Greentank’s Guide To The Entourage Effect
What is the Entourage Effect?
Comprising over 100 discrete cannabinoids and more than 200 different terpenes and flavonoids, cannabis is one of the most complex and least understood plants on earth. While we have a basic understanding of how the herb works, scientists are still trying to determine what the majority of its compounds do and how they interact with each other. One theory that cannabis scientists generally agree upon is that these chemical compounds produce more robust and desirable effects when they work in concert. This synergistic process, known as the “entourage effect”, was first discovered by Israeli chemists Shimon Ben-Shabat and Raphael Mechoulam in 1998.
Cannabinoids and the Entourage Effect
The concept is best exemplified by the peculiar way that ∆-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) interacts with its cannabinoid cousin, cannabidiol (CBD). When ingested in its purest form, THC is known to cause feelings of intense paranoia, anxiety, nausea, memory loss and heart palpitations. We experience many of these unwelcome sensations because of the way THC interacts with, and activates, certain receptors in our brains and endocannabinoid systems. CBD, however, functions as a check and balance system for THC. It targets these same receptors in our bodies but blocks them instead of activating them, minimizing the potency of THC’s less desirable effects.
Cannabinoids are just one type of cannabis compound that factors into the entourage effect; terpenes and flavonoids also play a major role.
Terpenes and the Entourage Effect
Some terpenes, such as myrcene, help facilitate the binding of cannabinoids to receptors in the endocannabinoid system, in addition to providing analgesic and antimicrobial effects. Other terpenes, like pinene, have anti-inflammatory, antitumor, and antibiotic agents, and are known to reduce some of the cognitive-impairing effects espoused by THC. When terpenes are combined with one another, and with dozens of other cannabinoids and flavonoids, many different effects and sensations can result. This explains why discrete cannabis strains that contain similar levels of THC and CBD, but varying terpene and flavonoid compositions, produce such a wide range of effects in users.
The Entourage Effect and Full Spectrum Products
The entourage effect likely also explains why pure CBD isolate is not nearly as effective in treating most ailments compared to when it is combined with other cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids. Take, for instance, the puzzling relationship of CBD and epilepsy. Even though the cannabinoid has been proven to possess antispasmodic qualities, a considerable number of American and Canadian parents have reported that CBD isolate does not effectively treat their children’s epilepsies. Conversely, parents who have added trace amounts of THC to their children’s prescribed CBD isolates have reported much higher antiepileptic success rates. Although these claims are anecdotal, they do appear to be substantiated by some scientific studies.
In 2017, Dr. Fabricio Pamplona and Dr. Ana Carolina Coan compared the efficacies of treating epileptic children with both pure CBD and CBD-rich extracts by examining seven CBD studies conducted between 2013-2016. The doctors discovered that CBD-rich extracts containing CBD and other cannabis compounds were nearly twice as effective as pure CBD at reducing seizures. The doctors also found that CBD-rich extracts were three times as potent as pure CBD, as well as three times less likely to produce adverse side effects in patients.
It should be noted that despite the promising scientific research, the entourage effect is still just a theory — one that needs considerably more testing and verification before it can be considered a fact.