Cannabis Entourage Effect: Fact or Myth?
It’s no wonder that many people—like you and me—are now more willing to try cannabis and hemp products such as CBD.
Among a ton of hot topics surrounding the cannabis culture, the so-called entourage effect is a subject of bewildering scientific disagreement.
Cannabis enthusiasts believe there’s enough anecdotal evidence and promising early data to prove that the many active compounds present in cannabis plants need to work as a team to reach their full potential. Naysayers, on the other hand, see this theory as a pipe dream and dismiss it as unproven.
So, is the entourage effect real or folk’s wisdom? Does teamwork beat individual talent in terms of cannabis?
Those are important questions if you‘re looking to get the best bang for your buck out of your cannabis and hemp products. Understanding the entourage effect and the role of the cannabis compounds synergy, will more likely help to fulfill that goal.
Let’s get started.
Table of Contents
Understanding The Entourage Effect
For a long time, we’ve known that cannabis, specifically marijuana get us high, and if you are a seasoned user you may have noticed the variations of effects from one experience to another.
This particularity draw the attention of Israeli Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, who “breaking the law” started to study cannabis when he was a medical student. In 1964 he isolated and synthetized the chemical responsible for the mind-altering effects of cannabis, the infamous THC.
Other compounds like CBD were found in this plant, but the naughty effects of THC got preponderance of research back then.
His work and posterior scientific findings, like the first cannabinoid receptor and the discovery of a system in humans that interact with cannabis compounds—the endocannabinoid system—led Dr. Mechoulam to coin the term entourage effect.
The entourage effect describes how all the chemicals found in cannabis work better interacting with each other as a whole rather than in isolation.
Nowadays, legalization has awakened a boom in cannabis research, a field in which only a few scientists were able to conduct proper investigations due to decades of pointless prohibition and stigma.
Dr. Ethan Russo, Director of Research and Development for the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute (ICCI), has been conducting medical research with cannabis for more than 20 years outside the US. He is a strong supporter of the entourage effect theory.
Dr. Russo has found evidence of synergistic interactions between the many compounds of cannabis.
He describes synergy as a boosting of effect, which means that synergy not only makes the compounds work perfectly together amplifying their therapeutic effects but also counteracting the adverse effects of each other.
Let’s catch a glimpse at the cannabis history.
Cannabis & Humanity
It’s not surprise that humans and cannabis have been friends since the dawn of times, whether for rituals or as medication.
Cannabis is one of the first plants harvested by humanity. The first reported usage case took place in China around 2700 years BC when the Emperor Shen Neng used cannabis-based tea to help with a range of health conditions.
There’s evidence of the use of cannabis as a medicine in Egyptian mummies. In India, cannabis has had a “sacred status” for millennia, it’s considered a divine gift from the gods. In fact, Atharvaveda manuscripts describe how CBD-rich cannabis seeds and flowers were used in Ayurvedic medicine.
The Romans used cannabis to relieve pain, to relax contractions of the joints, and to cure gout and similar maladies.
In America cannabis has an interesting history. Doctors and pharmacists prescribed it as medicine up until the 20th century.
Then in 1937 all changed…..When Harry J. Anslinger, chief of the U.S. Bureau of Narcotics, looking to make a name for himself, declared his personal war on marijuana.
After “reefer madness,” lots of dishonest scaremongering and prejudice, the once “sacred plant” was rebranded as a “national menace.”
And things got even worse, in 1970 cannabis was listed as a schedule 1 drug and officially banned of any use, which has heavily restricted scientists to conduct proper research.
Unfortunately, decades of prohibition, made us lost a lot of knowledge about the health qualities of this fascinating plant.
Fortunately, commonsense returned in 1996 when California was the first state in the union to allow marijuana for medical use. But the real renaissance of cannabis started on November 6, 2012, when Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize its recreational use.
As of today, after the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp is legal in the 50 states while recreational marijuana is accepted in 11 states and legal by a doctor’s order in 33 states of the union. But marijuana still remain illegal under federal law.
Cannabis Is Much More Than Just a Plant
Cannabis is a family of plants, home to CBD, THC and also many more chemicals—over 400 chemical compounds actually—that can have a myriad of different ways to impact the human body.
THC is the compound that makes you high and what classifies cannabis as hemp or marijuana. That, in turn, indicates that hemp contains less than 0.3% THC while marijuana contains more than that.
These compounds that make cannabis strains potent, unique and effective include cannabinoids, terpenoids, flavonoids, and omega fatty acids.
Among all the compounds present in this plant the most relevant are terpenes and cannabinoids. Each cannabinoid and each terpene has a specific biochemical effect on the body, which makes this wonder plant astonishing complex and also give it a paradoxical nature.
