Are Cannabinoids Active Botanicals?

Published November 20, 2023
Are Cannabinoids Active Botanicals? - Secret Nature

Recently, the term “active botanicals” has been tossed around a lot without very much attention paid to what it actually means. Which botanicals, for instance, are active, and what does it even mean for a botanical to be “active” in the first place?

To find out whether cannabinoids are active botanicals, we’ll first need to understand what a botanical substance is and why some botanicals are “active” and others are not. From there, we’ll compare cannabis to this definition to determine if they are a match.

What is a botanical?

Usually, botanicals are a type of plant extract. The term “botanical” loosely refers to any person, place, or thing that has to do with plants. A “botanical researcher,” for instance, is someone who studies plants, a “botanical garden” is a place where many plants are grown, and a “botanical extract” is a product consisting of purified portions of a plant.

What is an active botanical?

There is no clear scientific definition of an “active botanical.” On the contrary, it appears “active botanical” is a marketing term referring to botanical extracts that are active in the human body.

All botanical extracts designed for ingestion are already “active,” though, or there would be no purpose in consuming them. As a result, it appears the term “active botanical” is devoid of any genuine descriptive meaning and is simply used to make botanical ingredients sound more technical and exciting.

What do active botanicals do?

Active botanicals can serve a variety of different purposes in the human body. Some botanical ingredients, for instance, are “psychoactive,” which means they elicit reactions that affect the functioning of the psyche.

Other botanical ingredients, on the other hand, might be “active” in the sense that they fight oxidative stress and inflammation. In fact, there are thousands of different forms of activity that botanical substances can elicit in the human body, contributing to the muddy and nonspecific definition of “active botanical.”

Are active botanicals derived from plants?

Yes, active botanicals are derived from plants by the very definition of the phrase. A “botanical” is a substance derived from a plant, after all, so referring to anything other than a substance extracted from a plant as a “botanical” would be outright misleading.

What is an example of an active botanical?

Common examples of substances claimed to be “active botanicals” include:

Olive oil

Olive oil is usually called an active botanical due to its ability to rejuvenate skin. It’s really the oleic acid in olive oil, however, that’s helpful with other compounds in this oil having damaging or comedogenic properties.

Rosehip oil

Rosehip oil (sometimes confusingly called “rosehip seed oil”) has many therapeutic properties and is believed to soothe skin and offer anti-aging benefits. It’s an excellent example of a botanical substance with bioactive effects.

Aloe vera

Aloe vera is most likely considered an active botanical due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Compounds within the plant are rarely pinpointed, however, and proper purification of aloe vera down to its active components is rare.

Terpenes and flavonoids

These two classes of compounds are very therapeutic, and they’re found in cannabis alongside many other plants. Terpenes are oil-based and offer aromatic and culinary properties while some flavonoids are water-based, and many have pigmentation properties.

It wouldn’t be surprising to find any plant-derived compound believed to have therapeutic value referred to as an “active botanical.” The term has become a catchphrase in the industry and resonates with the natural product crowd despite not having any genuine meaning.

Is cannabis an active botanical?

Within the context of the very wide definition of the term usually used, cannabis on the whole might be considered an “active botanical.” As a plant, it is inherently “botanical,” after all, and many of the compounds in cannabis must be considered “active” due to their considerable activity within the human brain and body.

It is important to note, however, that the very term “active botanical” is relatively devoid of substance and does little to describe the benefits of cannabis or any other substance that falls under its banner. What does it mean for a botanical substance to be “active?” Aren’t botanicals taken due to their active properties anyway?

The bottom line: Does it matter if cannabinoids are active botanicals?

In the end, it doesn’t matter much whether you consider cannabinoids to be active botanicals or not. The term’s main purpose is to market and not describe products: “Active botanical” sounds cooler and more attractive than just plain “botanical,” but there’s no real difference between a botanical and an active botanical.

It’s most likely best to avoid referring to cannabis as an active botanical simply to limit confusion. The term already has a misleading air around it, so the best approach is to drop the “active” and just call cannabis what it is: A botanical substance full of active ingredients that affect the body in a multitude of different ways.

Cannabis active botanical FAQ

Review these frequently asked questions to fill in any gaps in knowledge you may have regarding cannabis, active botanicals, and the relationship between the two:

Are botanicals good for your skin?

Yes, many botanical ingredients are believed to have skin benefits when applied topically. Hundreds of different substances found in plants affect the skin beneficially in one way or another, whether it’s moisturizing, firming, or reducing inflammation in pores.

Some botanicals are even believed to impact sebum production, meaning they might help with conditions like acne and rosacea. When it comes to botanical ingredients and their capacity to improve skin health, there’s still plenty more for scientists to research.

What does an active botanical serum do?

An active botanical serum delivers botanical ingredients into the deeper layers of skin on your face, providing impressive benefits with a simple formulation. Serums are water-based, so there aren’t any extraneous ingredients to be concerned about. Instead, serums leverage the power of natural botanical substances to lightly heal and boost your face. These delicate topical formulations are often costly, but some users believe it’s worth it.

What are the benefits of botanical serums?

Botanical serums are believed to improve skin health by:

 - Moisturizing
 - Reducing signs of aging
 - Fortifying skin with important nutrients
 - Lowering inflammation levels

There’s no end to the potential benefits botanical serums might be able to provide. Scientists have only properly investigated a handful of botanical ingredients, after all, with many more still awaiting a full analysis of their potential benefits.

How do you use a botanical serum?

The best way to use a botanical serum is to start by applying a small amount to the tip of your finger. Then, apply the finger to your face, rubbing the serum in completely with gentle, circular motions. Repeat this process until you’ve covered your entire face. Wait for the serum to absorb completely, and then apply more serum as desired. Most users apply botanical serums once or twice per day.

What does “botanical cannabis” mean?

The term “botanical cannabis” does not have any concrete meaning since cannabis is a botanical substance inherently by virtue of being a plant. There is no “non-botanical cannabis,” for instance, showing how unnecessary it is to use the two words together.

Are cannabinoids the only botanicals in cannabis?

No, cannabis contains a wide variety of botanical substances in addition to cannabinoids — cannabinoids are just the botanical compounds that happen to be specific to cannabis. In addition to these cannabis-specific compounds, the plant also contains terpenes and flavonoids, each considered to be highly beneficial in their own right.

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