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How Does Microbial Contamination Affect Hemp-Derived Products

When growing hemp, hemp farmers may have to deal with a couple of uninvited guests, as well.

Unless the plant is grown inside a clean room with the right environment, microbes such as bacteria, yeast, mold, and fungi can make way into the hemp crops, known as microbial contamination.

Although these contaminants are present in food, water, and air, the health consequences brought on by their potential exposure is not fully understood in the context of hemp-derived products.

The hemp plant and its derived products can easily pick up microbes during their growing cycle, mainly if it grows outdoors or in an ill-equipped environment. According to a study, most molds are harmless or are part of the environment. However, some may present a health threat when inhaled.

Aspergillus, for example, a genus that includes approximately 180 individual species of mold, can be found both indoors and outdoors, and most people breathe its spores every day. A. fumigatus, A. flavus, A. niger, and A. terreus, four species found within the Aspergillus genus, have been associated with the hemp plant, which calls for a need for laboratories to test hemp-derived products for microbial contamination.

While scientific entities such as the Association of Official Analytical Chemists (AOAC) and the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP) are working towards creating new sets of standards and best practices that bring more clarity to the subject of microbial contamination in the hemp plant, your hemp business can get started and benefit from a hemp testing lab that helps hemp growers be compliant with state and federal regulations.

At INX Laboratories, a hemp testing laboratory in Central Florida, we specialize in laboratory testing for microbial contamination. By providing affordable and accurate testing results, we help hemp farmers and hemp businesses offer the highest quality hemp-derived products compliant with current federal and state laws. Book your appointment today and learn more about our services: https://inxlabs.com/contact.

3 Toxicants To Beware When Growing Hemp

Growing hemp has many benefits. From being an excellent source of protein to being one of the strongest natural fibers in the world, hemp is not only the fastest-growing plant in the world, but it has an impressive crop yield that ranges from 3 to 4 months.

However, hemp farmers must be mindful of possible toxicants found in the air, soil, and water that may hinder the plant’s growing cycle.

While some are naturally occurring and others result from industrial and agricultural pollution, toxicants are harmful to a living organism. In humans, prolonged exposure and the body’s inability to efficiently remove them once absorbed can pose a severe health risk.

Taking preventative measures will help you from forfeiting thousands of dollars. Here are a few toxicants to beware of when growing hemp.

Mycotoxins

Under certain conditions, mold and fungi can grow at any stage of your hemp crop life cycle. As the perfect humid environment helps them grow and replicate, mold and fungi begin to produce mycotoxins naturally. These secondary metabolites are capable of causing disease and death in humans. 

According to a clinical review, some 300 to 400 compounds are now recognized as mycotoxins, of which a dozen groups regularly receive attention as threats to human and animal health. Aflatoxins, for example, are a form of mycotoxin produced by some species of Aspergillus fungi. They are potential carcinogens and extremely dangerous. Immediate exposure to aflatoxins can be life-threatening and can cause severe liver failure.

Pesticides

Pesticides are substances or mixtures of substances that are used to protect plants from pests, weeds. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), its usage in the United States totaled over 1.1 billion pounds annually in 2011 and 2012. 

While the EPA has approved adding hemp to the use sites of 47 pesticides, residues can be found in everyday foods and beverages. The adverse health effects of pesticides, per EPA, include gastrointestinal, neurological, and carcinogenic consequences. Hemp growers must test their hemp crops through third-party laboratories to comply with federal and state regulations and ensure consumers are getting the highest quality hemp-derived products.

Heavy Metals

Another benefit of hemp is the plant’s bioaccumulation ability, which occurs when an organism absorbs a substance faster than it eliminates it. While it’s excellent for uptaking water and nutrients from the soil, it also makes way for heavy metals, even if present in a low concentration. 

Although naturally occurring, heavy metals are known for their toxicity, particularly in environmental contexts, and they include mercury, arsenic, and lead. One way heavy metal toxicity can be preventable is by following good manufacturing practices, including testing the soil before growing. 

