Understanding the cannabis "entourage effect".

Contents:

Most cannabis users are familiar with the two main cannabinoids: THC is what gets you high, and CBD is non-psychotropic.

But it is now believed that the specific effects of cannabis—including therapeutic effects—aren’t just due to a single cannabinoid in isolation, or to cannabinoids in general for that matter.

In fact, it is the combination of chemical constituents in cannabis that give it its full potential; this theory is known as the “entourage effect”.

WHAT IS THE ENTOURAGE EFFECT?

The entourage effect is the proposed mechanism by which substances in cannabis work synergistically to exert distinct effects.

In lay terms, the entourage effect claims that the cannabis phytocomplex (the group of chemicals in cannabis plants) is more effective in unison than it is when one chemical is used in isolation.

As an example, let’s look at how THC interacts with CBD. Taken alone, THC has the potential to exert its full range of psychoactive effects, including side effects like anxiety and paranoia.

CBD, on the other hand, is believed to mediate the “psychoactive ceiling” of THC, making for a milder high with less potential for anxiety.

Here, THC and CBD work in concert to provide what many cannabis users believe to be a more balanced effect.

The Entourage Effect

THERE’S MORE TO CANNABIS THAN CANNABINOIDS

The entourage effect goes far beyond the interaction between THC and CBD, though. It is also thought that other cannabis compounds play a key role in the plant’s full profile of effects.

TERPENES

Secondary to cannabinoids, terpenes are suggested to play the next-largest role in the entourage effect.

Terpenes are aromatic compounds in cannabis that act as natural insect repellents and give cannabis its characteristic smell. They are also found in many other plants, flowers, and fruits.

Linalool, for example, is a terpene with a lavender and citrus scent. This terpene is thought to have a sedating effect, and may amplify the relaxing effect of CBD.

Likewise, the terpenes α- and β-pinene, which give cannabis a pine forest-like scent, are also thought to have therapeutic properties. The list goes on...

CANNABINOIDS

Cannabinoids are chemical compounds that act chiefly on the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a network of cannabinoid receptors found throughout the body of mammals and other animals.

Internal cannabinoids—"endo"-cannabinoids—are produced by the body to help regulate various physiological functions. But, the system can also be greatly influenced by “phyto”-cannabinoids—those from the cannabis plant.

THC and CBD are the most well-known, although there are dozens of other cannabinoids in cannabis.

It appears that cannabinoids may be influenced by terpenes. Seeing how every cannabis strain has at least a slightly different composition of terpenes and cannabinoids, the entourage effect might explain why particular strains display distinct effects.

Yet, we are still in the early stages of research when it comes to fully elucidating the various substances in cannabis, so it’s unclear exactly how individual terpenes might interact with various cannabinoids.

Components
Cannabigerol (CBG)
Cannabichromene (CBC)
Other Cannabidiols (CBD)
Other Tetrahydrocannabinols (THC)
Cannabinol (CBN)
Cannabinodiol (CBDL)
Cannabicyclol (CBL)
Cannabielsoin (CBE)
Cannabitriol (CBT)
Nitrogenous compounds (27)
Amino acids (18)
Proteins (3)
Glycoproteins (6)
Sugars and related compounds (34)
Enzymes (2)
Hydrocarbons (50)
Simple alcohols (7)
Aldehydes (13)
Ketones (13)
Simple acids (21)
Fatty acids (22)
Simple esters (12)
Lactones (1)
Steroids (11)
Terpenes (120)
Non-cannabinoid phenols (25)
Flavonoids (21)
Vitamins (1)
Pigments (2)
Other elements (9)

HOW IS THIS BENEFICIAL FOR US?

The entourage effect opens up new approaches to using cannabis not just recreationally, but for medicinal purposes in particular.

In the past, the terpene profiles of cannabis strains weren't considered relevant, outside the realm of scent and taste. Now, terpenes are becoming star molecules in their own right, and have definitely caught the attention of breeders and manufacturers of cannabis medicines and supplements.

