A dominant theory in the world of cannabis science, the “entourage effect”
You may be aware of the natural health benefits of the two main cannabis compounds, CBD and THC, but there are actually hundreds of other medicinal compounds in this plant. When used together, they produce a synergistic phenomenon known as the entourage effect.
What is the Entourage effect?
The Entourage effect is the synergistic phenomenon that occurs when several compounds in the cannabis plant work together to produce a powerful compositional effect.
Each element of cannabis can enhance the natural properties of other elements of the same plant. For this reason, the cannabis compounds will produce together stronger and more diverse effects than any compound alone.
With literally hundreds of cannabinoids naturally produced in cannabis, the variety of different synergies offered within this plant is staggering.
To understand how powerful the entourage effect can be, and most importantly, how it can be used to enhance your experience, let's take a look at the three main groups of cannabis compounds: cannabinoids, the terpenes and the flavonoids.
Cannabinoids and the Entourage Effect
In addition to CBD and THC, scientists have identified more than 100 different cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, and many remain unidentified.
When used together, the unique properties of each cannabinoid are enhanced by the entourage effect, naturally providing greater relief than they would have individually.
Terpenes and the Entourage Effect
The terpenes are the aromatic molecules found in most fruits, plants and herbs, including cannabis. They are the source of the pungent smell of lemon, the pungent aroma of pine and the relaxing flavor of lavender.
In cannabis, terpenes are produced in the sticky resin glands of the plant and are responsible for the variety of unique aromas secreted by different strains of cannabis.
By stimulating receptors in our olfactory system, terpenes can stimulate a variety of psychological and physiological effects that can be very beneficial for the body.
Flavonoids and the Entourage Effect
Flavonoids are a broad category of chemicals found in all kinds of plants including cannabis. They often act as coloring agents; you will find them in high concentration in blueberries or beets but more exactly in Blueberry or purple kush.
Flavonoids are perfectly safe for human consumption and may offer some health benefits, although there is no clear scientific consensus on their benefits, the most interesting effects of flavonoids on cannabis are its flavor and effect on the aroma.
Certain flavonoids can promote rest and neurological health. While the effect may be subtle, you can imagine how hundreds of flavonoids combined could significantly alter the effects of a particular variety of cannabis.
How cannabis compounds can work together
When we smoke or vaporize, our bodies absorb hundreds of botanicals. Everyone comes with unique effects and benefits, and their behavior can vary in the presence of other compounds. It is the entourage effect.
It's a bit like how your mood can change depending on your social environment, when you're alone or when you go out with your best friends. Your mood and the personality you project change depending on who is in the room.
To illustrate the entourage effect in cannabis, there are unfortunately very few studies that explore these synergies in humans, this is still only a theory supported by a small body of research, and of course , tons of anecdotal evidence from curious amateurs around the world experimenting with new varieties…
The first example of the entourage effect was given by the team of Prof. Mechoulam (1998) who described that the activity of the endocannabinoid 2-AG was increased by other 2-acilglycerols. This discovery is probably not one of the most interesting and practical for most people who use cannabis, but it was, after all, the first step in studying the entourage effect and opening the door. to other more practical discoveries for everyday life
The combination of THC and CBD is one of the most studied and one of the most fun. We know that this combination, when used to treat cancer pain, is considerably better tolerated by patients than a pure THC extract (Johnson et al, 2010).
The Entourage effect in CBD
When you buy CBD, there are several types of CBD to choose from:
- CBD isolate
- Full spectrum CBD
- Broad spectrum CBD
- Whole plant extracts
Depending on the type of CBD used, the impact of the entourage effect can vary considerably. To understand which CBD products can maximize the entourage effect, let's explore the various chemical profiles of each type.
The CBD isolate is produced by isolating the CBD and eliminating all other compounds and substances from the extract. The result is a pure CBD extract. CBD isolate products do not contain any other cannabinoids or terpenes, and therefore will not produce the Entourage effect. The CBD isolate can provide the therapeutic effects of CBD; However, unless the user is forced to use pure CBD for legal reasons, CBD isolates significantly limit the potential effects of cannabis.
Full spectrum CBD
Full spectrum CBD known as Full Spectrum is produced by extracting all the cannabinoids and terpenes present in the cannabis plant, including THC.
Because Full Spectrum contains a full range of cannabinoids and terpenes, it can produce a powerful entourage effect with benefits that will far exceed those provided by the isolate.
Due to the legal status of THC in Europe, the CBD Full Spectrum must not exceed the limit quantity varying from 0.2% to 0.6% of THC, depending on the jurisdiction.
Broad spectrum CBD
Broad spectrum CBD is a blend of the CBD isolate and full spectrum CBD.
Similar to full spectrum CBD, broad spectrum CBD is produced by extracting all the cannabinoids and terpenes from the plant; however, it then undergoes an additional process to completely remove all THC from the extract.
By removing THC from the extract, broad spectrum CBD can provide most of the benefits of full spectrum CBD, without strict legal regulations.
Whole plant extract
Whole plant extracts are often confused with CBD Full Spectrum; however, they are not the same.
Although both extracts contain a full range of cannabinoids and terpenes, whole plant extracts undergo less processing than full spectrum extracts and may contain other naturally occurring compounds in the plant, including fats, fibers, vitamins and other nutrients.
Ultimately, whole plant extracts will produce the most powerful entourage effect, however, they are generally regulated by the same laws as THC.
The evolution of cannabis through artificial selection
But to this first comparison, we must add the fact that the cannabis plant has evolved much faster thanks to artificial selection: probably because we know that cannabis has a psychoactive utility (medical or recreational), we interested in breeding the strongest varieties of this plant.
Whether this activity is due exclusively to THC or to increasingly complex interactions with other cannabinoids, the grower has always cared little about it, of course: it is not necessary to understand the exact chemical process to seek more and more powerful varieties.
For additional protection, the average THC concentration in the weed has increased these last years. This fact alone gives us an idea of how artificial selection can modify genetics with astonishing speed.
Either way, it's important to keep in mind for all of these examples that research is still in its infancy.
There are more than 100 cannabinoids in the plant, but if we also consider terpenes and other substances, we will discover that each cannabis plant contains more than 400 different chemical compounds, which opens up a huge range of possible combinations than we still don't know how they work.
With this article, I have tried to give an introduction to what the entourage effect is and the best known examples so far.
To repeat, the entourage effect remains an unproven theory. But as terpenes and new cannabinoids become objects of intrigue for consumers, we are likely to find more research on the horizon.