Testing your hemp crop

If your hemp crop is intended for creating hemp-derived products for retail sales, a lab test will ensure that the end product is safe for consumption. At INX Laboratories, a hemp testing laboratory in Central Florida, we specialize in laboratory testing for mycotoxins, pesticides, and heavy metals. By providing affordable and accurate testing results, we help hemp farmers and hemp businesses display precise information about their hemp-derived products, such as full-spectrum cannabidiol, broad-spectrum cannabidiol, isolate, and many more. Book your appointment and learn more about our services today: https://inxlabs.com/contact/

5 Reasons Your Farm Can Benefit from Growing Hemp

Many farmers around the United States are tuning in to the hemp industry. The plant’s fast yield is enticing, and the revenue streams’ possibilities are only growing. 

According to the latest market research, the industrial hemp market size is projected to reach $18,812.81 million by 2025. Personal care, dietary supplements, and food and beverage industries are significant factors driving this market growth.

But how exactly can planting hemp benefit your farm? Here are a few reasons why you, too, can gain from cultivating hemp in your fields. 

Hemp is one of the strongest natural fibers in the world.

The hemp plant is not only one of the fastest-growing plants around, but they’ve been spun into fiber, the strongest in the world, for 50,000 years. Known for their fast crop yield (3-4 months), you can harvest more usable fiber from hemp per hectare per year than forests. The product can be transformed into clothing, biodegradable plastics, paper, and textiles, among other uses.

It is an excellent source of protein.

Hemp benefits don’t stop at their fiber. Their seeds are high in whole protein, a food source that contains an adequate amount of each of the nine essential amino acids necessary in the human diet; they’re comparable to other sources of protein like meat, milk, and eggs. Furthermore, hemp seeds can be ground, sprouted, liquified, or be eaten raw. 

Hemp can be an alternative to construction materials.

The plant’s versatility also extends to construction, as they have been used as concrete-like blocks made with hemp and lime as insulation material. Although they must be supported by wood, steel, and bricks, hemp fibers can be used as a wood replacement in several jobs.

It is a distinct strain that has lower concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol and higher concentrations of cannabidiol.

Due to its low concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol, high concentration of cannabidiol, consumers can take advantage of the hemp plant’s uplifting effects without the psychoactive component. Hemp-derived products are in great demand, and it is essential to meet the current regulations in place. Tetrahydrocannabinol, for example, must be under 0.3%. That’s why many entrepreneurs seek to create their brands through white label programs, such as Khrysos Industries’ White Label Program, to remain compliant. Our INX Laboratories team thoroughly tests their products for cannabinoid potency, terpenes, heavy metals, mycotoxins, residual solvents, pesticides, among others. 

Hemp can help remediate the soil.

Another benefit of hemp is that it can also be used to remediate the soil. Much of the world’s ground has been polluted with pesticides and herbicides by decades of unsustainable farming practices. The Chernobyl nuclear disaster site, for example, was the subject of phytoremediation — a technology that uses plants to clean up soil, air, and water contaminated with hazardous contaminants — using hemp.

The Growing Life of the Hemp Plant

Understanding the growing cycle of hemp, which lasts between 14 to 32 weeks, can help hemp farmers improve their chances of making their crops profitable. Here are the different growing stages you need to know.

Planting the seed

The living life of a hemp plant begins, naturally, in the ground. A hemp farmer will prepare the soil, perform tests, and create a nutrient-rich, structurally stable environment for the healthy and viable seed.

Germination

The perfect growing environment for a healthy hemp seed must include at least eight hours of direct contact with the sun and proper watering to keep the soil moist while the seeds adapt. 

Vegetative growth

During the vegetative growth phase, the hemp plant gains most of its mass, and it’s ready for the flowering period. In this stage, you can prune and train the plants to grow fully. 

Flowering

Hemp plants start to flower when the light cycle changes from 16 hours of light to 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness. Hemp farmers need to be mindful of this photoperiodic change when they choose to grow hemp plants in an indoor setting as they must manipulate the light to help the plant’s development.

Harvesting

Once it is ready for harvest, the hemp plant is shucked, dried, and stored for an additional potency testing. INX Laboratories, for example, uses Ultra High Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) to measure cannabinoid potency, which is the preferred equipment for testing hemp flower. 

