The entourage effect is a term used in the cannabis industry to describe how the effects of one cannabinoid are amplified by other cannabinoids and terpenes found in the same plant. The idea behind this concept is that you can create an ideal blend of effects by differentiating between what each constituent does individually, then combining them together. This article will explore what we know about the entourage effect so far while acknowledging the science is still in its infancy.
(Check out our intro to terpenes blog post here for more information on these important components of cannabis!)
What is the entourage effect and what do we know about it so far?
The entourage effect is the idea that the effects of cannabinoids are “amplified” when combined with other cannabis constituents, such as terpenes. The theory of the entourage effect in cannabis has been around for a long time and to begin with was only attributed to anecdotal reports.
That changed in 2011 when Ethan Russo published his paper “Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects”. In this paper, Russo discusses the idea of the entourage effect and how it might be used to create unique cannabis formulas.
Simply put, Russo says that there are other compounds (like terpenes, and CBG to name but two) found in cannabis that can make CBD and THC more effective, thus requiring smaller amounts of either cannabinoid for them to work effectively. Furthermore, he suggests that these terpenes could make the cannabinoids more tolerable, allowing patients to use less THC or CBD without feeling overwhelmed.
This could manifest itself in a number of ways. Dispensaries can start to offer certain strains based on what the customer would like to achieve. Manufacturers of edibles of vapes could also take advantage by producing food-grade terpenes and flavorings for cannabis products that can be added to THC or CBD extracts.
How much scientific evidence is there for the entourage effect?
The theory of the entourage effect has since gained popularity in the cannabis industry as a whole, with many producers lab testing their products to see which cannabinoid makes what effects. However, there’s still debate over whether or not this is actually true.
It’s only in the last year or two that the evidence for the entourage effect has really started to multiply.
A 2021 study found evidence to support the ‘entourage effect’ and highlight the potential therapeutic effects of cannabidiol acid (CBDA).
Another study, also from 2021, supports the entourage effect and found that cannabis terpenes can reduce pain sensation when used by themselves, and increase the effects of cannabinoids when used together.
On the other hand, a study in March 2020 found that terpenoids that come from cannabis do not act on cannabinoid receptors to produce an entourage effect.
So as you can see, there’s still a way to go until we can put this debate to bed.
The future of cannabis research and how we can use this information to improve health care
What we know so far is that there are other compounds in cannabis that may have therapeutic effects when combined with cannabinoids, but the evidence for this is still mainly anecdotal.
As research continues to progress, it’s likely that more information will come out about various terpenes and how they affect people. With these studies, we can learn more about how specific terpenes might help treat different conditions.
Regardless of where you stand on the entourage effect debate, studying the effects of cannabis constituents is important for developing algorithms that can accurately match patients with their ideal treatment regimen. The future of medicine lies not only in lab-produced medications but also in understanding how plants interact with our body’s endocannabinoid system.