The Cannabis Entourage Effect Explained
Many people have heard about the entourage effect, but few understand what it means for cannabis users. At its most basic, it’s an explanation of how the ingredients in cannabis work together to make taking THC and CBD more effective than taking either alone. This used to be a theory in the cannabis world, but recent studies share scientific evidence that backs it up!
With thousands of consumer testimonials and medical trials in the works, the cannabis entourage effect has proven to be a theory worth delving into. THC and CBD are widely known for both their medicinal and psychoactive properties — but, what about the other botanical cannabinoids and what they do, and how they all work together?
What Is the Entourage Effect in Cannabis?
The entourage effect is a theory that the components of the cannabis plant work synergistically together. THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) is the main isolate found in the plant and is known for its psychoactive properties, but the cannabis plant has dozens of other cannabinoids. Terpenes and flavonoids, too, work together with cannabinoids for the best results, according to the entourage effect.
How Does the Entourage Effect Work?
Each terpene, flavonoid (a compound that works with terpenes to provide the scents you know and love, and dictates the color of strains), and cannabinoid have the potential to be crossed in different ways for different outcomes. Crossed correctly, each compound with its unique qualities can create a new cocktail of pain-relieving, stress-reducing treatment.
What Are Cannabinoids?
Cannabinoids are naturally occurring compounds found in the cannabis plant. Each cannabinoid is broken down into subclasses, of which there are 66 officially. These cannabinoids act as receptors on the surface of cells. In the human body, the CB1 and CB2 receptors are what these cannabinoids cling to. These compounds are differentiated based on the degree of their psychoactivity.
There are more than 120 known different cannabinoids including THC, CBD, CBG, and dozens more. Each compound serves its own purpose. Isolates like Delta-8 share similar qualities to Delta-9 but provide an experience that is considerably less potent, yet still maintaining a great deal of physical and cognitive relief. Terpenes, derivatives found in cannabis are what produce the aromatic compounds. A connection between THC and terpenes seemingly has increased pain relief in patients, and has been shown with the bacterial infection MRSA in a study on THC conducted by Dr. Ethan Russo.
Further Research for THC Outcomes
The research also concluded that there was potential for greater outcomes had the THC been paired with another bacteria-fighting compound. THC and CBD are popular isolated compounds for medicinal use, however, the research into the dozens of other compounds found in cannabis is scarce. For example, CBG (Cannabigerol) a minor cannabinoid, has been shown to help eliminate and block cancer-producing cells, in addition to reducing inflammation, treating depression, and more. Each individual terpene, flavonoid, and cannabinoid has the potential to create an entirely new treatment based on the combination. With this knowledge, a plethora of pharmacological treatments in legal markets could explode with new varieties of pain-relieving options.
Many mood disorders such as anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder have been eased by Sativa-dominant strains of cannabis. With the entourage effect, many patients can receive more treatment-specific products that can help improve their mood at a much faster rate. Cannabis is a complex plant with a diverse molecular profile. Cannabis growers know this and are only just discovering the tip of the iceberg with compound and isolate possibilities.
When choosing a product, it is wise to take into consideration your tolerance, experience, and medical state. It is also wise to understand the different types of THC and CBD. While the indica/sativa/hybrid label is outdated based on research, they are still the most common terms in the cannabis space used to describe effects. Keep in mind, strains affect everyone differently, so an “sativa” for one patient may feel like an “indica” to another.
Sativa flower is described as providing an energized, more alert state of mind. People have recounted feeling uplifted, happy, and mentally stimulated. Clementine is a popular “sativa” strain known for its euphoric, focused effects.
Indica flower is famously known for being a relaxing, hunger-inducing strain, or in simpler terms providing an “in da couch” kind of feeling. Indica strains induce feelings of relaxation, pain relief, and sleep. Triangle Kush is a celebrated indica strain known to provide relaxing, sedating effects.
Hybrids are crosses of “indica” and “sativa” strains and often display characteristics of both, making them a great alternative for a more balanced experience. Orangeade is a patient-favorite hybrid due to it’s relaxing yet stimulating effects.
In addition to selecting the type of cannabis, choosing a variety with unique terpenes can also be very helpful for stress relief, sleep, and relaxation. Because many growers don’t report terpene profiles, it can be challenging to identify the right terpenes for you.
The terpenes are the aromatherapy of cannabis. Just as with essential oils, a combination of terpenes may provide targeted effects. Terpenes are incredibly abundant in nature and are produced by trees, fruits, vegetables, and more. Research has shown that terpenes, too, may provide medicinal benefits on their own, and help to drive strain-specific effects. The most commonly found terpenes in cannabis are myrcene, caryophyllene, limonene, and terpinolene. Learn more about the most common cannabis terpene profiles in our in-depth guide.
How Are New Strains in Cannabis Created?
The different therapeutic effects cannabis has, based on an individual strain and its molecular chemistry, are provided by the genetics and cross-pollination between different varieties. Each cannabis product has a unique chemical makeup, with specific qualities when consumed through inhalation methods, or through oral consumption. Most naturally occurring cannabis does not have the qualities that major corporations are distributing. Botanists and geneticists have learned the careful practice of hand pollination, cross-breeding, and seed collecting to perfect the qualities they seek, like higher THC percentages.
