One marker of alternative medicine is the use of the whole plant in treating ailments instead of isolating the active ingredient. When it comes to the cannabis plant, CBD and THC get the most attention. However, this plant has much more to offer than these compounds with over a hundred other cannabinoids.
Most people believe taking these compounds together instead of alone is more beneficial. A theory called the entourage effect. The debate about entourage effect is more complicated than you may think.
As with most things concerning cannabis, researchers are beginning to explore how cannabinoids work together. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the entourage effect.
What is the Entourage Effect?
Let’s start by answering the question: what is the entourage effect?
Research shows that the cannabis plant has over a hundred different phytocannabinoids. Phytocannabinoids are chemical compounds that interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS works to maintain homeostasis or keep your body in balance.
The two more researched cannabinoids are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Companies create different products with both CBD and THC together. But, you can also find CBD-only and THC-only products.
Some studies suggest that taking both together, with other cannabinoids and terpenes, is more beneficial. The theory that using cannabinoids together is more effective than taking them alone is called the entourage effect.
What Research Shows
Research shows that consuming phytocannabinoids and terpenes together may provide more therapeutic benefits. Scientists have studied different health issues in relation to the entourage effect.
For instance, there’s a review of studies published in the British Journal of Pharmacology. This review found that taking phytocannabinoids and terpenes together may help in the following conditions:
- Fungal infection
In addition, some research studies show that CBD may help reduce the unwanted effects of THC, such as sedation and anxiety. Just like most things about the cannabis plant compounds, the entourage effect is only a theory. Therefore, there is a need for more research studies.
That doesn’t mean that the entourage effect is non-existent. It only means that there are not enough studies yet, so more research is needed.
Which Compounds are Involved in the Entourage Effect?
The cannabis plant has hundreds of cannabinoids. Three main groups of compounds contribute to the entourage effect, and they include:
There are over 150 phytocannabinoids in cannabis. Six main cannabis compounds include THC, CBD, CBG, CBC, CBN, and THCV.
THC: THC is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis. It’s the most prominent compound in this plant and has different effects such as analgesic (painkilling) and appetite stimulant.
CBD: Unlike THC, CBD is non-intoxicating. It’s another prominent compound in cannabis and is widely known for its therapeutic effects. Some properties of CBD include anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-anxiety, and anti-seizure effects.
CBG: CBG, short for cannabigerol, is a parent cannabinoid. It’s also referred to as the parent cannabinoid because other cannabinoids are derived from its acidic form, CBGA. CBG has antibacterial properties and may also play a role in regulating sleep and relieving pain.
CBC: Cannabichromene, or CBC, is the third most prominent compound after THC and CBD. Some of its properties include antiviral, antidepressant, analgesic, and bone growth stimulation.
CBN: Cannabinol is mildly psychoactive and a byproduct of THC. Like THC, it can stimulate the appetite. Unfortunately, CBN is not as well-researched as THC, so there is only a little knowledge on its benefits. Some of the few studies show it has anti-inflammatory effects, improves sleep, and relieves pain.
THCV: It is psychoactive in high doses but anti-psychoactive in low dosages. It has anti-inflammatory and appetite-suppressing properties.
Terpenes are the substances that give the cannabis plant its unique smell and also add to its flavor. There are over 200 terpenes in cannabis, including limonene, bisabolol, myrcene, and beta-caryophyllene. Terpenes work together with cannabinoids for additional therapeutic benefits.
Flavonoids are another group of compounds that contribute to the entourage effect. These compounds give the cannabis plant its flavor, color, and smell. Also, they are essential for the reproduction of cannabis because insects and animals are attracted to the color of cannabis. Flavonoids are known to have antioxidant and neuroprotective properties.
What is the Entourage Effect in CBD?
What is the CBD entourage effect? We’ve seen that CBD is only one of many beneficial compounds in cannabis.
When you combine CBD with THC, minor cannabinoids, and other cannabis compounds, you can achieve greater therapeutic benefits.
While CBD and THC may work better together, you must remember that people respond differently to cannabis. Also, everyone’s goals and health needs are different. You can experiment with CBD plus other cannabinoids and CBD alone to see what works for you.
