The entourage effect is an increasingly popular topic in the growing world of medical cannabis. It refers to the idea that the various compounds within the cannabis plant—terpenes, cannabinoids, and other compounds—interact synergistically to provide a more robust therapeutic effect than any of them could provide on their own. This phenomenon has been explored intensively in recent years, as researchers investigate the complexity of these compounds’ interactions and how they might be leveraged for therapeutic benefits.
As the medical marijuana industry continues to expand across the nation, we are becoming increasingly cognizant of how the various compounds present in cannabis interact with the human body. From THC, the primary psychotropic agent, to cannabinoids such as CBD and CBN and their associated health benefits, as well as terpenes which impart unique flavor and aroma profiles – all of these components combine to form what is known as the entourage effect. This term refers to the synergistic relationship of these components resulting in a singular, cumulative effect that occurs when they interact with our endocannabinoid system.
The entourage effect explains why different cannabis strains can induce a range of diverse effects ranging from increased appetite to relaxation. As such, it is important to understand what exactly the entourage effect is and how it works. In order to elucidate this concept further, let us take an in-depth look at what makes up this phenomenon.
The entourage effect is primarily composed of cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids that exist naturally within cannabis. Cannabinoids are chemical compounds produced by cannabis that are responsible for affecting various biological processes within our bodies. Of these compounds, THC is perhaps the most widely known due to its ability to induce psychotropic effects; however there are over 100 cannabinoids found in cannabis with various activities including regulation of appetite, mood, and inflammation. On the other side of the equation are terpenes – organic hydrocarbons composed of a combination of hydrogen and carbon atoms that are responsible for imparting unique scent and flavor profiles on cannabis (e.g., skunky or fruity). Lastly, flavonoids consist of a family of plant pigments that have antioxidant properties while also providing color and flavor variations in cannabis strains.
The interaction between these compounds can cause reactions that can have beneficial or adverse effects depending on the strain being consumed or administered. For instance, THC has been shown to be a competitive negative allosteric modulator of cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1) – meaning that it decreases its capacity to bind with certain neurotransmitters – while CBD is actually a non-competitive antagonist for CB1 receptors meaning that it does not interfere with THC’s capacity for binding but rather provides a protective effect due to its neuroprotective properties. Additionally, some terpenes such as pinene and beta-caryophyllene have been found to counterbalance anxiogenic effects caused by THC while also contributing anti-inflammatory benefits when paired with CBD. Thus, while each compound has its own individual properties, they exhibit an enhanced effect when combined together due to their synergistic relationship within the entourage effect.
Another interesting aspect of the entourage effect pertains to cannabigerol (CBG) – a cannabinoid that acts as a precursor for other cannabinoids including CBD and THC. Through various chemical reactions CBG will convert into other active cannabinoids; thus it has been suggested that CBG’s presence may be essential for providing balance in order for cannabinoids such as CBD and THC to produce their desired effects within our bodies.
In addition to cannabis, it is important to note that other plants commonly used for medicinal purposes also contain multiple active compounds with varying activities; one example being turmeric which contains curcumin – an anti-inflammatory agent which has been shown to be more bioavailable when combined with piperine (a terpene found in black pepper). Similarly frankincense has been found to contain pinene, linalool and octanol which have demonstrated topical anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties when used together.
Ultimately then while much remains unclear regarding the intricacies behind interactions between cannabis components; what we do know is that this phenomenon known as the entourage effect is responsible for producing unique effects depending on each strain employed and helps explain why certain strains may be better suited than others for treating certain conditions or ailments.