Soft gels are gaining in popularity as they are stable and portable. But can they measure up to FECO?
Legal cannabis is now an $8 billion industry. It should hit the $25 billion mark in a few years. That means there are now more cannabis products to choose from than ever before. Needless to say, this is a daunting task for long-time cannabis consumers and newbies alike.
Here, we’ll look at two types of oral, oil-based products that you’ll most likely see at dispensaries: FECO and soft gels. What’s the difference, and which should you choose?
The Whole Nine Yards: FECO
One of these oils, called full-extract cannabis oil (FECO) is a viscous concentrate packed with cannabinoids and terpenes. FECO makers typically use ethanol (e.g. everclear) as a solvent to perform the extraction, then boil off the residual alcohol.
Cannabis patients often take FECO when their cannabinoid regimen requires high doses of cannabinoids, particularly THC. Think terminally ill cancer or AIDS patients. One gram of FECO can contain up to 1,000 mg THC. Compare that to the typical “recreational” edible serving of 10 mg THC.
Pharmie Familiar: Soft Gels
A newer form of cannabis oil comes as soft gels. You’ve seen soft gels before, such as with vitamin E capsules or over-the-counter NSAIDs like naproxen (e.g. Aleve). One Canadian company, Aurora Cannabis, offers soft gels in a variety of colors. This is to help you choose: each color represents a different type of pill (indica, sativa, or CBD).
Then you have Matt Fox. Fox works as a cannabis consultant in Colorado. He’s also one of the founding members of the Cannabis Consumer Coalition, an international non-profit watchdog group that keeps tabs on good and bad practices in the cannabis industry. For several years, he and his partner, Katie Lynn Hogan, have advised cannabis patients on how to grow their own plants and produce their own cannabis products – including FECO and gel caps mixed with coconut or safflower oils.
Although Fox has never made soft gels, he said he can see their appeal.
Companies like Aurora Cannabis are “bringing CBD dosing to a closer alignment with what pharmaceutical companies do,” he said. Soft gels offer “stability and consistency, which patients need in order to use a product in the long-term with minimal side effects.”
Which One is Best? That Depends – on You
Although FECO can help with a wide range of ailments, the full-spectrum aspect can pose problems for some patients.
“The more ‘stuff’ that is in your oil, the higher your chances of having an adverse reaction to what’s in it,” he said. In his experience, some patients exhibit allergic reactions to components of FECO.
“If you’re suffering from a debilitating disease that doesn’t affect your immune system, you can probably take a cleanly made FECO and not have any problems,” he added.
Patients who are immunocompromised or whom have allergies may want to choose soft gels and cannabinoid isolates. Patients can start with pure THC or CBD. Then, once they’re comfortable with the isolate, they can add new components (such as individual terpenes or cannabinoids) one at a time. This will let them test if any part of the cannabis biochemical spectrum triggers an adverse reaction.
Soft gels also feature consistent dosing, something that may not be reliable with FECO.
“The more we talk about cannabis as a medicine, the more the medical industry gets involved, the more they want to see the products in the formats they’re used to dealing with,” Fox said. “If we’re going to treat cannabis as medicine, it needs to look like medicine so we can handle it like medicine.”
Long story short: If a patient responds well to cannabis products, with minimal or no adverse side effects, FECO could be a one-stop solution for medicinal applications. For more sensitive patients, soft gels may offer a reliable and safer way to experiment with dosing and cannabis compositions.