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The Entourage Effect

The entourage effect is a concept in relation to the therapeutic effects of cannabis. It suggests that the combined action of various compounds found in the plant, such as cannabinoids and terpenes, produces a more significant and beneficial effect than they do individually.

Cannabinoids are chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant, with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) being the most well-known. Terpenes form the essential oils found in various plants, including cannabis, that contribute to the plant's aroma and may also have therapeutic properties. For example, the terpene linalool is the active chemical component found in lavender, and its aromatic properties have been known to lower stress and anxiety since the times of ancient Egypt.


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At the root of the theory, it's believed there are numerous benefits from both cannabinoids and terpenes. Typically, CBD is used to help treat seizures, depression, inflammation, mental health conditions, and migraines. Whereas THC has potential benefits in treating conditions such as glaucoma, muscle spasticity, low appetite and insomnia. Some may use both cannabinoids in the treatment of nausea, anxiety, and pain.


Terpenes have many of the same reported benefits. Recent research has made great strides in uncovering the many therapeutic benefits of terpenes like relaxation, reducing stress and anxiety, boosting energy and creativity, as well as pain and inflammation relief.


The entourage effect proposes that the interaction between cannabinoids (both major and minor ones) and terpenes, as well as other compounds, creates a synergistic effect that enhances the overall therapeutic impact of the plant. In other words, terpenes may influence

the way cannabinoids interact with the body's endocannabinoid system, potentially modulating their effects.


Research suggests that the entourage effect may contribute to the diverse range of effects reported by individuals using whole-plant cannabis products compared to isolated cannabinoids. Some argue that consuming cannabis in its natural, unprocessed form with a full spectrum of cannabinoids and terpenes may provide more comprehensive benefits. "We see evidence of this in a wide range of lab studies but also in the experiences of consumers," explains medical cannabis expert and double-board certified Dr. Dave Gordon, M.D.


While we know that that humans have used cannabis as both a sedative and anti-inflammatory medicine for over 1000 years BC, its scientific study has been largely held back due to its years of persecution. "There are so many compounds that are valuable beyond CBD and THC including other cannabinoids like CBG, CBC, CBDA, and THCA as well as the terpenes and flavonoids in the plant," Gordon explains. "Deciding on the best combination (of compounds) requires having an intention of what you're trying to achieve and speaking with a cannabis-trained health professional."


It's important to note that while the entourage effect is a widely discussed concept, research is ongoing, and the mechanisms and extent of this phenomenon are not fully understood. It may surprised you to learn that over 100 potentially active phytocannabinoids have been discovered, but their detailed pharmacological properties await more testing and a deeper understanding. Additionally, individual responses to cannabinoids and terpenes can vary, and more research is needed to establish their specific contributions to the overall effects of cannabis.


So, while we can only say with authority that the entourage effect is a hypothetical theory - it's fair to say that the theory- has legs. We can state emphatically that when terpenes are combined with cannabinoids, the pain-relieving effects are amplified without an increase in negative side effects (compared with either compound alone). Plus, the benefit of avoiding adverse effects associated with more traditional pharmaceutical antidepressants and mood stabilizers while treating mood disorders can't be ignored. A review from a 2011 issue of the British Journal of Pharmacology found that the combination of phytocannabinoids and terpenes could be beneficial for conditions such as pain, inflammation, anxiety and epilepsy.


Finally, a more recent 2018 study from the National Library of Medicine collected further data defending the benefits of the entourage effect and supporting the theory. These studies and others provide a firm foundation for cannabis synergy and support for botanical drug development vs. that of single compounds, thus further supporting that the whole plant does it better.



Cited Sources

Powell, Jamey. "The Entourage Effect: What It Is & How To Get It." Mind, Body, Green Health, 16 May 2023.


Russo, Ethan. "Taming THC potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoidterpenoid entourage effects." British Journal of Pharmacology, 12 January 2011.


Russo, Ethan. "The Case for the Entourage Effect and Conventional Breeding of Clinical Cannabis: No "Strain," No Gain." National Library of Medicine, 9 January 2019.


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