermore, it may damage the chemical properties of heat-sensitive compounds during the extraction.

CO2 extraction

CO2 extraction is a sophisticated and scientifically advanced method, yet also quite costly. This method is exact and doesn't use solvents. This environmentally-friendly process uses carbon dioxide to extract the cannabinoids and desired compounds from the rest of the plant. Using several chambers during the extraction results in a highly concentrated CBD extract.

Oil or butter extraction

CBD can be extracted by heating the raw plant and adding it to “natural solvents”, more commonly referred to as fats like olive oil, coconut oil, or butter. However, it results in CBD-infused oil rather than a concentrated product. The oil can be added to food to provide the benefits of this cannabinoid.

How to take full spectrum CBD

Now that you're well-informed about full-spectrum CBD, knowing how to safely administer it is essential. Since there are various product types on the market, you'll mostly find the following:

  • Oils and tinctures
  • Gummies
  • Topicals
  • Vapes

Oils and tinctures

Oils and tinctures are the most common products on the market. They come in a bottle with a dropper, so you can regulate the dose easily.

They are straightforward: squeeze oil from the dropper under your tongue and wait before swallowing. Because the cannabinoids can take 45 to 60 seconds to be absorbed into the easy-access blood vessels contained under the tongue, it is required to hold it there for a few minutes. So be careful not to swallow immediately because you won't get the full effects as quickly (although you will still receive the benefit via your digestive system over a longer period).

CBD gummies

Another product you can try is full-spectrum CBD gummies. Despite being more recent to the market than other products, they have quickly become the number one method of consumption for many consumers. 

In terms of dosage, you should always seek out professional medical advice. Here in the UK, only doctors that are registered and qualified to prescribe medicinal cannabis can do so. 


CBD-based creams and lotions are usually applied for muscle relaxation and skincare routines. As the name implies, such products require topical application on the desired area and a gentle massage to help your body absorb the cream or lotion effectively.


Vaporisers offer a few key advantages over other methods of inhalation ingestion. The product is not burnt, but instead vaporised, meaning the health implications are much less severe.

When buying CBD vape products, try to ensure minimal additions in terms of other compounds - and be aware that it is possible to vape CBD pure, without PG, VG, flavour-adding chemicals and more, depending on the vape device used. While CBD is unlikely to give a consumer adverse effects, numerous health issues have been associated with vaping nicotine.

Be aware that this way of consuming CBD has fast-acting effects.

Potential benefits of using full spectrum CBD

Although the regulatory bodies in the UK are considering emerging evidence of a clinical effect of CBD, currently most CBD products are not classed as medicines, which means that they cannot make any medicinal claims. As the evidence continues to build, we have extracted some studies and anecdotal evidence that could show several potential benefits associated with full-spectrum CBD, including:

  • Pain relief
  • Inflammation relief
  • Anxiety and stress relief
  • Neuroprotection
  • Improved sleep
  • Minimising chemotherapy side effects

Pain relief

A 2018 study indicates that long-term administration of full-spectrum CBD may potentially aid in pain relief without drastic side effects. Complimentary to it, a study from 2019 focused their research on a group of people who suffered from chronic pain. Within eight weeks, more than half of the patients could either reduce or completely stop taking pain-management opioids, which suggests suspected the pain relieving benefit of CBD.

There is some discussion within the cannabis community on placebos and how effective CBD is for managing various conditions. A placebo may work when a patient believes it will be beneficial, and this effect has been observed across medicine many times before. However, CBD may work by reducing inflammation, anxiety and more, so it appears to have beneficial properties for patients. 

Inflammation relief

When it comes to inflammation relief, two studies show possible beneficial results. The first one is about the potential role of cannabinoids in dermatology and showcases that these products may offer anti-inflammatory, anti-ageing, and anti-malignancy properties. 

The second study focuses strictly on the anti-inflammatory properties. Full-spectrum CBD may play an important role in aiding in several skin conditions. These include psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, acne, and skin cancer.

Anxiety relief

Numerous studies indicate that CBD compounds may have the ability to interact with the system that produces serotonin, boosting its production. Low serotonin levels have been shown to have a direct correlation with fear, anxiety, stress, and depression. A 2015 study on anxiety disorders suggests that CBD can potentially play a role in the treatment of personality disorders, OCD, PTSD, and SAD.

