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The Entourage Effect


Few things in life are greater than the sum of its parts, warm pie and ice cream, butter and popcorn, and beer and friends – combinations that are simply better when together. 

When it comes to cannabis, this is no exception.

Recent research has gleaned that interactions between the cannabis plant’s hundreds of chemical compounds, including CBD, THC, other cannabinoids, and terpenes, combine to produce an effect that’s greater than their separate individual benefits.

This phenomenon is typically referred to as the ‘entourage effect,’ and it could have more implications for the consumption of cannabis and cannabis products than you might initially think. 

How Does the Entourage Effect Work?

entourage effect

In 1998, long before the legalization of cannabis in Canada, researchers Raphael Mechoulam and Shimon Ben-Shabat found that some botanical drugs were more effective when implemented together than their isolated, individual compounds.  

Basically, they argued that THC and CBD’s separate effects could “synergize” with other cannabinoids and compounds found within the cannabis plant to produce an even more beneficial effect than when consumed on their own. 

The medicinal and therapeutic implications for these findings are profound and could pave the way for use-specific cannabis products in the near future.

To understand how this synergy between cannabinoids, terpenes, and other cannabis compounds work, understanding how the endocannabinoid system (ECS) works is necessary. 

Our bodies are naturally wired to process cannabinoids through a biological network of receptors and neurotransmitters. This system helps maintain homeostasis within our bodies and maintains control over many bodily functions, including but not limited to our appetite, mood, and even pain management. 

entourage effect weed

In their report, Mechoulam and Ben-Shabat had argued that “the endocannabinoid system demonstrated an ‘entourage effect’ in which a variety of inactive metabolites and closely related molecules markedly increased the activity of the primary endogenous cannabinoids.” 

Essentially, they found that non-cannabinoids such as terpenes and flavonoids interact with cannabinoids, chiefly THC and CBD,  to produce greater and more nuanced effects within the endocannabinoid system. 

THC and CBD – A Dynamic Duo

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) operates through receptors and neurotransmitters located throughout our bodies. CB1 receptors within our ECS are primarily found within our immune and gastrointestinal systems, while CB2 receptors are found within the brain. 

CB1 is mainly responsible for regulating mood, appetite, and stress, while CB2 manages inflammation and organ function. 

Together, it’s been found that when CBD is taken alongside THC, the former’s effects can mitigate THC’s unpleasant side effects, but there’s more to the entourage effect than just cannabinoids.

Terpenes, Cannabis, and You

cannabis trichomes

A relatively new field of study, the role of terpenes and cannabis is still being investigated. Still, research has found that certain terpenes can interact with cannabinoids to produce a direct effect. 

A common tactic used amongst experienced cannabis users and passed down onto greenhorns is the chewing of black peppercorns to alleviate the uncomfortable symptoms of consuming too much cannabis. Chewing whole, black peppercorns are actually proven to provide relief to cannabis users suffering from a “green out.” 

An unusual tactic, to be sure, but its efficacy cannot be understated. These effects can be attributed to caryophyllene, a spicy terpene found in black pepper responsible for its aromatic spiciness. According to a 2011 British Journal of Pharmacology review, this terpene is also present in some cannabis strains. 

It’s been theorized that the unique molecular structure of caryophyllene allows the compound to bind to CB2 receptors and act as an agonist against THC’s effects. However, more research is needed to understand how terpenes and the ECS interact with each other. 

The entourage effect between terpenes and our ECS might also be a plausible explanation for the differences between Sativa, Indica, and hybrid varieties of cannabis. The difference in terpene profiles for each cannabis strain could be what modulates their different experiences instead of the plant type itself. 

The Entourage Effect and Cannabis 

Intensive research into the cannabis space and the effects of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other cannabis compounds on our bodies remain novel. Still, it’s clear that more action needs to be taken in order to understand the beneficial effects of cannabis. 

The entourage effect, and the ECS as a whole, plays an essential role in maintaining and regulating our health. For now, it seems that full-plant cannabis offers more than isolated cannabis compounds do individually. 

However, the space is ripe for more research into these interactions to fully understand just how important the entourage effect really is. 

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