The Entourage Effect
When taken together, the many chemical compounds found in cannabis can synergize, enhancing and altering each others’ effects. The precise interactions between these compounds are not yet fully understood, however, as in-depth clinical trials are still ongoing.
However, users’ anecdotal reports and the existing clinical research suggest that the entourage effect may significantly enhance CBD’s therapeutic potential. As hemp and cannabis research continues to be done, our knowledge of this effect will continue to expand.
But What is the Entourage Effect?
The Entourage Effect occurs when all of the natural chemical compounds found in cannabis — including phytocannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, amino acids, essential fatty acids, and more — work together harmoniously within your body. The interactions between these natural cannabis constituents and your endocannabinoid system (ECS) are known to increase the bioavailability, absorption, and efficacy of your overall CBD treatment.
The Entourage Effect is only available in Full or Broad Spectrum hemp-derived extractions, however. This is because full and broad spectrum extractions are derived from whole-plant extractions. The only difference between these two extractions is their THC content — the infamous, intoxicating cannabinoid found in small concentrates in hemp (approximately 0.3% by dry weight). Full spectrum hemp products retain this 0.3% THC content, while broad spectrum products have the THC removed following extraction from hemp.
By contrast with full and broad spectrum CBD products (also known as “whole plant extractions”, consider CBD isolates. CBD isolate products contain only pure CBD, which is isolated from the hemp plant during extraction. Because these products contain none of the other compounds found in hemp, CBD isolate products do not produce an entourage effect — though their therapeutic use is still significant and is, in fact, preferred by some users.
Strictly Anecdotal or Scientifically Accepted?
Like many parts of cannabis culture, the entourage effect has led to some disagreements within the community. Some claim that it is the primary cause of the differences between all strains of cannabis, hemp and marijuana alike. Others believe it does not exist at all, but why is this?
Because of the limited research into cannabis and the limited funds dedicated to furthering our understanding of cannabis's effects, few formal conclusions have as yet been drawn from clinical research.
Despite the current state of research, several studies have been performed that substantiate the entourage effects’ existence and efficacy:
- Journal of Pain & Symptom Management, 2010: Patients experiencing intractable pain were given either a placebo, a THC-dominant cannabis extract, or a cannabis extract containing equal parts THC and CBD. The two cannabinoid extracts (containing both THC and CBD) far outperformed the THC-dominant extract, while the THC-dominant extract failed to outperform the placebo in any way.
- Pharmacology & Pharmacy, 2015: In animal studies of analgesia, pure CBD extracts were compared to Full Spectrum hemp extracts containing an equal amount of CBD, in order to determine which provided better pain-relieving properties in mice. The pure CBD extract caused a dose-response curve, meaning that, after a certain dosage was administered, the animals would stop experiencing pain relief. The Full Spectrum hemp extract, on the other hand, possessed no dose-response curve, meaning that higher and higher amounts of CBD could be administered to the animals and they would continue to experience more and more pain relief.
- Biochemical Pharmacology, 2018: In a study of several human breast cancer cell lines in cultures and implanted tumors, it was demonstrated that cannabis extracts’ treatment potential was superior to that of pure THC extracts. In this example, it is believed that the cannabis extract outperformed the pure THC isolate due to the presence of small concentrations of cannabigerol (CBG), known as the parent cannabinoid, and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), leading to the belief that the Entourage Effect induced by botanical extracts outperforms pure cannabinoid extracts.
- Scientific Reports, 2018: In another 2018 study, mice experiencing induced seizures were given five different cannabis extracts with equal concentrations of CBD but different concentrations of other natural cannabis constituents. Differences were observed in the biochemical profiles of non-CBD cannabinoids found in each of these five extracts. In turn, this led to significant differences in the number of mice developing tonic-clonic seizures (between 21.5% and 66.7%) and the survival rate of these mice (between 85% and 100%), depending on the specific extract they were administered. This highlighted the importance of different cannabinoids working in conjunction with CBD. Specifically, cannabinoids once considered to be “minor cannabinoids” found in hemp actually played a vital role in the overall effects of therapeutic cannabis treatment.
Thus, existing research strongly indicates that the entourage effect is not only real, but that it can significantly increase CBD’s therapeutic potential. However, we still have much to learn about this phenomenon, and about which combinations of cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, amino acids, and other cannabis compounds work best in conjunction to provide us with the benefits of the Entourage Effect.
The Entourage Effect, in Practice
So with all of this evidence before us, why are we not exclusively ingesting Full or Broad Spectrum CBD products? We always strive to get the most out of our CBD treatment, and products utilizing whole-plant hemp extractions seem to provide the highest caliber of overall wellness, right?
Well, like many CBD products and varieties, it comes down to preference. While the Entourage Effect does offer us a great deal of benefits comparatively to other forms of CBD products, such as CBD isolates, other non-whole-plant hemp extracts offer beneficial differences in other ways.
Isolates, for example, offer pure CBD, usually in high concentrations. In this way, a CBD isolate can offer you a powerful, self-dosed treatment option that allows you to measure your dosage intake to the exact milligram that works best for you. Full Spectrum or Broad Spectrum CBD products cannot offer such precision, nor do they offer the sheer concentrated power brought to you by CBD isolates.
It all comes down to your reasons for using CBD to begin with. Everyday users not experiencing a specific debilitating ailment may prefer the inklings of the Entourage Effect. In fact, many anecdotal reports from CBD users state that the Entourage Effect, induced primarily by the other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids found in cannabis, can enlist a general feeling of whole-body wellness. Those of us requiring more powerful, fast-acting treatment options, however, may prefer to forego the Entourage Effect in place of an isolate. Furthermore, some of us enjoy taking CBD edibles, or vaping CBD, or even just want some CBD for our pets. The presence of the necessary constituents required to induce the Entourage Effect in these products is primarily based upon which extraction methods utilized by the manufacturer of a particular product. That is to say, your preferences don’t always allow you the Entourage Effect, especially given the prolific variety of CBD products found in the all-encompassing marketplace.