4 Things Hemp Farmers Should Keep in Mind During COVID-19

Hemp Farmer

For many hemp farmers, daily life during the COVID-19 pandemic presents unique challenges. The obstacles they face —from strenuous situations such as keeping the bottom line to the urgent need for implementing social distancing measures— are quickly becoming a new norm in the hemp industry. 

There are many resources available to help businesses across the country better. Here’s what hemp farmers should keep in mind during COVID-19.

Protect your employees by implementing safety measures

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has an entire section addressing safety guidelines during the pandemic. Hemp farmers can implement them around their farm, ensuring the well-being of employees and aiding the overall production. These are the steps they can take to get started.

  • Constant handwashing
  • Avoiding close contact
  • Covering mouths and noses with a mask
  • Covering coughs and sneezes
  • Cleaning and disinfecting
  • Daily health monitoring

Head over to the CDC’s How to Protect Yourself & Others page to learn more.

The CARES Act

The Corona Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law on March 27, 2020. It provides fast and direct economic assistance for American workers and families, small businesses, and preserves jobs for American industries. Legal hemp farmers are eligible to seek financial help under the CARES Act, especially the new Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The PPP provides small businesses the resources to maintain their payroll, hire back employees who may have been laid off, and cover applicable overhead. 

Keeping up with the latest trends in the industry during COVID-19

Headset, a data company that provides consumer and retail trends, market intelligence, and purchasing behavior, had documented the effects of the coronavirus on the market before and during the pandemic, as Forbes first reported it. The latest data suggests that after April and May, the industry entered a new normal.

Analytical Lab Testing

While no evidence suggests the coronavirus can jump into hemp crops, there’s no reason to neglect compliance with the current regulations in the hemp space. Through rigorous lab analysis, you can provide accurate information about your hemp crop, adding transparency to your product while gaining customer trust. Seek a reliable third-party testing laboratory that can make all the difference. 
Speaking of performing lab tests, that’s what our team here at INX Labs specializes in. If you’re a hemp farmer looking to ensure your crop is compliant, get in touch with us today.

Is Dabbing Cannabinoids Safe for Consumers?

There are many different ways to take cannabidiol — but none is so new or rapidly evolving as something called dabbing.  

For those unaware, dabbing refers to smoking or vaping a cannabinoid-rich dab. What’s a dab, you might ask? It’s a type of cannabinoid-concentrate with a thick, sticky, sludgelike consistency. 

Perhaps you’re new to dabbing and are here to learn more. Or maybe your room is already full of ornate dab rigs and exotic cannabinoid concentrates. Either way, we have some good news:

Dabbing is completely safe. It may even be beneficial to one’s health, in fact — if your dabs are vaped. 

Dabbing 101

All you need for dabbing are three things: a small torch, a dab rig, and (obviously) a dab. Just take your torch, heat your dab rig’s nail, and apply a cannabinoid-rich dab while inhaling through the rig’s mouthpiece. If you’ve never dabbed before, this is simpler than it may sound. 

Quality is everything

Just as with cannabidiol oil, not all types of cannabidiol-rich dabs are created equal. 

Common types of dabs include BHO, budder, live resin, and distillate. BHO is probably the most common type of them all, but buyer beware — it’s the least preferable. That’s because it uses butane gas, a highly volatile solvent, to pull the cannabinoids out of hemp flower forcibly. This butane tends to linger around in the final product, sometimes in far higher quantities than those considered safe. 

The solution? Steer clear of BHO and butane and find a dab product that’s made with CO2 instead. CO2 can dissolve cannabinoids and terpenes without leaving any harmful residue behind. 

There’s an even better choice. According to this 2015 study, CO2 extractions don’t always ‘capture’ every terpene found in premium hemp. What’s more, only one type of dab does, the rosin-pressed variety. Rosin-pressed dabs are produced by pressure and heat, not chemical solvents, which means they contain a balanced spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes. 

How to vape dabs

In the past, dab rigs and dabs went together almost by default: you needed one to partake of the other. 

But in recent years, that’s all changed. With the advent of the handheld vaporizer has come the opportunity to dab without smoke or fire or flames. Today’s consumers can vape cannabidiol concentrates safely and discretely (and legally, of course) from virtually anywhere. 

