what exactly is the entourage effect?
The entourage effect is a widely known term, but you may have absolutely no idea what it means. Don’t worry, I’m about to tell you. So, the entourage effect happens as a result of plant chemicals being combined (as they naturally occur in the plant). The chemicals work together to produce a therapeutic effect greater than the sum of its parts. The entourage effect is also frequently referred to as “whole-plant medicine” or “whole-plant synergy,” and it rests on the premise that cannabis products with many diverse compounds can deliver health benefits that isolated cannabinoids and compounds on their own cannot.
A common misconception is that we see this entourage effect just in cannabis, but this is not the case as it can be seen in all plant medicines. Fun fact, this is the way that traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) herbs work too! Therefore, it is hard to turn them into single-ingredient drugs, which has been tried time and time again in China without success. With this being said, cannabis, as a single plant, really does stand out even from other herbal medicines.
CBD (learn more about this in our other articles) on its own, is a good natural anti-seizure chemical and is the main ingredient of the pharmaceutical drug Epidiolex, licensed for treating some forms of childhood epilepsy. Approximately half the kids who are given Epidiolex have around a 50% reduction in their seizures. However, some children stop responding to it, or it just doesn’t work very well for them. Yet when they are given a high-CBD full-extract cannabis oil with small amounts of THC and THCA, (other cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant) their response improves again — the combination works better than the CBD on its own.
Most of the research into the entourage effect has focused on the interactions between THC and CBD, and most specifically, on how the latter might affect the former. Products that are pure THC and CBD seem less effective than whole cannabis, suggesting that there is/are, indeed, other chemicals involved. A growing number of researchers now believe CBD and THC produce superior results in a more natural form, either together, or in a combination with other chemical compounds that are found in cannabis plants like minor cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. When these compounds are combined, they are often referred to as full-spectrum products. It’s like a big party!!
Research into cannabinoid-terpene synergy has been relatively scant until recently. However, seeing how every cannabis strain has at least a slightly different composition of terpenes and cannabinoids, the entourage effect might explain why particular strains display distinct effects. More research will reveal all the answers.