What Is The Entourage Effect?
09.16.21 - 4 min read
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Why do unique cannabis strains cause dramatically different effects? If you’re curious about how cannabis molecules work with your physiology and even play off each other, then read on to learn more about the “Entourage Effect” and the medicinal side of cannabis science.
When most people think of cannabis, they think of THC or CBD. But in reality, marijuana plants are tiny little factories that produce tons of medicinal compounds—as many as 400 different chemicals. Around 60 of these are molecules called cannabinoids.
The most abundant cannabinoids produced by marijuana plants are the already familiar CBD and THC, but there are also more obscure compounds like THCV, CBG, CBN, and CBDV along with many others. Each of these molecules have slightly different effects on the body. Some cannabis scientists believe these compounds actually play off one another, creating synergistic effects that are more than a sum of their parts (i.e. 1 + 1 = 3).
Experts call this phenomenon the Entourage Effect and believe it may help explain why some strains of marijuana can produce a sleepy high while others can be more energetic, and why some strains are better for creativity and socializing while others are better for pain relief or recovery. [Source]
So understanding what’s in your cannabis isn’t just about how much THC it contains (although that is important). There are many variables to consider but grasping this concept of the Entourage Effect can help you get the most benefit out of your marijuana.
The best example of the Entourage Effect comes from THC and CBD. You probably have heard that THC is the compound in cannabis that produces a psychoactive effect — that is, it gives you that “elevated” feeling. CBD, on the other hand, is generally thought of as less psychoactive and may produce more calming effects or help with pain.
Plenty of people take these two cannabinoids separately, but what happens when you combine THC and CBD? Balance. The two cannabinoids compete for the same receptors in the brain, so if there is more CBD than THC available, it has a different physical and mental feeling than if there’s more THC than CBD. [Source]
It all depends on what kind of experience you’re looking for. Sometimes you want that high THC effect, other times the anxiety relief of high CBD strains. Sometimes you want an equal blend of both. To get the most from cannabis, it helps to understand this.
The Entourage Effect was first noticed in the late ‘90s by marijuana scientists Shimon Ben-Shabat and Dr. Raphael Mechoulam. You may have heard of Mechoulam before. He’s known as ‘The Father of Cannabis Research’ because in the mid-1960s, he first discovered THC, the main substance in marijuana that gets people high. So he and his colleagues have been studying the marijuana plant for many years. [source]
Ben-Shabat and Mechoulam were studying endocannabinoids — that is, cannabinoids that the human body naturally produces. Throughout our bodies, we have cannabinoid receptors, which are activated by our bodies own endocannabinoids and produce various medicinal effects.
When people ingest cannabinoids from plants (technically called phytocannabinoids) these compounds work on the same receptors, but in slightly different ways. Think of the cannabinoids as master keys and the endocannabinoid receptors as locks that can work with different cannabinoid keys. The subtle differences in the way cannabinoids work has to do with their interactions with these receptors.
The way this was first understood was by observing how an endocannabinoid called 2-AG acts in the body. The human body produces 2-AG naturally in relatively high volumes because it plays an important role in modulating the way neurons fire in the brain.
Basically 2-AG is an inactive key and doesn’t really fit with cannabinoid receptor “locks.” In order to have an effect, it needs to synergize with other cannabinoids keys: basically, an entourage. After 2-AG recruits several chemicals called “esters,” it becomes much more effective when it comes to activating cannabinoid receptors.
Think of 2-AG as a conductor, telling the band how to play, other cannabinoids as the musicians in the orchestra and the resulting effect as the “music.” 2-AG on its own doesn’t do much but when playing with other musicians (cannabinoids) it becomes more potent and produces better “music” (marijuana effect). The type and quality of the “music” depends on which “musicians” play it with the “conductor” (2-AG) and the “harmonization” (synergy) with each other. Synergy between different cannabinoids can create various impacts, which itself is called the “Entourage Effect.”
