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What is the Entourage Effect? How the compounds in cannabis work together

by | Apr 13, 2022

The Entourage Effect might sound like a cool name for a blockbuster movie or indie rock band.

But it’s actually one of the most interesting scientific discoveries about medicinal cannabis in recent times.

The Entourage Effect is the theory that all natural compounds in cannabis work together, and when taken together, they produce a superior effect than when taken alone.

It asserts that cannabis works best when it’s used the way nature intended — as a whole-plant medicine.

In this article we will dive deeper into how the Entourage Effect was discovered, what it means for medicinal cannabis users, and the science behind the theory.


Exploring the Entourage Effect

The Entourage Effect was first proposed in 1998 by Raphael Mechoulam, a chemist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

His theory was simple: The naturally-occurring cannabinoids in mice may be more effective in the presence of other complementary compounds.

Over time, the theory expanded to include the cannabinoids in cannabis and how they work in the human body.

Whole-plant cannabis contains more than 100 different cannabinoids with THC and CBD being the most well-known.

But the plant also contains a vast array of terpenes, flavonoids, essential fatty acids and other compounds.

Scientists believe all of these compounds work together to enhance the overall effects of cannabis in the body.

Research has already found that CBD can help counteract the “negative” effects of THC.

So it stands to reason that there are other synergies between the hundreds of compounds in the cannabis plant.

While the Entourage Effect may seem logical, there is little to no robust scientific evidence to support the theory.

So what does the theory mean for medicinal cannabis and the doctor and patients who are prescribing and using it?


The Entourage Effect and medicinal cannabis

The Entourage Effect is similar to the idea of drug interactions, which all doctors and pharmacists are familiar with.

For example, we know that vitamin C can help with iron absorption, which is why most iron supplements contain vitamin C.

And studies have found that ACE inhibitors enhance the effects of diuretics in the treatment of hypertension.

While these drug interactions are not the same as the Entourage Effect, medical professionals understand that chemical compounds can have synergistic effects.

This is partly why some of the most widely-used medicinal cannabis products contain a 1:1 ratio of THC:CBD — because there’s an understanding that they work together.

There has been very little research into the lesser-known cannabinoids in cannabis and the many other compounds that may have therapeutic effects.

For example, early research suggests the cannabinoid CBC may have anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties.

What if the presence of CBC enhances the effects of THC and CBD?

The terpene limonene has been found to have energising and uplifting effects. What if part of its role is to counteract the drowsiness associated with THC?

There are countless potential synergies that require more research.

But the main thing you want to know is, what role does the Entourage Effect have in choosing which medicinal cannabis or CBD product to use?


Full spectrum and broad spectrum cannabis

If you want to explore the potential of the Entourage Effect in the treatment of your health condition or symptoms, you’ll need to use a “whole plant” medicinal cannabis product.

Full spectrum medicinal cannabis contains all of the plant’s compounds, including cannabinoids, terpenes, bioflavonoids and essential fatty acids.

However, full-spectrum CBD must contain less than 0.3% THC, which is not enough to make you feel high or stoned.

Broad spectrum cannabis also offers the possibility of the Entourage Effect, however it doesn’t contain any THC.

The Entourage Effect won’t apply to medicinal cannabis products that contain pure CBD or THC.


The way nature intended

The Entourage Effect theory is a nod to the natural intelligence of the cannabis plant.

It proposes that the best way to use cannabis is as nature intended — with all of its organic compounds working together.

Medicinal cannabis companies are already experimenting with unique strains that aim to enhance the synergies between specific compounds.

And as the interest in terpenes and less-known cannabinoids continues to increase, the science will follow.

There are many factors that go into choosing the best cannabis medicine for your situation and full-spectrum products won’t be right for everyone.

As always, we recommend talking with your doctor about the right medicinal cannabis product for your health condition.

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