Flowering hemp cola with the text "What Is The Entourage Effect?"

If you’ve visited a retailer that sells hemp or cannabis, you may have come across the term “entourage effect.” No, they’re not referring to the HBO show of the mid- to late-aughts. The entourage effect, as coined by cannabis scientists, refers to the compounding nature of hemp’s cannabinoids. Taken individually, cannabinoids can only do so much, but together they can do so much more.

In this post, we’ll explore:

  • What the entourage effect is
  • Where the term was coined
  • All of the moving parts involved
  • Comparisons with similar concepts in other fields

What Is the Entourage Effect?

The entourage effect is the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In the hemp context, this means the interaction between all of the organic compounds—cannabinoids, terpenes, and others—present in hemp working together to enhance its therapeutic effects.

Full-spectrum hemp products are known to provide entourage effects because they usually haven’t had any compounds removed during production. Full-spectrum CBD oils and capsules are often marketed for this reason. Raw hemp products like smokable hemp flower are always full-spectrum.

To understand the entourage effect better, let’s draw a comparison to something more familiar: a symphony orchestra. Each instrument, like a cannabinoid, has its own unique sound and contribution to the overall performance. While a solo performance can be beautiful, the full orchestra playing together creates a richer, more dynamic experience. Similarly, individual cannabinoids like CBD or THC can have beneficial effects on their own, but the combination of all cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds in hemp creates a more powerful effect.

Where Did the Term “Entourage Effect” Come From?

During research on cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam and Shimon Ben-Shabat, along with their team, introduced the idea of the “Entourage Effect” in a 1999 paper titled An Entourage Effect: Inactive Endogenous Fatty Acid Glycerol Esters Enhance 2-Arachidonoyl-Glycerol Cannabinoid Activity.

They suggested that cannabinoids work together rather than independently to enhance overall effects, promoting the use of whole-plant over isolated compounds. This concept has parallels in other fields as well. For example, in nutrition, the term “food synergy” is used to describe how different components of food work together to create health benefits that are greater than the sum of their parts. Just as consuming whole fruits and vegetables is more beneficial than taking individual vitamin supplements, using whole-plant hemp products can provide more comprehensive benefits than using isolated cannabinoids.

Who’s Part of the Entourage?

Even though they work better together, let’s break down the entourage and identify all of the (known) moving pieces of this big group.


When discussing the full spectrum of cannabinoids, it’s not just about CBD and THC. As of now, there are over 100 known cannabinoids, including:

  • Cannabigerol (CBG): Often referred to as the “mother” cannabinoid because it is the precursor to other cannabinoids.
  • Cannabinol (CBN): Known for its potential sedative effects, making it popular for sleep aids.
  • Cannabichromene (CBC): Believed to have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties.
  • Cannabidivarin (CBDV): Shows promise in treating neurological disorders like epilepsy.

Each cannabinoid interacts with your body’s endocannabinoid system, which regulates many bodily functions like mood, sleep, and inflammation. While we have a basic understanding of how some cannabinoids independently interact with the endocannabinoid system, we understand less about how they work together to provide more benefits via the entourage effect.

Comparatively, consider the way different vitamins and minerals interact within our bodies. Vitamin D helps our bodies absorb calcium, and without it, calcium supplements would be far less effective. Similarly, cannabinoids work together to enhance each other’s effects.


Terpenes are aromatic compounds that give cannabis and many other plants (and some animals) their distinctive smell. But they do more than contribute to aroma; terpenes can also influence how cannabinoids interact with your body.

Some examples include:

  • Myrcene – A dominant terpene in many hemp flower cultivars, noted for its sedative properties, especially when working in tandem with CBD and THC.
  • Limonene – Found in every citrus fruit, this terpene may elevate mood and reduce stress when combined with THC.
  • Terpinolene – This fresh-smelling terpene is observed for both its sedating and energetic effects, depending on which cannabinoids it works with.

To draw a parallel, consider how essential oils are used in aromatherapy. Lavender oil is known for its calming effects, while peppermint oil is invigorating. These oils contain terpenes that interact with our bodies in specific ways, much like the terpenes in hemp enhance the effects of cannabinoids.


While we know little about terpenes and their contribution to the entourage effect, we know even less about flavonoids. These small compounds are found in many fruits and vegetables and have antioxidant properties.

As of now, researchers have discovered over 20 flavonoids in hemp plants, some specific to hemp and cannabis alone, dubbed cannaflavins. These compounds are believed to contribute to the anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties of hemp.

In a similar vein, flavonoids in other plants are known for their health benefits. For instance, the flavonoids in green tea are celebrated for their antioxidant properties, which help in reducing the risk of certain diseases. This shows that the health benefits of hemp flavonoids are part of a broader context of plant-based compounds that support human health.

Future Entourage Effect Research

While we may not fully understand the entourage effect, we know enough to be effective. As cannabis science advances, expect to see more novel blends of full- and broad-spectrum products designed for specific needs. Thanks to chemistry, these products can be produced both with and without THC, which is handy for those subjected to random workplace drug tests.

One exciting area of research is the development of custom formulations targeting specific conditions. For instance, a blend designed for pain relief might combine CBD, CBG, and specific terpenes known for their anti-inflammatory properties. Another formulation for anxiety might focus on CBD, CBN, and terpenes like limonene and linalool, which have calming effects.

In comparison, the pharmaceutical industry often combines different drugs to enhance therapeutic outcomes. For example, HIV treatment regimens use a combination of drugs to more effectively suppress the virus than any single drug could on its own. This approach highlights the potential of tailored cannabinoid and terpene blends to address a wide range of health issues.


The entourage effect underscores the importance of using whole-plant hemp products to maximize therapeutic benefits. By working together, cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids create a synergistic effect that enhances their individual properties. As research continues, we can look forward to more sophisticated and effective hemp products tailored to meet specific health needs.

Understanding the entourage effect helps us appreciate the complexity of hemp and the potential it holds for improving health and wellness. Just as a well-coordinated team can achieve more than its individual members, the combined power of hemp’s compounds can provide more profound benefits than any single compound on its own.


What is the entourage effect in hemp products?

  1. The entourage effect refers to the enhanced therapeutic effects resulting from the combined interaction of all organic compounds in hemp, such as cannabinoids and terpenes.

What are full-spectrum hemp products?

  • Full-spectrum hemp products contain all the cannabinoids, terpenes, and other compounds found in the hemp plant, providing the entourage effect.

Who introduced the term “entourage effect”?

  • The term was introduced by Dr. Raphael Mechoulam and Shimon Ben-Shabat in a 1999 research paper.

What are terpenes and how do they affect hemp products?

  • Terpenes are aromatic compounds that contribute to the smell of hemp and influence how cannabinoids interact with the body, enhancing their effects.

Are there non-THC hemp products that still provide the entourage effect?

  • Yes, advances in cannabis science have enabled the production of full- and broad-spectrum products without THC, offering the benefits of the entourage effect without the psychoactive component.