This intriguing phenomena may carry some long awaited answers…
On the outside we see an earthy-toned plant with large, pungent buds emitting a surreal glistening that delicately refracts light when the sugar leaves are at just the right angle. This is the cannabis plant. We may see it as one manifestation on its surface level, but if we look a little deeper the truth of the plant begins to shine a bit brighter. These glistening sugar leaves, the ones that make up those aromatic buds, are actually packed full of more than 80 cannabinoids and even more terpenes.
On a molecular level, there’s a whole lot going on in the cannabis plant – far beyond what we perceive with our eyes at a glance, and certainly more complex than what we already know and understand about it. Marijuana is not just THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol); it’s literally hundreds of other things, and the superb quality and multidimensional abilities of cannabis indeed are not solely due to the presence of THC and CBD.
In this article, we dig deep to answer the question of “what is the entourage effect.” Like we said the cannabis plant is an astoundingly complex crop, and though we have identified the functional roles of some of its most important compounds, it seems we have only scratched the surface in terms of what’s really going on inside it.
Keep reading to discover what the “entourage effect” is with our thorough explanation…
What Is the “Entourage Effect”?
The term “entourage effect” has been used to describe the synergistic manner in which the more than 80 cannabinoids and 100+ terpenes work together to produce the healing magic that cannabis is so widely recognized for. Specifically, the entourage effect combines the ability of these various compounds that helps to neutralize and minimize the psychoactive effects of cannabis, which could possibly be too intense in reality to stand alone.
When the separate components present in cannabis stand alone, they aren’t nearly as strong or effective as when combined together. This teamwork is greater than the sum of all the individual parts, hence the term “entourage”, which means a group of people surrounding and supporting another main individual. Fitting, right?
What Is an Applicable Example of the “Entourage Effect”?
One of the easiest examples of the “entourage effect” in action is when taking a look at the pharmaceutical medication Sativex. Although Sativex has not been approved in the US, it is on the market in the UK. Sativex contains especially high doses of THC, and at around 48 mg is far beyond the limit for most individuals (it is possible for people to experience toxic psychosis after only 10 mg of THC). Somehow, though, research shows that only 4 out of 250 patients utilizing Sativex had an episode of toxic psychosis, which is defined by paranoia and a substance-induced disconnect with reality.
Even if the numbers show that this should not be the case, why does the evidence so clearly say otherwise? This is when the “entourage effect” comes into play.
Sativex is not only composed of potent doses of THC, it also has an equal quantity of CBD. Many accounts have expressed that CBD actually possesses anti-psychoactive properties, which assist to counteract the psychoactive effects of a component like THC.
The synergy between THC and CBD is in essence what makes Sativex work, and is why the drug is so beneficial for certain medical conditions. In other words, it is not simply due to the THC by itself, which could actually be potentially dangerous in such large quantities, but also to the presence of other natural compounds in the plant.
Evidence of the “Entourage Effect”
Making claims about the entourage effect is one thing, but we all know that nothing in the medical/scientific world is ‘true’ until proven by research. And while there have not been tons of studies done on the topic, the few that have been executed show quality evidence confirming the “entourage effect” is, in fact, a very real thing.
Moreover, there are plenty of accounts from individuals who have had personal experiences that all seem to say the same thing: weed works better as a medicine when it’s used full-spectrum, rather than just using the isolated compounds (like pure THC or CBD) by themselves.
One study released way back in 1981 provided some of the first evidence confirming the existence of the entourage effect. The study expressed that the whole plant extracts from the cannabis plant produced 330% more activity when compared to THC on its own. The scientists on this study released a hypothesis that the cannabis plant may have “inhibitor” and “synergist” compounds, which would make sense when considering many of the anecdotal accounts.
Moreover, regarding the claims of THC and CBD working together, a much older study back in 1976 showed that when 15 subjects were administered large doses of THC and CBD, 11 (over 73%) of them reported that their high seemed stronger when THC alone was administered versus when both were administered in combination. Even if this evidence is not completely conclusive, it does help to support CBD’s balancing abilities a bit better, and ultimately the general function of the entourage effect.
And to be clear, there are MANY other active compounds other than THC and CBD in marijuana that play key roles in the entourage effect. Aromatic terpenes like linalool, pinene, and myrcene for example are crucial cannabis components, as are flavonoids and other phytocannabinoidslike THCA, CBC, CBG, and CBGA, just to name a few.
Moreover, in addition to Sativex other synthesized THC drugs like Marinol do exist, which are also sometimes prescribed to medical patients for specific conditions. Because this pharmaceutical is a synthetic recreation of the THC cannabinoid, it is not extracted from the actual plant itself and thus does not include the terpenes or other cannabinoids present in whole-plant extracts.
Additional research released in 2011 surveyed 953 individuals who were asked questions about their marijuana-based medications and medical marijuana practices, and a massive amount of them – around 98% – reported preferring all-natural medical marijuana over marijuana-based medications such as Marinol. In fact, ask almost any medical patient who has used both “synthetic weed” drugs and the real thing, and nearly every one of them will tell you that the former (i.e. ‘regular’ marijuana) is much more effective and produces far fewer side effects.
Even though this is not solid clinical evidence that the “entourage effect” is an observable thing, it does show that THC alone doesn’t seem to satisfy medical patients in the same way that the more “well-rounded,” full-spectrum options do.
Why Is the “Entourage Effect” Useful?
Understanding that all th