Whole plant cannabis extract is much better than isolate for antioxidant activity

Published in September 2022 in the journal European Food Research and Technology, this study compared the antioxidant activities of different types of cannabis oils containing six different dominant cannabinoids.

The Mayo clinic says, "Antioxidants are substances that may protect your cells against free radicals, which may play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases."

The cannabinoids examined for antioxidant activity in this study were:

  1. Cannabigerol (CBG)
  2. Cannabidiol (CBD)
  3. Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC)
  4. Cannabigerolic acid (CBGA)
  5. Cannabidiolic acid (CBDA)
  6. Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (Δ9-THCA)

This study compared natural (full spectrum, whole-plant), artificial (created by mixing cannabinoid isolates) and pure, single cannabinoid isolate oils containing a dominant amount of one of the 6 cannabinoids. Oils with the same concentration of their main cannabinoid were prepared in 3 different ways, and the authors labeled them as natural (NAT), artificial (ART), and isolate (MONO).

The natural, or NAT oils were prepared directly from cannabis or hemp plant extracts. The artificial, or ART oils were created by mixing cannabinoid isolates in the same proportions as the NAT oils. The isolate, or MONO oils were created using only one dominant cannabinoid.

The NAT and ART oils each contained about 10% of the dominant cannabinoid, and less than 1% of the other 5 cannabinoids. So along with the MONO oils, they tested a total of 18 different cannabis oil mixtures.

The ABTS method was used to measure each oils' antioxidant abilities.

The following quotes summarize their findings:

Cannabinoid oils obtained from the plant extracts [NAT oils] have the greatest antioxidant activity

The antioxidant activity of individual NAT cannabinoid oils is 2–3 times greater than that of their ART and MONO counterparts obtained from pure ingredients

The antioxidant activity of ART and MONO counterparts is similar

CBG, CBGA, CBD and CBDA show greater antioxidant activity than the oils with THCA and THC


So, naturally derived, whole-plant CBG, CBD, CBGA, and CBGA offer the most antioxidant activity. That's a pretty solid evidence for the presence of the entourage, or ensemble effect. The neutral versions (CBG and CBD) offered slightly more activity than their acidic precursors (CBGA and CBDA). 

An easy way to get concentrated, naturally-derived, whole plant acidic cannabinoids CBGA and CBDA is with hemp kief. It's readily available by the pound in the U.S. (nationwide).

The full text paper is here at the US National Library of Medicine website.