Cannabis Science

25 March 2019

What Is The Entourage Effect?

You may have noticed when consuming cannabis, that the effects and flavours of the plant vary, widely.  

Why is this? If you take a close inspection at your cannabis buds, you´ll notice that they´re gleaming with sticky dots of resin. Contained within the resin of marijuana plants are over 400 different potentially therapeutic compounds that contribute to the effects, flavours and potential health benefits of cannabis.

The thinking in the industry is that this variety of effect and flavour is thanks to these compounds (including CBD and THC) And their interaction with each other: This is known as the ‘entourage effect’.

What is the Entourage Effect?

You’re likely already acquainted with the marijuana plants two most famous compounds, THC and CBD, but there are many other compounds the plant produces in lesser abundance that seem to play a supporting role in the overall effects of any particular strain.

This theory that various cannabis compounds work together to create unique therapeutic effects and benefits is known in the cannabis industry as “the entourage effect.”

When we consume cannabis or a cannabis product, our bodies take in hundreds of botanical compounds. Each one arrives with unique effects and benefits, and their behaviour may change in the presence of other compounds. This is the entourage effect.

The Discovery of the Major Cannabinoids

Honoured Israeli scientist, Raphael Mechoulam first discovered the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the 1960s. That is, he discovered that within the human body, there was a whole receptor system for cannabinoids (now known as a cannabinoid receptor) He also found that humans produce a natural cannabinoid compound, naming it anandamide, after the Sanskrit word for bliss. Then he went on to effectively isolate and replicate the major cannabis compounds, THC, CBD and CBG.

Now in his 80’s, Mechoulam´s discoveries have lead to the development of a massive industry, with THC, as well as CBD products, becoming hugely popular across the planet. From cannabis extracts to hemp products like CBD topicals, and CBD oils, to CBD edibles including the hugely popular CBD gummies, CBD and THC products are now being used to treat a number of health conditions from pain management to mental health disorders.

Dr. Raphael Mechoulam was the first to discover the endocannabinoid system and isolate the major cannabinoids

However, despite the cannabinoid boom of recent years, Mechoulam believes that, with refined breeding overtime, the isolation and use of specific cannabinoids, and using them in synchronicity with others could lead to a very personalized form of medical cannabis.

The Interaction Between Cannabinoids and Terpenes

To illustrate the entourage effect in cannabis, let’s work with cannabis two most famous compounds – THC and CBD.

Of course, it is important to remember that cannabis is far more than just THC and CBD. It also produces other cannabinoids like CBN, CBC, CBG, and dozens more—as well as terpenes, which are aromatic compounds also readily found in the essential oils of lavender, orange, black pepper, eucalyptus, and much more. With such a diversity of useful compounds in cannabis plants, the purported synergies seem almost endless, particularly as the potential benefits of CBD and THC, in particular, begin to gain traction in scientific communities. 

Unfortunately, there are very few studies that explore these synergies in humans—it’s still only a theory supported by a small body of research, and, of course, loads of anecdotal evidence from curious cannabis enthusiasts around the world experimenting with new varieties of the plant.

All cannabinoids have medicinal benefits, but working together makes them more effective

Beyond cannabinoids likes those mentioned above, cannabis also constraints numerous flavonoids and terpenes, which are linked to the appearance, flavour and aroma of a strain. The terpene pinene, for instance, is also found in pine resin, sage and juniper berries; The limonene terpene is credited with the citrus scent of many sativa strains and is also found in citrus fruits and plants like rosemary. These compounds too, are thought by some researchers to have therapeutic effects of their own. 

The combined use of cannabinoids and terpenes is now popularly known as ‘whole plant medicine’.

More Research Required

However, this line of thinking remains controversial in research and medical cannabis circles. Thanks in large part to the prohibition of cannabis research in much of the world since 1937, there has not yet been sufficient scientific data assembled to either uphold the entourage effect idea or to disprove it; double-blind studies have to date not been conducted.

You have scientific researchers both for and against. Margaret Haney, a cannabis researcher at Columbia University (U.S.), told Scientific American that evidence is mostly anecdotal at the moment. In contrast, the giant company G.W. Chemical (U.K.), producers of Sativex (a Multiple Sclerosis medication allowed in the U.K. since 2010) use a 1:1 ratio of THC/CBD formula, based on their research indicating that the CBD lowers the paranoia-inducing effects of THC. 

One former researcher at G.W. Chemical, Ethan Russo, has written extensively on the entourage effect for scientific publications and looked into the combination of various cannabinoids and terpenes for variance in effect. He is convinced that individual strains smell and taste different, and produce varying results and that this is not a coincidence; each has its unique cannabinoid and terpene profile.

Withing the ever-growing cannabis industry, both amongst growers and consumers, there is a consensus that the Entourage effect is real, and needs to be studied at even greater levels to fully understand it´s huge potential. As legal cannabis and medical marijuana becomes a reality for more and more countries, such analysis seems nothing short of inevitable.

Dr. Ethan Russo has done extensive research on the Entourage Effect and the impact it has on the human body

In the budding cannabis industry; among master growers who have been crossing different genetics over that same 30-40 year period; among the burgeoning labs offering strain analysis of different compounds; and among regular cannabis consumers´ correlating anecdotal evidence, the entourage effect remains both convincing and popular.

Experience the Entourage Effect for Yourself

The one thing that appears undeniable from a cannabis lover’s point of view is that no two strains of cannabis taste or act on you in the same way. If you´ve ever sampled a piney OG Kush or a sweet and fruity Lemon OG Haze, you´ll understand the dramatic differences and broad-spectrum in both flavours and effects that can exist in any two strains. 

As when choosing a sweet wine or opting for a Spanish dish over a french one then, you can look for the flavours, potency and effects that you prefer. For pointers, use our search function; tweak it to your liking, and gauge for yourself whether there is truth to the entourage effect or not.

Post author
Sylvester
Sylvester likes writing about culture, history and tech, digs cosmology, futurism and ukulele - and prefers to accompany all of these with a good bowl of Chocolope Kush
See more from Sylvester

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

More articles you would like