Today’s version of vaping began with a shoutout from High Times Magazine. The year was 1989, and a mysterious contributor calling himself “Dr. Lunglife” was among the first to describe vaping’s superiority over smoking in great detail: 

“Why vaporize [cannabinoid-rich] oil?” asked Dr. Lunglife. “Chemical analysis has shown that a cigarette made of [the] raw [plant] contains at least as much tar as an equal-sized cigarette made of tobacco. […] ” 

Dr. Lunglife proceeded to describe the difference seen with vaporization, where “[cannabinoid-rich oil] is heated just enough to melt the active ingredients and transform them into smokeless vapor.” If there’s no combustion, he concluded, then there’s no cancer-causing gases or tars.  

Dr. Lunglife’s argument resonated, because before too long tabletop vapes simply took off in popularity. Portable, handheld vapes would be next, and to this day, they just keep getting better and better. 

As safe as vaping normally is, there are still some crucial things to keep in mind. We’d advise against buying cheap, disposable vape pens. For example, according to this source, they have a “hidden downside” in additives like PEG and vitamin E acetate. PEG can produce known carcinogens when it overheats, and vitamin E acetate is arguably even worse. Many experts suspect it was responsible for last year’s “vape lung disease.”

The best way to dab 

We don’t say this to turn you away from vaping entirely — after all, virtually every outbreak of VLD occurred in areas where black market vape pens are rampant. 

Instead, look for a vape product that’s produced responsibly. Cannabinoid-rich dabs should be lab tested and state-approved; dab rigs and vape pens should be durably made. If these two elements are there, dabbing is completely safe for consumers. 

Not to mention completely effective. Dabs kick in amazingly fast, which makes them the perfect cannabidiol product for those with anxiety and other challenges that need to be dealt with on the go. Dabs can also be used to take high doses of cannabidiol cheaply and effectively. Some people even cook with cannabinoid-infused dabs by putting them into favorite recipes! 

Hey, if you’re feeling extra adventurous, there’s no reason not to — they’ll still activate your body’s endocannabinoid system en route to providing some serious health benefits.  

Cannabinoid Receptors and the Endocannabinoid System

Cannabinoid

Have you ever wondered why cannabidiol affects different people so differently?

It’s all thanks to the cannabinoid’s ability to activate something called the endocannabinoid system, or ECS, a “master regulatory system” that all of us have. Cannabidiol’s activation of this system gives it that almost-uncanny ability to help people with whatever they’re struggling with!

So if you’ve wanted to learn more about the ECS, this article will tackle the subject. 

Endocannabinoid Function 101

What the endocannabinoid system does is simple: it helps your entire body maintain balance, or homeostasis, by allowing every other major physiological system to communicate with the rest. It’s your body’s version of a thermostat. 

“We all have an endocannabinoid system,” affirmed molecular biologist and cannabinoid expert Robert Melamede at a Harvard University speech. “The miracle of this is that the endocannabinoid system regulates everything in your body — immune, digestive, cardiovascular, skin, bone, reproductive — from your conception until your death.”

Here are some more things your body relies on its endocannabinoid system to take care of:

  • Sleep
  • Mood
  • Hunger
  • Memory 
  • Energy balance
  • Emotional stability

When was the ECS discovered?

Cannabinoids like cannabidiol were discovered way back in the 1940s, but it wouldn’t be until much, much later that scientists realized how cannabidiol worked. 

Early glimpses of understanding came in the early ’90s when the endocannabinoid system, or ECS, was first discovered. It turned out that people were responding so well to phytocannabinoids like cannabidiol precisely because they were so similar in function to the endo-cannabinoids their bodies were already producing! Suddenly cannabidiol’s role made perfect sense. It was merely getting plugged into a pre-existing system. 

But let’s focus back on the ECS for a second. Research teams from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem kept searching and discovered a first endocannabinoid, anandamide, that was responsible for regulating mood and emotional behavior. Anandamide’s nickname? The “bliss molecule.” The discovery of a second cannabinoid, 2-AG, followed soon after. 

The ECS’s many parts

The ECS is made up of three major parts: endocannabinoids, endocannabinoid receptors, and endocannabinoid enzymes. Here are the details. 

  1. Endocannabinoids like anandamide and 2-AG are synthesized from the fats we eat and secrete virtually all the time, especially when the body needs a little extra help fighting stress. 

