When talking about cannabis and its effects on the human body, you may have come across the term “entourage effect.” But what does it really mean? And how would it benefit us?
The entourage effect is the mechanism or theory that various active compounds found in cannabis work together to create various effects on the body. And by cannabis compounds, we don’t just mean CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) – which are the two most popular compounds – but also other cannabinoids, as well as terpenes and flavonoids.
The entourage effect revolves around the idea that these various compounds work in synergy to alter or enhance the medicinal effects and overall characteristics of the plant. Moreover, through the entourage effect, the overall psychoactive effects of cannabis are modulated. A lot of those who work closely with cannabis say that the entourage effect can dramatically increase THC’s and CBD’s medicinal benefits as it amplifies the known effects of each one or expands its number if therapeutic applications.
If all of these still sound mumbo-jumbo to you, here is a much simpler explanation:
The “entourage effect” is when the components that are present in cannabis interact together and function in concert to produce a stronger effect than each one of them can. When these multiple compounds join together in their natural state, you get not only the sum of each part, but instead a multiplying effect.
With these compounds magnifying each other’s chemistry, cannabis becomes more potent and effective overall in terms of delivering medicinal benefits and relieving symptoms.
What Does the Entourage Effect Imply?
The entourage effect implies that cannabis is more effective in its natural state because this is when all its active components are present. This is when the concept of whole plant medicine comes into the picture, too. Whole plant medicine is a term that refers to medicines that utilize the full spectrum of compounds in cannabis.
Full-Spectrum Cannabis and the Entourage Effect
This means to say that full-spectrum cannabis is hinged on the concept of the entourage effect. Full-spectrum extracts or whole plant extracts make up the cannabis plant’s full profile. These extracts include a variety of cannabinoids like CBD, THC, tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCa), cannabidiolic acid (CBDa), cannabinol (CBN), and cannabigerol (CBG), plus other compounds such as terpenes, flavonoids, proteins, sterols, phenols, and esters.
In contrast, CBD-only or THC-only medicines process out these other therapeutic agents. The lesser-known cannabinoids and other compounds would have been helpful in enhancing CBD’s or THC’s medicinal value.
Taking cannabis is not just about benefiting from CBD or THC as single compounds by themselves, or taking advantage of the interaction between just THC and CBD. It is not just about CBD balancing out and regulating THC’s mind-altering effects.
The Interplay Between Cannabinoids and Terpenes
The wonderful thing about whole-plant or full-spectrum medicines is that they offer diverse chemical availability. For example, you have the cannabinoids and terpenes, which work together and influence each other’s mechanisms. Even small amounts of these compounds can significantly help deliver the overall therapeutic effects that you need and want.
Terpenes are responsible for the distinct aromas of cannabis and other plants.
Examples of How Terpenes Enhance the Therapeutic Properties of Cannabis
One good example is the terpene myrcene, which helps lower the resistance in the body’s blood-brain barrier. In other words, it helps facilitate the easier passage of beneficial chemicals throughout the system, via blood.
You also have the terpenes limonene and linalool. When combined with the cannabinoid CBG, these two show great potential in the treatment of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). MRSA is a bunch of gram-positive bacteria that can cause infections in humans that are difficult to treat. A terpene called pinene is yet another example. Pinene helps counteract the THC’s effect on memory and cognition.
CBD, when combined with the terpenes limonene and linalool could effectively treat acne. The terpenes myrcene, caryophyllene, and pinene also combine to help our body deal with anxiety. THC and another cannabinoid called CBN offer enhanced sedating effects.
These are just a few examples of how terpenes can help cannabinoids give the effects that CBD or THC is known for. It is like CBD and THC are always in the spotlight, being the lead stars in the show. But behind the scenes are all these production staff and crew that contribute to making a hit TV program.
Barely Scratching the Surface…
These examples barely scratch the surface, so to speak, when it comes to understanding the entourage effect. There’s still a universe of research and trials needed to grasp all the possible synergies that whole-plant components can make available. Just imagine all the possibilities that await the medical scientific community once the potentials of this synergy are unlocked. We can finally understand how the entourage effect helps in the treatment and management of pain, anxiety, inflammation, addiction, epilepsy, cancer, bacterial and viral infections, and many other conditions. And this broadened understanding could help us find ways to effectively utilize cannabis.
How Flavonoids and Other Compounds Could Help
The entourage effect does not just refer to the synergy between cannabinoids and terpenes. Another group of compounds found in plants and fruits also contributes to the overall therapeutic value of cannabis. These lesser-known compounds are called flavonoids.
Flavonoids actually make up about 10 percent of the compounds found in cannabis. The cannabis plant contains about 20 recognized varieties of flavonoids.
Flavonoids play a role in providing the unique qualities that allow us to differentiate between the strain varieties of cannabis. These various strains have their own unique odors and flavors.
The primary function of flavonoids is to give plants, flowers, and fruits their color pigmentation. They also possess properties that can also help amplify the health benefits of cannabinoids and terpenes.
Of course, aside from flavonoids, there are a bunch of other compounds that contribute to the entourage effect, too.