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What Is The Entourage Effect? More On How It Actually Works.

Date 1st Apr 2021

What Is The Entourage Effect? More On How It Actually Works.

There's a theory in plant medicine called synergy.

This is the concept that the naturally occurring compounds of an herb work together to produce stronger effects. Because when one compound is isolated, it becomes weaker.

The two most common compounds studied for their therapeutic benefits to the human body are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

However, there are over 100 known cannabinoids and hundreds of other phytochemicals produced in cannabis. These beneficial compounds are concentrated in the sticky, shiny spikes of resin sprinkled all over the buds, leaves, and stems of mature cannabis Sativa plants.

The entourage effect is the term that describes this synergy with cannabis-based compounds. In this theory, cannabinoids work better together rather than in isolation.

Is the entourage effect real? And if so, how do we take advantage of the entourage effect? We'll get into all of this and then some in this article.

Who Discovered The Entourage Effect?

Dr. Shimon Ben-Shabat and Dr. Raphael Mechoulan are the two scientists credited with discovering the complex relationship of cannabis compounds on the endocannabinoid system in 1998 that would be later called the entourage effect [1]. However, synergy in plant medicine has been acknowledged in ancient Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine [2].

It wasn't until 2009 that the term "entourage effect" took hold with Dr. Gudrun Ulrich-Merzenich and Professor Hildebert Wagner's published research on the entourage effect and apply to therapeutic use.

The entourage effect in cannabis has four overarching qualities:

  1. Minimizes adverse effects
  2. Works on many different areas within the body
  3. Improves the body's ability to absorb the compounds
  4. Helps to overcome bacterial defense mechanisms [3]

CBG Oil Broad Spectrum on a wooden table

Cannabinoids In Hemp Entourage Effect

Cannabinoids are the primary active compounds in cannabis plants. It's what's extracted to make CBD oils.

THC and CBD are the leaders of the entourage effect as they're produced in larger concentrations.

Still, other minor cannabinoids such as CBG, CBC, and CBN contribute their own set of benefits and interact with THC and CBD to improve the absorption or mitigate potential side effects.

Let's discuss some of the key cannabinoids found in hemp and how they contribute to a full spectrum entourage effect's profile.

Cannabidiol (CBD)

CBD is the primary therapeutic compound in the hemp plant.

Its most notable role in the endocannabinoid system is to inhibit the breakdown of internally produced cannabinoids (endocannabinoids), 2-AG, and anandamide.

CBD also activates receptors, including the opioid pain receptors and the vanilloid receptors regulating the pain response and inflammation.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

THC is most famous for its intoxicating effects, which make it popular for recreational marijuana use.

The THC chemical shape is similar to that of endocannabinoids. It activates CB1 and CB2 receptors to change serotonin levels.

Most CBD oils that are derived from hemp may only contain up to 0.3% THC by weight. It's not enough to produce a high, but it's enough to encourage the entourage effect with CBD.

Cannabigerol (CBG)

Cannabigerol is the newest cannabinoid to receive a lot of attention for its potential therapeutic use.

CBG is also called the parent cannabinoid and it's the precursor to CBD and THC.

CBG may block some of the intoxicating effects of THC and may produce stress-reducing functions similar to CBD.

Cannabinol (CBN)

Cannabinol is a byproduct of THC.

As THC breaks down in older hemp plants, it's converted into CBN. It's found to be mildly psychoactive only in very high doses and has been found to exhibit calming and relaxing benefits.

CBD Oil

Terpene Entourage Effect

What are terpenes? Terpenes are plant-produced aromatic oil compounds that comprise only 3-5% of the dried cannabis plant by weight [4].

They're not only found in cannabis but all over the plant kingdom. In fact, there are over 20,000+ known terpenes.

In cannabis alone, there are roughly 120 identified terpenes.

Terpenes evaporate in very low temperatures, which means that a lot of care goes into manufacturing high-quality CBD extracts containing a diverse terpene profile not to destroy them in the processing. Terpenes are the easiest way to identify a strain without putting the plant under a microscope.

These terpenes give distinct characteristics to flavor and often smell reminiscent of other plants such as citrus, blueberries, or herbs.

How Are Terpenes Therapeutic?

How Are Terpenes Therapeutic?

Outside of the cannabis world, terpenes are responsible for the benefits of aromatherapy. Terpenes may also play a role in how cannabinoids interact in our system and change the CBD oil experience.

Depending on the terpene profile, your CBD oil may make you feel more energized, drowsy, counteract the side-effects of THC sensitivities, and can even boost your mood.

For example, limonene is a popular terpene found in cannabis and citrus fruit. It's what gives the distinct citrus scent, and it's been found to make you feel happier and energized overall. 

What's The Difference Between Terpenes And Cannabinoids?

When we're looking at the molecular structure of cannabinoids and terpenes, they're not that different. Some terpenes have even been found to interact with the endocannabinoid system similar to cannabinoids.