Because they’re produced on-demand, endocannabinoids (eCB’s) can easily maintain homeostasis. They’re even involved in the “runner’s high” you might get from exercise. Endocannabinoids can bind to both CB1 and CB2 receptors in the process ‘smoothing out’ neurotransmission and helping other neurotransmitters (like GABA or serotonin) function at their best.  

  1. Endocannabinoid receptors like CB1 and CB2 receptors are what pick up the messages endocannabinoids send. They’re found throughout every region of the body but especially in vital organs (like the heart) and the central nervous system (including the brain). In fact, CB1 is the most popular receptor of its type within the entire brain! 

Just not within the brain stem. This especially sensitive area contains virtually no endocannabinoid receptors, which is why cannabinoids like tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol are almost impossible to overdose on. 

  1. Endocannabinoid enzymes do two essential things: produce endocannabinoids and break them down. These enzymes help endocannabinoid levels stay in the optimal range, at least in theory. Sometimes eCB levels still get out of wack, exactly where the importance of cannabinoids like cannabidiol comes in.

How to activate your ECS

With cannabinoids

The endocannabinoid system, like anything else in your body, can get stressed into depletion mode over time. Just think: what happens when you overeat sugar, spiking your insulin levels again and again? Insulin resistance, that’s what, which eventually leads to type II diabetes. 

In the ECS’s case, chronic stress — not sugar — is the culprit, but there’s still no need to worry. Nature has given us a practically perfect solution in the form of cannabidiol. This cannabinoid can activate endocannabinoid receptors in much the same way that anandamide or 2-AG can, conferring all sorts of potential health benefits. 

Even if all else fails, cannabidiol can also inhibit the very endocannabinoid enzymes, like FAAH, responsible for anandamide’s breakdown. Slower enzymatic breakdown = more available anandamide = more receptor activation = a healthier, happier, more balanced you! 

With terpenes

Cannabidiol’s activation of the ECS is impressive enough, but nature goes one step further. Many of the terpenes present in full-spectrum hemp oil can bind to endocannabinoid receptors, too. Some terpenes appear to change the shape of these receptors, opening them up so that more substantial amounts of cannabidiol can reach the right binding sights. 

And one of hemp’s most prevalent terpenes, beta-caryophyllene, hits CB2 receptors nearly as strongly as cannabidiol does! “[…] Daily intake of 10–200 mg of this [terpene] could be a dietary factor that potentially modulates inflammatory and other pathophysiological processes via the endocannabinoid system,” attests one landmark study

While both cannabinoids and terpenes activate the ECS, the best path forward seems to call for some combination. 

Indeed, full-spectrum hemp’s specialized blend of cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, chalcones, and more provide the endocannabinoid system with everything it needs to maintain full-body balance. Studies are finally starting to back this concept up; one study found that full-spectrum cannabidiol was four times more effective than cannabidiol isolate. 

Through lifestyle

There’s one more way to activate your ECS that you should know about — and it doesn’t call for ingesting any cannabinoids or terpenes at all!  

Instead, it involves eating well and moving well. Endocannabinoids, after all, are produced by the essential fatty acids we eat, which is part of why these fats are necessary in the first place. By eating plenty of omega 3’s today, you can likely keep your ECS from getting ‘run down’ in the future. 

Movement is essential, too. Some studies have found that exercise, yoga, and even acupuncture have a mildly “cannabimimetic” effect — that is, they provide many of the same mental and physical benefits of cannabinoids. Maybe all those cannabidiol-yoga enthusiasts are onto something.

The Impact of Hemp on the Environment

Hemp is useful for many reasons. 

Industrial hemp has thousands of industrial uses. It can sub out for plastic, enrich the soil, absorb and “sequester” harmful toxins, and much more. It might not be such a stretch to say hemp could save the world! Here’s why.

Hemp vs. plastic

Plastic might be convenient, but sooner or later, our culture needs to realize something a little more inconvenient: plastic is poisoning the environment. Its production involves all sorts of harmful oils, it takes forever to degrade, and it’s hazardous to small animals. 

Thanks to hemp, however, there’s a better way. The plant’s rugged bast fibers can be made into all sorts of plastic-like composites. In the first part of the 20th century, Forbes  notes, “hemp-derived cellulose was promoted as an affordable and renewable raw material for plastics […].” 

