Cannabis and the Entourage Effect: Why Whole Plant Medication Matters?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve most likely heard about the cannabis plant. In fact, if we’re honest with ourselves, few modern symbols are as iconic as the cannabis leaf. From an outside perspective, the average person most likely only sees an earthy-toned plant with large and pungent buds.
If you explore further into this cannabis bud, you’ll quickly notice that it’s covered in resin, which contains hundreds of therapeutic compounds known as cannabinoids and terpenoids. With the rise of medical marijuana, along with the increased awareness around marijuana, the cannabis industry is on a rapid trajectory upward.
The history of marijuana extends far beyond what the typical person would guess. In fact, cultivation of this plant dates back thousands of years with the first written account of cannabis cultivation (i.e. used as medical marijuana) found in Chinese records dating from the 28th century B.C.E. Marijuana is far from being a simplistic compound since it contains more than 60 molecules collectively known as cannabinoids. In addition to the cannabinoids, this plant also has non-cannabinoids.
While many individuals may well understand the effects of CBD and THC, these are merely two of the integral factors that work in conjuncture to produce an interactive synergy between cannabis compounds called the “entourage effect.”
What is the Entourage Effect?
The entourage effect was first assigned this term in 1998 by S. Ben-Shabat and Raphael Mechoulam. The entourage effect is a term to explain what happens when the many components and compounds of the cannabis plant interact with the human body in synergy. When this entourage effect is operating, more than 80 cannabinoids and over 100 terpenes work in unison to produce the therapeutic effects that cannabis is known for.
When you combine multiple chemical compounds together, the result isn’t the sum of all parts. Instead, you’re going to multiply the effects of those compounds resulting in the plant helping against a myriad of issues such as unwanted psychoactive effects.
Researchers are still discovering new things about cannabis along with learning more about the intricacies of the entourage effect. Even with so much left to discover, the entourage effect is very much a real thing with supportive evidence.
Evidence of the Entourage Effect
While there are still numerous unknowns about the effects of cannabis, there is some evidence about the usefulness of the entourage effect. When searching around for examples of the entourage effect, the pharmaceutical medication Sativex is a great example.
Sativex is available in the UK, but not in the U.S. just yet. The interesting thing about Sativex is that it contains high doses of THC, (around 48 mg). This amount of THC is way beyond the limit for the average individual, but the existing evidence of individuals using Sativex experiencing psychosis (which is possible at this high of a dosage) is low.
This is in part due to the entourage effect. While THC is certainly present, what is also present is CBD which has been expressed as possessing anti-psychoactive properties. While word of mouth is helpful to spread the word about cannabinoids, even better is having research to back up such claims of the entourage effect.
An example of the entourage effect dates back to a 1981 study appearing in the British Journal of Pharmacology found that whole cannabis extracts produced 330% more activity than THC alone. The concluding hypothesis was that cannabis contains “synergist” and “inhibitor” compounds.
Synergy vs Entourage Effect
To say something is synergistic is to state that the receptors and compounds in combination are greater than additive. With that said, referring back to Sativex, what leads to it working its magic is the synergy between THC and CBD. The entourage effect is crystal clear in its effectiveness when you compare pure THC to using the whole plant.
As we mentioned earlier, there isn’t just one active ingredient in cannabis. As of now, over 85 cannabinoids have been found to work in unison with THC to produce the relief (and sometimes sedative effects) that is often reported by cannabis users.
Cannabinoids and Terpenes Work Together
The diverseness of plant medicine is truly something to marvel at, especially when it comes to the cannabinoids receptors and terpenes receptors working together. Dr. Ethan Russo in this 2011 study in the British Journal of Pharmacology details that how CB receptors and compounds influence each other’s mechanisms.
In this paper, Dr. Russo identified three “synergies” between terpenes and cannabinoids. These three synergies happen to be treating acne, MRSA infections, and psychiatric illnesses.
This extends beyond the well-spoken THC and CBD pairing. Even trace amounts of the terpenes (which are the oils that give cannabis its smell) can make a difference. Aromatic terpenes such as linalool, pinene, and myrcene are important cannabis components just as flavonoids and other phytocannabinoids are.
Entourage Effect and THC
While many are clamoring about the entourage effect, there’s a contingency who only sees THC at work. THC along with CBD are the two main cannabinoids in marijuana. THC, out of all the cannabinoids is the most potently psychoactive. Sometimes it produces pleasurable effects and the other times aren’t so pleasurable. Once THC is metabolized and enters the bloodstream, it binds to the receptors CB1 and CB2, which are concentrated in the brain and central nervous system.
When it comes to the medical cannabis aspect, THC-only medicines primarily refer to synthetic renderings of it. The two most popular being Marinol (dronabinol) and Cesamet (nabilone).
CBD and the Entourage Effect
When it comes to the benefits of CBD regarding the entourage effect, it’s beneficial because it blocks the negative effects of THC. Some of those negative benefits being tachycardia, intoxication, and sedation. While blocks the negative aspects out, it will still enhance the positives.
This is the sole reason why Sativex is preferred over products containing only THC such as Marinol and Cesamet.
With that said, in this study published in March 1976 in Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, CBD was found to potentially reduce the psychoactive effects or natural “high” associated with THC. In that study, researchers administered THC along with a large dose of CBD. They found that 11 out of 15 subjects felt the “high” was stronger when they were given THC alone, suggesting that CBD reduced the psychoactive effects of THC.
This happens due to CBD being able to bind to different sites on the cannabinoid receptors which changes how responsive they are to THC. Even though there is evidence still needed to clearly establish the entourage effect, there is enough to already show that THC alone doesn’t produce as good of an experience for medical patients.
Why is the Entourage Effect is Useful
The first thing that comes to mind on the usefulness is bringing awareness and having a greater understanding of how to utilize the product in the best way. An easy example to bring to mind is the benefits of the terpenes (think scent and taste.) These terpenes alter the way these cannabinoids bind to their receptors, which alters the way they internally take effect.
Terpenes benefits include relieving pain, reducing inflammation, increasing sedation, and lowering anxiety and depression. When used in conjunction with cannabinoids, they are much more effective. This is beneficial for a slew of reasons.
The top reason is that researchers will be able to look at real-world feedback and gather data about specific strains and create cannabis products that are tailored to a specific issue. These possible cannabis strains would be able to revolutionize the industry.
Best Consumption Form for the Entourage Effect
If you’re convinced about the entourage effect and are looking for the best measures, then you should either look to smoke it, vape it, or take a full spectrum CBD oil.
As you go about your experience of deciding what to use, it’s important to be aware that a typical person responds better to a product that contains multiple cannabinoids as opposed to a single CBD isolate product.
If on the chance you want to try a single isolate product out, then it’s imperative to go with a reputable brand and opt for a full extract plant when you are looking for a quality CBD hemp oil. While a hemp plant is also part of the cannabis lineage, it’s not remotely related to marijuana. Think of those two being similar as lemons and oranges being apart of the citrus family but sharing very little else.
Is the Entourage Effect Real or Not?
Many things are still unknown when it comes to the cannabis industry. While the entourage effect isn’t a total hoax, it’s difficult at this time to say with 100 percent certainty that is a valid concept. More research is definitely needed on this particular subject.
But with all of this said, there is mounting (anecdotal) evidence coming in that will add more validity. But until double-blind studies are underway and subsequent results are shared, this will continue to be a hotly debated topic.
Regardless, the medical marijuana community is going to be an interesting industry in the coming future. If there is an inkling of the entourage effect being an absolute thing, then its benefits will be a tremendous asset starting with chemical profiling which will help doctors and patients find marijuana strains that produce the best benefits.