The Entourage Effect is a term used to describe the combined effect of the various components produced by the cannabis plant. But do you know the real teamwork they do?
The two most famous phytocannabinoids, or simply cannabinoids, products of the cannabis plant are probably already well known: Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). But surely what is less known is that the cannabis plant actually contains many other cannabinoids, as well as phytochemicals such as terpenes and flavonoids. But not just that, it is important to be aware that when these substances work together they create unique effects and benefits thanks to a synergistic interaction between all these compounds, better known as the “Entourage Effect”.
As mentioned above, the Entourage Effect cannot be fully described and understood without mentioning the cannabis plant and its many compounds. Before going into the specifics, it is necessary to know that the cannabis plant in addition to THC and CBD produces other minor cannabinoids such as CBC, CBG, CBN, as well as flavonoids and terpenes. Looking closely at a female cannabis flower, we will discover that it is covered with thin mushroom-shaped hairs called trichomes within which the highest quantities of cannabinoids and terpenoids reside in the form of resin. Terpenes are present in numerous plant species, including cannabis. They give a characteristic distinctive aroma, in addition to imparting numerous beneficial effects, for example: Linalool also contained in lavender as well as Pinene present in conifers or Myrcene in verbena, are used to promote sleep, fight pain and inflammation. Similar to terpenes, flavonoids also influence the perception of cannabis through our senses, characterizing its color pigmentation and aroma.
These substances can be extracted from the flowers to be used separately or all together depending on the needs. Some research suggests that taking various cannabinoids even with terpenes and flavonoids is more effective than taking just one cannabinoid. This is due to the Entourage Effect, a theory according to which the various components of cannabis work better together, creating unique effects and benefits that would otherwise not be present in their purest form (CBD isolate).
Cannabinoids, Terpenes and Flavonoids: a natural healing partnership
The Entourage Effect is a mechanism by which substances found in cannabis, including cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids, act synergistically with each other to modulate and enhance the overall effects of the plant, mainly through the action of CBD and THC. Flavors and aromas can also be influenced, creating distinct products with varying characteristics. Each of them has their own unique effects and benefits that can be increased or altered and their effect can change with or without other compounds. It’s a bit like our mood that changes depending on the environment in which we find ourselves: alone or at a party with strangers or out and about with your best friend. Obviously, these situations affect our personality and our attitudes which tend to change depending on the person in the room.
The theory of the Entourage Effect is described in detail in a research on the possible synergies between the components of cannabis carried out by neurologist and pharmacologist Ethan Russo, one of the leading researchers in the field who for years has studied the various compounds of cannabis and how they affect the body. He states:
“currently, most of the research on the entourage effect has focused on the interactions between THC and CBD and, more specifically, how the latter might affect the former.”
In the article, Dr. Russo describes the benefits found by compounds commonly found in cannabis and, based on their pharmacology, describes their potential synergistic effects. These include the effects of two terpenes: Myrcene which helps you fall asleep, together with those of Caryophyllene and THC reduce pain and inflammation. Therapeutic combinations are also described between CBD and other terpenes, including Limonene, to counteract and relieve anxiety, and Caryophyllene, useful in the treatment of addiction.
Dating back to 2011, according to a study of the British Journal of Pharmacology on the Entourage Effect, it is shown that taking cannabinoids and terpenes together can provide greater benefits rather than taken individually. Furthermore, according to the study, CBD helps reduce the unwanted effects of THC such as anxiety, hunger and exhaustion. While recent research carried out by the Cleveland Clinic Neurological Institute in 2018 on the medicinal properties of cannabis to treat pain, migraines and headaches highlights how the therapeutic potential of CBD can be enhanced by some terpenes and flavonoids which act as neuroprotectors with anti-inflammatory effects improving overall brain health. In 2010 the Severn Hospice in Shrewsbury in the UK conducted a study of cancer pain patients who were given either a pure THC extract or an extract containing nearly equal levels of THC and CBD. Doctors found that patients with the THC / CBD combination experienced less pain. This is because when they work together unique synergies can be created for our Endocannabinoid System (ECS) and its receptors located throughout our body to regulate many functions.
However, the Entourage Effect is still a theory that, despite being well supported, needs further research on both the cannabis plant, its chemical composition, and its synergies before we fully know the extent of its potential benefits.
Better together than alone?
While THC and CBD are likely to work best when taken together rather than alone, it is important to remember that these cannabinoids are perceived in a subjective way that varies from person to person. By experimenting over time, people may realize what is really right for them. Some may find a preference for the combination of THC plus CBD, others may not like THC at all but would instead be interested in CBD and, therefore, much more likely to purchase a pure CBD isolate rather than a flower or product with full spectrum containing a wide range of cannabinoids (including THC).