The Entourage Effect is one of the most overlooked, yet potentially important aspects in the field of the medical cannabis. Yet it remains overlooked and misunderstood. Well, not any more. Here’s the basics of what you need to know about the entourage effect and how it may benefit your health.
Cannabis – More than THC & CBD
The cannabis plant has over 400 distinct compounds, of which there are more than 120 different phytocannabinoids. These phytocannabinoids act on your endocannabinoid system, which works to keep your body in homeostasis, or balance. While most people only know of THC and CBD this plant has a variety of chemical elements including cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. It is the combination of these chemicals that create the entourage effect.
What Is the Entourage Effect?
The definition of entourage, refers to a group of people who attend to or surround an important person such as a celebrity. In the history of cannabis THC has always been the ‘celebrity’; however, the other compounds in cannabis play an important role in the medicinal uses of the plant. In 1998, Shimon Ben-Shabat and Raphael Mechoulam coined the term, the “Entourage Effect,” as a way to describe the synergistic and antagonist way the molecules affect one another. The term was then picked up by other scientists, including Dr. Ethan Russo, and used as an easy way to explain a complex process of how compounds work together. In short, the ‘Entourage Effect’ is the theory that all the compounds in cannabis work together, and when taken together, they produce a better effect than when taken alone.
The therapeutic effects of cannabis compounds come from their ability to bind with naturally occurring endocannabinoid receptors in the brain and central nervous system in our bodies. The human endocannabinoid system is designed to link with naturally occurring cannabinoids produced by the body, but compounds found in cannabis plants can bind with these receptors just as efficiently.
You’re likely already acquainted with the plant’s two most famous compounds, THC and CBD, but cannabis is far more than just these 2 compounds. According to the theory of the entourage effect, by preserving the variety of compounds that are inherent in the cannabis plant like terpenes, flavonoids, and other cannabinoids including THC, CBC, CBG, or CBN, and minor cannabinoids, you can increase the therapeutic benefits of the plant.
Researchers and cannabis breeders who work closely with cannabis believe the entourage effect can create promising effects that can dramatically increase the medicinal uses of THC and CBD, by expanding their therapeutic applications that would otherwise not be present in pure THC or CBD.
Mowgli Holmes, a geneticist and founder of Phylos Bioscience stated that “cannabis breeders are using genetics to make that process more precise and efficient. We have a huge set of cannabis genomic data that will, hopefully, allow us to ID genetic markers associated with chemical results and certain patient outcomes.” Holmes hopes breeders might eventually be able to generate cannabis plants or products that are personalized to each individual patient’s needs.
Where the Science is Headed
More discoveries are being made and more research is being conducted as medical marijuana patients in dozens of states and countries expand access as an alternative to pharmaceuticals and scientific research.
With the legalisation of cannabis happening around the world, cannabis cultivators are looking to the latest research and studies to better understand how they can improve their crops by emphasizing other cannabinoids besides THC and CBD. The entourage effect is thoroughly described in a review called “Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects,” by Dr. Ethan Russo—a neurologist and pharmacologist who has long studied cannabis compounds and how they affect the body.
The late Dr. Lester Grinspoon, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and former senior psychiatrist at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center in Boston, Massachusetts, stated that, “With greater understanding of how major and minor cannabinoids and terpenes interact, you end up with what could be described as an “Ensemble Effect. I think that the ensemble is a better idea than entourage, because the word ‘entourage’ implies one item moving in a direction and it has company. An ensemble is a group of items that are looked at as a whole rather than individually, working ‘in concert’ to produce an overall end result. The concept of an ensemble seems to more accurately portray the current understanding of how the compounds within cannabis work.”
More research is needed to better understand exactly how the various major and minor cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids interact; however, the idea of an ensemble seems more appropriate than an entourage when it comes to describing how the chemicals inside cannabis work together.
With such a diversity of useful compounds in cannabis, the possible synergies of medicinal uses could be endless.