That era was part of hemp’s first golden age, and indeed, the plant permeated mainstream awareness enough for Henry Ford to build a concept car from hemp-based materials. The vehicle was lightweight, affordable, and practically dent-proof. 

Although it was banned by conflict-of-interest-laden groups a few years later, the plant is making an incredible resurgence. Hemp is once again being used to make prototype composites, and some scientists even think it could be used to make eco-friendly, super-efficient batteries. 

Hemp for healthy soil

In other good news, hemp’s utility doesn’t begin when the plant is cut down — the plant benefits its environment even when it’s still growing! 

How, you might ask? Namely by promoting healthy soil. Hemp requires lots of nitrogen to grow; as it gets bigger and its metabolic demands rise, it actually ‘pulls’ nitrogen out of the air and into the soil. 

And that’s not all. Like other plants, hemp produces energy by ‘inhaling’ CO2 and releasing oxygen, which means it could play a vital role in slowing down runaway CO2 levels if grown on a widespread scale. Case in point: every ton of hemp grown removes an incredible 1.6 tons of CO2 from the air. 

Even the hemp that’s left in the field to decompose at season’s end has a part to play. Rich in biomass, carbon, and other essential nutrients, it contributes plenty of goodness to any farmer’s composting plans. 

Hemp and the rainforests

It might be a little stretch to say that hemp could save the rainforests, but hear us out. Right now, rainforests across the world are being cut down at an alarming rate. Much of this deforestation occurs because of the world’s demand for paper products.

And that’s precisely where hemp comes in. It reaches maturity in just four months, which means it could increase our paper-producing capabilities without increasing the number of trees we cut down—a future with hemp paper. The US constitution was written on the stuff, so it’s not inconceivable. 

Hemp for soil remediation

In addition to remediating the air, hemp can also be used to remediate the soil. Much of the world’s ground has been polluted with pesticides and herbicides by decades of unsustainable farming practices. These toxins then make their way into our water supply, food supply, and bodies!

But hemp has an incredible ability to chelate, or bind to, soil toxins. It’s so effective that it was planted in Chernobyl and surrounding areas after the city’s infamous nuclear fallout. If you want to remediate your area, plant some hemp. 

There’s also a flip side to this type of bioremediation, however. Hemp grown in poor soil is fantastic for the environment — but not-so-amazing for you. Only hemp that’s grown in verifiably pesticide-free soil should be consumed in any form, which leads us to our next point.

Hemp testing: a word of caution

The same bioremediation that makes hemp so great for our environment means that its testing needs to be taken seriously. Any pollutants present in hemp’s growing medium could very well end up within the plant and render it unsafe for consumption. 

Hemp farmers and companies who want to safeguard against this type of thing can do so by taking their lab testing seriously. Soil should be tested for pesticides and other pollutants prior to the start of each and every growing season. 

If pollutants are present, hemp can (and should!) still be grown — this hemp just can’t be consumed. Several cycles of growth should be enough to leave the soil pristine. 

If pollutants aren’t present, on the other hand, then any hemp cultivated will be safe for consumption. Those who want to hold themselves to the highest standards can run their hemp through several more tests post-harvest:

  • Mold (including mycotoxins and aflatoxins)
  • Pesticides and herbicides
  • Residual solvents
  • Tetrahydrocannabinol content

Speaking of lab tests, that’s exactly what our team here at INX Labs specializes in. If you’re a hemp farmer or processor who wants to ensure your crop benefits both the environment and its future consumers, get in touch with us today! We’ll be happy to hear more about your lab testing needs and how we can assist you. 

What Is the Entourage Effect?

Cannabidiol Oil

Did you know that cannabidiol oil contains more than just, well, cannabidiol?

Seriously — premium cannabidiol oil contains dozens and dozens of unique compounds that work together within your body. This synergy is known (and loved, of course!) as the entourage effect. This article will dive deep into the entourage effect and show you how you can harness it for yourself. 

The Entourage Effect 101

First things first — let’s dive a little deeper into what the entourage effect is. And for that, a bit more context is needed. 

