Cannabis and the Entourage Effect

You might have heard of the Entourage Effect in cannabis. But what does that actually mean. Let’s find out.

Each strain of cannabis has its own complexity consisting of over 500 compounds, 110 cannabinoids (like CBD), and phytonutrients including terpenes and flavonoids. These substances all work synergistically to create and preserve unique therapeutic effects and benefits, giving character and flavour to each strain of cannabis via a theoretical “entourage effect.”

Because of this harmonious interaction, research is doing its best to back the anecdotal evidence that the “entourage effect” enhances the medicinal properties within the human body, and that it can do so better than taking the highest quality THC or CBD alone.

How does the entourage effect work?

First, let’s understand the human endocannabinoid system (ECS). Our internal ECS is much like a network of cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoids, and metabolic enzymes densely packed into our brains and bodies. Cannabinoid receptors act as alpha receptors in our brains and maintain homeostasis by regulating critical bodily functions like sleep, hunger, memory, and inflammatory and immune responses, to name a few.

Plant-based phytocannabinoids, like those in cannabis, can bind to our cannabinoid receptors just as efficiently as human endocannabinoids. And some researchers credit CBD as a regulator or enhancer of THC’s stamina to bind with our brain’s cannabinoid receptors.

For example, a 2010 clinical study was conducted on a pain reliever, which included an equal ratio of THC and CBD, on cancer patients. Participants received the pain reliever, a dose of pure THC extract, or a placebo. The pain reliever resulted in giving 40% of the participants significant pain relief, which was twice the result of the pure THC cohort. This difference showed researchers that CBD was somehow increasing the pain-relief effect of the THC. That said, the entourage effect is still a theory and still needs stronger studies, as it’s complicated to precisely pinpoint the moving parts involved in this effect.

The entourage effect and terpenes

As you may know, each cannabis strain has its own fragrant compound because of what we call “terpenes,”and the cannabis plant produces more than 200 of them. But, they’re not all about taste and aroma (read “What are Terpenoid & Terpene Profiles” to learn more). As we stated earlier, plant-derived phytonutrients like flavonoids and terpenes, like cannabinoids, may also bind to our cells and receptors and, therefore, may also interact with our ECS and aid cannabinoids in entering the bloodstream.

Myrcene, for example, is believed to increase porosity across the blood-brain barrier and therefore increase the speed of cannabinoid absorption. Limonene is known for increasing serotonin levels, which can then help cannabis affect our mood, such as when we are feeling depressed or anxious, as stated in a study in 2013. And, a study in 2015 shows that when certain terpenes are consumed together, they can display synergistic anti-tumour properties on cancer cells in a laboratory.

The different ratios and benefits of the entourage effect

Dr. Ethan Russo is a neurologist and pharmacologist renowned for his studies of cannabis compounds and how they affect the body. In 2011, he published a review called “Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects,” which focused on phytocannabinoid and terpene interactions that could potentially synergize to benefit the treatment of pain, inflammation, depression, anxiety, addiction, epilepsy, cancer, and fungal and bacterial infections. Some of these potential cannabinoid-terpene synergies include: pinene for poor memory; CBD and caryophyllene for addiction; CBD and limonene for anxiety; and THC and CBN for sedating effects.

If you care to test this theory, a 1:1 ratio of THC to CBD is believed to be the golden to achieve a true entourage effect. Combining THC and CBD in this ratio might be the ultimate way to relax the body. As THC binds to receptors in our central nervous system CBD to receptors in our immune system, they can work together to cause a calming effect. And if you try this, please try this at home.