Cannabis may look similar to the plants that grow in a vegetable garden, like a tomato before its fruits develop. A key differentiator, besides species, is that tomatoes are a monoecious plant, or a self-pollinating plant. Monoecious plants have both male and female anatomy to achieve self-pollination. Cannabis, on the other hand, is a dioecious plant, which means male and female plants that grow separately. Although this isn’t always the case with some strains, most plants need the pollination of the male to female in order to flower and produce seed. This process of pollination between two different plants can create an entirely new variety of cannabis.
For instance, “parent strains” GMO, an indica-dominant hybrid with euphoric effects, and Purple Punch, an indica-dominant strain with sedating effects, were crossed to create Modified Grapes, a strain that leaves you feeling euphoric, relaxed, and mentally stimulated while simultaneously having flavor notes of gas and earth. Each parent plant was selected precisely for different chemical properties that would produce a new feeling or sensation in the plant. When breeders are creating new products for the general public, more and more they are taking into consideration the broad spectrum of applications cannabis can have. With new varieties on the market each day, there is something for everyone.
What Is the Entourage Effect in CBD Oil?
CBD is just one of many cannabinoids found in cannabis. It is now a staple of alternative medicine for easing pain in many forms, as well as mood disorders. While CBD is known for its calming and soothing effects, many have suggested that without the other compounds found in cannabis, CBD’s therapeutic effects are stunted and not nearly as strong.
Growing in popularity is full-spectrum CBD. Broad- and full-spectrum CBD offer a much stronger effect. Comparatively different from CBD isolate, broad-spectrum CBD removes THC exclusively while still maintaining all the other terpenes, flavonoids, and cannabinoids. CBD isolate eliminates everything but the CBD cannabinoid. Broad- and full-spectrum CBD can increase pain relief exponentially in comparison to isolate.
The Differences Among CBD Types
Recognizing all the benefits of full- and broad-spectrum CBD, in 2018, the FDA approved CBD oral solution for children with seizures and epilepsy. Conclusively they found a notable decrease in severity and frequency of seizures, in some cases. There are a large variety of CBD and cannabis products on the market. Having a good understanding of the science behind the product will help you make an educated decision when determining what will best suit you and your personal needs. The differences between broad-spectrum, full-spectrum, and isolate are important to know when making this determination.
Full-spectrum CBD contains all of the terpenes, flavonoids, and cannabinoids of the plant, meaning there are traces of THC.When purchased outside of a dispensary, this THC will be under the 0.03% threshold described in the Farm Bill. CBD purchased from dispensaries will likely contain higher levels of CBD.
Broad-spectrum CBD contains no THC but contains all of the other components found in the cannabis plant.
What you see is what you get — isolated CBD contains no other components of the cannabis plant.
The full-spectrum entourage effect is all about maximizing the benefits of the cannabis components. Each compound of the plant is working together to deliver the best experience to the customer. The combination of CBD and THC, along with all the other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids, taken together have been said to maximize the effects of the cannabis product consumed.
Methods Of Consumption
The options are endless when it comes to methods of consumption for both CBD and THC. To name a few:
A popular cannabis concentrate, vape cartridges generally come in strain specific options and can contain high levels of THC or in a 1:1 THC/CBD ratio containing an equal amount of both cannabinoids.
Tinctures are highly concentrated herbal extracts with a long shelf life. A convenient method of consuming THC or CBD, they are an easy option for those looking to microdose.
There is a broad variety of medicinal food edibles containing CBD alone as well as THC. These are ideal for discreet, easy consumption.
Capsules are one of the simplest, thought-free ways of consuming THC and CBD. Processed through the kidneys as opposed to inhaled through the lungs, capsules generally take longer to feel the effects, but can maintain a pleasant, steady experience. New methods like encapsulation technologies provide faster onset times, and do not process through the kidneys - instead, they’re absorbed through the stomach lining.
Cannabinoids and terpenes interact with each other in true synergy. While the entourage effect is still a theory, it is a novel one that makes sense when you stop and condier the genetic makeup of each plant, and the effects they produce. Hopefully, with more research, this method will become more widely accepted and acknowledged in the medical field.
Learning More About Cannabis and The Entourage Effect
We’re excited to learn and share more about the Cannabis Entourage Effect as more researchers explore the theory.
If you are still curious about the cannabis entourage effect and have questions, let us know!
Our plant scientists and horticulturists are on the cutting edge of advances in the cannabis industry. We can explain the impact of the entourage effect, as well as answer any other questions you have about cannabis and what products might be right for your unique needs.
Reach out anytime and we’ll get you the information you need!
Content Manager for MÜV Florida and Contributor for Zen Leaf Dispensaries. A cannabis connoisseur with a passion for explaining the miraculous possibility of the plant, Swan began her journey with cannabis as a recreational user and quickly realized its positive impact on her depression and severe anxiety. She joined the cannabis industry as Receptionist and MedTender and witnessed first-hand the immense potential of the plant for a wide variety of ailments, deepening her passion for alternative medicine. Swan is dedicated to self-education on the plant and sharing its potential with all. She holds a Journalism degree from the University of Iowa.