The Entourage Effect is the theory that the whole cannabis flower is greater than the sum of its parts. Simply put, it’s the combined effect of cannabis’s different medicinal compounds working together.
As the acceptance of cannabis and its uses grow, many are taking a more pharmaceutical approach. They’re choosing to isolate specific compounds of cannabis and using them to garner specific results. This can work in some instances, like Epidiolex, an FDA-approved CBD treatment for severe forms of epilepsy. But, isolation is not always the best option.
Think about it this way—we isolated a specific part of willow bark, salicin, to create aspirin. By isolating salicin, we’ve removed the willow’s natural buffers, so if you were to take too much aspirin, you could cause severe damage to your body. But, if you were to brew tea from willow bark, you could drink as much of it as you wanted because its compounds would be working synergistically, providing you relief but acting as buffers against too much salicin.
With synergy as the keyword here, you can look at cannabis in much the same way. Cannabis has over 500 compounds—including cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other phytonutrients like omega fatty acids—and nature designed them to work together. But before we dive into the Entourage Effect as a whole, let’s look at the specific benefits of each of those compounds.
Benefits of Cannabinoids
While tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the cannabinoid front-runners, over 100 other cannabinoids have been identified in cannabis. These curative compounds bind to your CB1 and CB2 receptors in your Endocannabinoid System, which works to maintain bodily homeostasis. Because cannabinoids bind to those receptors, they offer many therapeutic benefits. They can mitigate pain both with their anti-inflammatory properties and also by stimulating dopamine and serotonin production.
CBD alone has been known to help with anxiety, depression, and even seizures. THC alone has been used to help with nausea, lack of appetite, and trouble sleeping, but it can also cause anxiety, paranoia, and dry mouth by itself. The isolation of other cannabinoids is still being studied, but we do have some details. Cannabigerol (CBG), for example, has shown promising relief for intraocular pressure in some glaucoma patients and signs of slowing the growth of some cancer cells. Like CBD, it’s shown potential in moderating the negative side effects of THC.
Benefits of Terpenes
Terpenes are what give cannabis its unmistakable smell and taste. Though recently the conversation has focused on cannabis-specific terpenes, they're found throughout nature in various plants and even some insects. Like cannabinoids, terpenes can increase serotonin and dopamine activity by acting on neurotransmitters.
Currently, we know of at least 20,000 terpenes in nature, with cannabis containing over 200 of them.
Common Terpenes and Their Benefits
- Limonene: You’ll recognize this fruit-smelling terpene in cannabis, citrus rinds, and juniper, among other things. Although studies have mainly tested it in test tubes and on animals, the results are promising. So far, it’s shown it can reduce chronic inflammation in the body and provide some antioxidant effects by helping to reduce cell damage. It may also have anticancer effects, according to some human and rat studies, and it’s also shown to reduce heart disease risk factors like elevated cholesterol, blood sugar, and triglyceride levels.
- Caryophyllene: You can find this one in plenty of herbs and spices like black pepper, basil, oregano, cloves, cinnamon, and cannabis. This one is particularly advantageous as the only known terpene to behave as a cannabinoid; meaning, it binds to your CB2 receptor, in turn promoting your immune system. It’s also been shown to help with anxiety and has some antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Pinene: As the most common terpene in nature, pinene is one of the most recognizable smells—pine! Outside of cannabis, you can find it in conifer trees, turpentine, and pine needles, as well as herbs like rosemary, dill, basil, and parsley. This one’s been known to effectively treat bacterial infections, and it’s shown the potential to treat viral infections as well. It’s also known to have anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and anti-allergic properties.
Benefits of Flavonoids
Flavonoids are what provide plants their color. They’re why some cannabis strains are green while others are purple. They also work together with terpenes to create the tastes and smells associated with plants.
Like terpenes, flavonoids are not specific to cannabis. With thousands of them identified, you can find them far and wide in nature in flowers, fruits, and vegetables. There are about 20 types of flavonoids found in cannabis, with those detected only in cannabis referred to as cannaflavins.
Cannaflavin A has displayed stronger anti-inflammatory properties than aspirin. Cannaflavins B and C are currently being studied for their pharmacological benefits. Many other flavonoids have antioxidant qualities, like quercetin, found in some fruits, veggies, and cannabis, and catechin, found in cocoa, tea, and cannabis.
Studies are still lacking around flavonoids in general, but orientin, quercetin, silymarin, and kaempferol are all found in cannabis and all display anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, antioxidant, and anti-cancer potential.
The Entourage Effect
With a better understanding of what each of cannabis’s compounds brings to the table, it’s easier to grasp the theory of the Entourage Effect. Each cannabinoid, terpene, and flavonoid has designated functions, but separating them can diminish or remove some of those functions.
Take THC, for example. Too much of it without enough of the other parts of the plant can have some adverse effects on the user, like anxiety and paranoia. But, if it’s taken within a whole-spectrum product that includes all of the flower's properties, those negatives can soften with the presence of CBD and CBG. THC can also impair memory, but the terpene pinene is thought to have qualities that can counteract that memory loss.
Or, consider CBD and CBG. Both have shown they can inhibit the bacterial staph infection MRSA, but so has the terpene pinene, so it's always more helpful to use them as a team instead of on their own.
Experience the Entourage Effect
As you continue to explore cannabis and its medicinal benefits, it’s helpful to get a feel for it in your own body. At Carolina Hemp Company, our whole-spectrum sublingual hemp oil can offer you the Entourage Effect you’re looking for.
Our ethanol extraction process allows us to use the entirety of the flower in our extraction, providing you consistent, holistic relief. Stop by any of our locations or order online today! We’d love to be a part of your entourage.