Understanding the Entourage Effect
Updated: Apr 23, 2019
The further you delve into medicinal cannabis, the more you’ll start to hear things like “full spectrum” and “entourage effect”. But what do they mean and how are they important to you?
The Cannabinoid Conundrum
Image courtesy of Leafly.com
Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are definitely the best-known cannabinoids, but they’re only two out of more than 100 different ones. Others include CBG, THCV, CBGV, CBDV, CBDA, CBN, CBC, CBCV, and THCA. Each cannabinoid has its own health benefits and we are only just scratching the surface of the properties of these natural compounds. By only taking CBD and THC, you could be missing out on the benefits of all the other cannabinoids. Taking multiple cannabinoids together has powerful synergistic effects where each cannabinoid enhances the effects of the other. This is called the “Entourage Effect.”
Questioning Entourage’s Existence
The research so far is inconclusive as to whether this entourage effect truly exists in cannabis (and many other herbs) or not. Studies have traditionally focused on THC almost exclusively. Only recently have scientists begun to look at the many other cannabinoids present in cannabis. This means that there is very little authoritative evidence that proves the entourage effect has medicinal value, but there are hundreds of years of anecdotal evidence.
People who have been in the cannabis field for some time will be able to tell you how different strains really are different and have different effects. This isn’t because one is a “sativa” and the other is an “indica” (we’ve already talked about that myth). The difference is found in the terpenes and various cannabinoids present in the various strains. The ratio of these terpenes and cannabinoids alters the effect is has on the user and this has definitely been proven.
The theory is the entourage effect and the synergistic relationship the terpenes and cannabinoids have. Researchers in the medical field all agree different strains have different effects–they just haven’t completely figured out why. So how these compounds make a difference?
Terpenes and Terpenoids
Terpenes and terpenoids are aromatic compounds found in many plants and some insects–this is what creates the smells of cannabis. Every strain of cannabis has a variety of these compounds in different ratios, giving the strain its unique signature.
Limonene is a good example of this is. It’s also found in lemons, and is what creates the lemony scent. The strain Super Lemon Haze contains high quantities of this terpene, and is where it gets its name. The reason these make a difference for the user is because they interact with the cannabinoids, and in some ways can boost the medicinal effects of them.
Researchers are beginning to consider these and are finding that they contain their own medicinal benefits. Limonene, for example, can penetrate the blood-brain barrier easily. What this means medicinally is that it can help treat neurological damage caused by events such as strokes. It is also been proven to be beneficial in treating depression and fatigue. This is why some strains are marketed as “uplifting” and “energizing.”
Cannabinoids have had slightly more research done on their cannabis terpenes content. The main interaction being investigated is the relationship between THC and CBD (Cannabidoil). Conflicting evidence exists that says CBD can lessen the anxiety-induced effects of THC and other research says the opposite. Users, though, have been saying that CBD counteracts the effects of THC and that it’s a very noticeable effect.
Herbalists have long believed that when it comes to plants, the entire plant is best used as a whole. This is because while we might not understand the relationship between the compounds, it doesn’t alter the fact that there clearly is one. That is why for thousands of years herbalists have avoided extracting specific individual compounds from plants and have, instead, used the whole thing.
Confusing, right? It’s ok to be baffled and not know what to make of it all.
While science still needs to catch up, hundreds of years of practices reporting the same entourage effects cannot be ignored. So, keep up on the research and follow scientific journals if you’re interested in finding out more.
Now, with legalization, studying cannabis is becoming a little bit easier and it will still take several years before any human tests are done, but it’s only the beginning. Keep an eye on developments, and for now, you’ll just have to test the entourage effect for yourself.
For more information about cannabinoids or terpenes, please contact us at 905-892-1926.