Cannabis can be addictive, but it also has the potential to fight addictions, some cannabinoids can make you anxious and paranoid, while others can help you feel calm and composed. Isn’t it fascinating? This plant is wonders never ceasing.
The Power of Cannabinoids
The psychoactive effects of cannabis drew researchers’ attention during the last century and led to the discovery of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the early 1990s. This is considered one of the major breakthroughs in medical science in recent years.
A well-operating endocannabinoid system responds by synthesizing cannabinoids.
Thus, cannabinoids bind to receptors in the Endocannabinoid system, specifically the CB1 and CB2 receptors. Through these interactions, they regulate things like mood and immune function.
Cannabinoids are lipid-based neurotransmitters, classified as endocannabinoids, phytocannabinoids and synthetic cannabinoids.
Let’s break them down.
These are the cannabinoids that your body produces, “endo” means originating inside the body.
They interact with cannabinoid receptors to modulate functions such as mood, appetite, pain, and sleep, among others.
Also known as cannabinoids. These are compounds found mostly in cannabis. Experts have identified over a hundred that can affect the functioning of the nervous system and overall the human body.
When consumed, they work like any other neurotransmitter that interacts with specific receptors in the body, particularly the Endocannabinoid system’s receptors.
These are chemicals produced in labs to act like the primary psychoactive chemical in cannabis THC. They’re mostly used as recreational drugs, and their effects—good and bad—are similar to THC.
But they appear to be more dangerous and toxic than they’re therapeutic.
Synthetic cannabinoids are more linked to hallucinations than naturally occurring cannabinoids.
Check out this brief overview of the most researched cannabinoids.
As scientists continue their pursuit in gaining more information about how powerful this plant is, they have isolated and identified over 120 cannabinoids.
The stars of the party are THC and CBD, but recently CBN, and CBG are gaining traction in the researchers’ labs.
So, what these acronyms stand for?
THC is the most studied cannabinoid and the main psychoactive component in marijuana. THC is not just the evil molecule that gets you high.
It has anti-inflammatory properties, helps reduce pain perception in the brain and is neuroprotective. It also has the potential to relieve the side effects of chemotherapy.
CBD is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid, found mostly in hemp, it helps stimulate your endocannabinoid system to produce higher amounts of endocannabinoids.
It’s believed that CBD has many therapeutic applications such as:
- Muscle Relaxant
- Pain Reliever
CBN is produced when THC is heated or exposed to oxygen, which makes it a THC byproduct with mildly psychoactivity.
It has powerful sedative effects and also helps to relieve seizures, anxiety, nausea, and inflammatory changes.
This non-intoxicating cannabinoid is present at low levels in most cannabis strains. Is called “the mother cannabinoid” because THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids start out as its precursor CBGA.
CBG has been shown inhibits cancer cell growth promotes bone growth and is also a potent antibacterial.
Cannabinoids are remarkable compounds on its own but together they can be more versatile and powerful. As Dr. Russo expresses, some pathologies can’t be dealt with a single cannabinoid and require a synergistic boost of more cannabinoids.
According to a 2015 study, the therapeutic synergy between cannabinoids is superior that a single one in isolation. Researchers compared a whole cannabis extract vs isolated CBD and found that the whole plant extract was way more potent and supplementing with it requires a lower dose.
Both CBD and THC have outstanding therapeutic qualities that combined are a match made in heaven.
CBD can enhance the anti-inflammatory, pain-killing and neuroprotective attributes of THC while lessening its mind-altering effects. As CBD magnifies the healing properties of THC, a lower dose is appropriate.
CBG same as CBD has anxiolytic effects, so they may be a great team to calm a chaotic mind.
In a 2013 Italian study CBG was shown to have strong anti-inflammatory attributes, which again makes it a perfect match with CBD qualities.
CBN is the most sedative among all cannabinoids, it’s even more potent than valium. Early data shows that CBD and CBN together can provide a greater sedative synergy.
We may conclude that this team is perfect for sleep aid and anxiety, but more robust evidence is needed to prove it.
Synergy between CBD and CBN has also potential to relieve pressure related to glaucoma, as well as antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
These two are probably not a good match. CBN as a byproduct of THC has shown to increase its unappealing effects.
CBG can partially lessen the heady highs produced by THC, and also boost its anti-inflammatory properties.
The synergies between cannabinoids deserve attention, science is starting to decipher all the possibilities they have to offer to improve our health.
These investigations reinforce the belief that combining cannabinoids may expand the positive effects of each one, reduce adverse effects, and produce less toxicity.
Let’s hope for a sooner legalization of all cannabis plants that allows more research about this wonderful plant and its compounds.
Now let’s move on to the terpenes zone and how they team up with the cannabinoids.
