What is the Entourage Effect?
The Entourage Effect was a term coined in 1998 by two Israeli scientists who discovered that there was a difference in the way cannabinoids interacted with our bodies depending on the amount of fatty acids present. This discovery led us to realize that each of the more than 400 compounds found in the cannabis plant affects us differently and that when they all work together they produce a much more powerful effect than when they are applied separately.
The best known process is that which occurs between THC and CBD. THC binds very well to the CB1 receptor, which is responsible for producing the "high" feeling associated with cannabis. CBD is the cannabinoid associated with the medicinal properties of cannabis, it has no psychoactive effect and has no affinity with the CB1 receptor. When both cannabinoids are ingested, CBD will inhibit the binding of THC to the CB1 receptor and decrease the effect of the "high". This will create a calmer psychoactive feeling and cause less anxiety. This is the synergistic effect of only 2 cannabinoids, so imagine what happens if we consider all the others present in the plant.
The cannabis plant is composed of cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, fatty acids, among others, and these compounds dictate the taste, flavor, smell, and effect the plant has on us. For example, CBD's Lemon Haze variety earned its name for its distinctive lemon aroma and citrus flavor. This is because, primarily, this variety has a higher content of the terpene Limonene, the same terpene found in lemons and limes. Limonene has been shown to inhibit the anxiety effect of THC, so it can be used to specifically treat anxiety disorders. By being able to choose which compounds are present, we are able to customize the plant to work to its full potential for each individual pathology.
Entourage effect with extracts
When the oil is extracted from the flower, it takes with it the full profile of the unique compounds of that plant. This is called a full or full-spectrum extract. Once we begin to remove certain cannabinoids, the oil becomes broad-spectrum. This suggests that while there are many remaining compounds some have been extracted, usually referring to the THC that has been removed from the oil. Finally, there is an isolated extract, which is self-explanatory, when the individual compounds and cannabinoids are extracted separately.
Each type of extraction has its advantages and disadvantages, but one thing is very clear: the fewer natural compounds in the oil, the less potent it is. It is often observed that the effect of the CBD full-spectrum or even broad-spectrum oil is more potent than that of the CBD extract alone. This is due to the presence of other compounds in the plant and how these affect the interaction between the CBD and the endocannabinoid system.
More to discover about the Entourage Effect...
We are quite confident about the capabilities of certain compounds such as CBD, THC and, when it comes to medical research, the norm is to use isolated cannabinoids. Results will vary greatly depending on whether researchers use 100mg of isolated CBD oil or 100mg of full-spectrum CBD oil in a test. This is due to the interaction of all the other compounds present in the full-spectrum extract and more research is needed to understand these differences. It is a daunting task due to the large volume of different elements that make up the plant, however, to make the most of the power of the plant and its medical potential we need to know as much as possible about each compound.
Russo, E. (2019). The Case for the Entourage Effect and Conventional Breeding of Clinical Cannabis: No “Strain,” No Gain. [online] NCBI. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6334252/ [Accessed 15 Oct. 2019].