Of the many fascinating scientific facts and theories surrounding CBD and hemp, none is perhaps more mysterious and controversial than the Entourage Effect.
This theory, that multiple compounds found in the cannabis plant (including CBD!) are more powerful when working in tandem than when isolated from each other, is the subject of much study, conjecture, and misinformation.
So, what is the Entourage Effect, and does it actually do anything? For all of this to make sense, we’re going to have to start at the beginning with the individual building blocks of cannabis that make up the conditions for the Entourage Effect to exist.
Entourage Effect: CBD and the Building Blocks of Cannabis
There’s a wealth of molecular compounds within the hemp plant that work in tandem to create the Entourage Effect. For our purposes, there are three major ones that we’ll look at: cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids.
A Quick Note on Cannabis, Hemp, and Marijuana
Before we dig into the various compounds that contribute to the Entourage Effect, it’s worth explaining the difference between the terms cannabis, hemp and marijuana. Cannabis comes in two forms, at least in the eyes of the home office. These are cannabis hemp and cannabis marijuana. Hemp is the form of cannabis with only trace amounts of THC (less than 0.3%) — too little to be intoxicating. Marijuana refers to cannabis with greater amounts of THC. All of the CBD products we will be discussing in this article are derived from hemp and not marijuana.
Okay, back to those compounds …
Cannabinoids: CBD, THC, and the Rest of CBD’s “Entourage”
Cannabinoids are the most well-known compounds we find in the cannabis plant, and they make up the most significant portion of CBD’s “entourage.” In fact, there are over 100 cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. Among these are our friends CBD, CBG, CBC, and their more infamous cousin, THC.
Unlike THC, CBD and other cannabinoids are not psychoactive, which means they don’t get you high. Instead, these other cannabinoids carry their own benefits to create the soothing and therapeutic effects CBD products are known for.
While cannabinoids like CBD are what we primarily look for in products like CBD Gummies for Sleep, CBD Morning Capsules, and CBD Oil Tinctures, they’re not the only hemp compounds that contribute to our experience.
Chances are, you’ve heard a bit about terpenes already. These are the chemical compounds that create the scents of plants. They’re responsible for the distinct smell of cannabis, and are also abundant in plants like tea, citrus fruits, and herbs.
Terpenes serve an important role in plants. They attract pollinators, warn away grazing animals, and repel insects and parasites. Humans use them extensively, especially in essential oils.
There are roughly 400 terpenes that we know of in the cannabis plant.
Aside from just smelling good, terpenes interact with systems in our bodies to impart their own notable healthful effects.
From the sound of the name, you may be assuming that flavonoids have something to do with flavour. They don’t (why keep things simple?).
Instead, flavonoids contribute to the colour of plants and flowers. The name comes from the Latin word flavus, which means yellow.
In addition to making apples red, cannabis green, and flowers a whole rainbow of colours, flavonoids serve deeper purposes in plants. They remove toxins, protect plants from invaders like microbes, and filter ultraviolet light.
There has been extensive scientific research on flavonoids and their beneficial effects. Anthocyanidins, found in cannabis, grapes, and berries, show potential to prevent heart disease and certain kinds of cancer. Flavonols found in cannabis, kale, and peaches are thought to have antioxidant properties.
There are 6,000 known kinds of flavonoids, and 20 of them appear in the hemp plant.
The Endocannabinoid System and Your Health
Without an endocannabinoid system, not only would the Entourage Effect be impossible, but feeling the effects of any cannabinoid, including CBD, would be unattainable. Why?
The endocannabinoid system is a cell-signalling system found in all mammals (pretty much all vertebrates, really). You and I have an endocannabinoid system, and so do our dogs and cats, turtles and birds, snakes and fish.
It’s a system of receptors closely tied to our central and peripheral nervous systems, as well as our brains and systems that regulate sleep, immune response, digestion, mood, and much more.
The endocannabinoid system is made up of receptors throughout the body that interact with different cannabinoids and other compounds, like terpenes and flavonoids, to pass effects on to the systems, tissues, or organs they work with.
Without this system and its receptors, there would be no way for CBD and other cannabinoids to interact with our bodies.
The system gets its name from endocannabinoids, which are types of cannabinoids our bodies naturally produce. In fact, endocannabinoids were key to discovering the Entourage Effect.
The Entourage Effect: A Short History
In 1998, scientist Raphael Mechoulam at Hebrew University of Jerusalem was studying the effects of a specific endocannabinoid molecule’s interaction with endocannabinoid system receptors, when he found that it worked better in combination with two other molecules.