Cannabinoids & Terpenes Teamwork
While Cannabinoids are mostly found in cannabis, Terpenes are part of many plants including spices, herbs, trees, and fruits. They’re aromatic compounds that make each cannabis strain unique, giving them their distinct smell, color and flavor.
They can enhance the “high” from marijuana while also spark a lot of therapeutic benefits. Definitely terpenes are changing the cannabis industry and our understanding of the plant as a whole.
There are over 200 terpenes in the cannabis plant, these include Myrcene, Pinene, Limonene, Caryophyllene, Linalool, Humulene to name a few.
Now that you have a better grasp about cannabis and its components, let’s get back at Dr. Russo and his investigations.
He has addressed conditions like anxiety, depression, dementia and drug addictions among others in his research.
About the potential synergy between phytocannabinoids and terpenes, he found:
Linalool has soothing and anti-anxiety properties, the combination of this terpenoid with CBD may boost each other benefits.
Linalool combined with myrcene and caryophyllene may increase the effects of CBD and CBN to treat insomnia.
Caryophyllene, myrcene, and pinene together may also be helpful for dealing with addictions.
The combination of linalool and limonene with CBD is a promising aid for acne treatment.
Linalool along with limonene and pinene can enhance the positive effects of THC in Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.
There are countless possibilities to combine all the cannabinoids and terpenes that cannabis offer. We just need further research that confirms all the potential benefits of this synergies.
With all this preliminary data and testimonials why many scientists still see the entourage effect as a sham?
Terpenes & CBD: The Best Team to Fight Anxiety
Believers vs. Naysayers
As featured above, the entourage effect concept is a source of controversy among scientists. While some vouch for it, many still dismiss this concept as unproven because the lack of hard-scientific evidence about cannabinoid-terpenoid interactions to prove it.
There’s no way to say anything conclusive yet and most of it comes down to a few studies and anecdotal evidence.
But why aren’t anecdotes and testimonials from thousands of people enough evidence? Because of the placebo effect.
Let me elaborate.
In clinical trials, researchers compare placebo vs real cannabis. Placebo cannabis doesn’t have the active cannabinoids THC and CBD, thus it looks and smells like the real thing, placebo won’t get you high or cause you the side effects related to cannabis, so it’s easy for people to figure out if they’re taking real or placebo.
There’s another placebo downside, if you believe smoking a real bud will give you an amazing mind experience or if you think taking a THC placebo pill will make you paranoid, you more likely will feel that way. People who expect good outcomes are more likely to see benefits and vice versa. That’s how powerful the placebo effect is.
The plain fact is, the entourage effect remains a mystery, a lot of studies are yet to be proven. Science still needs to catch up with folk’s wisdom and anecdotes. Thankfully many researchers continue their journey to discover all the therapeutic possibilities that cannabis components have to offer.
Well, that’s enough good food for thought, now you may be wondering, why is the entourage effect important?
Why Should You Care About the Entourage Effect?
The Cannabizz have increasingly paid attention to the entourage effect as a way to market and sell products.
Did you know there are three different types of CBD on the market?
They’re classified depending of the extraction. You can find, full and broad-spectrum and isolated CBD.
Full-spectrum extracts contain all the compounds you can find in the plant, including small traces of THC, that’s why they’re also called “whole plant” extracts.
These extracts are suggested to be more powerful than isolates because of the entourage they provide.
Full-spectrum works wonders for certain ailments but might be too much for others. When you take it, different cannabinoids activate several receptors in your body.
This way you’re consuming the compounds beneficial for your condition but also others that might be unnecessary or even adverse for your needs.
Like your DNA plays a key role in how your body responds to cannabis compounds—and many people are sensitive to THC—broad-spectrum formulations are sometimes a more effective approach.
These formulas contain all components of full-spectrum minus THC. So, if you wanna play safe but yet still get the entourage benefits, this is your best bet.
This is the purest form of CBD, in which all other plant compounds and cannabinoids, have been completely removed. Isolated CBD is typically obtained from Hemp because of its very low THC-content.
This is the best formula for individuals with sensitivity to THC and for beginners.
YOU KNOW THE OPTIONS, BUT YOU STILL WONDER....
WHICH CBD IS BETTER?
All right, as everything in the complex world of cannabis, there’s not a simple answer. The optimal CBD type and dosage varies from one person to another and identifying the right one for you requires some self-experimentation.
The only way to establish the efficacy of each spectrum at an individual level is through trial and error.
It would be appropriate to find the guidance of a trusted health practitioner if you’re new to CBD.
A Quick Wrap-Up
I strongly believe that cannabis compounds like CBD have a huge potential to impact and change people’s lives in a very positive way, are you ready to give it a go? Your thoughts matter, please share some in the comments below.