As an early example of the possibilities provided by the entourage effect, let’s look to the first commercial, FDA-approved cannabinoid medicine, Sativex, a medication for MS spasms.

The producers of Sativex found a composition of both THC and CBD, alongside various terpenes and flavonoids, to be more effective in relieving symptoms than one cannabinoid in isolation.

HOW IS THIS BENEFICIAL FOR US?

STUDIES ON THE ENTOURAGE EFFECT

How cannabinoids and terpenes influence and amplify each other has been relatively well-recorded in scientific literature.

The interaction between THC and CBD, for example, was demonstrated in a rodent study published in 2017[1], where researchers administered THC and CBD to mice.

The researchers found “that CBD synergistically enhances the pain-relieving actions of THC in an animal neuropathic pain model, but has little impact on the THC-induced side effects. This suggests that low dose THC:CBD combination treatment has potential in the treatment of neuropathic pain”.

As early as 2006, CBD was shown in human trials to mitigate some of the adverse effects of THC[2], implying synergy between the compounds. The researchers concluded that “the hypothesis that the combination of THC and CBD increases clinical efficacy while reducing adverse events is supported”.

There are also studies on the role of terpenes in this regard. In a study published in 2018, linalool[3] was found to produce calming and anxiolytic effects in mice, and it is thought that linalool may amplify the anxiolytic effects of CBD.

In lab tests, it was found that both α- and β-pinene displayed[4] synergistic antitumour properties alongside the chemotherapy medication Paclitaxel.

ENTOURAGE EFFECT CONTROVERSY

It bears mentioning that research in regards to the entourage effect is not conclusive. Considered a theory, not a fact, there is certainly evidence to support it, but some are cautious to credit cannabis with this ability.

Interestingly, a 2019 study[5] found that certain terpenes may not interact with CB1 or CB2 cannabinoid receptors as previously thought. This, in turn, suggests that the entourage effect, if it exists, works via a different mechanism, or by multiple mechanisms.

According to the study, “None of the six of the most common terpenoids in cannabis directly activated CB1 or CB2, or modulated the signalling of the phytocannabinoid agonist Δ⁹-THC. These results suggest that if a phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effect exists, it is not at the CB1 or CB2 receptor level”.

Furthermore, as isolated cannabinoids continue to flood the market, it invokes the question of which product is best for which scenario. Those sceptical about the medicinal potential of cannabis might be quick to refute the entourage effect, but data is mounting in its favour.

HOW IS THIS BENEFICIAL FOR US?

HOW THC AND CBD INTERACT

Now that you’re more familiar with the entourage effect, let’s revisit the relationship between CBD and THC. How is it that CBD seems to both “tame” the psychoactive effects of THC and enhance its beneficial qualities?

To start, CBD interacts with cannabinoid receptors differently than THC. Instead of binding directly to CB1 or CB2, it only modulates their activity.

Specifically, CBD works against the production of an enzyme that breaks down the endocannabinoid anandamide. In this way, CBD increases the amount and duration of this natural cannabinoid in the brain, but it doesn’t directly stimulate CB receptors.

Still, anandamide binds to CB1 receptors, so CBD does exert relevant indirect actions.

That said, when taken together, CBD is thought to weaken THC’s bond with the CB1 receptor, resulting in less of a psychoactive “high”. In particular, many users report less anxiety and paranoia when using a strain with a balanced CBD:THC ratio.

FULL SPECTRUM PRODUCTS

Given what we know about the entourage effect, it stands to reason that products containing a variety of cannabinoids and terpenes might be more effective than isolated THC or CBD products, for example.

Indeed, these “full spectrum” cannabis products, such as oils, tinctures, and other extracts, harness the best chemical compounds in cannabis while discarding the waxes, fats, and other unnecessary material.

Looking ahead, it appears that full spectrum products will continue to gain steam, in hopes of developing treatments that can be tailored to the individual.

