The cannabis plant houses hundreds of compounds. While science has identified many of these compounds, including THC and CBD, researchers are still uncovering more cannabis compounds present in lower concentrations and how they affect our endocannabinoid system.
In addition to the cannabinoids THC and CBD, cannabis flower contains aromatic compounds known as terpenes. In addition to being present in cannabis, terpenes are also found in many varieties of flowers and insects. They are responsible for a wide variety of functions ranging from pollination to self-defence.
However, recently published scientific literature suggests that terpenes, combined with other cannabis compounds, can create a more significant, synergistic result.
While each cannabinoid has and produces its own effects, this so-called “entourage effect” could explain how and why different strains deliver different psychoactive effects.
What is the Entourage Effect?
When cannabis is smoked or vaped, hundreds of compounds enter our bodies. While THC and CBD produce their unique effects, the entourage effect argues that their impact may change in the presence of other cannabinoids and compounds.
For example, a 2011 review of studies published in the British Journal of Pharmacology suggests that the psychoactive experience produced by THC can have its more undesirable side effects of anxiety, paranoia, and physical sedation mitigated by CBD. The same study suggests that cannabinoids consumed in conjunction with terpenes can help relieve pain, anxiety, inflammation, and many other physical and mental ailments.
Another review published in the British Journal of Pharmacology titled “Taming THC: Potential Cannabis Synergy and Phytocannabinoid-Terpenoid Entourage Effects” more thoroughly investigates the synergistic effects of cannabis terpenes combined with cannabinoids. For example, the report argues that ingesting pinene can prevent poor memory from cannabis consumption, how consuming linalool and limonene with CBD can alleviate anxiety, and how myrcene can reinforce the sedative effects of THC. A more recent report from 2018 found that certain terpenes, when used in conjunction with CBD, could improve CBD’s therapeutic potential.
While research into the entourage effect remains in its infancy, current scientific literature could explain how and why different strains of cannabis produce different experiences and effects.
The Entourage Effect and Cannabis Products
We’ve discussed the entourage effect at length but are there any cannabis products that can deliver this synergistic effect?
Since cannabis flower is an unprocessed product, it’ll contain all the original cannabinoids, terpenes, and compounds of the cannabis plant. While many cannabis either isolate one cannabinoid, such as the case with distillate, or a set of compounds, such as the case with butane hash oil concentrates (BHO), some cannabis extracts offer a rich blend of cannabinoids, terpenes, and other minor compounds that are often neglected in the pursuit of high THC and CBD potency.
Butane hash oil products, or BHO products, are created through a combination of extraction and isolation processes designed to isolate and concentrate a minor set of compounds, primarily THC, terpenes, and flavonoids, while removing the plant’s waxes, fibre, and chlorophyll. Shatter, weed budder, and weed wax are examples of popular BHO products available today.
High terpene full-spectrum extracts, or HTFSE products, are cannabis extract products with a considerably higher concentration of terpenes and minor cannabis compounds. HTFSE requires a specialized production process and high-quality inputs to capture the plant’s original aroma, flavour, and terpene profile. Cannabis flower flash-frozen at the point of harvest is often used to preserve as many of the plant’s original compounds as possible. Examples of HTFSE products include live resin and terp sauce.
Is the Entourage Effect Better?
The entourage effect shows promising benefits, but it’s important to remember that the entourage effect theory is still just a theory. The mechanisms and benefits behind this effect have yet to be scientifically proven in clinical trials. While scientific research into cannabis is opening up, there are still many things about the cannabis plant that the scientific and medical communities don’t know.
At the same time, many people prefer to have a high potency THC or CBD experience instead of a lower potency experience with more terpenes. In this context, cannabis products that don’t provide the entourage effect are preferred since they allow their users to know which cannabinoid they’re consuming and which ones they aren’t.
New Possibilities for Cannabis
With interest in terpenes, flavonoids, and other minor compounds within the cannabis plant is increasing, research into these neglected compounds is starting to ramp up, too. More and more cannabis cultivators and breeders are beginning to invest in cultivars focused on high terpene content and minor cannabinoids instead of high THC strains.
The entourage effect is an exciting possibility for cannabis cultivators and consumers everywhere, but expectations need to be tempered. With a lack of conclusive evidence, the entourage effect remains an exciting but inconclusive theory.
Please note that this content about the entourage effect is intended to act as entertainment and a general educative aid and is not intended to act as or substitute healthcare advice from a professional healthcare service or qualified healthcare provider. If you have any questions or concerns, please consult your physician or a qualified healthcare provider.