The cannabis plant holds complexities beyond what we currently understand. Researchers know that the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). In addition to THC, there are a myriad of other cannabinoids and terpenes that science has less of an understanding about. The entourage effect is a theory that the other compounds from cannabis, including cannabidiol (CBD) commonly found in hemp flower and a range of compounds that are not well-known to most consumers, alter the psychoactive effect of the plant. It’s this effect that many believe is the true reason CBD hemp flower in its raw form is such an effective therapy. Online companies such as Cannaflower exclusively sell only hemp flower for this very reason, it tends to be the most potent form of delivering CBD because of the entourage effect.
Why The Entourage Effect is Important
Here’s why the entourage effect is potentially important: CBD and other cannabis compounds could mitigate the psychotic effects of THC, reducing its negative impact on the body and making it more useful therapeutically. Conversely and complementing this, the micro doses of THC that are contained in hemp flower might be necessary to fully appreciate the benefits of the CBD. This means that THC, CBD and all of the other compounds in cannabis may have the greatest beneficial effects with the least side effects when used in combination.
Researchers have also found that there are a range of terpenes – or volatile oily compounds – in the hemp flower and other Cannabis sativa plant varieties. Many of them are reported to have specific therapeutic effects. Terpenes may actually be at least partially responsible for the overall mood of a specific cannabis flower. They have not all been studied for pharmacological effects, however.
Research On The Entourage Effect
Today’s uses of cannabis products for medical purposes, including CBD hemp flower products, may only be scratching the surface of the plant’s usefulness. Smoking or vaporizing the cannabis plant introduces hundreds of compounds into the body, many with specific effects and potential benefits that are not completely understood. It seems likely that these compounds may interact in ways that are not understood either.
Research has shown some allegorical evidence to indicate complex interactions. A 2010 study, for example, showed that when cancer patients were given a combination of THC and CBD, they had less pain than those who were given THC alone. This study and most others have not taken into consideration the many other cannabinoids that were present in the combined treatment, including CBC, CBN and aromatic terpenes.
The entourage effect theory has been described in a review of studies written by pharmacologist and neurologist Dr. Ethan Russo, a longtime researcher of cannabis compounds. He detailed the benefits of certain cannabis compounds and described potential complementary or synergistic effects of these compounds.
Russo found, for example, that CDG and CBD have been shown to inhibit MRSA staph infections, but questioned in his research how they might work even better when combined with pinene, a specific terpene. He also asked if certain terpenes could increase the ability of the other compounds to permeate the skin.
THC, CBD and these other terpenes in combination could work together to better help induce sleep or address inflammation and pain than THC alone or only THC and CBD with no other compounds.
Other potential synergies Russo noted in his research include these:
- Pinene, a pine-scented terpene, could help prevent memory issues associated with THC.
- Caryophyllene, a peppery terpene, could help treat addiction when used along with CBD.
- Limonene, a citrusy compound, might work alongside CBD to help reduce anxiety.
- The cannabinoid CBN could cause beneficial sedation when used with THC.
The entourage effect is a theory that’s only partially proven, but additional research is likely as consumers learn about the possibilities and become more interested in concrete evidence.
Not All Products Are Alike
Not all cannabis products on the market can provide the benefits of the entourage effect. That’s because synergistic compounds are often refined out of them as they are purified and prepared for consumers. This is intentional and often done for compliance purposes, but it may prove to be a bad idea for some therapeutic uses.
Hemp flower and other cannabis flower products contain the widest array of terpenes and cannabinoids because they are raw products. Still, some extracts also contain a variety of these compounds. Such products are called full-spectrum or broad-spectrum cannabis extracts and can include vape cartridges, ingestible capsules, dabs and more.
Refined cannabis products that don’t contain the full spectrum of compounds are called isolates and may contact only THC or CBD. These single-compound products still provide powerful medicinal benefits that shouldn’t be overlooked, but the greatest potential may lie with broad-spectrum products. Many isolates and broad spectrum products may simply fall short in providing the full benefits of therapy because components of the whole plant’s compounds have been removed.
While more research is needed, the implications of the entourage effect are clear: The cannabis plant holds many secrets that researchers have not yet uncovered.