Cannabis plants contain more than 100 different phytocannabinoids. These phytocannabinoids act on the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in humans. The ECS functions to keep the body in a biological balance, known as homeostasis. The “entourage effect” was first theorized in 1998 by Israeli scientists. The basis of the theory is that cannabis compounds assist one another to magnify the therapeutic benefits of the plant. In other words, the various compounds in the plant amplify each other’s chemistry, making it more effective.
The combination of THC and CBD
The simplified, but classic example of the entourage effect in action is the dynamic between THC and CBD. It’s widely known that THC can have intoxicating and potentially anxiety-provoking effects. However, sufficient quantities of CBD will tend to mitigate these effects of THC. Furthermore, studies show the pain-relieving effects of a CBD/THC combination are significantly greater than either cannabinoid alone.
What else contributes to the entourage effect?
Other significant compounds found in cannabis plants are terpenes and flavonoids. Flavonoids are nutrients responsible for the non-green colors seen in plants. Flavonoids have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral effects of their own. Terpenes are the compounds found in plants which produce their distinct aromas, such as the unmistakable scent of pine. Similarly, terpenes also have a wide variety of therapeutic effects on the human body.
CBD isolate vs whole plant extract
Some people seek a product containing a CBD isolate oil because it is pure CBD. However, it’s important to also consider the fact that CBD isolate products will not benefit from the entourage effect. Furthermore, it’s important to know the majority of scientific studies evaluating the effects of CBD utilize the isolate oil. Thus, 50mg of CBD isolate oil is not equivalent to 50mg of CBD in a phytocannabinoid-rich whole plant extract.
The entourage effect in a nutshell
Perhaps to summarize conceptually, the entourage effect can be thought of in terms of a company’s workforce. Different people have different talents and different business backgrounds that they bring to work with them. A company likely wouldn’t function well if everyone had the same training and business experience. But when these diverse talents and backgrounds come together for a common goal, success is much more attainable. And advocates of whole plant extracts believe treatment success is more attainable through the entourage effect of cannabis.
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McPartland J et al; Cannabis and cannabis extracts: greater than the sum of their parts?; Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics; 2008 Oct; 1(3-4): 103–132.
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