Updated: Feb 19, 2021
Let's start with a simple analogy to explain how the Entourage Effect works, then we'll get into the science. The Entourage Effect is similar to how you, as a person, respond to an environment, say for instance how you behave at home. How you behave at home is different than how you behave when you are out with friends. When you are home alone you behave one particular way. When you are out with friends, you behave a particular way. When you are home and you have friends over, you behave differently still. This is similar to the Entourage Effect found in cannabis and scientifically formulated products.
What does the Entourage Effect Mean?
When cannabis is ingested, smoked, vaporized or consumed in whole plant form, our bodies are given hundreds of plant compounds. When a scientifically formulated product is consumed, the compounds will be more specific and directed. Each of these compounds has a unique effect and benefit found within the body and mind. These compounds may also behave differently when in the presence of the other compounds, causing them to effect each other in an ensemble, or entourage form. The Entourage Effect is when these compounds are found to enhance the benefits of the other compounds, as compared to their benefits found in isolate form.
What Compounds are Found in the Entourage Effect?
The most commonly recognized compounds in cannabis, including marijuana and hemp plants, are the cannabinoids THC and CBD. In fact, there are many laws written about the use of these compounds and all cannabinoids. The plant also produces other cannabinoids less commonly known, such as CBN, CBC, CBG and Delta-8. Other compounds include terpenes, flavonoids and lipids.
How do Cannabinoids and Terpenes work together?
Found to be an important compound to the Entourage Effect, terpenes play a role in interacting with cannabinoids and with the body directly. There has been much research on the effects of individual terpenes and their interaction with the body. Some commonly known terpenes include Myrcene, Caryophyllene and Pinene. These terpenes are known to have therapeutic effects on their own. When used in conjunction with cannabinoids, they increase their effectiveness and can further direct with ailment to focus on when taken into the body.
Will the Entourage Effect only be felt if I smoke flower?
No. It has been found that different combinations of the compounds found in the cannabis plant, when isolated and then brought back together, can have very select and directed Entourage Effects. When working with flower, or full-spectrum extracts, the result can sometimes cause limited or undesired effects due to how the compounds are interacting with each other as they enter the body. For instance, some cannabinoids are enhanced by particular terpenes, while others are inhibited. In a combined product formula that has a specific goal in mind, you will find that full-spectrum extracts may actually be less beneficial than their isolate counterparts. This will also be dependent on how your body responds to the cannabinoids and the other compounds when combined.
Does the Extract Need to be Full-Spectrum to Have the Entourage Effect?
No. Research has been found to show that it is possible to have specific effects that are enhanced by a few isolated compounds. These compounds, when brought together, will interact in a specific way that is often selected for in finished products. These products will be looking to effect particular ailments. Full-Spectrum products will have an Entourage Effect, but they can be harder to create products to use for specific ailments. This reason is because full-spectrum products will have varying amounts of the different compounds and cannabinoids, such as THC, which may not be a desired component if the percentages are too high. On the other hand, the benefits of having a small amount of THC when combined CBD can create stronger benefits than when CBD is selected as an isolate.
What is a Full-Spectrum Extract?
A full-spectrum extract is the process of removing all of the plant compounds from the plant material. This includes all the cannabinoids, such as THC, CBD, CBG, CBN, Delta-8, etc. It also includes any terpenes, such as Myrcene, Pinene, and Caryophyllene, as well as flavonoids and other similar compounds.
What is a Broad-Spectrum Extract?
A broad-spectrum extract follows all the steps of the full-spectrum extract which is the process of removing all of the plant compounds from the plant material, however, it has one additional step that removes any and all Delta-9 THC, or the common THC. This allows for products to be created and sold that do not have a psychoactive effect.
Why is the Entourage Effect Important?
When the compounds and cannabinoids are consumed, they can have limited benefit in the body and mind. This is because the other compounds and cannabinoids help the others work more effectively. You will feel some benefits if the compounds are taken in isolated form, however, the Entourage Effect that is created when compounds and cannabinoids are able to work synergistically with each other. Here is a simple analogy. When you eat a burger with no toppings, you are getting the benefit of the burger, and it will be find just on its own, but not particularly satisfying. If you add all the fixings to that burger, such as cheese, lettuce, tomato, not only does the burger taste better, but it also works better in your body because of the added nutrients. When looking to try a new wellness product, full-spectrum may not be the way to go. It has the potential to create unpredictable effects within the mind and body, depending on your body type. Look for products that contain broad-spectrum extracts or isolate forms of cannabinoids that have been combined back together.
Who Discovered the Entourage Effect?
The name Ethan Russo has become one of the founding names for the Entourage Effect. Although the effect had been studied in the past, his research and in depth understanding of the science behind the effect has led him to become the father of the Entourage Effect. Ethan Russo is a neurologist that serves as the Director of Research and Development at the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute, located in Prague. In 2010, Russo shared his research on the evidence of CBD's impact on THC expression. This research included a clinical trial which demonstrated that the benefits of a combination of CBD and THC, as compared to the benefits of THC or CBD alone, provided much greater ailment relief.
Author: A.J. Varela, Biologist