Ways to Experience the Entourage Effects
Let’s look at the different forms of CBD in today’s market that you can use to experience the entourage effect. You’ll notice that we omitted CBD isolate. The reason is that it doesn’t offer an entourage effect. During production, manufacturers remove all the chemical compounds leaving only cannabidiol to create a CBD isolate product.
Full-spectrum CBD is a perfect choice if you want a product that will give you most of the compounds in the cannabis plant. These products retain a full spectrum of cannabinoids, including an amount of THC. Hemp-derived CBD products contain less than 0.3 percent THC. So, if you want to avoid the psychoactive effects of THC, go for hemp-based full-spectrum products. Generally, a full-spectrum CBD contains CBD, THC, minor cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other phytocannabinoids.
Whole Plant CBD
Although most people believe full-spectrum products are the same as whole plant CBD, there are key differences. For instance, a whole plant product has compounds such as waxes, fats, and some substances you may not find in a full-spectrum product. Whole plant CBD is a less refined version of full-spectrum oil. One of the downsides of whole pant products is the taste. Most users report that this type of CBD doesn’t have a pleasant taste.
Another form of CBD that you can use to experience the entourage effect is broad-spectrum. This type of CBD contains a range of cannabinoids and chemicals present in the hemp plant. All these work together for additional benefits. Broad-spectrum CBD is similar to full-spectrum. But the difference between them is broad-spectrum doesn’t have detectable levels of THC. Typically, a broad-spectrum CBD is THC-free. However, some may have trace amounts of THC, which are non-detectable during lab testing.
Why Doesn’t the Entourage Effect Happen in CBD Isolate?
The answer to why the entourage effect doesn’t happen in CBD isolate is because it contains only CBD. CBD isolate products have one compound, which is CBD. It doesn’t contain any additional compounds from the hemp plant which can work together to create an entourage effect.
Cannabis compounds work synergistically. These synergies between the compounds are only possible in products containing more than one cannabis component.
THC & CBD: The Most Well-Known Cannabis Entourage Effect
The most cited case of the entourage effect is the relationship between CBD and THC. THC binds to the CB1 receptor in the brain, and it’s known to get the user high. But, CBD uses a different mechanism to achieve its effects.
When you consume CBD and THC together, CBD reduces the psychoactive effects of THC. It achieves this by modulating the CB1 receptor to which THC binds. By doing this, THC then binds weakly to CB1. As a result, the consumer feels less high compared to when they take only THC.
Understanding the interaction between CBD, THC, and CB1 receptors gives you an idea of how the entourage effect works. At this receptor, THC works as an agonist. That means, when you take THC, it acts as a key to unlock the receptor and bind to it. CBD doesn’t function as an agonist of the CB1 receptor. However, it competes for the site where THC binds at the receptor.
As mentioned earlier, taking CBD and THC gives THC fewer receptors to activate. So this reduces some of the potential side effects of THC, such as paranoia and anxiety.
Potential Health Benefits
Let’s look at the benefits of the entourage effect. There are cases where you need only one single cannabinoid to achieve the desired result. However, cannabinoids generally work best when consumed together and create the entourage effect.
For example, CBD may help reduce the unwanted effects of THC when you consume both. Also, since you’re combining different powerful compounds, a broad spectrum of cannabinoids increases the benefits you get.
Tips for Getting the Most from the Entourage Effect
The bottom line is to know how you can get the most from the entourage effect. Here’s how to get the entourage effect and maximize it:
The simple way to go about that is to seek CBD products that offer diversity in chemical makeup. So, you want to choose products with varying cannabinoid profiles, such as full-spectrum CBD oils and CBD pastes.
On the other end, we have products like CBD isolate oils and CBG crystals. Moreover, the level of processing a product undergoes can impact its entourage effect.
Other tips for getting the most from the entourage effect include:
- Taking cannabis products alongside fatty meals to increase the absorption rate
- Maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercise, as these help boost your body’s cannabinoid production
- Trying out different consumption methods, from oil tinctures to topicals
The cannabinoids and terpenes present in the cannabis plant are known to interact with each other. This interaction may lead to additional health benefits, a theory known as the entourage effect. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that a full-spectrum product is far superior to an isolate.
Some evidence exists to support that makes cannabinoids work better when you consume them together rather than alone. But, the entourage effects remain only a theory. There’s a need for more research into the cannabis plant, its phytocannabinoids, and potential benefits.