If you’re at all famaliar with the cannabis industry, then you’ve probably come across the phrase “entourage effect.” However, even if you have heard of it, you may still be confused by the term and what it means. Here, we will discuss the origin and meaning of the entourage effect as well as its potential benefits to CBD enthusiasts.
What Is the Entourage Effect?
Since ancient times when the practices of traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda were widely popularized, practitioners have been combining different parts of an entire plant for medicinal purposes. This holistic approach to alternative medicine is termed “whole plant medicine” because it involves the use of an entire plant rather than isolating a particular part for therapeutic purposes.
While the practice of whole plant medicine may have died down in the face of modern pharmaceutical methods which deal with isolated chemicals, it forms the foundation of the phenomenon known as the “entourage effect.”
The entourage effect refers to a situation where the many different components of cannabis interact with the body to produce a stronger influence than any one of the components could achieve alone. This synergistic effect was termed the “Entourage Effect” by Dr. Ethan Russo, a reknowned neurologist, in his paper “Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects.”
Explaining the basic tenet of his theory, Russo stated “the case for Cannabis synergy via the “entourage effect” is currently sufficiently strong as to suggest that one molecule is unlikely to match the therapeutic and even industrial potential of Cannabis itself as a phytochemical factory.”
Additionally, an Israelian researcher, Dr Raphael Mechoulam, found evidence to support the basic idea of an entourage effect while studying how cannabinoids bind to receptors in a variety of areas in vital organs and the brain. According to both of their theories, the terpenes in cannabis are needed in conjunction with the cannabinoid compounds to interact with and influence the human body more effectively. Accordingly, the concept of an entourage effect is controversial and emphasizes the potential of full and broad spectrum CBD as opposed to CBD isolate. More on that later.
“The case for Cannabis synergy via the “entourage effect” is currently sufficiently strong as to suggest that one molecule is unlikely to match the therapeutic and even industrial potential of Cannabis itself as a phytochemical factory. “Dr. Ethan Russo – The Case for the Entourage Effect and Conventional Breeding of Clinical Cannabis: No “Strain,” No Gain
How Does the Entourage Effect Affect CBD?
The two most important compounds in hemp are cannabinoids and terpenes. Cannabinoids are the naturally occuring, chemical compounds secreted by the cannabis sativa plant that have been demonstrated to have therapuetic effects by interacting with the body’s Endocannabinoid System. Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are the two most abundant cannabinoids found in hemp, although over 100 different cannabinoids have been discovered in the cannabis plant.
While cannabinoids such as CBD are critical components in hemp that provide a range of therapeutic benefits to the human body, terpenes are organic molecules that are present in each strain of cannabis which provide its signature flavor profile and fragrant aroma. Similar to cannabinoids, terpenes interact with the receptors in the brain and act as conductors or facilitators in heightening the effects of CBD on the body. Used in conjuction with each other, it is hypothesized that cannabinoids and terpenes produce a greater overall effect when compared to their individual benefits.
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Evidence for the Entourage Effect
Understanding the exact reason why cannabinoids and terpenes working together as a whole leads to enhanced effects, has proven to be difficult. Although, a report published by Dr. Hildebert Wagner and Dr. Ulrich-Merzenich titled, “Synergy research: Approaching a new generation of phytopharmaceuticals”, attempts to discuss some of the basic mechanisms of the entourage effect:
- Whole-plant derived compounds can affect multiple targets within the body.
- Whole plant synergy improves the bioavailability, resorption and solubility rate of active compounds.
- Whole plant synergy assists in overcoming bacterial defense mechanisms.
- Whole plant synergy contributes to minimizing adverse side effects of active compounds.
Currently, hard evidence for the entourage effect is scant, leading many scientists to dismiss its validity all together. However, this hasn’t stopped many in the cannabis community from promoting Mechoulam’s and Russo’s ideas. Cannabis companies continue to produce and market products made from specific cannabis strains and terpene profiles as a way of touting their specialized effects. What is clear, is that more research is needed in order to prove or disprove the validity of the entourage effect.
Which CBD Products Promote the Entourage Effect Best?
When looking at CBD products, there are three main types: full spectrum, broad spectrum and CBD isolate. CBD Isolate is derived from a process of extracting only the CBD from cannabis, or isolating it from the other cannabinoids and terpenes found in the plant. This means that CBD isolate products contain no other cannabinoids or terpenes and therefore, cannot deliver the entourage effect.
Full spectrum CBD products contain the complete profile of its cannabis plant source, including all cannabinoids and terpenes. If you’re looking to maximize the potential of the entourage effect, a full spectrum product is definately the best way to go.
Broad spectrum CBD products will also allow for the entourage effect as they contain cannabinoids and terpenes. However, broad spectrum CBD products undergo an additional process to remove all THC from the oil, thus eliminating the therapeutic effects found in that cannabinoid.
The entourage effect is an interesting, yet controversial theory which posits that the different chemicals in cannabis work in concert to produce stronger benefits than they do alone. The entourage effect was first discovered by researchers who were doing studies on the cannabinoids and terpenes found in cannabis. As part of their research, they found anedoctal evidence to support the existance of a stronger, synergistic effect present within cannabis, when utilized as a whole plant medicine.
Hopefully, with additional research in the near future, we will have comprehensive information on the interaction between the different cannabis components and how a potential entourage effect can improve the benefits of CBD on the human body. However, current evidence, to date, is not sufficient to make a conclusion either way on the validity of its basic idea. That said, if you want to maximize the potential of the entourage effect, the best products are those made from full and broad spectrum CBD accordingly.