Right now, some users have access to regulated cannabis products containing distinct ratios of CBD:THC alongside various terpenes. With different ratios available, users are more able to control their experience.

PUT THE ENTOURAGE EFFECT TO THE TEST WITH THESE 3 RQS STRAINS

If we’ve sparked your interest in the entourage effect, consider these three strains, each of which is packed with cannabinoids and terpenes.

MEDICAL MASS

Medical Mass is a strain that puts the entourage effect to work. As well as providing a variety of terpenes that deliver sweet and spicy aromas, it offers a balanced CBD:THC ratio of 1:1, with each molecule occurring at levels of approximately 10%. This molecular concoction produces a clear-headed effect that promotes a calm, motivated state of mind.

Medical Mass

Medical Mass

Medical Mass

Genetic background Critical Mass x CBD dominant plant
Yield indoor 500 - 550 g/m2
Height indoor 60 - 100 cm
Flowering time 7 - 8 weeks
THC strength THC: 10% (aprox.) / CBD: High
Blend 40% Sativa, 60% Indica, 0% Ruderalis
Yield outdoor 500 - 550 g/per plant (dried)
Height outdoor 120 - 150 cm
Harvest time Late September
Effect Relaxing and full of flavour
 

Buy Medical Mass

 

LEMON SHINING SILVER HAZE

Lemon Shining Silver Haze is a THC-rich cross between Lemon Skunk and Shining Silver Haze that is particularly high in the terpene limonene. This results in a sour, sweet, fresh, and skunky aroma as well as an energetic yet lucid effect. Euphoria and motivation will surge, without feelings of anxiety creeping in.

Lemon Shining Silver Haze

Lemon Shining Silver Haze

LEMON SHINING SILVER HAZE

Genetic background Lemon Skunk x Amnesia Haze
Yield indoor 425 - 475 gr/m2
Height indoor 80 - 140 cm
Flowering time 8 - 9 weeks
THC strength THC: 21% (aprox.) / CBD: Low
Blend 75% Sativa, 25% Indica, 0% Ruderalis
Yield outdoor 450 - 500 g/per plant (dried)
Height outdoor 130 - 170 cm
Harvest time Middle of October
Effect A combination of stoned + high
 

Buy Lemon Shining Silver Haze

 

OG KUSH

OG Kush is renowned for its strong high and dank aroma. The strain is massively powerful, backed by high levels of THC, medium levels of CBD, and humulene, a terpene found in various amounts in all cannabis varieties. Interestingly, remedies in ancient Chinese medicine were notably high in humulene. OG Kush delivers a high that is potent yet wholesome thanks to its balance of chemical constituents.

OG Kush

OG Kush

OG Kush

Genetic background Chemdawg x Lemon Thai x Pakistani Kush
Yield indoor 425 - 475 gr/m2
Height indoor 90 - 160 cm
Flowering time 7 - 9 weeks
THC strength THC: 19% (aprox.) / CBD: Medium
Blend 25% Sativa, 75% Indica, 0% Ruderalis
Yield outdoor 500 - 550 g/per plant (dried)
Height outdoor 180 - 220 cm
Harvest time October
Effect Relaxing and full of flavour
 

Buy OG Kush

External Resources:
  1. Cannabis constituent synergy in a mouse neuropathic pain model. - PubMed - NCBI https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  2. A tale of two cannabinoids: the therapeutic rationale for combining tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol. - PubMed - NCBI https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  3. Linalool Odor-Induced Anxiolytic Effects in Mice https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  4. Synergistic antitumor effect of α-pinene and β-pinene with paclitaxel against non-small-cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC). - PubMed - NCBI https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  5. Absence of entourage: Terpenoids commonly found in Cannabis sativa do not modulate the functional activity of Δ9-THC at human CB1and CB2 receptors | bioRxiv https://www.biorxiv.org
Disclaimer:
This content is for educational purposes only. The information provided is derived from research gathered from external sources.

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