In light of new research highlighting the harmful side effects and abuse potential of conventional drugs like opioids, interest in natural medicine is at record highs around the world. In places where medical marijuana is legal, strains containing high concentrations of cannabinoids like cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabichromene (CBC) are commonly prescribed for a range of acute and chronic conditions, including pain, mood, anxiety and inflammatory disorders.
While the therapeutic potential of cannabis is increasingly well-established thanks to a growing body of scientific literature, many new consumers are still unsure as to how exactly cannabis compounds work. A large factor in the medicinal value of cannabis is due to the combined effect of the sum of its parts, commonly known as the Entourage Effect.
What is the Entourage Effect, and when was it discovered?
The “Entourage Effect” is a term coined by Israeli organic chemists Raphael Mechoulam and S. Ben-Shabat, to explain how different cannabinoids can work together to produce powerful effects. For example, CBD provides pain relief without psychoactive side effects and THC can induce feelings of euphoria and heightened sensory perception. The Entourage Effect suggests that cannabinoids within marijuana work more effectively in tandem to produce a therapeutic benefit when compared to any one cannabinoid alone. It’s important to understand that this isn’t a new discovery on the frontier of marijuana research; scientists have been aware of the Entourage Effect since at least 1998. That’s when Israeli scientists began studying the use of THC and CBD together in order to make new cannabis-based medications for patients with chronic illnesses.
While CBD and THC are the most thoroughly researched cannabinoids vis-a-vis their potential entourage effects, less popular cannabinoids like cannabinol (CBN) and cannabigerol (CBG) produce similar synergistic benefits within the human body. In this post, we go over other cannabis compounds involved in the Entourage Effect, as well as how exactly they enhance each other’s respective benefits.
Cannabis Strains & The Entourage Effect
Cannabinoids aside, secondary cannabis compounds like terpenes and flavonoids also play a role in producing cannabis entourage effects. Take the strain known as Super Lemon Haze, for example. Despite its low CBD content (0.1%), it’s among the most commonly recommended strains for individuals diagnosed with anxiety disorders or working in high stress environments. This is because of its high levels of limonene (0.8%), which produces anxiolytic effects, coupled with the cannabinoids CBN and THC.
Other terpenes in Super Lemon Haze include myrcene (0.05%) and linalool (0.04%), both of which are relaxant terpenes good for insomnia and tense muscles. Together, the combination of cannabinoids and terpenes in Super Lemon Haze melt away stress and lifts the mood — even in individuals diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
For its part, the cannabinoid CBN offers a number of therapeutic properties that can be used for treatment purposes. For instance, there have been many studies on CBN’s potential applications as a sedative and anticonvulsant. CBN is also shown to stimulate appetite and reduce nausea, which means it may be useful in treating HIV/AIDS patients suffering from wasting syndrome or chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.
The Key Role Of The Endocannabinoid System
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a group of neuromodulatory lipids and their receptors that are found in the brain, as well as throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems. Cannabinoids and terpenes bind to two main cannabinoid receptor groups within the ECS; namely cannabinoid type 1 or CB1 and CB2 receptors.
The main function of the ECS is to regulate the release and uptake of neurotransmitters like glutamate, GABA, dopamine, serotonin, acetylcholine and noradrenaline. This has a large influence on the severity of symptoms of pain, mood, anxiety and inflammatory disorders, among others.
The ECS plays a key role in the therapeutic potential of the Entourage Effect and cannabis compounds in general, as both cannabinoids and terpenes interact directly with ECS receptors to reduce pain, control swelling, stimulate appetite and normalize sleep patterns in individuals with common neurophysiological conditions.
While research on the Entourage Effect is still ongoing, numerous studies — along with correlating anecdotal evidence in the form of millions of cannabis consumers — bear out the hypothesis that the combined effect of cannabis compounds is much more pronounced than any single component by itself.