An intriguing trend is surfacing within many parts of the scientific community. Biochemists and pharmacologists are learning that whole-animal/whole-plant/whole-herb supplements work better than isolated compounds. What’s more, the apparent benefits of isolated compounds don’t always play out in real life, even if they appear real in the lab. 

Here’s a practical example. Decades ago, science learned about the importance of essential fatty acids, like omega 3’s or 9’s. In vitro, the benefits of these compounds couldn’t have been much more apparent, but in vivo (i.e., in real life), the benefits of supplemental omega 3’s are much less clear. Some real-world studies done in humans have found no benefits to omega 3 supplementation, at all. Eating a diet rich in seafood, however, has been proven beneficial again and again.  

See the concept at play here? Something similar seems to happen with cannabidiol; isolated cannabidiol doesn’t always work as well in real life as it does in the lab. To really harness its power, we also need to harness the power of nature. 

And that’s done best by keeping cannabidiol within the matrix of other beneficial compounds it’s found within nature. 

Why is cannabidiol’s compound+compound synergy called “the entourage effect”? That just refers to how hemp’s other active ingredients form an entourage with cannabidiol and help shuttle it to its cellular targets. If you’ve ever felt more alive or more confident when surrounded by a group of close friends, well, cannabidiol seems to feel the same. 

And the entourage effect isn’t just something subtle, either. Cannabidiol works a lot better when taken in natural, whole plant form. One study out of Israel found that a cannabidiol-rich cannabis extract performed four times better than cannabidiol isolate. In addition to being more effective, this extract was easier to dose, in the sense that side effects weren’t observed even at suboptimal dosing. And in case you’re wondering, yes — this study was done in real people.  

It is likely that other components in the extract synergize with [cannabidiol] to achieve the desired anti‐inflammatory action that may contribute to overcoming the bell‐shaped dose‐response of purified [cannabidiol].

Overcoming the Bell‐Shaped Dose‐Response of Cannabidiol by Using Cannabis Extract Enriched in Cannabidiol. Pharmacology & Pharmacy

The critical role of terpenes

This is all good stuff, you may be thinking, but how does the entourage effect work? 

Once we move past metaphorical descriptions, the inner workings of the entourage effect get pretty complicated. But most of its mechanisms go back to one particular group of “other components” — the terpenes.  

You can think of terpenes as hemp’s specialized scent molecules. They give the plant its characteristic earthy, skunky, forest-y smell. They also give hemp extracts like cannabidiol oil much of their power.  

How do terpenes contribute to the entourage effect? Possibly by changing the way cannabidiol binds to CB2 endocannabinoid receptors. Think of these special receptors as little baskets that cannabidiol can sink into, and think of terpenes as smaller molecules that weigh down the baskets so more substantial amounts of cannabidiol can sink in. Scientists call this effect conformational change

Terpenes are also known “permeability enhancers” that may help cannabidiol absorb more deeply through the mucus membranes, digestive tract, or skin. A hemp-derived terpene called limonene, for example, may be especially effective at boosting cannabidiol’s transdermal absorption. Other terpenes, like myrcene or linalool, have impressive anti-inflammatory benefits of their own.

Another thing to keep in mind: full-spectrum cannabidiol oil doesn’t just contain one or two terpenes. It contains dozens of them, at least. Science has yet to ascertain how all these compounds might work together fully, but we do have the 4 x more powerful figure from the Israel study to look to. 

What you need to know about flavones

Another class of molecules that contributes to the entourage effect is the flavones. Also called flavonoids, these compounds are found throughout nature. But hemp is unique in that it contains at least two flavones — cannflavin A and cannflavin B — not found anywhere else.

And these trace compounds may be some of hemp’s most potent. Research from way back in the 80s found that cannflavin A and B’s painkilling properties were 30 times more potent than aspirin’s. They seem to inhibit the very formation of inflammatory molecules, called prostaglandins, en route to holistically reducing pain. Some researchers today even hope that the cannflavins will be used to replace opioids.

Does all cannabidiol oil create the entourage effect?

The short answer is no. 

That’s not surprising if you think about it. Only cannabidiol oils that feature an entourage of additional ingredients, above and beyond cannabidiol, can harness the entourage effect. 

