Natural whole plant CBD and Synthetic CBD – what’s the difference?

cbd isolate vs full spectrum natural cbd

Understanding the difference between natural whole plant CBD Cannabidiol and Synthetic CBD

Natural CBD vs Synthetic CBD, is there any difference between them and does it really matter? This article will explain the main differences between whole plant CBD cannabidiol extracts and synthetic CBD cannabidiol made in a laboratory. We will look at the current scientific research and legislation with regards to natural and synthetic cbd.

This subject is often confusing since CBD Isolate or single molecule CBD can be derived from both plants and synthesised in the laboratory. What should be made clear is that whole plant CBD contains other cannabinoids and is not just a single molecule. Chemically, a synthetic CBD compound is exactly identical to naturally-derived CBD.

Pharmacology & Pharmacy (Feb 2015) published the report “Overcoming the Bell-Shaped Dose-Response of Cannabidiol by Using Cannabis Extract Enriched in Cannabidiol”. Researcher Lumir Hanus reviewed the scientific literature for the last 15 years and reported that many cannabinoid studies focused only on the pure, single-molecule CBD in animal models of disease, including diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis and others.

They also noted that when using a pure isolate of single-molecule CBD a bell-shaped dose response curve is observed.  ‘Healing was only observed when CBD was given within a very limited dose range, whereas no beneficial effect achieved at either lower or higher doses’. Furthermore, this was a characteristic that ‘imposes serious obstacles that limit its usefulness in a clinical context’.

What is natural whole plant CBD?

Natural whole plant CBD is Cannabidiol derived from cannabis or hemp plants (Cannabis Sativa). It often contains a complex mixture of other minor cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids which give each plant their unique characteristics and healing profile. The CBD can be extracted by a variety of means but the best is super critical CO2 extraction as it preserves the cannabinoids in their original form, especially the acid cannabinoids like CBDA. Of the over 100 natural cannabinoids identified in Cannabis Sativa, seven have been classified as CBD-type compounds including CBD.

Natural phytocannabinoid CBD


Cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) and cannabidivarinic acid (CBDVA-C3)  cannabidiorcol (CBD-C1), cannabidiol-C4 also named as nor-cannabidiol (CBD-C4), and cannabidivarin (CBDV)

While a lot of studies have been done on the medicinal benefits of CBD Cannabidiol much fewer have been done on the other minor CBD-type compounds since the scientific method of needing to separate and individuate each molecule often ignores that these compound work in a synergy known as the entourage effect.

What is Synthetic CBD?

Because of the potential medical revolution that CBD offers and benefits for a wide variety of diseases, many drug companies and research institutes have been experimenting with synthetic analogues to natural CBD that will often look on a molecular level very similar to natural CBD but the potency, efficacy, or pharmacokinetic properties of this interesting phytocannabinoid is not always the same as it is in its natural form and often shows some unexpected side effects. Pharmaceutical companies want to patent these forms of CBD so they can turn them into pharmaceutical drugs. You can’t apply a patent to a natural plant.

Synthetic CBD Dangers

During a 2015 study, the most common adverse side effects reported, as per CDC, of synthetic cannabinoids, were:

  • Agitation.
  • Tachycardia (abnormally rapid heart rate).
  • Drowsiness or lethargy.
  • Vomiting.
  • Confusion.
  • And 15 deaths were reported.

Synthetic CBD has show some benefits

Of all the synthetic cannabinoids out there, only Marinol is approved by FDA, but this man-made product is more psychoactive than natural cannabis, side effects including feeling high, dizziness and confusion, moodiness, drowsiness, anxiety, depression and irritability. Marinol may be prescribed for the treatment of cachexia with patients with AIDS, and for treating vomiting and nausea in patients undergoing cancer chemotherapy, but it provides limited health benefits compared to natural cannabinoids.

Is whole plant CBD better than Synthetic CBD

No deaths have been reported due to an overdose of whole plant cannabis.

An Israeli research team  got surprising results when comparing whole plant to single molecule CBD with “Avidekel” a whole plant extract  containing 17.9% (CBD), 1.1% THC, 1.1% cannabichromene (CBC) 0.2% Cannabigerol (CBG) and trace amounts of cannabivarol (CBDV). Their study on mice focussed on inflammation and pain relief concluded that

“the dosage amounts required for the same effect of pain relief were much less in the natural CBD extract versus the synthetic CBD”

On the higher end of the dosage scale, the synthetic CBD lost is efficacy, while the natural CBD extract reached its medicinal plateau and held steady in its effectiveness.

They concluded that natural CBD extracts are “superior for the treatment of inflammatory conditions.” They postulated that this more efficient and therapeutic natural CBD extract could be due to the combination and cooperation between CBD and the numerous other minor phytocannabinoids and hundreds of non-cannabinoid plant compounds found in the natural CBD extract. Furthermore the group said, “It is likely that other components in the extract synergize with CBD to achieve the desired anti-inflammatory action that may contribute to overcoming the bell-shaped dose-response of purified CBD”.


Differences between natural whole plant CBD and Synthetic CBD


Natural CBD comes from the whole plant. It contains over 400 active molecules, all working together in synergy, which boosts their individual effects.  


CBD synthesized in a lab works in isolation, you only get the benefit of a single cannabinoid rather than the combined effects.


Natural CBD requires a lower dosage for the same amount of pain relief than a similar synthetic CBD compound.


Dosing synthetic CBD is extremely difficult; it loses its effectiveness when the dosage is too high or too low.


Whole plant extracts using CO2 are cleaner, purer and safer as long as the plant is organically grown and lab tested.


Synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists are often more potent than natural CBD they may have a higher psychosis-inducing potential.


Natural CBD affects CB1 and CB2 receptors, the endocannabinoid system that regulates homeostasis in our bodies.


Synthetic CBD has less binding affinity for CB1 and CB2 receptors compared to natural CBD


Natural CBD reduced cell proliferation in tumoral, but not in healthy cells.


Synthetic CBD reduced cancer cell proliferation in a CB1-sensitive antagonist manner only


Full Spectrum CBD Oil – Natural whole plant extract.

If you are looking to buy a full spectrum CBD Oil, made from a natural whole plant extract derived from organic hemp, Eternal Plants sell a range of full spectrum CBD products in our webshop

Whole plant CBD Oil - CBD Hemp Oil Drops 2000mg By Eternal Plants


1: Overcoming the Bell‐Shaped Dose‐Response of Cannabidiol by Using Cannabis Extract Enriched in Cannabidiol

2: Increase in Reported Adverse Health Effects Related to Synthetic Cannabinoid Use — United States, January–May 2015

3: An Overview on Medicinal Chemistry of Synthetic and Natural Derivatives of Cannabidiol

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