Some cannabis experts have applied all the lessons from 2-AG to other cannabinoids. THC, CBD, CBG, CBN and all the rest are also stirring the cannabinoid synergy that is in our brains. It’s a lot more complicated than the Sativa vs Indica dichotomy that many are familiar with.
But here’s where it gets even more complex. It’s not just the cannabinoids that are driving this phenomenon. Other substances produced by cannabis plants called terpenes and flavonoids are also influencing people’s experiences.
For example, linalool is a terpene that commonly occurs in lavender plants, producing its signature scent, and also available in some cannabis plant varieties/strains. When you ingest linalool, some people report feeling relaxed and sleepy. So what happens if you have a cannabis strain with low THC, high CBD and high linalool? It could give you a soothing, anxiety-crushing high. [Source]
On the other hand, if terpenes are what give plants their scent, flavonoids are what give plants their color. Anthocyanins, for example, are what give some strains of cannabis that deep granddaddy purple color. These flavonoids can have varying effects too and cannabis makes its own class of them called cannflavins that may provide for a reduction in inflammation.
Once again, with terpenes and flavonoids, the Entourage Effect is in play. There are many, many more examples of this and scientists are still trying to sort out all the claims versus the evidence.
So, how do you find the best combination for you? First, you’ll probably want to do some experimenting on your own. One tip is to keep a cannabis diary. Write down the name of the strain, how it makes you feel and the cannabinoid, terpene or (more rarely available) flavonoid content, so you can try to find the strains that work best for you.
If that seems like a lot of work, don’t worry—it can be fun! And ask the Patient Care Specialists at your local RISE marijuana dispensary for advice. They’ll be happy to share with you everything they know about certain strains.
People are interested in CBD (cannabidiol) because it’s medicinal but doesn’t give people that stoned feeling, which they may not like or don’t want at places such as work or school. Other people can’t have THC show up on a drug test but still want to get the natural plant medicine benefits from cannabis. Keep in mind, however, that many CBD products including multi-spectrum and full-spectrum CBD can still contain THC, and it may still show up on your drug test.
Now, more and more people are turning to Full Spectrum CBD. While it’s possible to take “isolate CBD,” which is just purified CBD or even synthetic, Full Spectrum CBD contains a lot more than just CBD so it can maximize that Entourage Effect. [Source]
In Full Spectrum CBD, there is a little bit of THC, but less than 0.3%, so it won’t get you high. While yes, THC has a reputation for getting people stoned, it also has many beneficial qualities: anti-nausea, anti-inflammatory and pain relief.
To find the best cannabis products with an Entourage Effect punch, it’s important to read and understand the label on your marijuana. Some companies only list or promote THC and CBD, but others will share things like CBN, CBG or THCV. If you’re lucky, they’ll list terpenes and flavonoids, too.
If you want something with more pain relief it’s a good idea to consult with the staff at your nearby RISE dispensary. Products that are high in THC have the potential to amplify the pain sensation. THC has a biphasic effect when it comes to pain, so consider starting with a low dose and gradually increasing the amount of THC until you find optimal relief. If you’d rather get more relaxed, something high in CBD, CBN (a sleepy cannabinoid) and delta-8-THC, a milder cousin of THC, might help.
Keep in mind that the effect depends not only on the marijuana compounds but also on your body’s metabolism, dosage and other factors. What’s right for one person may be entirely different to the next. That’s why RISE Dispensaries has knowledgeable staff that is trained to help you choose what may be right for you. You can always have a free consultation at one of our RISE Medical Marijuana Dispensaries.
This topic is becoming more popular as more people learn more about the Entourage Effect. And while we still need a lot more research to discover the full extent of the effects cannabis produces, we’re learning more and more every day. In the meantime, it’s OK to experiment to find what’s right for you. Just remember – start low, go slow, and ask RISE – we’re here to help!
Do you need help getting a medical marijuana card, or registering with a RISE Dispensary? Visit Risecannabis.com, find a dispensary nearby, and ask our patient care team for help. We’re always ready to help on your journey to well-being and help you understand how to take advantage of the Entourage Effect.
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