We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again: not all cannabidiol is created equal. Only oils that feature a full spectrum of hemp’s cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavones fully engage the entourage effect. Some scientists think that tetrahydrocannabinol is also needed, and, like the terpenes mentioned earlier, it may also ‘open up’ endocannabinoid receptors so that cannabidiol can bind to them more fully. And if that’s the case, even broad-spectrum cannabidiol oil wouldn’t be ideal. 

To put it simply, the more active ingredients present, the better. Cannabidiol + tetrahydrocannabinol + trace cannabinoids + terpenes + flavones + chalcones + plant waxes = far more plant power than cannabidiol itself. 

Interpreting new research

As great as the entourage effect is, not everyone is a total believer. Some scientists called it into question in an appropriately-titled 2019 study called “Absence of Entourage…” The study found that many of hemp’s most important terpenes didn’t change cannabinoid receptors enough to make any difference in tetrahydrocannabinol’s absorption. Though this study seemed set on proving its title was correct, its authors did acknowledge that cannabinoids and terpenes could work together through other pathways. 

And why wouldn’t they? Real-world review studies have found that cannabinoids and terpenes can improve one’s mood when coupled together. These compounds must be working through other pathways. Indeed, both cannabinoids and terpenes can affect TRPV receptors, GPR155 receptors, Adenosine A2A receptors, and leptin receptors serotonin receptors, dopamine receptors, GABA receptors, PPAR’s, and more. Suffice to say that the “Absence of Entourage” study fell far short of grasping the scope of hemp’s activity. 

For now, there’s not much we can do but trust real-world results over incomplete studies and await some better data. In the end, after all, nature is usually proven right.

5 Tips for Traveling with Hemp-Derived Products Without Problems

Though cannabidiol oil is legal in the United States, traveling with it, on the other hand, isn’t always as simple as you might think. Here’s what you need to know. 

Know Your Rights

Cannabidiol users, understand this: cannabidiol oil is fully legal in all 50 states as long as it contains less than .3% tetrahydrocannabinol. The 2018 Federal Farm Bill made such freedom possible, so know your rights. According to Brookings, the bill’s provisions include:

  • The transfer of hemp-derived products across state lines is allowed for commercial or other purposes.
  • There are no restrictions on the sale, transportation, or possession of hemp-derived products, so long as the items are produced in a manner consistent with the law.
  • The bill recognizes the importance, diversity, and opportunity of the plant and the products that can be derived from it.

Pack Light

If you’re flying with cannabidiol, you might run up against some restrictions. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has arrested people for carrying cannabidiol oil in the past. And though they’ve taken a few steps forward since then —such as recently affirming that they stand by the Farm Bill’s allowances—, it might be a good idea to pack light and only carry however much oil you need for your trip. 

You can read TSA’s full take here. Thankfully, fliers who need to carry the cannabidiol-based medication Epidiolex with them can now also do so.   

Carry COA’s

Want to be on the safe side when traveling with cannabidiol products? Then consider bringing some documents along on your trip. If you have the certificate of analysis (COA) for your cannabidiol product of choice, bring it. This document will verify that your product contains less than .3% tetrahydrocannabinol — it’s essentially proof that your cannabidiol is legal. You might also pack a copy of the Farm Bill section most relevant to cannabidiol’s legality, section 10113.

Plan Ahead

While it is legal in the US and most other developed nations, some areas of the world, notably Asia, take a very different approach towards cannabidiol. Don’t bring cannabidiol anywhere near Malaysia or Taiwan, where anything remotely related to cannabis can bring about harsh legal penalties. 

Hemp’s legality is also under fire in Japan — so much so that Japanese scientists have opted to try making cannabidiol from orange peels.

Change Your Plans

If you’re traveling to (or flying through) an area less friendly towards cannabidiol, don’t worry. You may be able to plan and get some oil shipped to your final destination. That way you don’t have to travel with any potentially-illegal products. 

Cannabidiol oil is likely to be ‘safer’ and more permitted in a public area than it is in the airport. Consider obtaining your usual product(s) of choice when you reach your destination. 

And even if you have to go without it for a while, don’t worry. Some research shows that a single dose of cannabidiol can trigger lasting neurological benefits. After cannabidiol has built up in your system, you may not need to take it every day.