Mechoulam and his team termed this the Entourage Effect.
Scientists, like Ethan Russo, Gudrun Ulrich-Merzenich, and Hildebert Wagner, soon saw the potential for understanding how multiple cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids work together to enhance overall effect by increasing absorbency and changing one another’s behaviours.
Russo has gone on to study the Entourage Effect in depth throughout his career, and has become one of its most outspoken proponents, citing a number of studies.
Is the Entourage Effect Real?
This is where we get down to brass tacks. Is the Entourage Effect really a thing?
Yes, the Entourage Effect is real. But, we’re still at the very earliest stages of understanding how the Entourage Effect works, and how well it works in different combinations of cannabinoids and other compounds.
Why is that? Put simply, it’s because of THC and the laws and stigmas around it.
Most solid scientific studies of the Entourage Effect have involved THC — specifically, how well THC and CBD work together. But, it’s difficult for scientists to expand on this research, because of laws in the UK and abroad surrounding how and why THC is used.
The Entourage Effect has been found to show great pharmaceutical potential in studies of multiple sclerosis and pain medications. Scientific American cites some in its in-depth article on the Entourage Effect.
In addition, Ethan Russo found potential in the synergy between certain cannabinoids and terpenes to protect short-term memory impairment and other effects of THC.
When it comes to THC-free results, we largely have to rely on anecdotal evidence. And that evidence is pretty overwhelming. There has been a lot of exaggeration around the Entourage Effect, especially in the cannabis and CBD communities, and it’s important to approach it with an open, but logical mind.
It’s also important to note that, while we’re relaying what various studies have noted or concluded, we are not allowed (by law) to give medical advice or make any medical recommendations regarding CBD. If you have a medical issue, please consult your physician.
What Does the Entourage Effect Do?
We’re going to preface this with a simple statement, as noted above. Since the science is still ongoing, we cannot claim that CBD treats any particular illnesses or conditions. Instead, we’re going to share what we do know from both published scientific studies and anecdotal evidence.
The Entourage Effect is a group dynamic, kind of like the Avengers. Alone, each hero is powerful. Together, they’re unstoppable. When multiple building blocks of the cannabis plant are present, their own individual effects are enhanced and the overall effect of the CBD product you’re using is stronger.
What the Entourage Effect actually does depends on what building blocks of the cannabis plant you’re working with. Essentially, the properties present in each individual building block can be enhanced by the presence of other building blocks.
For instance, it’s believed that CBD in combination with the terpene myrcene might provide antioxidant properties, or that when combined with limonene, it enhances that terpene’s anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties.
There are even ongoing studies about the potential of the Entourage Effect to treat mood and anxiety disorders. These are inconclusive so far, but exciting in their potential.
CBD works in concert with other cannabinoids, like CBC and CBG, to achieve enhanced effects that people find more soothing, more energizing, and more focusing, depending upon the combination.
While some scientists remain skeptical, Ethan Russo and others show great enthusiasm for the therapeutic properties of the Entourage Effect.
How to Get the Entourage Effect
The simplest way to benefit the most from the Entourage Effect is to be mindful of the kind of CBD oil your products are made with. Broad spectrum CBD possesses great potential for providing the Entourage Effect.
Broad spectrum CBD filters out the trace amounts of THC in hemp, losing some other building blocks in the process, but holding on to enough to still give you a slightly diminished, but still potent Entourage Effect.
You can also try products specifically formulated to deliver the Entourage Effect in the way you need it. For instance, our CBD + CBG Oil Tincture is made with broad spectrum CBD and additional CBG and our proprietary terpene blend.
Similarly, our CBD + CBG Morning Capsules are formulated with additional CBG and terpenes to enhance the focusing effect people report in the combination of CBD and CBG.
Feel the Effect, Yourself!
What’s the best way to know for sure if the Entourage Effect is real? Try it for yourself! Compare the effects of a broad spectrum CBD product or CBD product designed to deliver the Entourage Effect against the effects of a product made with CBD isolate, which contains only CBD (99% pure).
From CBD topicals for sore muscles and irritated skin to delicious and healthy CBD gummies, there’s a multitude of ways you can experience the combination of CBD and valuable cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids to achieve the Entourage Effect — and reap benefits far more powerful than you ever would from any individual building block.
Interested in the Entourage Effect? Try our CBD + CBG Oil Tincture!