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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 the rest of this post, we’ll tease out,
- What the entourage effect is
- Where the term was coined
- And, all of the moving parts
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, we mean the interaction between all of the organic compounds— cannabinoids, terpenes, and others— present in hemp working together to enhance its therapeutic effects.
We usually talk about full-spectrum hemp products providing entourage effects. That’s because full-spectrum products (usually) haven’t had any compounds removed during production. You’ll often see full-spectrum CBD oils and capsules marketed as such. Raw hemp products like smokable hemp flower will *always* be full-spectrum.
Where Did The Term “Entourage Effect” Come From?
During research on cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam & Shimon Ben-Shabat, and 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 worked together rather than independently to enhance overall effects. This train of thought then champions the use of whole-plant use rather than isolated compounds.
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.
CBD and THC are just the beginning. As of this writing, there are over 100 known cannabinoids like,
- Cannabigerol (CBG)
- Cannabinol (CBN)
- Cannabichromene (CBC)
- Cannabidivarian (CBDV)
- And many more…
Each cannabinoid interacts with your body’s endocannabinoid system which regulates many bodily functions like mood, sleep, inflammation etc. 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 you with more benefits via the entourage effect.
Related: CBN “The Sleep Cannabinoid”
Terpenes are aromatic compounds that give cannabis and many other plants (and some animals) their distinctive smell. But they are responsible for more than plant’s aroma, terpenes can also influence how cannabinoids interact with your body.
Some examples include,
- Myrcene – A dominant terpene in many hemp flower cultivars. Researchers have noted myrcene’s sedative properties, especially when working in tandem with CBD and THC.
- Limonene – You can find this terpene in every citrus fruit. When working together with THC, limonene may actually elevate mood and reduce stress.
- Terpinolene – The terpene that gets its name from Turpentine. Terpinolene is a fresh-smelling terpene that’s been observed for both its sedating and energetic effects. The difference comes from which other cannabinoids it works with.
While we know little about terpenes and how they contribute to the entourage effect, we know even less about flavonoids. These small compounds are found in many fruits and vegetables and have anti-oxidant properties.
As of this writing, researchers have discovered over 20 flavonoids in hemp plants, some specific to hemp and cannabis alone. We’ve dubbed these cannaflavins.
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. And, thanks to chemistry, all of these products can be produced both with and without THC, handy for folks who are still subjected to random workplace drug tests.
Read more: Does CBD Show Up On A Drug Test?
Ben-Shabat, S et al. “An entourage effect: inactive endogenous fatty acid glycerol esters enhance 2-arachidonoyl-glycerol cannabinoid activity.” European Journal of Pharmacology vol. 353,1 (1998): 23-31. doi:10.1016/s0014-2999(98)00392-6
- Erridge, Simon et al. “Cannflavins – From plant to patient: A scoping review.” Fitoterapia vol. 146 (2020): 104712. doi:10.1016/j.fitote.2020.104712