What is the Entourage Effect?

by Tim W. Shaw October 02, 2020

What is the Entourage Effect

Many CBD brands claim that their products provide the entourage effect. But often they don’t make it clear what it is and if it makes a real difference. 

The entourage effect occurs when you consume CBD alongside other compounds from hemp plants (Cannabis Sativa L.). The theory suggests that if you take cannabinoids with other active plant substances, they interact to create a broader range of benefits than if they had been taken individually.

Despite being widely accepted and commonly mentioned on product labels, the entourage effect is still just a theory.

What is the entourage effect?

working together

Cannabis plants contain hundreds of compounds including cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids and other plant nutrients. Most of them have different benefits depending on how they interact with your body once you consume them. 

The entourage effect takes place if several of these substances work together when they are consumed. Some scientists suggest that the combined result of their interaction with the human body is greater and more varied than if each individual effect was experienced together. 

Consequently, in CBD products that contain more than one cannabinoid or active ingredient, the entourage effect indicates that the outcome will be more beneficial than with CBD alone.

Is there any evidence to back this theory up? 

The entourage effect was first observed in 1998. Professor Raphael Mechoulam noticed that cannabinoids found in the human body (endocannabinoids) were more active when in the presence of other similar substances. Particularly, they increased the ability of the cannabinoid to interact with other chemical receptors found in the nervous system.

hands-together

Later, in 2010, a human study compared the effects of pure THC against those of an extract made from the whole cannabis plant. They were applied directly to membranes in the patients’ mouths and the results showed that the whole plant extract was significantly more effective than both the THC and the placebo. The study concluded that the substances in the extract interacted to create an effect more significant than the THC could provide on its own.

In 2014, research was conducted with rats to explore the properties of cannabinoids further. This time the focus was CBD. Some of the rats were treated with pure CBD, but others had a full-spectrum extract containing all the cannabinoids naturally present in hemp. 

The results showed that when they increased the measure of pure CBD, the effect also increased. However, there appeared to be a point when increasing the amount stopped enhancing the outcome. After this, no matter how much more they gave, the effect could not be made stronger.  

When the same thing was tried with the full-spectrum CBD extract, the effect continued to get stronger as the measure got bigger. There appeared to be no limit to how much it could be increased.

The researchers concluded that the presence of other substances allowed the effect of the CBD to become more potent as the amount increased. Many brands believe that this means the results provided by CBD isolate are limited. This is why they often advise you to take full-spectrum extracts with a full range of beneficial plant substances.

Is there any evidence that disproves the entourage effect?

inner balance

Although no new evidence has been presented to conclusively disprove the entourage effect, some of the original interpretations have been cast into doubt. A review of research, conducted in 2020 by Peter Cogan, suggested that the accepted understanding is a misinterpretation of the data. 

He points out that the relatively unregulated CBD industry has reacted optimistically to a small number of scientific studies and turned the entourage effect into a publicity campaign. Cogan also makes the excellent point that while some studies have been conducted, there is not yet enough to have reached a meaningful conclusion.

There are excellent points on either side of this argument, but it’s clear that more research is needed to add more weight to the theory. While numerous CBD consumers report of the enhanced benefits of full-spectrum and broad-spectrum products, the entourage effect should not yet be accepted as fact but considered as a useful theory.

The entourage effect and CBD 

Cannabinoids-hemp-Leaf

CBD products available in the UK are made using hemp, which is the collective name given to strains of cannabis that don’t exceed 0.2% THC. Although CBD makes up the majority of the active ingredient, many products also contain traces of other beneficial hemp substances including cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, fatty acids and other nutrients.

Some people believe that all these substances play a part in entourage effect and work in synergy to enhance the impact of CBD. Others think that the extra benefits are the results of a few specific interactions between certain substances. While some studies show the results of the entourage effect, very few have investigated which specific substances are interacting with each other. 

Although many natural chemicals could be involved, the focus of most investigations has been on two types of interaction:

1. Cannabinoid to cannabinoid

Both THC and CBD have been linked to enhanced effects produced by interactions with other cannabinoids. High-quality CBD products come with third-party lab tests which often show the presence of other cannabinoids such as CBG, CBC and CBN.

2. Terpene to cannabinoid

Terpenes colors

Some studies showed enhanced effects from cannabinoids when terpenes are also present.

However, the latest study, conducted with cells from mice was not able to demonstrate any terpene-THC interaction like that suggested in the entourage theory. The focus of this research was on specific chemical pathways involving THC, so it doesn’t rule out that CBD may benefit from the presence of terpenes. But there is not enough evidence to reliably conclude that terpenes do play a role in the entourage effect.

There are hundreds of substances present in hemp that could play a role in the entourage effect. So far, the research has had a very narrow focus, so there is no solid understanding of the role that all these chemicals may have in the overall effect of hemp extract.

What should I look for when making a purchase?

what to look for


The entourage effect has not yet been proven, but there is still a broad base of evidence that suggests the components of hemp have their own individual benefits. Even if a product with additional cannabinoids, terpenes, or plant nutrients doesn’t act as an entourage, it’s still likely to deliver a comprehensive collection of benefits. 

We still believe that the best CBD products are those with a full-spectrum of cannabinoids, a wide range of terpenes and several other natural substances. Look out for labels like ‘whole-plant extract’, ‘rich in terpenes’, ‘broad-spectrum’ or ‘full-spectrum’.

Conclusion

Although some of the new developments have tried to discredit the entourage effect, there are still several studies that point to its existence in some form. There is more research to be done but a lot of what has been found so far points to it being a likely theory.

Whatever the conclusion of future investigations, there is no doubt that hemp has more to offer than just CBD.

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Entourage Effect balance



Tim W. Shaw
Tim W. Shaw

Author

Tim W. Shaw writes extensively about CBD oil, cannabis and other groundbreaking food supplements. He and his wife share their home with two daughters and a lifetime’s collection of books.


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