Mono substances versus plant extracts
„There is a lot of talk these days about the psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol and the non-intoxicating cannabidiol, which are used as single agents. But the focus on the main active substance is only half the story: To date we know of 500 constituent substances of the cannabis plant, and yet one picks out one main active substance. But mono substances have the disadvantage that all other potentially effective cannabinoids are not applied and cannot take effect, and cannabis is a real chemical factory.“
Rudolf Brenneisen, Professor of Pharmaceutics
More and more studies are dealing with possible fields of application for cannabinoids in medicine. In the debate about mono substances versus plant extracts, a broad range of scientists (Lester Grinspoon, 1995; Robert Zurier, 2003; Franjo Grotenhermen, 2004; Ben Amar, 2006) have pointed out that the interplay of all elements of the cannabis plant leads to better effectiveness and tolerability.
Cannabis bud – broad action spectrum, hardly any side effects
The results of the available cannabis research provide some evidence that the effectiveness and the therapeutic benefit of the cannabis plant cannot be limited to individual substances or synthetic derivates. A natural substance is closer to the human body and its biological processes than a purely chemically produced substance is. Studies with purely synthetic cannabinoids showed that side effects can emerge which do not occur with natural cannabinoids. The THC in Dronabinol has the same disadvantage as all mono substances, namely that all other potentially effective cannabinoids are not applied. Physicians and cannabis researchers are therefore caling for the cannabis bud as a raw material for medicine, from which standardised extracts with normed values can be produced.
With its 80 cannabinoids and 500 constituent substances, the bud contains a broader action spectrum and is easy to use. If the bud is authorised for medicine – as it is in Israel and Germany – then pharmacists can produce standardised and affordable extracts. The team from Medical Cannabis Research & Analysis is already developing and producing hemp varieties with a special percentual distribution of cannabinoids and constituent substances. With these it is no problem at all to create an extract which doctors can use for targeted applications in exact dosages.
Multicomponent mixtures make a greater impact
Plant extracts have a further advantage as compared to mono substances: Studies have shown that THC is not solely responsible for the anti-inflammatory effect and that a multicomponent mixture of cannabis delivers significant and notable results. The results of this study likewise showed that pure substances do show an anti-inflammatory effect, but that extracts delivered the more significant results. The results are considerably more consistent and reliable than those for the individual cannabinoids. This confirms a phenomenon known from phytotherapy: Standardised plant extracts, which are multicomponent mixtures, demonstrate better effectiveness than preparations which contain a single active agent from a plant.
Cannabis extracts as an affordable alternative
Another aspect is an economic one: Medications must nowadays pass through rigorous, expensive and lengthy tests in order to receive approval from the competent authority. A plant, however, can not be patented, which means that the use of standardised plant extracts would be the more cost-effective alternative for the patients and the taxpayers.