As for depression, a study from 2014 shows CBD may possess an antidepressant-like effect due to its interaction with the 5-HT1A receptor. 


During a 2019 study, research showed that CBD compounds may be effectively administered in treating epilepsy due to their possible neuroprotective effects. Furthermore, the potential antioxidant properties may help patients struggling with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and Huntington's.

Improved sleep

When it comes to sleep disorders, CBD may have positive effects due to its anti-stress effect. Two studies from 2019 and 2021 researched the potential application of cannabidiol for sleep apnea, insomnia, and narcolepsy. Additionally, the research shows that it may improve the overall quality of sleep.

Minimising chemotherapy side effects

Even though there are ongoing studies on CBD's administration in cancer treatment, several studies point out its possible ability to minimise chemotherapy side effects. The most significant success rate was in treating chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, as seen in a 2011 study. However, it is worth noting that THC seemed to produce better results than CBD during the trials, and it is theorised that this is due to the interactions with serotonin receptors. 

Potential side effects of using full spectrum CBD

Even though there are numerous potential benefits to full spectrum CBD, you should be aware of potential side effects. The most common ones include:

  • Changes in appetite
  • Fatigue and drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Diarrhoea
  • Low blood pressure
  • Interference with medication and food supplements

Before using full-spectrum CBD products, consult a doctor and inform them of any other prescribed drugs you might be taking. CBD has been shown to have a negative impact on certain pharmaceuticals, but this has only been seen in rare cases. Speaking to an expert is especially important if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or on effective medication to manage a severe condition.

Product safety and legal concerns

When trying full-spectrum CBD, you should consider legal aspects and product safety.

These products are legal in the UK as long as the THC content does not exceed more than 0.2%. Many other laws and regulations are in effect in the UK regarding cannabis, CBD and other cannabinoids. Therefore, if you plan on consuming the products above, know all the laws beforehand.

Furthermore, you should always check products to see if they have been third-party lab tested and what compounds they include. A lab test will show the concentrations of CBD and potentially list other compounds found in the product. This way, you can ensure the quality and safety before you consume it.


This article helps answer what is full spectrum CBD, how to take it, and its potential benefits and side effects. If you try these products, ensure their safety and quality by purchasing them from a reliable and reputable source.

As mentioned above, you should consult a medical professional before using new products.

Releaf understands that medical cannabis can be life-changing for many people. That's why we offer tailored monthly packages based on your cannabis prescription, specialist consultations for medical cannabis, and a unique medical cannabis card for protection. 

It is important to seek medical advice before starting any new treatments. The patient advisors at Releaf are available to provide expert advice and support. Alternatively, click here to book a consultation with one of our specialist doctors.

Elevate your wellness with medical cannabis

Get comprehensive care, convenience, and confidence with an all-in-one treatment plan.

Check your eligibility

Sam North, a seasoned writer with over five years' experience and expertise in medicinal cannabis, brings clarity to complex concepts, focusing on education and informed use.

Our articles are written by experts and reviewed by medical professionals or compliance specialists. Adhering to stringent sourcing guidelines, we reference peer-reviewed studies and scholarly research. View our editorial policy.

Further reading

The Continental Cannabis Guide: Medical cannabis-friendly countries

For some patients, medical cannabis really is a lifeline and is therefore a necessary component in the holiday of a lifetime. So that you don’t have to choose between your health and a holiday, we’ve put together this guide that explains which countries currently have medical cannabis policies in place.

Lucy MacKinnon

Medical cannabis on holiday: The basics

Here at Releaf we understand that holidays should be about relaxation, but travelling with medical cannabis sounds like a stressful voyage. We’re doing what we can to absorb that stress so that you can soak up the sun, and so, we’ve designed a series of articles to cover the subject: medical cannabis on holiday. 

Lucy MacKinnon

How long does it take to feel the effects of THC oil?

The time it takes for you to feel the effects of THC depends on the methods of administration as well as your own physiology. Fortunately, there are fast and slow-acting options, as well as ways to take low or high doses in order to facilitate control over the way your body reacts to your medicine.

Editorial Team