Seasoned connoisseurs and newbies alike all know of the entourage effect. It makes for a medical breakthrough like no other. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the entourage effect is the synergistic relationship between cannabinoids, terpenes, and even flavonoids. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol and CBD, or cannabinoid, and all others add their own unique properties.
Also called “whole plant medicine,” it revolves on the assumption that cannabis, its many diverse compounds, can provide improved therapeutic benefits than isolated cannabinoids and compounds can on their own. It is the reason for both the efficacy and the effectiveness of cannabis as medicine. It is why “weed delivery near me” is fast becoming a leading query in search engines.
Understanding the Entourage Effect
The first time professors Raphael Mechoulam and Shimon Ben-Shabat pled case for the synergy of whole plant use was back in 1998. They argued that by increasing two main endocannabinoid activities, the body’s own endocannabinoids responded favorably to extracts from whole cannabis plants. This potent synergy also suggests why other whole-plant drugs are more effective than isolated compounds.
Today, the entourage effect is mainstream, absorbed into cannabis culture and marketed with abandon. However, what exactly does it entail? In light of current research and emerging evidence, how should we understand the entourage effect in modern medicine? A study frenzy has been analyzing the phenomenon. Researchers are studying specific compounds, even questioning if the hypothesis is real.
According to the findings of some studies, the mechanisms of action, those that drive the inner workings of the entourage effect, are proving more complex than advertisers would have you believe. To start, some cannabinoids clearly boost efficacy of other cannabinoids. THC, for example, can make CBD more therapeutically effective. Minor cannabinoids have their own contributory effects.
Do We Really Know Anything?
In a study published in Science Direct, scientists researched the effect of minor cannabinoids on breast cancer cells, both in animals and in vitro. Whole plant extract also treated epilepsy successfully, yet according to the study’s results, at a dose at least 20 percent smaller. Dr. Ethan Russo, medical doctor and research pioneer into the entourage effect, concluded that:
“Cannabis extract was much more effective than THC isolate in tumor kill and growth reduction. The synergy of the cannabis extract could be accounted for by the presence of significant quantities of cannabigerol, or CBG, and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid, or THCA, in the extract, compared to the THC alone.”
For some, however, much of the brouhaha surrounding the entourage effect is an overgeneralization. Some argue that the irrefutable evidence of CBD, for example, modulating the effects of THC at the primary receptor site proves the entourage effect real. It might also explain why THC is not especially effective when used on its own, and why whole-plant extract is always better.
However, the fuss about the entourage effect made in media, its hype, goes beyond existing evidence, some believe. Thought exists that some cannabinoids might be essential in order for others to work, such as CBD being non-absorbable on its own, without a carrier compound. All agree that the role of minor cannabinoids, such as CBG and THCA, in relation to major cannabinoids requires understanding.
This means that some compounds might play supporting roles in the action of THC, CBD, and others, but it does not mean they support other cannabinoids. As researchers debate these nuances, the entourage effect has been encouraging new thought. Some are now suggesting understanding the entourage effect as two distinct phenomena, even if some evidence supports inter- and almost none supports intra-:
The inter-entourage effect denotes interactions directly between cannabinoids and directly between terpenes. It refers to staying within groups.
The intra-entourage effect defines interactions between groups, such as between cannabinoids and terpenes. A cross-compound relationship.
Do Terpenes Have A Role?
Consensus is that terpenes are vital to the entourage effect. They are essential players. Critical. Without them, the entourage effect is meaningless. Studies into terpene-cannabinoid synergy have been very rare. Until now, science knew nothing. According to Frontiers in Pharmacology, terpenes may have little to do with facilitating the entourage effect whatsoever. No evidence shows them binding to receptors.
However, other studies in Liebert Publications show similar findings, that terpenes have no discernable effect on intra-entourage synergy, when cannabinoids and terpenes combine by interacting with different pathways in the body. Instead, Wiley’s Online Library shows common terpenes activating CB1 receptors, those responsible for inducing physiological effects, such as lower perception of pain.
By affecting CB1-specific responses, these terpenes clearly offer medicinal value. Despite this, not enough evidence exists to prove conclusively that terpenes contribute to whole-plant effectiveness. They are still therapeutic, though. Two exceptions exist. Myrcene, which is independently sleepy, and B-caryophyllene, which has its own pain control mechanisms.
How Real Then Is the Entourage Effect?
The question should not be if the entourage effect is real or not, science proves it is, but rather how we can better understand it. We have limited knowledge of the entourage effect and the interactions that make it. Insufficient data exists to make specific conclusions, recommendations, or more on cannabinoids or terpenes. However, that does not mean that whole-plant alchemy is not happening.
The mechanisms at work during the entourage effect are still under study. Clinically, products pure in CBD and THC isolate appear notably less effective than whole-plant extract. This suggests a definite involvement of other compounds in efficacy. We are yet learning exactly which, and how they work, both on their own and synergistically with others.
Even with some of the contradictory findings from some related literature, scientists remain steadfast in their assurance of its effects. “Despite the occasional failures to demonstrate entourage benefits that could be attributed to preparations that are not therapeutically optimized, the concept of the entourage effect is well established contemporaneously,” the study’s authors noted.
Mixed findings are also due to inconsistent quality standards in study samples. They stated, “It remains extremely challenging for consumers or their caregivers to access the most effective and highest quality cannabis-based medicines. This is only achievable by mandating that full analytical and safety information, including complete cannabinoid and terpenoid profiles via Certificates of Analysis on current batches, is available at point of sale. This will need to be coupled with better education on the pharmacological contributions of the various cannabinoid and terpenoid components.”
Fortunately, buds are available aplenty, all with rich cannabinoid and terpenoid profiles. Full spectrum oils and tinctures are also widely on offer, both online and at dispensaries. Simply search “weed delivery Los Angeles” in Google for your nearest provider. Alternatively, search “weed delivery near me” to find those operating in your particular area. Try whole plants, tasty buds, and try some isolates. Then decide.