If you’ve been following our articles lately, then you’ve probably heard the phrase “entourage effect” being used quite often.
Simply put, the entourage effect refers to the way different cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids work together to offer health benefits you can only get when consuming the entire plant in its natural state. For reference, let’s quickly cover what each of these compounds are.
- Cannabinoids: Naturally occurring compounds, such as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD (cannabidiol), CBN (cannabinol), etc., that interact with the endocannabinoid system in mammals.
- Terpenes: A diverse group of organic compounds found in most plants that give them their specific fragrances.
- Flavonoids: These are important antioxidants that give plants their pigments and attract pollinator animals. In cannabis they’re referred to as cannaflavins.
Cannabis has hundreds of different therapeutic compounds, most of which are stripped out when using products that contain cannabinoid isolates, such as CBD-only products. This isn’t to imply that CBD alone isn’t beneficial, because it certainly is and in specific cases it can be better to treat patients with only one compound. However, there are many instances where a patient could benefit from the synergy of whole plant medicine. The most popular and convenient methods of consuming the whole plant are either smoking or vaporizing, although the latter is notably healthier.
Neurologist Ethan B. Russo, M.D., explains in a detailed study how every single part of the plant matters, from the most dominant cannabinoid to even trace amounts of terpenes. Each compound in the plant has a specific role and they all influence each other’s mechanisms when consumed together.
For example, the terpene myrcene can help diminish resistance in the blood-brain barrier which allows other cannabinoids to access the central nervous system with more ease. Linalool and limonene, two terpenes commonly found in citrus fruits, show promise in managing symptoms of MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) when combined with CBG (cannabigerol). The study covers many more instances of how all these chemicals work together to the patient’s advantage.
Since most cannabinoids and other plant compounds are not very well-known, they seem to get the shaft when it comes to buying flower. Typical cannabis strains you’ll find in dispensaries these days are specifically bred to contain unnaturally high levels of THC. You can also find high-CBD strains but even these are a bit harder to come by. This lack of diversity in chemical profiles means patients are missing out on the entourage effect and the potentially important role all these compounds could play in overall health
Hopefully soon we’ll be able to find strains that incorporate more of these important characteristics and patients will be able to truly feel the effects of whole-plant cannabis medicine.