The main difference between them is that cannabinoids aren't responsible for the plant's flavor profile, and cannabinoids are, of course, the main players in the endocannabinoid system.

Let's get into some of the most common terpenes found in hemp and some of their effects:

Myrcene

Myrcene is the most common terpene found in cannabis — some strains have up to 60% of a myrcene terpene profile.

Myrcene is a delicious smelling terpene that's also found in mangoes, basil, and lemongrass. It's what gives a plant it's the earthy-sweet scent and flavor.

The way myrcene behaves in the entourage effect is that it contributes to the relaxing properties of CBD.

Limonene

Limonene has a bright, energizing citrusy aroma, and it's also found in citrus fruits. Limonene has an uplifting effect that may make you feel more stimulated and put you in a better mood.

Pinene

Alpha and beta-pinene are terpenes found in, you guessed it, pine needles and rosemary. It has a characteristically herbal flavor profile.

Both alpha and beta-pinene are suggested to have anti-inflammatory properties and can contribute to a more energized and alert sensation.

Beta- Caryophyllene (β-caryophyllene or BCP)

Beta-Caryophyllene is most known for its anti-inflammatory benefits. It's also found in black pepper — responsible for the herb's spiciness.

Interestingly, BCP binds to CB2 receptors in the peripheral nervous system. The CB2 receptor plays an important role in regulating the immune response and supporting healthy levels of inflammation [5].

Other popular terpenes in hemp include:

  • Alpha Bisabolol
  • Alpha Terpineol
  • Alpha Humulene
  • Borneol
  • Linalool
  • Geraniol

CBD + CBG Oil Full Spectrum

How Can You Tell If Your CBD Is Full Spectrum?

There are two main forms of hemp extracts available on the market — CBD isolate and full spectrum extracts.

The distinction between these two types of extracts is important because only one of the two will produce the entourage effect.

CBD isolates are pure CBD. They've undergone multiple steps in processing to remove all other plant esters, cannabinoids, and terpenes to get pure CBD.

Some manufacturers will try to add beneficial terpenes to their CBD isolate product. Still, it's nowhere near to the same level of intricacies of a natural full spectrum oil in terms of the synergy it can provide.

CBD isolates are popular because they're cheaper to work with. Manufacturers can produce large quantities of CBD isolate without worrying about persevering temperature-sensitive terpenes. CBD isolate products also guarantee that there are no traces of THC.

Full spectrum CBD oils contain a wide range of cannabinoids, terpenes, fatty acids, and esters from the hemp plant.

Will You Still Get The Entourage Effect Using CBD Without THC?

If you want a THC free CBD oil product but still want the benefits of the entourage effect, consider broad spectrum oils.

Broad spectrum CBD contains a variation in cannabinoids and terpenes but have gone further filtration to isolate and remove THC.

It may produce some beneficial effects thanks to the diverse cannabinoids. Still, it won't provide the same levels of a full spectrum entourage effect.

What Does The Entourage Effect Feel Like?

What CBD feels like is different for every person, depending on several factors, including their age, genetics, lifestyle, and health condition.

The most notable difference between full spectrum CBD oils and isolate CBD is the potency.

Full spectrum oils will be stronger for the same dose because other compounds present that improve the absorption of CBD and exert effects on their own. You won't need as high a dose of full spectrum CBD to get the same effects as CBD isolate products.

Many people also report fewer side-effects using full-spectrum CBD oils. Luckily, the side-effects of CBD oils are mild and short-term. Some adverse effects may include nausea, headaches, diarrhea, and drowsiness.

Another distinction between CBD isolate and full spectrum, particularly with oils, is that full spectrum oils tend to have more flavor naturally, thanks to various aromatic terpenes.

CBD isolate oils don't have much of a natural flavor on their own.

CBD Bundles

The Takeaways: What is the Entourage Effect?

The entourage effect is a term that describes how the terpenes, cannabinoids, and other phytonutrients work together to yield significant effects.

You can think of this phenomenon as similar to an orchestra performance. All the instruments work together to produce a full and cohesive sound, which will be far richer than one instrument could produce on its own.

Full spectrum and broad spectrum CBD oils can produce the entourage effect.

If you plan on incorporating CBD oils into your health regimen as part of a treatment for a condition, we strongly recommend speaking with your health professional beforehand to make sure it's suitable for you and that no compounds would interfere with any of your current medications.

Interested in learning more about CBD and its health benefits?

You can find more science-based articles like this on our blog.

Resources:

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/...
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC49406...
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19211237/
  4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/...
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC54122...
Katrina Lubiano
Katrina Lubiano

Katrina Lubiano is a content writer in the health and wellness space based in Vancouver, Canada — Canada's epicenter for cannabis culture. When she's not working, she enjoys sailing, watercolor painting, and cooking.